September 14, 2021
Nobody wants to dread the arrival of swimsuit season.
It would surely be preferable to be able to look forward to it, but the expectations people set for themselves and each other have grown wildly out of proportion.
It’s no secret that we all would like to look better than the heavily photoshopped bodybuilder stock photos on Getty Images.
The reality, however, is that nobody wants to make the sacrifices it would take to get into that kind of shape.
That said, it is entirely possible through focus and dedication for just a few hours a week to build a body covered in lean muscle and not bound by the excess weight of copious fat.
If you’re ready to put in the work to look your best, this is the article for you.
The key to looking good is invariably to exercise, but who has time to get to the gym?
Men and women alike are always busy nowadays for any of a million reasons, and this makes it very difficult to find the time for a traditional workout routine.
Let alone to search for the perfect workout and then head to the gym to implement it.
Thankfully, no matter what your goals are – to get in shape, lose fat, build lean muscle, look better than your ex’s new significant other, and so on – there are key exercises you can do to make it happen.
The upper body is a popular area for men to exercise, but it shouldn’t be overlooked by women either.
Women who exercise the muscles of their upper body regularly maintain good body proportions and have an easier time maintaining a healthy waistline.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, the average onlooker will see your upper body and see it as a benchmark for your overall physical fitness.
Therefore, it’s important to know good exercises for every major muscle group above the waist.
Broader than average shoulders are a popular trait for men to have.
Unfortunately, most of the breadth of your shoulders comes from genetics and skeletal structure, but you can definitely improve the look of your shoulders with the right exercises.
Contrary to what your intuition might tell you, lateral raises aren’t used to build your lats.
Lats are covered mostly by back-building exercises, which we will go into later.
Lateral raises, on the other hand, are used to build bigger shoulders.
First, you’re going to want to make sure you have lots of different dumbbells.
This exercise involves lifting your arms out to your sides, so you can’t realistically achieve the proper form with a full-size barbell.
The starting position is to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, a light dumbbell in each hand.
Be careful to use low-weight dumbbells when starting out. You’ll be very surprised how much your shoulder muscle will struggle with this motion when you’re just beginning your training.
To begin, slowly raise your arms straight out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor. If you can’t make it all the way to parallel, you might need to reduce the weight of the dumbbells you’re using. Once you get to the top of the motion, reverse direction and lower the dumbbells until your arms are resting at your sides again.
Aim for 5 reps per arm per set, alternating or at the same time should be irrelevant. If your form breaks down before completing 5 reps in one set, reduce the dumbbell weight until you can manage 5 reps for at least one set. If you can’t make it to 5 reps on subsequent sets, do as many reps as you can handle with the best form you can manage.
If you don’t have dumbbells, or if you only have relatively heavy ones, the overhead press might be a more appropriate exercise for you. While it can be done with dumbbell weights, it is more commonly done with a barbell.
This workout is a compound exercise that will work multiple muscle groups. It will hit your shoulder muscles just like the lat raise, but will also work your upper chest muscles and even some of the muscles in your arms.
To do this exercise, first prepare a barbell or set of dumbbell weights with a relatively low weight. Again, your shoulder muscles will need time and effort to get accustomed to the motion.
The appropriate stance will provide support for your frame, helping to prevent you from wobbling under the weight of the barbell when raising it fully over your head.
Begin by lifting the barbell up above your chest, then adjusting your grip to more easily push the barbell upward. Then, lift the bar straight up over your head until your arms are fully extended. Return to the position just above your chest to complete the first of your reps.
Aim for 5 reps per set, but don’t try too hard to struggle through a bad set. For safety’s sake, it’s better to fail to get all your reps than to drop the bar.
Especially in men, a strong and muscular chest is widely acclaimed as an attractive trait.
Here are a couple of classic ways to build one.
This is a classic bodyweight exercise that everyone has tried one time or another, and it remains an excellent exercise for a number of reasons. Depending on how you do it it can work a number of different muscle groups like your biceps and triceps and so on, but today we’ll be focusing on what it can do for your chest.
The starting position for this exercise is to get down on a flat surface, ideally a clean exercise mat, with your arms extended out straight below you and your weight balancing on your hands and toes.
Lower yourself until your torso touches the mat, then return to the starting pose to complete the first of your reps. Aim for 10 reps per set, or as many reps as you can manage. When 10 reps per set becomes too easy, try elevating your feet to increase the resistance against your hands.
This is the other most well known exercise for working your pectorals, requiring both a bench and a barbell to lift. Make sure your bench has safety catch bars in place in the event that you fail to complete your reps.
To do this exercise, unrack the bar with stiff arms and move it into position over your chest. Lower the bar until it touches your body, then lift it back up until your elbows are fully unbent. When finished, keep your form stiff while racking the bar back on the bench.
Aim for 5 reps per set, but be careful not to overextend yourself.
A strong back isn’t just good-looking, it’s also a very practical trait to have. Here are a few ways to build one.
The best way to develop your upper back and lats at the same time, the pull up is a classic compound exercise.
To do a pull up you’ll need an appropriate pull-up bar, so make sure to get one of those first and foremost. Ensure that the width of the bar is sufficient to allow you to use a wide enough grip.
Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you, and pull until your chin makes it above the pole.
Related to pull-ups, chin-ups are a variant that focuses more on working your biceps. Regular pull-ups will hit your biceps as well, but not nearly so effectively. They’ve done the same way as pullups, but with your palms facing you – and usually gripping with your hands closer together.
A strong core looks great and helps you with all kinds of everyday tasks, so let’s get to building you one.
When it comes down to it, this is really the primary thing to do to strengthen your core. Looks-wise, abs are made more in the kitchen than in the gym. Lay flat on your back, bend your knees, and stick your feet under something to hold them still, then use your abs to lift yourself into a sitting position. Simple and efficient.
Training your lower body shouldn’t be overlooked, especially as doing so looks pretty odd if your upper body is disproportionately strong. Let’s look at what to do to work the muscles below the waist.
If you want to look your best while you’re naked, building a great butt is key in the process whether you’re a man or a woman. Everyone appreciates a good rear.
Squats will improve your general fitness and improve your hip, knee, and ankle flexibility.
A good squat regimen will also develop a superior rear.
To do squats with proper form, rest a weighted barbell on your shoulders, push your hips back, and slowly bend at the knees until your legs are parallel with the floor. Reverse direction while keeping your heels planted firmly on the ground to finish the first of your reps.
Your leg muscles carry you wherever you go, so be kind to them and help them look good too.
With just a pair of dumbbells, you can make sure your leg muscles stay strong and healthy. Hold your hands with the dumbbells at each hip, and step far forward with one leg. Bend at the knees until the rear knee touches the ground, then bring the rear foot forward until you’re standing straight up again.
While your calves should naturally be strong enough if you’re getting lots of other exercises and especially leg exercise if you want to focus on your calves you can give these a try. While wearing shoes, hang on to the edge of a stair with just your toes. Lift yourself without bending your legs or grabbing onto anything, and repeat as many times as you like.
In the end, the fastest way to get yourself in great shape and build an awesome body is with the help of a personal trainer. Rather than search for one yourself, you can always just try System2. You’ll get one-on-one feedback from a certified trainer and give you a personalized fitness plan.
Written by: Nathan Dresser