All you need is five moves and two dumbbells to build a stronger upper body

Build shoulder, arm, back and chest muscle and improve your posture with this short dumbbell routine

A woman performing a shoulder press in the gym with a pair of dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty)

You might think you need an extended gym session with loads of machines and weights to strengthen your upper body. Fortunately, that's not the case, as this four-move workout builds arm, shoulder, chest and back muscle with just a set of dumbbells. 

Dumbbells are a flexible option for at-home training, especially if you opt for a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These combine several weights in one, saving you space and allowing you to gradually increase the load as you get stronger. 

This short routine from personal trainer and founder of Wilson Coaching, Siobhan Wilson, is a great beginner workout—perfect if you're new to the gym or if you're at a loss for what to do on your upper body days.

The workout contains five exercises, and you'll perform three sets of 10-12 reps of each one. It's important to get the technique right to get the most from your training, so perfect your form with Wilson's demonstrations before you start. 

Watch Siobhan Wilson's upper body workout routine


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These five moves are designed to target multiple areas of your upper body, including your arms, chest and shoulders, which are all crucial for every day tasks like lifting or carrying groceries. 

Part of the reason they're so effective is that Wilson's routine uses several compound exercises which work multiple muscles simultaneously for a time-efficient muscle-building routine. 

Whether you want to use these five exercises back to back for a dedicated upper body session or integrate a few into your regular routine, we've listed all the moves you need below. 

Siobhan Wilson's upper body routine moves

If you're new to upper body workouts like this, your muscles might be aching the next day. This is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and is caused by tiny tears in your muscles fibres that your body needs protein to repair. 

To help the muscles recover, many people take protein shakes after their workout. If you're after a new supplement to add to your post-workout drink, the best protein powders for weight loss are a great place to start. 

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a fitness writer producing news, features, buying guides and reviews for Fit&Well and sister site Coach. She is an avid runner and hill walker, and can often be seen sporting her trusty waist lead as she trains for her first marathon with her two border collies in tow. Lois has a Master’s in Digital Journalism from Strathclyde University and was previously a senior SEO reporter at Newsquest Media Group.