Upper Body Workout for Women: Strengthen and Tone Your Body

Upper body workout for women: woman doing shoulder press with dumbbells

Upper body workout for women: woman doing shoulder press with dumbbells

Strength training is a core component of any workout program, but especially an upper body workout for women. Not only are these exercises key for getting toned — they also help with everything from lifting heavy objects to simply having a good posture.

Many women believe working out their upper body – the chest, arms, back – will give them a bulky, manly size. Not only is this not true, but the upper body needs to be worked out.

If you’re new to upper body workouts, this article is for you. We will talk about the benefits of improving your upper body strength, three types of upper body workouts, and six upper body workouts for women you can do at your gym or home workout today.

5 Benefits of Improving Upper-Body Workout For Women

Upper body workout for women: athletes exercising using kettlebells

Working out your upper body goes beyond just building your upper body strength. More upper body strength:

1. Increases Confidence

Women love to tone their legs and bum to get a curve! So, why not do the same for your upper body?

Working on your upper body will shape it the way you shape your lower body, which will improve your body image. That’s not to say you need it — we think you’re beautiful just as you are. 

Aside from having a toned upper body, working on your upper body strength also improves your posture, which is good for your self-confidence.

2. Improves Posture

As just mentioned above, upper body strength can improve your posture.

Posture is more important nowadays because many of us tend to work desk jobs. This makes us extremely physically inactive for virtually 24 hours every day. Our posterior chain, the group of muscles from our backside, becomes weak as a result, resulting in a poor posture. Working on your upper body helps strengthen the posterior chain. Hence, you’ll improve your overall posture. Studies show this can have a positive impact on your stress responses. 

3. Supports Total Body Workouts

A strong upper body will help you with other areas of your workout routine, such as push-ups and planks or even full-body workouts.

Aside from improving the quality of your workouts, improving your upper body strength will also help you with sports and other physically demanding activities. 

4. Supports Daily Activities

Every physical activity you do – carrying grocery items, pulling and pushing furniture, etc. – requires upper body strength.

When you incorporate strength training, you will have more energy, a better mood, and a greater ability to complete other workouts.

5. Increases Overall Fitness

If you want a solid and fit body, you must work out your entire body – and that includes your upper body. Period.

Even runners work on their upper body. If you leave out one part of your body – whether it’s your upper body, legs, glutes, etc. – you will have imbalances in muscle strength, which can harm other parts of your body. Using strength training helps lessen your chances of falling prey to an injury.

3 Types of Upper Body Workouts for Women

Let’s discuss the three types of upper body workouts: push exercises, pull exercises, and flexion/extension exercises. Each of these targets different parts of your muscles and can help you get toned arms.

Here are the muscles that each of these exercises works out:

  1. Push exercises: triceps, chest (pectoral muscles), trapezius muscles (upper back and shoulder), and lats.
  2. Pull exercises: back muscles: rhomboids (the top part of your back), upper back, lower back, and center of the back
  3. Flexion/extension exercises: arm muscles (biceps and triceps), shoulders, upper abs, chest, back muscles, and wrist flexors and extensors.

6 Best Upper Body Exercises for Women (Home or Gym Workout)

Now that you know the importance of working out your upper body let’s chat about some of the upper body workouts for women. These can go with a gym workout or can be done at home so long as you have the equipment:

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (gym or gym-like bench) or table
  • Mat (optional, if you only don’t want to sit or lie on the floor)
  • Resistance band

If you don't have the needed equipment, you can modify the workouts. (Bodyweight is impressively effective.) Just remember that stretching is key to every workout. Even if it's just a quick warm-up, it still prepares your muscles for what is to come.

1. Bicep Curls (Top Arms Workout)

Upper body workout for women: woman doing bicep curls in the gym

This dumbbell exercise is a popular arm workout, and for a good reason. It targets your biceps, the brachialis, and brachioradialis — your arm muscles.

This workout is a great upper body workout for women. It helps you tone your biceps and achieve profound definition in your arms.

  1. Begin by standing straight while holding dumbbells at your sides. Be sure that your palms face your thighs.
  2. Lift both of your forearms. As you lift them, rotate your wrist inwards. Your palm should face your bicep by the time the full motion is complete.
  3. Once your arms are up and contracted, briefly hold before bringing them down.
  4. As you lower your arms, rotate your wrists back to their original position.
  5. That’s one rep. For maximum results, repeat for 10-12 reps, and for 2-3 sets.

2. Incline Push-ups (Best No Equipment Exercise)

Upper body workout for women: woman doing incline pushups

Incline pushups are a great workout if you want to strengthen your pectoralis major and minor. It’s relatively more straightforward than a regular push-up, but it is more challenging than a wall push-up. It puts far less stress on your elbows, as you only lift a portion of your body weight. 

  1. Start by placing your hands on the edge of a bench that is both sturdy and knee-level.
  2. Then, set yourself up for a push-up position.
  3. Lower your arm until your chest nearly touches the edge of the bench. 
  4. Slowly raise yourself back to your starting position
  5. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times for 2-3 sets.

