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 for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 

Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors,, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.