How to Build an Amazing Upper Body You Can be Proud of

Get strong and sexy with these workout tips.

When it comes to upper- and lower-body strength, most females would agree that their legs are much stronger than their arms. This is completely normal and quite common. Through my experience in training female clients, a few things have become obvious: we tend to enjoy lower body workouts while dreading the upper body sessions. Most of my clients have openly voiced a fear that they don’t know how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud of without making their arms look bulky.

I’ll you the same thing that I always tell them: there’s no reason to fear upper body training sessions. As women, we cannot naturally put on enough muscle to make us look bulky. On the other hand, working out our arms will help us tone and shape the muscle that we do have. The following tips will show you how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud of. 

It’s extremely important to put in the amount of effort necessary to see results. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do.” In other words, don’t be upset with the upper body you currently have if you’re not putting in the effort to improve it. After you learn more about these workout principles, you have to put them into practice in order to see results. 

Routine and Consistency

Performing consistent upper body training routines will not only improve your appearance, but it will also enhance your athletic ability and boost your confidence. The key word here is consistency, because that’s the key to toning and shaping muscle. Staying consistent will significantly increase your strength, as well. Just because we start out with naturally weaker upper bodies does not mean that we need to stay that way. You’re capable of more than you know! 

First and foremost, the main principle for how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud is that consistency will make or break you. If you’re inconsistent with your training routine, your progress will stall and you will not see results. On the other hand, following a consistent training program will allow you to become stronger and more toned.

One of the best ways to follow a routine is to write down your workouts, or log them into a training app. When you can adjust your training volume and intensity (i.e., sets, reps, and weights) week by week, you’ll continue to make progress. If accountability is your main problem when it comes to sticking to a routine, consider finding a workout partner! The chances of success skyrocket when you have someone to hold you accountable. Another option would be to hire a qualified personal trainer (we’re great, I promise!).

From my experience working with female clients, I know that many women don’t look forward to working on their upper bodies. I get it: I used to feel the same way! But, once I decided to stick to a basic upper body training routine, I noticed improvements in multiple aspects of my life. I even found myself looking forward to it! So create a routine and consistently stick to it.

Warm-Up and Maintain Mobility

It’s astounding how many gym-goers ignore warm-up and flexibility routines. These two things are important pieces of a proper training routine. I like to use the analogy of sticky tack, silly putty, or clay. When it’s cold, it’s very hard to manipulate. The more you warm it up, the better it stretches and the more malleable it becomes.

This is what happens to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments during a warm-up and stretching routine. A proper warm-up and flexibility session before your workout will substantially reduce your risk of injury. It will also help improve your upper body strength with the added benefit of improving your posture!

Less Cardio, More Weights

15-Minute Quick & Easy Cardio Workout

If you really want to learn how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud of, do more weight training. Cardio is fantastic for building your heart and lung health, as well as shedding those extra pounds. Weight training, however, will provide more physical results.

Taking time to shred some fat after sticking to a weight lifting program for 6-12 weeks will reveal all of your hard work. We all have muscle, but many of us have fat that covers that muscle. By building muscle and shredding fat, we will end up with a fitter, toned, more feminine-looking physique.

When you practice a consistent weight training regimen, you will look more athletic and physically fit compared to only performing cardio. Upper body weight training will do a lot more for you than cardio ever could.

It’s worth mentioning that improving your upper body strength will also increase your lower body strength! This is because most lower body workouts require you to hold weight while you perform them (like squats, deadlifts, or lunges). It doesn’t have to be complicated, but following a basic upper body training plan will lead to numerous positive results!


The human body is extremely adaptable, so you’ll need some variety if you want to learn how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud of. Like I said before, you’ll want to stick to a training routine for about 6-12 weeks. After this time period, many stall out in their progress or hit their plateau.

This is when we need to throw in some variety. Switch it up! Add in some new exercises, try a different training volume by varying the number of sets, reps, or days per week. Or, kick up the intensity by increasing the weights in your lifting. This will keep your body from adapting and stalling out. You’ll love showing off your back and arms at the beach this summer!

Feed Your Muscles

Many females have a tendency to under eat when they’re trying to get into shape. It’s one thing to eat a safe caloric deficit while following a weight loss routine. It’s another thing to know how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud of by building and toning your muscles. In that case, you’ll need to eat a sufficient amount of food per day, and you’ll especially need to focus on protein.

Try to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight. For example, a 135-pound person needs at least 135 grams of protein per day. It’s also important to make sure your workouts are properly fueled. Usually, this means eating a nutrient- and carbohydrate-dense snack before working out, like a banana, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, or a cup of oatmeal. Check out these other Energy Boosting Snacks for more great ideas! Post workout recovery is also important, so try eating Greek yogurt, tuna and whole grain crackers, a protein shake, or eggs with whole wheat toast. 

Catch some Zzz’s

Another important factor to building an amazing upper body is ensuring that you’re getting enough rest. Sleep is the body’s way to fuel recovery and growth. Without getting enough rest, your progress will stall out and your workouts will suffer.

By applying these principles to your lifestyle, you learn how to build an amazing upper body you can be proud of. Think about the many things you do to build your lower body and start doing them for your upper body as well!

I want to leave you with this: utilizing weight training for your upper body will NOT make you look BULKY. It will make you look strong, fit, and sexy! Now that’s something that you can be proud of! 

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Erin Miller

Erin is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. She is also a Performance Nutrition Coach, certified through the Clean Health Fitness Institute. Some of Erin’s favorite hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and hanging out at the beach, although weight lifting is her greatest passion. She says, “Weight training is one of the most empowering things a person can do. Not just seeing, but feeling yourself transform… There’s just nothing else like it.”

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