• Joshua Li

Josh - My Top 5 Upper Body Exercises


The following 5 exercises have been chosen from my own training as they work best for me, in no particular order. Because they are good for me doesn't mean they are necessarily right for you. You must consider your current training level, body type and genetic potential when looking at exercise selection. The basics variations should be nailed down first before attempting to try any of the following (e.g. learn how to execute single arm db row first before attempting dead stop row). I want you to understand how to feel the targeted muscle work before attempting the advanced versions. Remember that quality of the reps is the key, so take your time to learn how to execute them movements properly and reap the rewards.

1. Chest Support Lateral Raise

Standard lateral raises seem to be programmed in the majority of the populations training regimes. Lateral raises are a great exercise to hit the lateral head of the deltoid, but the rear deltoid is often neglected. To create well rounded shoulders, it is essential you also target the rear delt. Chest supported lateral raises will kill to birds with one stone, hitting the rear and lateral heads of the deltoid (see video for demo).

2. Dips

If you are looking to fill out a t-shirt it will be your triceps that will need to be thicker, not so much your biceps. I have always favoured loading the triceps with tension to help them grow, opposed to stretch and squeeze. Personally I feel the most tension on my triceps on the eccentric movement (lowering) whilst performing dips. If you cannot perform dips try close grip bench press.

Execution tip:

i) Make sure your torso is upright to load your tricep more effectively. The further forward you lean to more chest recruitment you will get.

ii) At the bottom of the movement ensure your shoulders are below your elbows and your biceps are touching your forearms - this is full range and maximal muscle fibre recruitment.

3. Neutral Grip Wide Lat Pull Down

Neutral grip wide lat pull down will target your lats more effectively than any other pull down variation. The closer together your hands are the more you will recruit your biceps (as well as your lats). I also like to go for the neutral grip as I feel a greater contraction in my lats at the bottom of the movement compared to a pronated grip.

4. Low Incline Barbell Bench Press

The slight incline of the bench allows for greater range of motion to target the chest far more effectively than the standard flat bench. Greater range of motion means you are taking your chest to the full extremity and will be recruiting more muscle fibres. If the incline is too high you will recruit too much front delt, so as my primary chest movement I prefer the low incline. My suggestion is to use an incline angle between 20-30 degrees.

5. Dead Stop Dumbbell Row

Dead Stop Dumbbell Rows are a progression from standard Single Arm Dumbbell Rows. The static start for every rep takes out stretch reflex at the bottom of the movement, making the movement even harder. I also feel dead stop rows allow your form to stay intact when going heavy, rather than continuously going through reps at speed, losing technique.

How to perform:

  1. Set up just as you would for a normal Single Arm DB Row.

  2. Perform controlled rows with tempo, pause at the bottom and contract your lats and upper back at the top. The dumbbell will be placed on the floor during the bottom part of the movement.

  3. Focus on getting a good contraction in the upper back and lat while bracing the core to avoid rotation.

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