Six Methods:Creating a Muscle Building PlanWorking Out EffectivelyBuilding Chest and Triceps MusclesBuilding Bicep and Forearm MusclesBuilding Shoulder and Back MusclesBuilding Ab MusclesCommunity Q&A
Upper body muscles are often the first muscles people think of when they think of the gym. Bulging biceps, powerful pecs, and toned triceps are not only attractive, but they are easy to grow with the right diet and exercise. While you should focus on building the strength of your whole body, there are specific exercises and programs to beef up your upper body.
Creating a Muscle Building Plan
1Understand how muscle building works. When you exercise, the strain of lifting weights rips your muscle fibers. As soon as you stop working out your body goes into repair mode, starting a process known as “protein synthesis.” As your body rebuilds, it adds additional cells to prepare your body for further strain, and this is what makes your body bigger and stronger. 
- The inverse is also true—if you don’t work out, then your body spends less energy building new muscle cells. Thus, your muscles slowly become weaker without use.
2Rest at least two days before working out the same muscle group. Building muscle is essentially a healing process – after you lift your muscle fibers tear, and your body rebuilds them stronger than before. But if you interrupt this process by lifting the same weights multiple days in a row prevents your muscles from healing properly, which stunts growth and leads to injury.
3Plan for at least one rest day a week. Rest days allow your entire body to recover and focus on rebuilding muscle. It also gives you a mental and physical break that can help your keep your energy and enthusiasm up during the rest of the week’s workouts. Resting your joints, muscles, and ligaments helps you stay healthier in the long term.
- A light jog or bike ride is a great way to still get a “workout” in while still having a rest day.
- Don’t worry about “missing” the chance to get stronger on a rest day. All high-level training programs, from NFL athletes to Olympians, incorporate rest days.
4Plan your workouts around different muscle groups. When you make a fitness plan, remember to give each muscle group time to relax before working it again. The easiest way to do this is to dedicate certain days to certain muscle groups, like “Chest and Shoulders” one day and “Biceps and Back” the other. For example, you might plan on working out 5 days a week with a plan like this:
- Day 1: Chest, triceps, and abs
- Day 2: Shoulders and back
- Day 3: Biceps, chest, and abs.
- Day 4: Rest or light cardio
- Day 5: Chest, triceps
- Day 6: Biceps, back, and abs.
- Day 7: Rest or light cardio
5Eat a source of protein with every meal when lifting. Protein synthesis requires protein, and the more your body has available to use the faster your muscles will grow after a workout. Many serious lifters and body builders drink protein shakes, after every workout to promote muscle growth.To make a protein shake, simply mix in 1-2 tablespoons of protein powder with water, fruit, yogurt, and ice in a blender. Or, add natural sources of protein to your diet:
Working Out Effectively
1Focus on technique with every exercise. The proper technique helps you get bigger faster and prevents crippling injuries. While a good trainer, trusted friend, or doctor can help fix specific issues, some things to focus on include:
- Keep your back straight. Focus on keeping your chest puffed up and your shoulder blades back, as if you are a superhero. Your lower back should rarely bend.
- Never fully extend your joints. Instead, push the lift until your joint is just slightly bent before returning to rest position.
- Stop when you feel pain. "No pain, no gain" is a myth. An exercise should be hard, but sharp pain in your muscles or joints means you are doing something wrong.
2Choose a weight that comfortably challenges you. Choosing an enormous weight to look cool is the best way to get hurt. Start on lower weights and work up as you get comfortable. A good benchmark is to shoot for a weight that is difficult to move on the 8th, 9th, and 10th, reps. This means you are challenging yourself without risking injury. You should struggle a bit on the last few reps, but you should be able to push through it to lift the weight.
3Do 10-20 reps of every exercise you perform. A rep, or repetition, is when you do an exercise once. One push-up, for example, is one rep. You need to do multiple reps in a row to build muscles, as this is what strains your muscles and promotes growth, aim for at least 10 reps of every exercise.
- More reps at a lower weight are great to build toned, lean muscle.
- Less reps at higher weights are great to build big muscles, but can be dangerous for beginning lifters.
- Some programs promote “burn out” or “max reps,” which is when you continue an exercise until you physically cannot do it anymore.
4Aim for 3-5 sets of each exercise. A set is just a group of reps. Instead of trying to do 60 push-ups at once, which requires a large amount of strength and stamina, aim for 3 sets for 20 push-ups instead. Sets allow your muscles to quickly recover, allowing you to lift more weight in the second and third set than if you tried to do 30 reps at once. Taking too long, however, prevents your muscles from feeling challenged and truly growing.
