Top 5 Upper Body Exercises of all time

So now we will get a little more specific with the top 5. Next lets go over what you think the top 5 Upper body exercises are. To quantify them as a top 5 means you feel they give you the most overall benefit to the muscular system. Obviously this entire blog is based around helping everyone learn the tools that can increase your overall muscular efficiency. So which moves are the most beneficial for building strength, increasing range of motion in the joints, and have the fewest amount of negative side effects to them.

Here is my Top 5 Best upper body exercises in no particular order.

1. Roller Coaster – Kneeling, Standing, Spread Foot, One leg. They are all great exercises. Some of you mentioned this one in your top 5 and I understand why. It is a great tool for building great strength and is a better version of the pushup when it comes to increasing overall efficiency in the body. The Navy Seals started to make this move famous. one of my favorite exercise scenes ever in a movie was in G.I. Jane. They are in Seal training doing roller coasters in the surf. I am a nerd.



2. Pull-up – I am going to lump this into the pull category, chin-ups, pull-ups, seal pull-ups. This one is still in my opinion the best move for strengthening the back. The first item to put into a gym is pull-up bars for this reason. It is so much easier to train the chest and shoulders with no equipment but the back can prove difficult. 

3. Full Sit-up – I am going with the upper body being from the waist up. Full Sit-ups got  real bad reputation for awhile. As we lost our muscular efficiency and our hips started to tighten up in the last few decades, it became incredibly hard to so this move without any pain in the lower back. The issue was the casting effect on our hips causing us to not be able to generate the necessary motion in the lumbar spine to do this move correctly. But if you want strong abs and core, I’ll take the full sit-up over the basic crunch.

4. Handstand – Coach S will agree with this one. As will a large portion of guys in my weight training class. Being able to hold a legitimate handstand is one of the more enjoyable exercise feeling in my opinion. The power your body generates in this move is fantastic. It also build a great upper body, shoulders, and back especially. If yo can get to the point of doing handstand pushups, you have achieved some serious muscular strength and efficiency in your upper body. People tend to shy away from a move like this due its level of difficulty but I recommend everyone stick with it. 

5. Inchworm – I was really undecided on this one. I had several that I wanted to put into the top 5 but I am going to stick with Inchworms. They are a great integration move. Integration meaning that incorporates just about every muscle of the body to perform it correctly. For this reason it may not be specific to just the upper body but if you have ever done a set of 20, you understand why I like it. This is one of the best core moves I have done and I also like the range of motion component in various areas of the body that this move will impact.


So once again lets see what you come up with for your top 5. My honorable mentioned list included Kneeling Arnold Press, Pushups, Crunches, Dumbbells Flies, Rows

4 Comments on this post


  1. Mr. E Fish Ent said:

    Solid 5 Scott. There are a lot of different varieties of the exercises you mentioned which makes them so great. A few of yours are also in my top 5. (I assume we are still going with no equipment)
    1) Pull-Ups
    2) Rollercoasters
    3) Clapping Push-ups- one of my favorite non-equipment horizonal push exercises.
    4) Handwalkers- Had a tough time deciding between this and bearcrawl, but handwalkers add a little more.
    5) Handstands

    February 11th, 2009 at 12:42 pm
  2. Joe the Trainer said:

    What is your guys’ opinion on negatives training? ex( benching and getting a lot of help in the way up but having to go slow and control the way down, or getting help up on a pull up but slow and controlled down)

    February 11th, 2009 at 12:44 pm
  3. Scott said:

    I think negatives can be a valuable tool to help out with building strength. There are a few different phases in a muscle contraction. Concentric, eccentric, isometric etc. I have had success with negatives in the past to help athletes get past sticking points in the bench press. Also teaching negatives is a good way to slow down a typical momentum lifter.

    February 12th, 2009 at 10:55 pm
  4. Joe the Trainer said:

    Yeah in my human physiology class the professor taught us that we have the most strength gains during eccentric contractions, ie lengthening of the muscle, so I was considering trying it for a workout.

    February 13th, 2009 at 12:37 am


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