Starting a new fitness regime? Work every muscle from the waist up with this 30-minute upper-body workout from personal trainer Alex Crockford.

While complex training plans and plateau-busting protocols have their place in any man’s lifting programme, there’s also a lot to be said for keeping things simple. This 30-minute upper-body workout incorporates some of the best home gym equipment and is a great option if you’re looking to get back to basics.

Given that many of us struggle to find time to manage regular, impactful workouts, it makes sense to slot in regular short, effective sessions rather than focus on longer but irregular workouts. Regularity is key if you want to see gains and often life gets in the way of our grand strength and fitness plans.

This six-move upper-body workout – from January 2021 cover model and bulk ambassador Alex Crockford – targets every major muscle group in your upper body. It can also be completed in just half an hour, making it the perfect workout if you’re short on time and/or energy, or simply want to add some variety to your usual body-part split routine.

How to do this 30-minute upper-body workout

First of all, make sure you do a decent warm-up to get your muscles and central nervous system primed for the work to come. Then you’re going to hit 3 to 4 sets each of dumbbell chest press, dumbbell shoulder press, lat pull-down and seated row, before finishing your arms off with a biceps/triceps superset.

This upper-body workout is relatively quick but don’t rush the reps. Keep every movement focus and controlled, and leave your ego at the door. Pushing out ten quality reps on the bench, with a lighter weight, is going to improve strength and size far better than half reps of a weight you haven’t got full control over.

The warm-up

  • Rowing Machine x 5 mins
  • High Plank x 30 secs
  • Press-Up x 15
  • Dead Bug x 15

The 30-minute upper-body workout

Complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps each for exercises 1-4, resting for 60 seconds between each exercise. For exercise 5a, complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps then move straight on to exercise 5b. Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat exercise 5a. Grab your favourite dumbbells for the first two exercises.

1. Dumbbell chest press
2. Dumbbell shoulder press
3. Lat pull-down
4. Seated row
5a. Cable biceps curl
5b. Cable triceps push-down

Keep reading for full instructions on how to perform each exercise in this 30-minute upper-body workout.

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man in gym performing dumbbell chest press as part of a 30-minute upper-body workout

1. Dumbbell Chest Press

Reps: 10-12
Rest:
60 secs
Sets:
3-4

How to do a dumbbell chest press:

  • Lie on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back against the bench.
  • Press the weights directly above your head, but don’t lock your elbows at the top.
  • Slowly lower the weights back to the start, flaring your elbows out to the sides as you do so.

man in turquoise t-shirt performing dumbbell shoulder press as part of a 30-minute upper-body workout

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Reps: 10-12
Rest:
60 secs
Sets:
3-4

How to do a dumbbell shoulder press:

  • Set the back of the bench to vertical and take a seat.
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and position the weights on your thighs.
  • ‘Kick’ the dumbbells up so you’re holding them at chin height – with elbows out to the sides.
  • Brace your core and glutes, avoid arching your lower back too much, and press the weights overhead.
  • Once arms are extended, lower the weights back to chin height and repeat.

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man in gym performing lat pull-down as part of a 30-minute upper-body workout

3. Lat Pull-Down

Reps: 10-12
Rest:
60 secs
Sets:
3-4

How to do a lat pull-down:

  • Sit at the pull-down station and take a wide, overhand grip on the bar.
  • Look forward, retract your shoulders blades and keep your torso upright.
  • Use your lats to pull the bar down the chest height. Avoid leaning back to aid the movement (drop the weight if you find yourself doing so).
  • Squeeze your lats at the bottom of the move, then return the bar with control.

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man in turquoise t-shirt and grey shorts performing seated row in gym as part of a 30-minute upper-body workout

4. Seated Row

Reps: 10-12
Rest:
60 secs
Sets:
3-4

How to do a seated row:

  • Sit with a flat back and slight bend in your knees.
  • Grab the D-handle attachment with a neutral grip.
  • Sit back to get tension in the cable before you begin.
  • Pull the handle to your sternum, keeping upper-body movement to a minimum.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then return the cable with control.

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man performing cable curl as part of 30-minute upper-body workout

5a. Cable Biceps Curl

Reps: 10-12
Rest:
Straight into 5b
Sets:
3-4

How to do a cable biceps curl:

  • Hold the cable bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your elbows close to your sides, and without leaning back, curl the bar up to your chest.
  • Squeeze your biceps hard, then lower the bar.

man in turquoise t-shirt performing cable triceps push-down

5b. Cable Triceps Push-Down

Reps: 10-12
Rest:
60 secs, then repeat 5a
Sets:
3-4

How to do a cable triceps push-down:

  • Stand in front of the cable, with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Grab the bar with both hands and pull it down until forearms are just above parallel to the floor.
  • Slightly lean forward from the hips and push the bar straight down, keeping elbows locked in and focusing on the contraction in your triceps.
  • Pause for a second at the bottom, then return your forearms to the starting position.

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