Working one main muscle group per workout – known as a body-part split – might have been the gold standard for the golden age of bodybuilding, but if you can only train a couple of times per week you need a more efficient approach to get maximum bang for your buck. This six-move session targets all your major upper-body muscle groups, using different angles and rep ranges to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibres as possible, so they’re rebuilt bigger and stronger.
How to do the workout
This is a six-move session made up of two straight sets then two supersets. Do all reps of move 1, sticking to the sets, reps and rest shown, then do all sets of move 2. Then do moves 3A and 3B as a superset, and the same again for moves 4A and 4B to blitz your upper body.
Warm up thoroughly, starting with some shoulder, elbow and wrist movements, followed by some light bench presses and underhand lat pull-downs, interspersed with more mobility work in the rest periods between warm-up sets. Gradually increase the weight of each warm-up set while reducing the reps until you’re fully ready to go.
1 Bench press
Sets 5 Reps 8 Rest 60sec
Why The classic big lift for a bigger, stronger and wider chest.
How Lie flat on a bench holding a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Plant your heels on the floor, tense your glutes and core, then lower the bar to your chest and press it back up.
Sets 5 Reps 5-8 Rest 60sec
Why The best bodyweight move for bigger arms, and one that also works your entire upper back.
How Hang from a bar with a shoulder-width underhand grip. Engage your abs and glutes and, keeping your chest up, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Pause in this position, then slowly lower yourself back to the start.
This first superset, with both moves performed on an incline bench, will work your chest, shoulders and arms from slightly different angles to recruit and fatigue even more muscle fibres. Performing slow and controlled reps through a full range of motion is more important than weight, so be smart with your dumbbell selection to work your upper body harder.
3A Incline dumbbell biceps curl
Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 30sec
Why Starting with your arms behind your torso increases the range of motion.
How Lie back on a incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand and arms straight. Keeping your elbows in position, curl the weights up to shoulder height and squeeze your biceps. Slowly lower back to the start.
3B Incline dumbbell flye
Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 60sec
Why It works your upper and outer pecs to build a broader chest.
How Lie back on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms straight and palms facing. With your chest up and a slight bend in your elbows, lower the weights out to the sides until you feel a good stretch across your chest, then raise them back to the start.
This final superset is made up of higher-rep sets that fully fatigue your arms, shoulders and chest. Focus on form and control and if you can’t complete all 15 reps, do as many as you can, then reduce the weight and continue until you complete the set.
4A Cable rope overhead extension
Sets 4 Reps 15 Rest 30sec
Why It works your triceps through a full range of motion, and the cable forces your muscles to work hard in both the lifting and lowering phases.
How Stand tall, holding a double-rope handle attached to the low pulley of a cable machine. Turn to face away, bringing your hands up to your head. Keeping your elbows still and pointing up, press the handles up and forwards to straighten your arms. Flex your triceps at the top, then return to the start.
4B Cable cross-over
Sets 4 Reps 15 Rest 60sec
Why It isolates the chest muscles and hits the inner and outer sections of the pecs.
How Stand tall in the middle of a cable machine, holding a D-handle in each hand attached to the high pulley. With a slight bend in your elbows, bring your hands down and in so they cross in front of your body. Pause for a second, then reverse the move to the start.