Eight moves, a set of dumbbells, and an upper-body workout to build muscle in your chest and back

Improve your upper-body strength and develop muscle across your chest, back and shoulders using only a set of dumbbells

Woman trains her upper body with a pair of dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty)

If you've been looking to develop muscle in your upper body and increase the definition around muscles like your chest, back, shoulders and arms then it's a good idea to add some form of resistance into your training. This eight-move workout incorporates a pair of dumbbells into it and is great for beginners to try out.

If you are newer to weight training or trying to rebuild your strength then always start off with some lighter weight. Most gyms have dumbbell pairs that go as light as 4lbs/2kg which will help you ease into any resistance session. Or if you prefer working out from home it's worthwhile finding yourself a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells, these space-saving weights allow you to modify the weight during your workout.

Once you've got the right equipment to hand it is now down to learning the moves and workout to begin engaging your upper body properly. Personal trainer and Barre instructor, Britany Williams (opens in new tab), provides demonstrations of each exercise alongside this chest, back, and shoulder building workout that she designed herself.

If you already use some of the best at home chest workouts or best back workouts then you will probably feel quite comfortable with most of the moves in Williams' two-circuit routine. But it's always a good idea to check you are engaging the right muscles and not exhausting or hurting other parts of your body that may be overcompensating if your form is wrong.

To complete the full workout you will perform 10-12 reps of each exercise and do each circuit three times over. Make sure you give yourself 2-3 minutes in between the circuits so that your muscles have time to regain strength.

Watch Britany Williams' Eight-Move Upper Body Routine

A post shared by Britany Williams (@britanywilliams) (opens in new tab)

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The more you complete workouts like the one demonstrated by Williams above the more used to the exercise your muscles will become. If it's just general strength and tone that you want to form then using this alongside other forms of exercise such as this HIIT workout for fat loss will be helpful. But if you are looking to continue and build on muscle across your upper body, implement progressive overload into your training. This involves increasing the weight or reps to encourage growth in your muscles.

Aside from the aesthetic benefits of working out your upper body muscles, strengthening this area of the body can also do wonders for your posture. If you work behind a computer most days or spend a lot of time behind the wheel in your car then you might have developed posterior imbalances. However, the stronger your back, shoulder, and chest are the less likely you are to notice these areas tightening or caving in when sitting or standing for long. Plus, you will find yourself engaging your core muscle when performing most upper body moves and a strong core also helps to improve posture.

Williams adds one-minute renegade row push-ups as a finisher for her routine. This combines a great core strengthening exercise with an upper body move. If you like this multi-muscle exercise then you might also enjoy the challenge of using one of the best ab rollers at the end of your next session.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.