We’ve entered a new era for feminine fitness.

An era where hours and hours of running on a treadmill are out…

And taking the time to strength train, and build health-boosting muscle is in (check out this blog on all the benefits of lifting weights once you’re done with this one ‘Why Should I Train Anyways’

And I for one couldn’t be happier with the cultural shift- and you should be too.

Building strong, functional women is my passion- and nothing says ‘powerful’ quite like an athletic upper body.

We’ve previously covered how to build great legs (Find out more here –  and how to develop a rock solid core so today I’ll give you the low-down on how to do the same for your arms, shoulders and back.

So, if building a toned athletic physique similar to that of Jennifer Aniston or Jennifer Garner is on your to-do list, let’s delve deeper on how to do it…

But First- What Areas Do We Need To Train?

Great question- ‘Upper Body’ is a touch vague, isn’t it?

Here are the main muscle groups we’ll need to attack in order to achieve the frame we’re after…

Shoulders (Deltoids):

The shoulders are made up of three heads, to make it simple, all we need to know is that there’s one ‘section’ on the front, side, and back of the shoulder capsule.

To build an athletic physique we need to be approaching each area of the shoulder- whilst paying special attention to the ‘rear deltoid’- the back of the shoulder.

The reason this particular section needs a little more love is that most of us spend a lot of our days sitting in office chairs, and by working to develop our upper back and rear shoulders we’ll help counteract the potential postural issues (Check out this blog for a little more information on how to perfect your posture

Great exercises to focus on for the shoulders are:

  • BB Shoulder Press
  • DB Arnold Press
  • DB Lateral Raises
  • Cable Reverse Flyes


Your ‘back’ is a very broad term for a large amount of different muscles- in fact when working together it’s the second strongest area of your body (bested only by the powerful legs).

It’s important when were train the back that we consider the two main movements it’s responsible for- horizontal and vertical rowing.

That is to say- pulling a weight towards you from overhead, or in front of your body.

By focusing on building muscles through your back you’ll help develop an athletic and functional physique- which will look great at the Christmas office party this year.
Great exercises to help develop your back are:

  • Lat Pulldowns
  • DB Rows
  • Bent-over Rows
  • Cable Rows
  • Inverted Row


Yes, training your chest isn’t an exclusive right of “gym-bros” that hog the bench press- if you’re keen to build a powerful and lean physique, we’ll need to approach it too.

Your chest muscles are partially responsible for pushing weights away from your chest, or bringing your elbows closer together.

As mentioned within the previous ‘Back’ training section; most of us tend to need more rowing volume than pressing due to our working and life environments developing a less that optimal posture. Because of this we’ll often advise a lower volume of pressing volume comparative to pulling.

That being said, it still shouldn’t be neglected- here are a few awesome ways to train your chest:

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Incline barbell bench press
  • Machine chest press
  • Push ups


Arms (Biceps & Triceps):

Nothing makes a workout feel quite as productive as that deep burn you experience after a good exercise on your biceps or triceps…

The biceps are located at the front of your arm, and are the classic ‘Gun-Show’ muscle- they’re responsible for bringing your hand towards your shoulder by hinging at the elbow. Some great bicep exercises are:

  • Dumbbell hammer curls
  • Cable Curls
  • Reverse barbell curls

The opposite muscle group is the triceps- located at the back of the arm, these are responsible for straightening the elbow joint- some great exercises to train this muscles group are:

  • Dips
  • Cable Pushdowns
  • Barbell French press

So, How Do We Put That All Together?

Now you have an understanding of them main muscle groups that will contribute to your building an athletic and toned upper body, how do we combine them into an effective programme?

It would be remising to ignore the benefits of talking to an experienced coach about setting you up with a programme that takes into account your exact starting position, goals and lifestyle- and if that is something you’d be interested in discussing; I’m currently offering free consults and an online programme, so complete the short form at the bottom of this blog and I’ll be in touch to organize your free consultation and free online programme.

But some of you won’t be ready to commit to your training to that extent just yet- and that’s fine; whilst coaching on a personal level will also be the most effective way to get results, that doesn’t mean following a more generic programme can’t result in progression.

With that in mind- here’s a short, 30 Minute Upper Body Workout to try:

Note: A1 & A2 (And all same numbered exercises) are performed back to back, as a ‘superset’. Only rest after the last numbered exercise, for the indicated amount of time, then return to the first numbered exercise until all sets are competed.

A1. Dumbbell Bench Press- 3 x 8-10

A2. Inverted Row- 3 x 12-15 (1.15)

B1. Arnold Press- 3 x 8-10

B2. Cable Reverse Fly- 3 x 12-15 (1.15)

C1. Dumbbell Bicep Curl- 2 x 8-10

C2. Barbell French Press- 2 x 8-10 (1.15)

When Will You See Results?

Adding muscle and building an athletic and toned upper body isn’t a super-fast process, and it is reliant on a number of factors.

Performing the correct exercises, as outlined above, will put you in the right direction.

But patience, slowly increasing the weight and/or volume you’re lifting, and eventual exercise rotation are all key to having long term success.

Assuming you follow the above programme (a maximum of 2 times a week, and I would highly recommend a lower body training session and possibly some form of cardio of HIIT session), the other primary factor that will contribute to your results will be your nutrition.

Because even if you’re training perfectly, you diet has a huge impact on the effectiveness of the exercises you complete.

Luckily I’ve already covered the basics of nailing your nutrition in an earlier blog

Be patient, follow the programme you chose (or are given by an awesome coach such as myself), stay hydrated, follow the sound nutrition principles, and get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

Stick with these guidelines? And you’ll have toned arms and an athletic body that could grace the cover of ‘Women’s Health’ magazine- just make sure you’re enjoying the process of getting there!