It’s a common misconception that lifting heavy weights — especially for the upper body — will make a woman bulk up and look more like a man. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Why? Bulking up comes from three things: hormones, calories, and lots of time in the gym working out. Of course, good genetics help too.
Training with heavy weights makes a difference
Tiny little dumbbells are great for recovery from injury or to keep older adults in a functional fitness program. And sure, some moves that take the weight farther from your body (like side or front shoulder raises) might require something lighter.
So pick up those weights — those heavy weights — and let’s get started. The following workout covers all upper body muscles and takes you through something called “supersets.” It means you will work two different exercises in a row for the same muscle group. This will push you more swiftly to the results you are looking for!
Back Strength Super Set
Reverse Grip Double Arm Row
- Start with legs together and sit back into a slight squat engaging abdominal. Arms are in front of the body holding dumbbells at hip height with palms facing the ceiling.
- Draw elbows back past hips gently hugging the side body, so you feel lats and triceps engage and return forward with control.
- Begin in a full plank with dumbbells in hands, arms extended, and on toes. (kneeling variation is fine if you are not able to do a full plank) Engage your abdominals drawing the belly inward towards your spine.
- Pull the right dumbbell up toward right hip bone keeping the weight close to your side. Slowly return it to the floor and repeat with the left dumbbell.
Chest Strength Super Set
Shoulder Tap Push-Up
- Begin in a plank position with hands directly under shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Keeping abdominals and legs tight as you slowly lower your chest toward the ground with elbows bending and pointing behind you.
- Exhale as you push back up to lengthen arms into plank then lift your right hand to tap your left shoulder at the top. Repeat with the other arm tapping.
(Note: you can do a chest fly on the stability ball or also on a bench or the floor.)
- Lay back on a bench or the floor and hold a pair of dumbbells close to your chest (if on the ball, place your shoulder blades and head on top of the ball).
- Raise dumbbells together straight above the chest, palms facing in.
- Slowly lower arms out to the side with a slight bend in your elbow, until elbows are about chest level.
- Squeeze chest and bring hands back together at the top.
Shoulder Strength Super Set
- Start with feet hip-distance apart. Bring elbows out to the side creating a goal post position with arms, dumbbells are at the side of the head, and abdominals are tight.
- Press dumbbells slowly up until arms are straight. Slowly return to starting position with control. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Begin in standing position, feet a few inches apart and arms alongside body holding dumbbells.
- Keeping a slight bend in the elbow, lift your arms to the side until they are parallel to the floor, and return back to the starting position with control.
Bicep/Tricep Strength Set
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart arms fully extended with a slight bend in the elbow.
- Bring weights in towards shoulders to complete bicep curl, lower slowly back to start.
- Standing with feet hip-distance apart holding dumbbells straight overhead and keeping your spine long and abs tight.
- Bend elbows lowering dumbbells behind the base of the head. Keep your elbows hugging in towards your head and pointing forward. Then extend your arms long returning to your starting position working the triceps.