exercise workout routine - upper

How to Group Upper Body Exercises

Learn how to Organize your Exercises

There are an endless number of theories on the best way to organize upper body workouts. Some divide the upper body in half vertically, front muscles and rear muscles. Others isolate particular muscle groups. Any of these strategies can help enhance your upper body training.

Here are four basic workout routines to help you organize your upper body workouts. Each workout can be tweaked to fit particular objectives or target specific muscles. We'll finish with a few commonly asked questions about how to group your exercises.

Organizing

Isolating the right muscles to get a complete workout may seem confusing. This can seem especially hard if you don't have a lot of time for any particular training session. You can remedy this by first learning a little about agonist and antagonistic muscle groups.

Knowing these basics will help you to add variety to your workout programs. The most basic type of workout is standard straight sets. You can add diversity to an advanced routine called supersets. To add intensity to individual muscles or muscle groups, there is the compound workout.

You can also blend all three of these ideas into one workout called circuit training. Here's a basic outline for these four variations. You can apply any of these individually, or blend them together to get the most out of your sets.

getting ready to lift

Straight Sets

Straight sets are a series of exercises completed in progression. You will alternate muscle groups and usually leave the weight the same for each set. Straight set training usually involves three total trips through this series.

Set 1

  • Chest press - 12 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 12 reps
  • Bench flies – 12 reps
  • Shoulder press – 12 reps
  • Arm curls – 10 to 12 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 to 12 reps
  • Select a weight for each exercise that you can lift 10-12 times for each of the 3 sets. You should rest one-minute between each. Most straight set programs consist of three identical segments using the same weight and the same number of repetitions. Straight sets are the simplest type of program.

    Supersets

    Supersets are where you put your understanding of antagonistic muscle pairs to work. Here is a general set and repetition format for compound sets.

    Segment 1: Chest and Back Concentration

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • Segment 2: Chest and Back Concentration

  • Bench flies – 12 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 12 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Bench flies – 12 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 12 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

    Segment 3: Biceps and Triceps Concentration

  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • Compound Sets

    Compound Sets target the same muscle group in progression. Here is an essential compound routine targeting your pectoral muscles.

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Bench flies – 12 reps
  • Assisted Dips – to failure
  • 2-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 8 reps
  • Bench flies – 10 reps
  • Assisted Dips – to failure
  • 2-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 6 reps
  • Bench flies – 8 reps
  • Assisted Dips – to failure
  • While the compound set strategy is similar to straight sets, you pair agonistic muscles together. Agonistic muscles are muscles that perform the same action. The above example targeted the pictorials, with some emphasis on the triceps.

    As an example, you use your triceps for chest, shoulder and triceps presses. You can also isolate the triceps with a variety of target exercises. Going directly to an activity that uses the same muscle or muscle group is a compound set.

    Circuits

    Circuits are favorite for fitness enthusiasts who have only a limited amount of time to train. They are also excellent for weight loss objectives and building muscle definition. Circuits incorporate much of three previous concepts into high-intensity.

    Full Four Circuit

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • Bench flies – 10 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 10 reps
  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • NO rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • Bench flies – 10 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 10 reps
  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • 1-minute rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • Bench flies – 10 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 10 reps
  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • NO rest period – Increase weight 25%

  • Chest press - 10 reps
  • Seated low row – 10 reps
  • Bench flies – 10 reps
  • Lat pull downs – 10 reps
  • Arm curls – 10 reps
  • Triceps press – 10 reps
  • This final type circuit is one of the most intense programs you can use. This is routine is recommended for intermediate fitness levels and up. You can reduce the reps and increase the weight to build bulk, or increase the number of repetitions with lighter weight to sculpt and burn calories.

    using kettlebells for pushups

    Questions and Answers

    There are a few commonly asked questions about upper body workouts. Many wonder what the best technique is for grouping muscles, or how to split your individual sets between various muscles. Here are answers to six frequent questions about how to organize your upper body.

    What are the best muscle groups to work together? 

    You can get the most out of every workout if you pair up your muscle groups. The common practice is to match chest and back on one day, and then shoulders, biceps, and triceps on another day. You can also pair antagonistic muscles back-to-back in a series of sets whenever you're short on time.

    How should you group your workouts?

    By using a similar philosophy for working your muscle groups, you can create a good grouping for your workouts. To grow, your muscles need to have a period of rest. Put at least 24 hours between workouts that use specific muscles, and group your workouts in a way that allows you enough rest.

    How should I split my upper body?

    To split up your exercises, you can use the two techniques discussed previously. One method is to split your muscles into agnostic groups, all on the same day. Another way to divide your exercises is to work your entire upper body on a single day, using the concept of antagonistic muscles to get the best results.

    What order should I workout?

    Work your muscles in a progression from the larger muscles down to the smaller ones. Begin with your chest muscles and back muscles for the first series of sets. Finish workouts with your arms, splitting between biceps and triceps sets.

    How often should I hit each muscle group?

    You can work each muscle group four times per week, but doing this continuously will not provide the best results. You should work each muscle group three days per week, and targeting one full week of no training, every four to six months. This will allow your muscles to rest and grow.

    How many sets should I do per muscle group?

    Muscle begins to lose responsiveness after three sets. Different bodybuilding strategies adhere to a much more rigid workout philosophy. However, those are for professional bodybuilders and powerlifters.

    For conventional workout programs, you should try to restrict the total number of sets to three or four maximum, with a total of 10 to 20 repetitions per set. Lower sets with more weight will build strength and mass, lower the weight and increase the reps to sculpt and burn calories.

    You should set the weight for any particular set to require maximum effort to complete the last two repetitions. There is a version of circuit training that decreases the weight to allow 25 repetitions per set. These are called speed circuits and add a cardio element to strength training.

    Remember, muscles need a rest period, both during and after workouts, to maximize the benefits of your training. Other than speed circuits, rest one to two minutes between sets. Use any of these four workouts to help organize your training better. If you're looking for an inexpensive piece of gear to work out these muscle groups from home, I would recommend the iron gym workout bar.

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