Upper body workout: 3 exercises to strengthen arms for press-ups

Posted by for Strength

Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates how to build upper body muscle with these three arm-strengthening exercises. With a strong chest, triceps and shoulders, you’ll be hitting your press-up goals soon enough. 

It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re struggling to do press-ups – surely a bodyweight move can’t be that hard? But studies show that it requires the same amount of muscle as a weighted bench press. So yes, it takes strength, but like weighted bench presses, you can definitely work your way up to mastering this move.

Training your chest, triceps and shoulders will strengthen the muscles required to hit your press-up goal. Add these three upper body exercises to your routine and before you know it, you’ll be working toward your one-handed press-ups. 


Upper body workout: Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates narrow floor press in this quick 10 minute workout
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. 
  2. Take a dumbbell, water bottle or whatever weight you have in your hands and bring them over your chest – tucking your arms down by your sides and elbows into your ribs. 
  3. Hold the weights together so they touch over your chest. 
  4. Inhale, and as you exhale straighten your arms and press the weights up towards the sky. 
  5. Squeeze through the triceps and keep your tailbone tucked under so that your back doesn’t arch. 
  6. Bend the arms to lower back to the starting position. 

Do 10 reps


Upper body workout: Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates skull crusher in this quick 10 minute workout
  1. These aren’t as scary as they sound! Lying on your back, take a lighter dumbbell in each hand or hold a heavy dumbbell in both hands by gripping the outer sides. 
  2. Lift your arms straight up over your head and bend at the elbows. The movement should only come from this joint, so don’t move throughout the arms or shoulders. 
  3. Keep the arms and elbows in close to the body so that they don’t open wide. 
  4. When the weight is just past your head, extend the arms back up to the starting position. 

Do 10 reps


Upper body workout: Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates eccentric diamond press-ups in this quick 10 minute workout
  1. Start in a high plank position. 
  2. Place your hands under the centre of your chest so that your thumbs and forefingers are touching – your hands should be in a diamond shape. 
  3. Tuck your tailbone under and lower your body down slowly – keeping your elbows touching the sides of the body. This move should be activated through the shoulders, core and glutes. When you get to the floor, collapse onto it (rather than pushing yourself back up). 
  4. Reset in the starting position. Lowering slowly to the floor will strengthen the chest and triceps and help you get strong enough for press-ups. 

Do 5 reps 

Rest 60 seconds. Complete 3 rounds. 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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