- Don’t take more than 30 seconds to 3 minutes between sets.
- Some people like to exercise another muscle group while resting, alternating sit-ups and push-ups, for example, to make the most of the time between sets.
5Add more weight slowly as you get comfortable. If you are no longer tired after 10 reps of bench pressing, it's time to add weight. Start with small increments, adding 5-10 pounds for each set until you are again being challenged. Remember that you want the last 2-3 reps to be the hardest, but still doable.
6Start each workout with compound lifts before moving on to specific muscles. A compound lift is an exercise that uses multiple muscles at once, like bench-presses (chest, triceps, shoulders) or pull-ups (back, biceps, lats). Specific exercises, like biceps curls, target one muscle at a time. Always begin with the compound exercises, since beginning with specific muscle groups will tire you out and ruin your form during harder lifts.
Building Chest and Triceps Muscles
1Know that many chest and tricep exercises are closely related. Triceps are used to extend your arms away from your body while your chest muscles push things away from you. Your chest and triceps work together on many exercises, and are thus often bundled together for workouts, meaning your exercise chest and triceps at the same time.
- Pectorals: You chest muscles are called "Pectorals." The extend from your nipples up to your collar bone.
- Triceps: A group of three muscles on the back of your arm, stretching from the shoulder to the knob of your elbow.
2Do push-ups. Rest face down on the ground with your hands shoulder-width apart and your toes on the ground. Lower yourself slowly to the ground by bending your elbows. Once you are roughly 6 inches off the ground, push yourself back up to your starting position. Keep you back straight the entire time. You can do push-ups anywhere, and you should try to do 50-100 reps a day.
- Move your hands farther apart to focus on your chest muscles.
- Move your hands closer together to focus on your triceps.
- Try incline or decline push-ups, where your hands are higher or lower than your feet, to work out different sections of your muscles.
3Use the bench-press. Similar to push-ups, bench-pressing is one of the most common workouts in gyms across the world. Benching focuses on your chest and triceps, but it also activates your shoulders and back, making it essential for any upper-body building program. To bench-press, lie on your back on underneath a barbell (long, two-handed bar with weights on either end). Put your hands on the bar shoulder-width apart and slowly lower the bar until it touches your chest. Push the bar back up, extending your arm, and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps.
- Do not extend your arm so much that your elbows "lock" in place.
- Keep your wrists firm and straight, as if you were punching the air with both hands.
- Always ask someone to "spot you" by standing near your head and catching the weight if you run into difficulty.
4Use dumbbells to bench press without a machine. You can do presses with dumbbells (one-handed weights). Lay on your back with a dumbbell in each hand and push the weight up, extending your arms. Lower the weights until your elbows are bent roughly 90 degrees, then repeat.
- Focus on keeping your arms "solid." They shouldn't shake or wobble, they should smoothly pushup and then return to center for the best form.
- Keep your wrist firm. The weights should be perpendicular to your body, but don't twist them or drop your wrists as you get tired.
5Do chest flies. Lay on your back on a bench or reclined chair. Grab a dumbbell for each hand and rest with your arms extended out to each side as if you were opening up for a big hug. Bending your elbows slightly, curl your arms towards your body so that the weights meet in the middle, roughly a foot above your chest like you were hugging a friend. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps.
- Don't twist your body to make this easier. Focus on using just your arms and chest to bring the weights together.
6Do dips. Dips not only work your chest and triceps, they also utilize shoulder muscles and biceps for balance. Elevate yourself between two benches so that your butt is 1-2 feet in the air – your feet will be on the end of one bench and your hands near your waist on another. Using your arms, lower your butt towards the floor until your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly push yourself up so that your arms are straight and elbows unbent. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.
- You can make these more difficult by adding weights onto your lap.
7Do tricep pushes. This is usually a specific machine at the gym, a hanging cable attached to weights with a small bar to grab. Take the bar in both hands, it should be around chest level. Moving only your forearm, pull the weight down so that your arms are fully extended by your side. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps.
8Do overhead extensions. You can either use a weighted cable or a dumbbell. Start with the weight behind you, held at roughly head level. Keeping the weight or cable behind you, pull upwards so that your hands are above your head. You should only be moving your hands -- your elbows will stay at roughly the same height. Imagine you are pulling a out of the collar of your shirt -- you reach behind your head and pull it straight up.
Building Bicep and Forearm Muscles
1Know the essential muscles in your arms. Arms are often the most coveted upper body muscles, as strong arms are generally considered attractive. More importantly, you need you strong arms to handle almost all upper body lifts.
