How to Build a Strong Upper Body by Combining Strongman, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, and Calisthenics!


I don’t subscribe to one training philosophy.  I don’t classify myself as a powerlifter, strongman, or bodybuilder.  I have many tools in my tool box.  I use a variety of exercises to achieve my objectives.  If you have been doing this for as long as I have you have to adapt or you will become stale.

I usually have two upper body focused days a week.  The main exercise of Day 1 is the Bench Press.  Day 2 is an Overhead Press.  I am going to detail the Overhead Press Day in this article.  Why?  Because lifting a heavy object overhead is awesome!  That is why!

There are 3 different Overhead Lifts I use.  I spend a training cycle focused on one at a time.  The 3 variations I use are the Strict Barbell Press, Seated Military Press, and the coolest one of them all…The Log Press.  If you have ever seen the World’s Strongest Man you have surely seen the Log Press.  The Log Press is more than a shoulder movement.  It is a full body exercise that gets your heart racing and your muscles jacked.

The Log Press can be used to build strength, muscle, coordination, conditioning, and to burn fat.

Below is a demonstration on how to use it to build strength.

Log Press Demo

Here is a 20-Rep Strict Log Press set to build muscle, endurance, and burn fat.

20-Rep Strict Log Press

The next exercise I want to detail is the might Pull-Up.  Pull-ups create a strong back, biceps, and stabilize the shoulder joint.  Many lifters end up doing too much chest work and not enough back work.  That is a great way to mess up your shoulders.  I do Weighted Pull-ups on my Overhead Press days.  Also, because I love Pull-Ups so much I do them with bodyweight only on my others days for fun.

Here is a demo of Weight Pull-Ups with a Neutral Grip for 60 lbs x 5 reps.  I cannot emphasize enough that proper form includes a full range of motion and getting your chin over the bar.  Get good at Pull-Ups and your body will thank you.

Weighted Pull-Ups Demo

Don’t do any of that Crossfit Kipping Pull-Up garbage!  That is just stupid.

After I do my two main exercises of an Overhead Press variation and a Pull-Up variation I do assistance work. Assistance work is done via bodybuilding movements and calisthenics.  The rep ranges vary depending on my program.

Today, I did:

  1. Close Grip Bench Presses: 3 sets of 10
  2. Dumbell Row: 3 sets of 10
  3. Strict Barbell Curls supersetted with Block Pushups

A few words on assistance exercise. Assistance exercises are there to assist the main movements.  They build muscle and conditioning for the bigger lifts.  They exist to keep you healthy and balanced.

Close-Grip Bench

I do these with a moderately close grip to emphasize the triceps more.  I am not a fan of a super close grip with hands touching like some bodybuilders do.  That drastically limits the weight you can lift and puts you at a higher risk for injury.

Here is an old video of me CG Benching 290×9

CG Bench 290×9

Dumbell Row

The DB Row is my favorite exercise for back thickness.  You can do them heavy for sets of 6.  You can rep them out for sets of 20+ reps.  They build back thickness, bicep strength, and grip strength.  Dumbell Rows can be done multiple ways.  You can do them super strict or you can do them with a little body English for a strength emphasis.

Here is a very, very old video of me doing 170lbs for 9 reps

Dumbell Row 170×9

Strict Barbell Curl

Rule #1:  If you lift in a gym DON’T CURL IN THE SQUAT RACK!  If you do some large individual who wants to Squat that day may physically remove you from that squat rack.  You have been warned.

Rule #2:  Don’t swing the weight like an idiot.  The Barbell Curl is meant to work your biceps.  It is better to go lighter and do it right.  I often employ 4-second negatives on my sets.  That means I take 4 seconds to lower the weight on each rep.  This prevents injury and smokes your biceps.


Being a former Army Infantryman I still have an infatuation  for Pushups.  I believe Pushups should be in everyone’s program.  They build your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core muscles.  They keep you healthy and lean.  I do many different variations to keep it exciting.  Close-grip, Wide-Grip, Feet-Elevated, Block Pushups, Handle Pushups, Pushups with a band, Pushups with chains, Pushups with a Weighted Vest, and Clapping Pushups.  However, if you are not good at Pushups you should start with the basic version.  Chest must touch the floor and arms must be locked out for it to count.  At my personal best I was able to knock out 100 Pushups in 2 minutes.


With just 6 total exercises I hit every muscle group in my upper body.  This style of training gets you stronger, more muscular, leaner, and healthier.




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