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5 Foundational Mass Moves for Your Upper Body Building

When you’re after upper body mass, you need to sift through the dozens of exercise options available and focus your energies on those moves that will give you the biggest pay-off for the time invested. Too many guys waste away their time on isolation exercises that will add zero bulk to their frame. Be smarter than that by doing an upper body building routine around the five compound moves that will bulk you up quick.

Home or Gym?

You do not have to join a commercial gym to create the desired type of body building. Although each of the five exercises described below are traditionally performed in that setting, it is quite possible to replicate them in a home gym setting. 

The ideal would be to invest in a power rack that including a pull up bar. This would allow you to train heavy on the basic compound moves like deadlifts and bench presses in safety, even if you are training alone. 

You can also use resistance bands to get an effective upper body mass workout. Despite what many people think, resistance bands can provide you with an intense workout. Concentrate on a full range of motion, slow negative reps and increased time under tension when training with resistance bands. You can also make use of such intensity enhancers as drop sets, compound and supersets. 

At home workouts for serious upper body mass can also be done with nothing but dumbbells. Both deadlifts and bench presses can be done with dumbbells. In fact, in some ways they are more beneficial as they allow you to work the body unilaterally. This recruits more stabilizer muscles and ensures balanced development of both sides of the body. The dumbbell bench press also allows you to get a better range of motion on both the deadlift and the bench press. 

Related: 10 Simple and Effective Home Bodybuilding Workout Routines

1. Deadlifts

Stand with a loaded Olympic bar in front of you. Bend down and place your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width, using a pronated grip (one hand facing forward, the other facing back). Extend your elbows and plant your feet firmly, pushing through the heels.

Bring the bar off the floor by extending the hips, while keeping the elbows extended and the back flat (as opposed to rounded). As you move to an upright position, keep the bar close to the shins. Continue pulling to an upright position with the bar at mid thigh level. 

To lower the bar, allow the hip and knees to flex slowly back to the floor. Your back should be flat at all times.

2. Bench Press

Bench press is an easy way to do. Position yourself on a bench and set your feet solidly on the floor. Grab ahold of the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Extend your arms to unrack the bar. Making sure that your head stays down, along with your shoulders, lower back and hips, start bringing the bar down to your mid chest. Inhale as the bar comes down. 

The bar should travel down to your nipple line. As it kisses your chest, reverse the movement to press the bar up evenly until the elbows are fully extended. Exhale as you push up.

Related: The Best Muscle Building Workout for Each Part of the Body

3. Wide Grip Pull Ups

Take hold of a pull up bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Hang down so that your arms are fully extended. From a dead hang position, activate from the latissimus dorsi to pull your chin up. Go as high as you can to bring your chin to the bar. Keep the wrists straight and the back straight. Exhale as you pull up.

Return slowly to the start position until the arms are fully extended. Inhale throughout the lowering movement. Be sure not to swing or use momentum as you perform this exercise. 

4. Military Press

To perform the perfect military press, grab a bar with an overhand grip and lift to shoulder height so that it rests across your upper chest level. Your elbows should be bent to about 90 degrees. As you exhale, lift the bands until your arms are fully extended overhead. Lower under control and repeat. 

Related: The 20 Best Shoulder Workouts

5. Alternate Dumbbell Curls

Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a pair of dumbbells at your sides, with the palms facing your thighs. To begin the movement, supinate your right wrist so that it faces forward and then curl that arm up to shoulder level. Keep the elbow in at your side, so that the only movement is through the elbow joint. Do not allow your torso to swing back in order to provide momentum. Strongly contract the bicep in the top position, then slowly reverse the motion. At the same time, supinate and begin to curl the left arm. This type of weight lifting is particularly helpful for you upper body. 

Foundational Mass Workout

  • Deadlift – 4 x 12 / 10 / 8 / 6
  • Bench Press – 4 x 12 / 10 / 8 / 6
  • Wide Grip Pull Ups – 4 x Maximum reps
  • Military Press – 4 x 12 / 10 / 8 / 6
  • Alternate Dumbbell Curl – 4 x 12/10 / 8 / 6

This mass building workout is designed to allow you to use heavy weight in order to get bigger faster. As you pyramid down in reps on each succeeding set, increase the weight lifting. You should not be able to do more than the max number of reps for the given set. So, if you are doing six reps on your last set, you should not be able to do seven reps. You should rest for up to two minutes between each set on this workout. The workout should be performed two times per week with at least 48 hours rest between them.

Related: 8 Ultimate Tips to Build Muscle Quickly


This foundational mass body building workout may not look like much, but it is exactly what a new trainer needs in order to pack on upper body mass fast. Relying on these foundational moves will allow you to focus on weight lifting, which is the key to increased tension. Just make sure to never sacrifice form in favor of weight. The key to muscle growth is to perform brief, hard, heavy and honest exercise. 

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