- Biceps: The classic “flexing” muscle, your are biceps located between your elbow and shoulder on the inside of your arm. They are used to curl your arm towards itself.
- Forearms: Located between your wrist and elbow. Often overlooked, your forearm is a major part of your hand and wrist strength.
2Do bicep curls. Rest your elbow on you thigh with your forearm between your legs. Your arm will be bet at a 90-degree angle. Pick up a comfortable dumbbell, the one-handed weights, and hold it so that your palm faces upward and your arm can bend freely at the elbow. Slowly curl the weight up towards your shoulder. Lower it slowly until your arm is bent at a 90-degree angle, then repeat for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
- Use a two-handed barbell instead of dumbbells to work out both biceps at once. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and elbows at ninety degrees. Slowly curl the barbell up to your chest with both arms and then return it to your starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
3Do forearm curls. Rest your forearm on a bench across your lap with your wrist hanging freely over the edge and your palm facing upwards. Pick up a small weight, usually between 5 and 10 lbs. Using only your wrist, curl the weight towards your body and then slowly place it back down, doing 15-20 reps with each arm.
- Try this exercise with your palm facing down to work slightly different forearm muscles.
4Know that many other exercises work your arms. Your forearm, which controls a lot of your gripping power, will help with most lifts because you need to hold onto heavy weights. Your biceps come into play in a lot of exercises,
Building Shoulder and Back Muscles
1Know the essential muscles in your shoulder and back. These key muscles provide a strong base for your upper body, helping ensure good form and stability when lifting. They include:
- Deltoids: These muscles from a triangle pointing down from your shoulder, and help rotate and lift your arms.
- Trapezoids: Coming down from both sides of your neck and forming a point in the middle of your spine, these are essential for shrugging motions, twists, and pulling something down towards you.
- Lats: Found on your ribs and back, your lats help keep your body stable and spine aligned.
2Do deltoid raises. With your arm hanging by your side, grab a comfortable dumbbell (one-handed weight). Keeping your arm straight and elbow locked at 90-degrees, raise the weight up so that your arm is straight in front of you. Do not keep going up – your arm should be at a 90-degree angle to your body. You will look a little like an old cartoon robot, with bent arms and a stiff back. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.
- Variations: Mix in sideways deltoid raises. Bend your elbows at 90-degree angles so that the weights are in front of your body, roughly stomach level. Raise your elbows up and to the sides, as if they were wings, and then slowly return your arms to your sides.
3Do military presses. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell at neck height with both hands shoulder-length apart on the bar. Push the weight straight up above your head, ending with your arms completely extended, then slowly return it below your chin. Do 3-4 sets of 8 reps.
- Keep your back straight and your feet solid to keep your balance.
- Never bend your back, contort your arms, or lean either way to get the weight up -- you need to be able to get the bar up in one fluid motion.
- If you feel tired, stop. This exercise can be dangerous if you drop the weight above your head.
- Military press is also a great exercise for your back and triceps.
4Do shoulder shrugs to build shoulder and back muscles at the same time. Hold a barbell (long, two-handed weight) near your thighs with your arms hanging straight down. Lift the weight 2-3 inches by raising your shoulders, then slowly lower them back down. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 20-30 reps, as shrugs work best as a high-volume exercise.
5Do rows to build back muscles. Lie face-down on a bench with your arms hanging freely in front of you. With a dumbbell in each hand, pull the weights up until your arms are bent 90 degrees, as if you were rowing a boat with both hands. Many gyms have rowing machines as well that let you perform this sitting down by pulling on a weighted cable.
- Keep your back straight and bend from the waist to row, not the lower spine.
6Do pull-ups to build your back along with your arms. Pull-ups are fantastic full-body workouts, but they hinge on having a strong back. The wider your grip, the more intense the exercise will be for your back muscles. Grab an overhead bar so that your feet cannot touch the floor. Pull your chin up over the bar, then lower yourself so that your arms are straight. Repeat for as many reps as you can.
- Many gyms have assisted pull-up machines that remove some of your weight, making your push-ups easier.
- You might encounter reverse pull-up machines—where your pull a bar down to chest height instead of pulling yourself up. This is a great way to get stronger, but know that the closer you put your hands together the more this becomes a tricep exercise.
Building Ab Muscles
1Keep your stomach in when doing other exercises to work on your abs passively. Focus on keeping your belly button "in" (towards your spine) and flexing your abs as you lift weights – you can speed up your ab strength by activating your abdominals during every exercise. Whenever you are doing and ab workout, think about having a strong core -- moving fluidly no matter what your exercise you’re doing.
