How To Build Arm Muscle: 7 Advanced Upper Body Exercises

By John Papp

Who doesn’t want a bigger upper body? Ok, maybe everyone doesn't have that same goal. But for those who do, you want lats like wings, huge biceps, shoulders that cap off your physique... I’m sure you know about the basics like the bench press, row, curl, and lateral raise.

These movements are great and should be a staple in any good programs, but there are many other great exercises to put the finishing touches on the physique you have always wanted.

Let’s get to it! Video below. 

1) Landmine Squeeze Press

What it works: This will crush your chest and also hit your triceps slightly. The squeeze press is best to do after compound movements like the barbell bench press.

How to Do It: Set up a barbell in a landmine attachment or push one end of the bar into a corner. Load the other end of the bar and pick it up to chest level. The bar should be placed between your palms with hands pressing hard against each other. While maintaining constant pressure between the hands, press the bar up and slightly forward, stopping just before the elbows lock out.

2) Dumbbell Tricep Rollbacks

What it Works: This movement will hammer your triceps and is a favorite of many powerlifters and bodybuilders to build strength and mass after your compound movements.

How to Do It: Grab a lighter set of dumbbells and lie down on the floor. Start with the dumbbells next to your head and grab them in a neutral grip, palms facing one another. Extend at the elbow until your arms are locked out at the top. Control the dumbbells on the way down and let them rest on the ground completely and repeat.

3) Tate Press

What it Works: This movement will hit your triceps hard and was made famous by elite powerlifter and coach Dave Tate.

How to Do It: Set up an incline bench and grab a light set of dumbbells and set up on the bench. Set up with arms extended with palms facing out towards your feet, start the movement by flexing at the elbows until the bells are touching the chest and touching each other. Extend up and return to the top.

4) Arrows

What it Works: Arrow are a great movement to hit the lats, traps, and rest of the upper back.

How to Do It: Set up an incline bench and grab a light set of dumbbells. This is a movement that you shouldn’t go heavy on, especially when first learning the movement. Lie face down on the bench with your head above the top of the bench and arms straight at your sides. Keeping your arms fully extended at the elbows; pull the bells back behind you, making an arrow with the upper body. Squeeze the shoulder blades together as hard as possible at the top and control the bells on the way down.

5) Band Multi Angle Reverse Flies

What it Works: This will torch your whole upper back, multiple angles give multiple contractions.

How to Do it: Set up two bands on solid objects, like a squat rack, and grab the opposite band of the hands so the bands end up crossing over each other. Start with the bands out in front of your body. Our first angle we will hit is up high, starting at chest level pull the bands apart and squeeze the shoulder blades tight together. Return to the starting position and move your hands down slightly to change the angle a bit. Again, extend your arms back and squeeze the shoulder blades tight but this time from a lower angle. Return and again drop the angle down one more time, this time as you pull your arms back you should be forming an arrow just like the arrow discussed above. All three angles are equal to one single rep.

6) Incline I,Y,T

What it Works: This exercise will hit the shoulders, upper back and rotator cuff, keep the weight light. This is a great exercise for keeping the shoulders healthy long term.

How to Do It: Set up an incline bench and lay face down with your head above the top of the bench. Hold light dumbbells, palms facing each other, down below the bench. First, raise the bells straight up as far as you can and control on the way down, at the top your body should be a straight line. Next, raise the bells up as far as you can but at about a 45 degree angle out. At the top your body should look like a 'y.' To complete one rep, raise the bells out to the sides so your body looks somewhat like a t at the top of the movement. As always squeeze the upper back tight at the top of each rep.

7) Bodyweight Skullcrusher

What it Works: This movement will hammer the triceps and to some extent the abs.

How to Do It: Set up a barbell at approximately waist height, step back slightly away from the bar. Grab the bar in your hands, bend at the elbows, lower your body down, and let your head tuck under the bar. Keeping the elbows in tight to the head, extend the arms fully as you push yourself back up to the top. If needed, regress this movement by moving to a kneeling position. 

Make sure to check out the video below for a visual of each exercise.

Try these out in your next workout to make mad gains! Chase it!


About John Papp

John Papp is a certified personal trainer, body transformation specialist, sports performance coach, published fitness writer, and aspiring fitness model based out of Xceleration Fitness in Auburn Hills, Michigan. His goal is to help change lives through health and fitness. 

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