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12 Secret Moves to a Sexy Upper Body


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How to Build a Better Upper Body

Per Bernal

There are no shortage of training methods when it comes to sculpting sleek muscles. Whether you’re schooled in powerlifting, loyal to CrossFit, or into traditional bodybuilding, you’ll find a theory to match every style.

But the best results may well come from a combo of methods. “When you focus on one type of training, other areas such as strength, muscular endurance, and conditioning can suffer,” says Kyle Hopkins, head coach of Dynamic Strength and Performance in Nashville, TN. That’s where power hyper- trophy pump (PHP) comes in. It bridges the gap among symmetry, strength, endurance, conditioning, and recovery by combining powerlifting, basic bodybuilding hypertrophy, and high-intensity interval and rep training.

PHP encourages working in multiple rep ranges and rotates movements to get a varied approach, allowing adequate recovery time and initiating less muscular trauma than in powerlifting or strict bodybuilding. It works best when pairing one, two, or three body parts—which is why this training is ideal for targeting the chest and shoulders. 

Power Hour

PHP is generally broken into three movement types. 

POWER: PHP opens with a power compound movement, which includes big lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, military presses, and Olympic lifts such as clean and jerks or snatches.

BUILD: After this powerlifting movement, you move on to hypertrophy work in a more typical bodybuilding fashion. These movements can be executed in the 6–15 rep range and will focus on more concentrated, isolated exercises that can be used in dropsets, trisets, etc. These movements should be completed with challenging weights.

PUMP: This phase focuses on muscular and cardiovascular endurance through 50–100 repetitions of a movement with body weight or light weight. Working in this rep range pumps muscles full of blood, increases heart rate, and burns fat, especially with higher-intensity movements like burpees or kettlebell swings. 

HOW IT WORKS

  • Begin each PHP group with 5 sets of 5 reps of the power move, resting 60–90 seconds between sets. Increase weight with every set.
  • Once complete, immediately move to the build superset, completing 1 set of 12 reps of exercise A before moving onto exercise B to do 12 reps. Repeat for 4 complete rounds, increasing weight with each set. 
  • Finish with 50–100 reps of the pump, resting as little as possible until all the reps are done. The workout should take about 1 hour.
  • Advanced Option: Increase reps on the pump portion, or complete workout with a “finisher” of your choosing, such as kettlebell thrusters and swings. You can also do high-intensity cardio bursts after each PHP grouping. 

Our Model: Lauren Drain, R.N., trainer, fitness model

From: Los Angeles, CA

Favorite quote: “Perfect love casts out all fear.”  


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POWER: Kettlebell Military Press

Per Bernal

WORKS: SHOULDERS, CORE

  • Hold a medium to heavy kettlebell in front-rack position in left hand.
  • Bend knees and push kettlebell overhead, extending arm above shoulder as you stand.
  • Keep elbow from flaring out to sides, and return to start, bending knees to catch the weight.
  • Repeat for 5 reps; switch sides. Rest 60–90 seconds between sets, increasing weight with every set. Do 5 sets per side. 

SEE ALSO: 8 Minutes to a Gorgeous Upper Body


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BUILD: Dumbbell Shrug with Lateral Raise

Per Bernal

WORKS: SHOULDERS

  • Hold two medium dumbbells by sides, arms straight. Shrug shoulders up to ears.
  • Hold this position, and extend dumbbells out to side in a lateral raise.
  • Lower arms, then release the shrug.
  • Do 12 reps, then move on to Dumbbell Scarecrows. Do 4 sets total. 

SEE ALSO: 3 Ways to Build a Sexy Back 


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BUILD: Dumbbell Scarecrow

Per Bernal

WORKS: SHOULDERS

  • Hold dumbbells in front of thighs, palms facing body.
  • Perform an upright row by pulling the weights up toward chin, elbows high and out to sides (not shown).
  • At the top of the row, rotate elbows back until weights are just above shoulders, as though preparing to do a military press.
  • Rotate back to upright row, and lower to start.
  • Do 12 reps; rest, and return to Dumbbell Shrug with Lateral Raise for 4 sets total. 