- Abs are the series of muscle found around the front of your stomach, and they are important for balance, stability, and overall strength.
- Obliques are on the sides of your stomach, under the ribs, and are used for core balance.
2Do sit-ups. Lie down with your feet on the floor, knees up, and hands crossed on your chest. Bring your shoulders to your knees while keeping your back straight as you sit up. Lower yourself down slowly, keeping your butt on the floor. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 20-30 reps.
- While popular, do not have someone hold your feet down -- this works your hips more than your abs.
3Do crunches. Start in the same position you take for sit-ups—butt, feet, and shoulders on the floor with your knees bent up. Keep your back on the floor and your neck strong as you raise your eyes towards the ceiling. Exhale and hold your shoulders 6-8 inches above the floor for one second. Slowly lower your shoulders back down, but try not to touch your head to the floor. Do 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps.
- Bicycle crunches: pick your legs up off the ground and bend your knees so that your calves are parallel to the ground. As you do your crunches, alternate pumping your legs as if you were riding a bike.
4Do leg lifts. Lay on your back on the ground with your hands by your sides. With your feet together, raise your legs from the waist, trying to form an "L" with your body. Slowly lower them back to the floor, stopping 2-3 inches from the ground before repeating 19 more times.
- Keep your legs straight throughout the exercise.
- For a challenge, try a "hanging leg lift." Hanging from your hands with your feet off the ground, raise your legs up to form an "L" with your body. Add weights or hanging medicine balls from a weight belt to make the exercise harder.
5Try a canoe twist. Stand with your feet should length apart and your back straight. Twist from your waist to face your shoulders and arms to the side, acting like you are rowing a canoe with one paddle. As you twist, raise your opposite knee towards your chest. Alternate between each side for 3-5 sets of 20 reps.
6Do planks. Set up in push-up position, with your toes on the floor and your face down. However, instead of resting on your hands, fold your arms in front of you and rest on your elbows and forearms. Hold this position for at least one minute, rest, and repeat two more times. You should focus on keeping your spine straight and your butt at the same height as your shoulders to get the best work out.
- Add "toe-taps” once you are comfortable. Lift one foot off the ground 6 inches and return it slowly to the ground, repeating this 20 times with each foot.
7Try side planks to work your entire core. From normal plank position, turn your body so your chest faces sideways and you are resting on only one arm. Place your weight on the outside of your foot and your forearm. If you were to draw a line from the floor through your shoulders it would point straight up to the sky. Keep your other arm flat at your side, and hold this for one minute before switching sides.
- Building visible muscle does not happen overnight, so take you time and commit to your plan for at least 2-3 months.
- Avoid the temptation to use heavy weights to look cool. Take your time and use the weight that feels appropriate.
- If you feel pain, stop working out and rest the afflicted muscle. Apply ice as needed.
Sources and Citations
- ↑ http://www.muscleforlife.com/build-muscle-lose-fat/
- ↑ http://www.theactivetimes.com/rest-days-how-much-recovery-do-you-really-need-between-workouts
- ↑ https://www.wellbridge.com/fit-like-that/give-it-a-rest-its-ok-to-skip-your-workout
- ↑ http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ultimate-list-40-high-protein-foods.html
- ↑ http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/build-muscle-and-lose-fat-at-the-same-time.html
- ↑ http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/likness25.htm
- ↑ https://www.fitnessblender.com/blog/how-much-weight-should-i-be-lifting-how-to-choose-the-right-amount-of-weight
- ↑ http://www.medicinenet.com/weight_lifting/page2.htm
- ↑ http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/why-10-x-3-is-best-for-strength-and-size
- ↑ http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/topicoftheweek11.htm
- ↑ http://www.medicinenet.com/weight_lifting/page2.htm
- ↑ http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/triceps
- ↑ http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw17.htm
- ↑ http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/arm-muscles
- ↑ https://survivordean.wordpress.com/how-to-gain-weight-and-muscles/best-exercises-for-your-back/
- ↑ http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/shoulders-exercises/get-bigger-shoulders-5-easy-moves?page=4
- ↑ http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/shoulders-exercises/get-bigger-shoulders-5-easy-moves?page=2
- ↑ http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/back-exercises/back-exercises-complete-back-workout
- ↑ http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/beginner-back-training-guide.htm
- ↑ http://www.fitstep.com/Library/Exercises/abdominal-exercises/abdominal-sit-ups/abdominal-sit-ups.htm