11 Strengthening Upper Body Exercises Trainers Love

They go beyond plain ol' push-ups.

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Upper body strength exercises are for more than flexing your biceps. According to trainer Amanda Freeman, working your arms, back, and chest also improves posture, reduces your risk of injury, and helps build stronger bones. Here, trainers share their fave workouts for the job.

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Chest Opener

Freeman’s go-to for hitting the tricep muscles:

1. Hold weights down by your sides, palms facing behind you.

2. Push your arms straight back & towards each other.

3. Continue for one minute, then pulse for 30 seconds.

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This works the shoulders, abs, and upper and lower back, says Freeman. Add weights for a challenge.

1. Hold arms out to each side with bent elbows, hands up.

2. Slowly hinge at the elbows & drop hands down.

3. Alternate flapping arms up and down slowly for 1 minute.

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Bent-Over Rows

Trainer Shaun Zetlin says this strengthens the back.

1. Start with feet apart, knees slightly bent, torso parallel to floor.

2. Hold dumbbells with palms forward.

3. Lift weights up to the sides of your chest, squeezing shoulder blades together.

4. Lower & repeat.

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Wide Push-Ups

Push-ups are a classic: Trainer Kim D’Agnese says they work your abs and upper body, and the wide version hits your chest and shoulders.

1. In a plank, place hands wider than shoulders.

2. Step feet wide, keep back straight.

3. Lower chest to floor, push back up.

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Shoulder Taps

D’Agnese’s go-to for hitting your arm, core, and back muscles.

1. Start in a plank with hands wider than shoulders.

2. Tap one hand to the opposite shoulder, place hand back down. Keep your body as still as possible.

3. Tap your other hand to the opposite shoulder.

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Wall Push-Ups

This push-up variation works your arms and back muscles to help support the spine, says trainer Joy Puleo.

1. While standing, place hands on a wall with feet back in a plank position.

2. Bend arms & lower yourself forward.

3. Push back up. Repeat.

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Tricep Dips

Target your triceps and traps with this simple but effective move, courtesy of trainer Sarah Pelc Graca’s

1. Sit on a couch or bench, arms at your sides.

2. Slide off, lower hips until elbows are at 90 degrees.

3. Push yourself back up. Repeat.

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Curl Presses

These hit your biceps, triceps, and shoulders, says trainer Joel Gottehrer.

1. While standing, curl weights to shoulders, keeping arms tucked in.

2. Push weights overhead, twisting palms to face out.

3. Slowly lower to back to shoulders, reverse palms, lower down.

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Pullover + Toe Touch Crunch

To strengthen pecs and back muscles, Gottehrer says to use a challenging weight.

1. Lie on back, legs bent at 90 degrees.

2. Touch weight to the ground above the head.

3. Lift torso with control, reaching for toes. Engage core.

4. Lower slowly.

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Push Press

Trainer John Gardner says this works the triceps, pecs, and deltoids and the lower body.

1. Hold a barbell with hands wider than shoulders, feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Rest it against shoulders, palms up.

3. Dip into a mini squat.

5. Stand, pushing barbell overhead.

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Towel Rows

This move’s push-pull combo hit a lot of upper body muscles at once, says trainer Colette Dong.

1. Lie a towel across the top of your mat.

2. In a high plank, hold towel ends in each hand.

3. Alternate rowing arms to rib cage, as you pull on the towel.