3. Reverse-Grip Bent Over Rows

Upper body workout for women: woman lifting heavy barbells

If you want to take your upper body workouts to the next levels, this exercise is powerful. It’s an intermediate exercise that works your shoulders, lats, and biceps.

  1. Stand up straight with your legs slightly wider than the hip-width level (your legs should appear like an inverted “V”), and grab your dumbbells. Then, bend your knees.
  2. Lean forward until your chest is level with your knees. Your arms should hang straight, and your palms should face outward as you grab the dumbbells.
  3. From there, pull your arms backward until your elbows reach your sides. Then, bring them forward again to their starting position.
  4. That’s one rep. Repeat the steps until you complete the set.

4. Floor Dumbbell Chest Press (Best Arms, Chest Workout)


This is an excellent upper body workout for women. You can do this at home or during a gym workout to help strengthen your chest. Make sure that you keep steadily breathing with each movement. 

  1. Lie flat on the ground, grab your dumbbells, and rest them with your hands on the top of your chest. 
  2. Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle and place your feet firmly onto the ground. This will be your starting position.
  3. Extend your elbows on both sides until they are parallel to your shoulders.
  4. From there, hold the position briefly. Then, bring back your arms upward, returning to the starting position.
  5. That’s one rep. Repeat the steps until you complete the set.

5. Lying Skull Crushers (Best Shoulder Sculpt)

Upper body workout for women: woman doing French extensions

Skull crushers, also known as French extensions, mainly target your triceps. You can do this exercise while lying flat on a workout bench and using either a barbell, two dumbbells, or a single dumbbell. It’s a push exercise that works the triceps brachii to the latissimus dorsi.

  1. To start, lie on the ground, bend your knees at a 45-angle, and place your feet firmly on the floor. Then, grab both dumbbells and raise your arms with your dumbbells on top of your chest. If you have a bench, you can simply lie down on your bench and raise your arms over your chest.
  2. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart. From there, lower both of your dumbbells until they almost reach your shoulders. Keep your lower arm still and only let the upper arms do the work.
  3. Then, lift the dumbbells again, keeping your lower arm intact and using only your upper arms to make the motion.
  4. That’s one rep. Repeat for 10-12 times. Do 2-3 sets.

6. Arnold Press (Top Strength Workout)

Arnold press is a variation of the overhead press made by the legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. This workout focuses on working out mainly on your shoulders. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit on a bench or chair. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Curl both your arms towards your chest. Be sure that your palms face inwards, towards your chest. That’s your starting position.
  3. Move both your arms straight out, then upward until both are stretched over your head. As you move it, rotate your arms outward so your arms face the front.
  4. Return your arms to the original position, rotating them so your palms face in.
  5. That’s one rep. Repeat for 10 reps and 2-3 sets.

7. Tricep Kickbacks 

Woman doing tricep kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks are a great exercise if you’re trying to target your tricep muscles. This is a great exercise to start with after you do a quick stretching warm-up. 

As with every exercise, it’s key to use proper form while completing tricep kickbacks. If you are just adding these to your workout and are new to working out your triceps, you can start without weights. As you improve, add weight and slowly increase it as you go.

  1. Place a dumbbell in each of your hands, positioning them by your hips at an angle, with your palms facing inward. 
  2. Bend your knees slightly and extend your elbows behind you until your arms are straight.
  3. Engage your core as you exhale and straighten your arms. Inhale while bringing them back to your side.
  4. Complete for 2-3 sets for 10-15 rep.

How to Pair Upper Body Workouts With Compatible Workouts 

Fit woman on a treadmill

An upper body workout for women is powerful alone, but when you partner them with other workouts, you can make even more progress. We suggest combining upper body workouts with some cardio or even a HIIT workout.

Ab Workout 

Don’t train too many different muscle groups on the same day. Think leg day, arm day, chest day, etc. While you shouldn’t combine leg day with chest day (#sore), you can combine arm workouts with ab workouts.

If you’re doing arm exercises properly, you should engage your abs as well. 

Cardio Workout 

If you’re looking to up your workout game, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, cardio is the way to go. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services DHHS, everyone should do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on a day-to-day basis. Whether you enjoy running, using an elliptical, doing an inclined walk, or biking, adding cardio is not only beneficial for your body. It’s great to do alongside your upper body workout.

HIIT Workout 

HIIT workouts are another great option to pair with your upper body workouts. If you don’t have a lot of time to complete workouts, this is a perfect way to get your metabolic rate pumping while burning a good amount of calories.

You can even add some of the above workouts into your go-to HIIT workouts.

Get Your Upper Body in Shape

Woman in the kitchen with a Cira tumbler and jar

Incorporating an upper body workout for women is essential for more than just strength. Weight training and regularly working out your chest, arms, and back can help give you definition and help you with posture, sleep, and your immune system! 

Try pairing your upper body workout with Flare, our #1 fat burner. It will help you drop extra water weight, increase fat loss, boost energy, reduce stress, and improve your mood. That way, you can keep lounging, lifting, or crunching.

We also love a protein shake post-workout to help our bodies recover and build muscle. Give our Cookies and Cream Bright Whey or Cinnamon Swirl Bright Whey to help increase gains while drinking a shake that tastes like dessert.

Is there anything better? See you in the gym, babe!