Fast & Efficient Upper-Body Training

Lack of time is consistently one of the major barriers to clients committing to or maintaining a fitness program. For this reason, creating efficient workouts while still helping clients achieve results is hugely important. When you consider the typical upper-body training routine, however, a split routine (isolating body parts) is often the standard approach. But because this protocol may require being in the gym six days a week, it’s probably not realistic for most of your clients. A better approach is to create an upper-body program that targets opposing muscle groups and, thus, help to maximize workout time.

The following upper-body workout focuses on training opposing muscle groups with pushing and pulling movements. Sets and repetitions should be allocated based on each client’s individual training goals.


With dumbbells in hand, begin by sitting on the stability ball. Walk the feet forward, lowering the spine onto the ball. Head, shoulders and upper back should be on the ball. Keep the glutes engaged and the abdominals braced throughout the exercise. Bring the dumbbells over the chest with the hands facing each other. Open the arms and lower the dumbbells in a wide arc while keeping the elbows soft. Return to the starting position and repeat.


Place both hands on top of the medicine ball and assume a plank position, with shoulders stacked over the wrists and the chest over the ball. Bend the elbows and lower the chest toward the ball and then push back up to the starting position. Avoid hiking up the hips or sagging the back and hips during the exercise.


With one dumbbell in each hand, begin in a full plank position. Alternate pulling one dumbbell at a time toward the chest, being careful not to let the hips or lower back sag. Also, be sure to avoid rotating the torso and instead keep the body parallel to the floor.


Stand with the feet hip-width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand just above the shoulders; turn the palms to face forward. Slightly bend the knees, press the feet into the floor and push the dumbbells overhead while simultaneously straightening the knees and back. Return to the starting position and repeat.