Finding a weight bench and picking up a pair of dumbbells is one of the simplest and most effective ways to build upper-body strength.
There are so many great exercises you can do with just dumbbells, and adding a bench into the mix only expands your horizons; the flat, padded surface provides support for tried and tested muscle-building favorites like the chest press, shoulder press, and single-arm bent-over rows.
This six-move workout from personal trainer and online coach Alex Rice focuses on the shoulders, chest and triceps, so it’s perfect if you’re looking to build the muscles in your arms and torso.
You can do it in the gym or at home if you have a pair of dumbbells (take a look at our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells if you’re looking to upgrade your home workout set-up).
The exercises using the bench can be modified if you don’t have one at home. For example, you can sit on a chair with a high back for some exercises, or simply lie flat on your back on the floor for others.
It's essential to practice your technique to make the most of your training and avoid injury (which is a common concern when working with weights). Be sure to perfect your form using Rice's demonstrations before you start.
Watch Alex Rice's six-move workout
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As this a resistance training session with a focus on building strength and muscle, we recommend resting for 60 seconds after each exercise to allow your body to recover between sets.
Follow this format for all exercises except two — the front raises and skull crushers — which should be completed as a superset. This means that rather than resting after each set, you do these two movements back to back before taking a break.
Supersets are great because they can save time and improve your endurance by increasing the amount of time you’re exercising without rest. However, to get the best results, it's important to take your time with each repetition.
Try not to rush through this workout, as moving slowly will increase the time your muscles spend under tension—something a study published in the Journal of Physiology found could be key to greater muscle growth. Plus, moving steadily will make it easier to perfect your form and help prevent injury.
You should use a weight that allows you to complete each set with good form, but still feels challenging to lift (particularly for the last few repetitions). If all repetitions feel easy, increase the weight you're lifting to take advantage of the strength-boosting progressive overload principle.
If you’re looking to work the rest of your upper-body muscles, we've put together the best back workout we could find. Or, if you’re interested in workout splits (training different muscles on specific days), our handy guide will teach you how to create a workout split for building muscle.
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Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.
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