Upper Body Workout for Women

Woman exercising with weights

Many women count on aerobic exercises to achieve their fitness goals, but strength training is important because strong muscles help stabilize joints and increase your metabolism. An upper body workout with moderate weights won't make you bulky. It will give you long, lean, well-defined muscles to make you look great in a sleeveless summer dress.

The Basics of Upper Body Workout

This workout is grouped into blocks that help you work your whole upper body using hand weights and a stability ball. Do eight to 12 repetitions of the first exercise in a group, then immediately do eight to 12 of the second. That is called a set. Do three sets in a group with a 20- to 30-second break between each set. Move on to the next group. If you find it too easy to do 12 reps, increase the weight. If it is too hard to do eight reps, decrease the weight. Doing 12 repetitions at a lower weight creates longer muscles, whereas heavier weights with fewer reps will create shorter, larger muscles.

Group 1 Back: Incline Rows

Begin in an upright kneeling position with your feet pressed against a wall for stability, an exercise ball directly in front of you and hand weights just in front of the ball. Bend forward over the ball and reach forward to grab a weight with each hand, with the ball beneath you for support. With your hands in front of the ball -- thumbs would be pointing toward each other -- pull the weights toward you as if you are rowing a boat. Release slowly back to the ground.

Group 1 Back: Reverse Flyes

In the same starting position as incline rows, turn your hands so that your palms are facing one another. Lift your arms out to the sides with elbows slightly bent. Slowly release.

Group 2 Chest: Dumbbell Press

Lying on your back on a stability ball with your feet on the floor and your toes pressed against the wall, hold a weight in each hand. With your elbows out to the side, your thumbs pointing inward toward each other and your hands right beside your chest, press the dumbbells upward until your elbows are straight but do not lock your elbows. Bring the dumbbells down slowly to the starting position and repeat.

Group 2 Chest: Flyes

Still lying on the ball, hold the dumbbells directly in front of you as if you are at the top of your rep in the chest presses above. Turn your hands so that your palms are facing one another. Bend your elbows slightly. This is your starting position. Open your arms, lowering them out to the sides, and then lift them back to the starting position.

Group 3 Arms: Curls

Stand with feet hip width apart, knees soft, a weight in each hand, palms facing forward. Hold your elbows tight against your sides throughout the entire movement. Bend your elbows and lift the weights up toward your chest. Release slowly down.

Group 3 Arms: Triceps Kickbacks

With weights in your hands, kneel on your left knee with the right knee forward. Lean forward and rest your right elbow on your thigh. With the weight in your left hand, pull your arms back so that your elbow is pressed against your side. Straighten your left arm lifting the weight back toward your rear end. Slowly lower and repeat. Switch sides and repeat with right arm.

Group 4 Shoulders: Overhead Press

Standing with feet hip-width apart, knees soft, hold the weights slightly in front of you at shoulder height. Palms are facing forward, elbows are out to the side. Press the weights up over your head and release back down. To reduce risk of shoulder injury, keep your hands just slightly in front of you throughout the entire motion.

Group 4 Shoulders: Lateral Raise

Standing with feet hip-width apart, knees soft, arms at your sides and weights in front of you just below your belly button. Keeping your arms slightly bent, lift them out to the sides. Stop your lift at least 10 to 15 degrees before they reach shoulder height. Release back down and repeat.