The Best Upper-Body Workout

Ask me for an upper-body workout, and I’ll give you one exercise: the standing single-arm overhead press.

Here’s why: It works the deltoids, biceps, triceps, lats, and pecs, as well as all of the stabilizing muscles in your entire body. It even works your glutes since you can’t have a weak or sagging butt when pressing a large amount of weight overhead with one arm—it just doesn’t happen.

And if you do the exercise alongside the squat and deadlift, you have everything you need for a basic total-body training system.

No other exercise comes close to offering that many advantages.

If you already have the overhead press in your workout, great. But I bet you don’t have it programmed like this. It’s called the 2-3-5 method, and I use in my book Mass Made Simple. The rep scheme follows a simple “ladder” formula that allows you to handle a lot of volume. You can follow it no matter what your goal—sports, hypertrophy, fat loss—because the training effects carry over to all of them.

Tip: A kettlebell works better than other training implements for this workout. That’s because the bell’s weight can shift, making the exercise harder and activating your muscles more than if you had a stable weight. (Check out The Ultimate Kettlebell Workout.)

How to do it

Left arm overhead press, 2 reps

Right arm overhead press, 2 reps

Left arm overhead press, 3 reps

Right arm overhead press, 3 reps

Left arm overhead press, 5 reps

Right arm overhead press, 5 reps

If you still have gas in the tank, do a set of 10 reps on the left and then repeat on the right. You’ll complete a total of 40 reps if you manage to get through the additional sets of 10. However, it won’t “feel” like 40. That’s because you’re constantly changing reps, and switching sides throughout.

I suggest most people do the entire workout with only one weight. Let the volume be your limiting factor, not your technique under a heavy load. If you do want to go up in weight, I suggest you do this: Perform a 2-3-5 ladder on each side like outlined above. But do up to three rounds of the ladder, increasing your load each time. Skip the sets of 10 while doing this variation since your goal is to use the biggest bell or load you can in the last round.
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