This Beginner Upper Body Workout Will Make You Stronger And Fitter

Man performs biceps curl arms exercise with dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re fairly new to the gym it’s always smart to do workouts that increase your cardiovascular fitness while also building strength. Circuit training is great for this, since the fast pace keeps your heart rate high while you tackle a variety of exercises to build muscle. 

This beginner’s upper-body workout from Charlie Gothelf, trainer at F45 Training Old Street, is a great example of how F45 uses circuit training for sessions that build muscle, burn fat and increase cardio fitness.

“Do each exercise for 40 seconds and then take 20 seconds to rest before going on to the next exercise,” says Gothelf. “After the first round of exercises, take a 60s break before starting the second round. Do three rounds in total.”

Beginner’s Upper Body Workout

1 Dumbbell bench press

Man performs dumbbell bench press exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Time 40sec Rest 20s

“Grab two dumbbells and lie back on the bench or on the floor, with your chest out and the dumbbells held at either side of your chest,” says Gothelf. “Breathe out as you press the dumbbells up, and breathe in as you bring them down.”

2 SkiErg

Cardio workouts

(Image credit: Unknown)

Time 40sec Rest 20s

“If you have access to SkiErg, it’s a great upper body exercise,” says Gothelf. “Grab the handles and drive your hands down, pushing your hips back. Use a full range of motion, driving all the way down.”

3 Barbell bent over row

Man demonstrates two positions of the bent-over row exercise with a barbell

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Time 40sec Rest 20s

“Hold a barbell with your palms facing towards you, with your hands shoulder-width apart,” says Gothelf. "Bend forwards, hinging at the hips and keeping your back flat. Drive your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together, bringing the bar to your bellybutton. Then return to the start position and repeat.”

4 Press-up

Man performs press-up at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Time 40sec Rest 20s

“Start by getting into a plank position, with your arms locked out,” says Gothelf, who advises having your knees on the floor for an easier variation on the classic press-up. “Slowly bring your chest to the floor by bending your elbows. Then push through your hands back up to the plank position.”

5 Shoulder press

Woman performs overhead press shoulder exercise with a barbell

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Time 40sec Rest 20s

For this exercise, also known as an overhead press, Gothelf suggests using a Revo bar, a weighted bar without plates used at F45 gyms. You can also use an unloaded barbell, or add some light plates to it.

“Start in a standing position holding a Revo bar just above your chest,” says Gothelf. “Press the bar vertically above your head until your arms are straight. Then slowly bring it back down to your chest.”

6 Biceps curl

Dumbbell biceps curl

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Time 40sec Rest 60s

“Grab two dumbbells with your palms facing up and your elbows tucked in to your body,” says Gothelf. “Keep your elbows tight to your sides, and flex at the elbows to bring the dumbbells up, then lower them slowly.” 

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.