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An upper-body combo workout for arms, back and shoulders

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Use this four-part combo routine to effectively work the arms and associated muscle groups

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

One of the most popular muscle groups to exercise (particularly for men) are the arms. I get asked about how to best exercise the biceps and triceps in association with the back and shoulders, and I understand why that is.

Strong, developed arms, together with a shapely back and shoulders, are a wonderful thing to see. The key to developing an impressive upper body is effective isolation of the muscles exercised and using clean, precise techniques when doing so.

To help achieve this outcome, below is a four-part combo of arm, shoulders and back exercises which can help deliver an effective upper body workout at the best level for the person exercising.

Single-arm cable row

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

This cable exercise works the triceps in a way that isolates the muscles to be exercised and can be undertaken by everyone, regardless of their level of experience.

To deliver this exercise effectively, all of your body should remain still throughout the movements that follow and your elbow should remain tucked in at your side as you exercise. Also, when you deliver this exercise, be sure to squeeze your tricep for 2 seconds at the top of the movement to add intensity to the movement.

Step by step:

  1. Set up the one-arm cable tricep extension by attaching a single grip handle to a high pulley cable and selecting the weight you want to use on the stack.

  2. Stand or kneel (as I'm doing here) facing the machine and grab the handle with an overhand grip.

  3. Pull your elbow down and keep it tucked in at your wide.

  4. Keeping your body fixed, slowly extend the arm as far as possible.

  5. Pause and squeeze the tricep muscle, and then slowly lower the weight.

  6. Repeat this motion for desired reps, and then repeat for the right arm.

  7. Deliver 4 x 8 repetitions per arm.

One arm sitting row

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The one-arm cable row is a machine exercise that primarily targets the middle back and to a lesser degree the shoulders and triceps.

Learning proper one-arm cable row form is easy with the following single-arm cable row exercise. This is also a great exercise for those with a beginner level of physical fitness and exercise experience.

Step by step:

  1. Attach a stirrup handle to a low pulley on a cable machine.

  2. Sit down in front of the cable machine with feet braced and knees slightly bent.

  3. Grab the stirrup handle in your right hand with an overhand grip.

  4. Sit up straight with your arm out in front. This is the starting position.

  5. Exhale as you pull the handle toward your waist, rotating it so that your palm is facing in when it reaches your side.

  6. Pause for a moment and then return to the starting position using slow and controlled movements.

  7. Repeat for a complete set and then switch sides.

  8. Deliver 4 x 8 repetitions per arm.

Stand up pull down (with handle grip)

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

This is also a great pull exercise for your triceps which uses a cable machine to control the resistance delivered in the exercise.

To effectively deliver this exercise, stand facing the machine and hold the cable attachment using an overhand grip and make sure your elbows stay in place for the whole movement.

Step by step:

  1. Start the repetition with your arm at a 90-degree angle.

  2. Extend your arm until it is by your side.

  3. Inhale and slowly raise your hand till your forearm comes close to your upper arm.

  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.

  5. Finish all your repetitions and then do the same with the other arm.

  6. Deliver 4 x 8 repetitions of this exercise.

Wide-grip lat pull-down

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

The wide-grip lat pulldown is a great exercise to strengthen the back. This compound exercise can also bolster your upper body strength and improve your posture.

The wide-grip lat pulldown is an effective exercise for people of all fitness levels and should be undertaken at the best resistance level for the person undertaking it.

Step by step:

  1. Sit facing a cable machine and use the knee pads to lock in your legs and secure your knees directly above your ankles.

  2. Extend your arms upwards to grab the bar at the widest grip position with your palms facing away from you.

  3. Your hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart.

  4. While slightly leaning back, brace your core, bring your shoulder blades down and back, and pull the bar down until it touches the top of your rib cage.

  5. Pause briefly at the bottom, squeeze your lats, and slowly return to the starting position.

  6. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

  7. Deliver 4 x 8 repetitions of this exercise.

As always with my combos, feel free to contact me if you have any queries about the exercises above.


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