A Complete Upper-Body and Arms Workout to Get Stronger Everywhere

A Complete Upper-Body and Arms Workout to Get Stronger Everywhere

by Sue Jones
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Welcome to week 2 of the SELF New Year’s Challenge, and get ready for a complete upper-body and arms workout! We’re going to jump right in with a twist to begin your second upper-body strength day: supersets.

Supersets are a popular strength-training modality that allow you to get more work done in less time than you would if you did straight sets—where you’d do your work period, rest, do another set, rest again, and so on. With supersets, you pair two exercises together with minimal rest between, and then rest longer after both are done.

You can design superset exercises a few different ways. You can work opposing muscle groups (like your chest and back, or your biceps and triceps). This is a great method for large compound exercises (think rows and push-ups, as in the workout below) where you’re really going for strength, since while you’re working one muscle group, the other gets a chance to rest. So you’ll be able to go into your second exercise in the superset feeling pretty fresh.

You can also do superset moves that work the same muscle group rather than opposing ones. This is called a compound set, and an example would be a chest press and a chest fly. Compound sets fatigue the same muscle group, without letting it rest and recharge, so you likely wouldn’t be able to lift as much weight as you normally would if you did those exercises separately.

Today’s supersets will pair your back and chest and different parts of your shoulder area. Now that you’re in the second week of this challenge, we’ve added in specific moves that work your rear deltoids, the small muscles in the back of your shoulder. This muscle is often neglected, but it’s super important not only for your posture—it helps you draw your shoulders back and prevent hunching over—but also to help stabilize your shoulders so you can lift safely.

In this upper-body dumbbell workout, and in all the ones that follow throughout the remainder of the challenge, your first superset will be one that’s really focused on strength: These will be the ones that work big, opposing muscle groups. Your second superset will include some smaller muscle groups.

Then, you’ll conclude this superset strength workout with an optional finisher of an isolation move—a biceps exercise to really target your arms.

Keep scrolling for the details on how to do today’s upper-body and arms workout. And when you’re done? You may want to set aside some time for these great upper-body stretches, which can remedy some of that soreness you can feel after a workout in a hard-to-hit spot. Arm workouts can be especially grueling, particularly at the beginning of your exercise journey (or a challenge like this one!)—but the key to entering your comfort zone is diving right in and then taking proper care of your body when the work is done. 

The workout below is for day 8 of the SELF New Year’s Challenge. Check out the full four-week workout program right here. Or go to the workout calendar here. If you’d like to sign up to receive daily emails for this challenge, you can do that here. (edited)


Aim for 8–12 reps per exercise. Rest up to 30 seconds between exercises. At the end of the round, rest 60–90 seconds. Complete 2–4 rounds total. Repeat for Superset 2.


Superset 1

  • Single-Arm Bent-Over Row
  • Incline Push-Up

Superset 2

  • Lateral Raise
  • Quadruped Single-Arm Rear-Delt Raise


After your last circuit, try the bonus move for 60 seconds.

  • Wide-Grip Biceps Curl

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