Arms and Shoulders Home Workout - Prepare to Bare

Arms and Shoulders Home Workout - Prepare to Bare

By Christina Macdonald Personal Trainer
Workout by Mark Hatfield Conditioning Coach


Want to show off your arms, shoulders and back? Don’t have time for long workouts? You don’t need to worry.

To make the most of your time, this workout will focus on exercises that will train more than one body part at the same time, making it very efficient.

If you want sculpted shoulders, toned arms and a firm back, then look no further.

One of the best ways to tone your body is hitting what’s called Momentary Muscular Fatigue (MMF). This is means that, on the last repetition where it feels tough, you’ve got to make that extra effort to complete it. If the last rep doesn’t feel tough, then increase the weight.

Your body is incredibly adaptable so when you have been doing a certain type of exercise for some time, it gets better to the point where it doesn’t need to adapt anymore and the exercise becomes comfortable. At this point, it’s important to ramp things up and make them harder. If you can do at least two more repetitions above the recommendation for two consecutive workouts, it’s time to reach for the next pair of dumbbells.

Workout guidelines

Aim to complete this workout twice a week in combination with a lower body workout to tone the legs.

Complete exercises 1A/B/C as a circuit, moving through with minimal rest. After 1C, rest for 2 mins and repeat for three sets. Do the same for 2A/B and 3A/B.

a Close Grip Press Up 10-12 reps Rest for 2 mins
b Wide Grip Row 10-12 reps
c Dumbbell Pullover 10-12 reps
Repeat for 3 sets

1A Close Grip Press Up

(Back of Arms – Chest – Shoulders – Abs)

  • Place your hands shoulder width, level with the top of your ribs
  • Keep your torso tight and lower your chest towards the floor
  • Imagine balloons between your arms and ribs and make sure you try to burst them with every repetition.

Technique Tip: This is often more challenging than the traditional press up as it emphasis the work on the back of the arms. To make it a little easier, put your hands on to a stable, raised surface like a bench or chair. Higher is easier.

Upper Body Wide Grip Row

1B Wide Grip Row

(Upper Back – Shoulders – Biceps)

  • Soften the knees and push the hips back.
  • Pull the dumbbells in a wide arc and then grip your balloons between your arms and ribs
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement

Technique Tip: There might be a temptation to ‘bounce’ the weight up with your legs. Be aware of it and make sure you feel a solid, tightness in your back muscles. If it’s a dull ache, you might have lost position. Stand up and reset.

Upper Body Dumbbell Pullover

1C Dumbbell Pullover

(Chest – Upper Back/Lats – Back of Arms – Abs)

  • Lay on the floor or a bench and hold the weight above your chest
  • Keep a slight bend in your arms and lower back over the head
  • Feel a mild stretch down the front of your body/upper back and pull the arms back over
  • Keep your back in contact with the floor or bench throughout the movement to give your abs a workout, too

Technique Tip: There is now another balloon between your elbows. You should be squeezing it all the way through the movement so it doesn’t float away.


a Shoulder Press 10-12 reps Rest for 2 mins
b Lateral Raise 10-12 reps
Repeat for 3 sets

Upper Body Shoulder Press

2A Shoulder Press

(Shoulders – Back of Arms)

  • Hold the dumbbells just above shoulder height, elbows tight to the body
  • Push the dumbbells straight up, bringing them closer together at the top of the movement

Technique Tip: You may see people doing this seated with back support. This is useful but can lead to arching the back, taking the challenge off the shoulders and on to the muscles of the upper chest. It’s better to go lighter and keep your back straight.

Upper Body Lateral Raise

2B Lateral Raise


  • Stand with dumbbells slightly away from the hips
  • Raise them out to the side, keeping a slight bend in the elbow to shoulder height
  • Lower them back to just off the hips

Technique Tip: Some people bring the dumbbells in front of them when doing this exercise. This makes it easier as the first part (front of the hips to the side of the hips) is the momentum of the weight falling and assists. Keep this slow and controlled, especially at the bottom.

Upper Body French Press

a French Press 10-12 reps Rest for 2 mins
b Dumbbell Curl 10-12 reps
Repeat for 3 sets

3A French Press

(Back of Arms)

  • Position the arms straight above the shoulders or slightly behind, above your ears
  • Keep the elbows in this position as you bend the arms to lower the weights
  • Slowly squeeze the weights back up and remember to squeeze your balloon between your elbows

Technique Tip: As you push the weights back up, really focus on keeping the elbows fixed in position. As you tire, they tend to drift forwards making the exercise a little easier but less effective.

Upper Body Dumbbell Bicep Curl

3B Dumbbell Curl

(Front of Arms)

  • Stand with dumbbells at your sides
  • Pin your elbows to your sides and lift the weights up to your shoulders

Technique Tip: As you raise the dumbbells to your shoulders, think about pointing your little finger at the front of your shoulder to get a big squeeze on your bicep.

Workout Progression

Try this sequence:

Week 1 10-12 repetitions 3 sets
Week 2 12-15 repetitions 3 sets
Increase Weight
Week 3 8-10 repetitions 3 sets
Week 4 10-12 repetitions 3 sets
Week 5 12-15 repetitions 3 sets
Increase Weight
Week 6 8-10 repetitions 3 sets
Recovery Week 8-10 repetitions 1 set

Repeat this sequence so that you keep building the repetitions and then increase the weight every third week. After six weeks, go down to one set of each exercise as a recovery week and repeat the sequence.

What about cardio?

Cardio exercise like walking, jogging, running, cycling and swimming will burn calories, but don’t underestimate the benefits of weight-training (like the exercises here) for burning fat. One study recently showed that lifting weights three times per week for one set of nine repetitions increased fat burning at rest by around eight per cent.

Many people tend to overestimate how many calories they burn when doing cardiovascular exercise and tend to underestimate how much they eat. Not a good combination when trying to lose weight!

Mark Hatfield

Mark Hatfield @fitnessxl is the Fitness Acadamy Trainer for Nuffield Health where he trains personal trainers to be their best. He is has been training clients for the past 19 years and is the owner of Fluid Coaching.

Photos: Eddie Macdonald | Workout model: Kristen @ MOT Models

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