An Upper-Body Warm-Up to Prep Your Back, Shoulders, and Chest for Your Workout


Looking for a great upper-body warm-up to do before your next back, shoulder, or chest workout? We have you covered, with a straightforward, five-move routine that will activate the right muscles and mobilize the correct joints so you can have the best upper-body strength workout possible.

A good upper-body warm-up—like the one below—doesn’t rely on heavy weights. Instead, it uses just your bodyweight and/or resistance bands to create tension in the muscles in your back, chest, and shoulders, ACE-certified personal trainer Tasheon Chillous, CPT, coach and personal trainer at Ascent Fitness in Tacoma, Washington, tells SELF. This tension then prepares your muscles to push or pull heavier weights during your actual workout, helping to increase the effectiveness of your workout and reduce your risk of injury in the process.

A solid upper-body warm-up also increases your range of motion and thus allows you to perform movements in your workout in their full extent. This, in turn, boosts the strengthening benefits of your workout. Lastly, a good upper-body warm-up challenges your heart rate and activates your core and muscles around your spine.

“We do a lot with our legs in our general day-to-day,” says Chillous—from running to walking to climbing a flight of stairs. “But we don’t often turn on our core or lower back.” That can be a problem, since your core and lower back are important muscle groups that affect the functioning of your upper (and lower) halves. After all, you need a strong core to help you perform upper-body exercises like the overhead press and the row, since your core muscles help keep you stable and transfer power to heft that weight. With this upper-body warm-up, which Chillous created for SELF, you can turn on these vital muscles and then reap the rewards in your upper-body strength workout.

As for when you should do an upper-body warm-up? The answer is simple: Before any type of upper-half strength routine, says Chillous. Getting into such a habit will help reduce your risk of injury and ensure you’re prepared for the workout to come.

This warm-up, which you can easily do at home, is designed to fire up your shoulders, back, and chest ahead of a strength workout. But because this warm-up has a good dose of core work too, you could also use it for core activation, says Chillous.

Feeling ready to kick-start your workout with a great upper-body warm-up? Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.

The Workout

What you need: An exercise mat for comfort and a medium-strength resistance band for the pull-apart.


  • Pull-apart
  • Incline push-up
  • Thread the needle
  • Squat thrust
  • Bear hold


  • Do each move for the designated number of reps or time. Move from one move to the next without resting in between moves. (Of course, if you feel your form begin to falter, take a short rest and start again with fresh form.) After you’ve completed all five exercises in the circuit, rest about 10 seconds, then repeat the circuit one to two more times for two to three rounds total.

Bands We Like:

Perform Better

Perform Better Superband

This versatile and durable band can take you through warm-up moves and strength-training exercises.


SPRI Xertube Resistance Band

The handles on this band make it a comfortable choice for tons of strength-training exercises.

Demoing the moves below are Hejira Nitoto (GIF 1), a mom of six and a certified personal trainer and fitness-apparel-line owner based in Los Angeles; Amanda Wheeler (GIF 2), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength; Shauna Harrison (GIFs 3 and 5), a Bay Area–based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; and Cookie Janee (GIF 4), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve.

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