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PUMP: Medicine Ball Chest Pass to Wall

Per Bernal

WORKS: CHEST, SHOULDERS, ARMS, CORE

  • Hold a light to medium medicine ball at chest level, facing a wall.
  • With force and speed, extend arms straight out and throw the ball against wall, flexing chest.
  • Catch the ball and continue throwing as fast and hard as you can against wall for 100 reps.
  • Aim for 4 sets of 25 or 5 sets of 20 if you need a break. Keep the rest to a minimum until desired reps are reached. 

SEE ALSO: The Secret to Sexy Shoulders


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POWER: Single-Arm Dumbbell Chest Press

Per Bernal

WORKS: CHEST, CORE

  • Lie faceup on a flat bench holding one heavy dumbbell in right hand at chest level.
  • Extend weight straight over chest.
  • Engage core, and slowly lower dumbbell until it is even with chest.
  • Explode back up to the top.
  • Repeat for 5 reps and switch sides. Rest 60–90 seconds between sets, increasing weight with every set. Do 5 sets per side. 


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BUILD: Hand-Release Pushup

Per Bernal

WORKS: CHEST, CORE

  • Begin in full pushup position.
  • Lower chest, hips, and thighs to floor.
  • Lift hands slightly off floor, then place hands back on floor. Explosively push body all the way back to the top.
  • Repeat for 12 reps, then go directly to Cable Flyes. Do 4 sets total. 

SEE ALSO: How to Carve Your Shoulders and Arms 


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BUILD: Cable Flye

Per Bernal

WORKS: CHEST

  • Stand at a cable machine. Hold handles out to sides at about shoulder level.
  • Using chest, pull cables toward each other, meeting just in front of chest. Pause slightly before slowly releasing back to start.
  • Repeat for 12 reps, rest, then repeat Hand-Release Pushup. Do 4 sets total. 


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PUMP: Burpee

  • Squat until hands are touching the floor.
  • Shoot legs back to a pushup position.
  • Hop feet back to hands, stand, and jump straight up, reaching arms overhead.
  • Repeat as many as possible with minimal rest until you reach 50 repetitions. 

SEE ALSO: 8 Moves For a Stronger Core


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POWER: Barbell Hang Clean

Per Bernal

WORKS: SHOULDERS, TRICEPS, CORE

  • Hold barbell in front of thighs, gripping it overhand, about shoulder-width apart. (Do a warmup set with just bar as shown before adding weights).
  • Extending through hips, knees, and ankles, initiate a shrug and pull your body under the bar until your elbows are rotated in a front squat rack position.
  • Complete the lift by standing and releasing the bar back to the start.
  • After warmup, do 5 sets of 5 reps. Rest 60–90 seconds between sets; increase weight each set 


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BUILD: High-Rope Rear-Delt Pull

Per Bernal

WORKS: SHOULDERS

  • Attach a rope to cable machine with attachment at chest level.
  • Grip end of rope in both hands, and using the rear deltoids, row rope out to sides with elbows high and even with face.
  • Pause, then return to start.
  • Do 12 reps, then go directly to Kettlebell Cleans. Do 4 sets total. 


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BUILD: Kettlebell Cleans

Per Bernal
  • Stand in front of a heavy kettlebell.
  • Squat straight down, keeping back flat, and grip the kettlebell with thumb facing back.
  • Stand up, and clean the kettlebell to your shoulder by pulling elbow in tight to ribs and rotating hand so thumb faces shoulder at the top.
  • Lower to start, and repeat. Do 12 reps, then switch sides. Recover, then go back to High-Rope Rear-Delt Pull. Do 4 sets total. 


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PUMP: Wall Balls

Per Bernal
  • Stand facing a wall with a 14- to 20-pound medicine ball in hands.
  • Lower into a deep squat, keeping medicine ball at chin level.
  • Explode through the heels to stand.
  • At the top of the squat, toss the ball on the wall at least 10 feet up.
  • Catch the ball and immediately lower into a deep squat, making sure knees are tracking out and over pinkie toes.
  • Repeat as many times as you can with minimal rest until you get to 50 reps. 

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