Best Gym Equipment For Upper Body (6 Must-Have Machines)

Let’s be honest - one of the main reasons you're working out is to get big arms and a strong upper body. Nothing looks better in a tank top than a pair of strong, sculpted arms.

But, you can only do so many curls and push-ups until you get bored and lose the desire to workout. That's why it is essential to understand the upper body gym equipment best suited to give you the solid upper body you are looking for. 

In the guide below, we will discuss some of the best gym equipment for upper body that will get you the lean and chiseled upper body you want. 

1. Chest Press  

Why Is It Good?

The chest press is an excellent chest exercise to build upper body strength. The chest prest machine will build upper body strength and power to help with everyday things like pushing strollers, shopping carts, or heavy doors.

And if you play certain sports, like football, swimming, tennis, or baseball, the chest press will be very beneficial.

What Muscles Does It Target?  

The chest press is one of the classic upper-body strengthening exercises. It targets your pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), and triceps (arms). Always be sure to use proper form and good technique to avoid injury.

If you've never used a chest press machine before, you can work with a personal trainer or workout buddy who can spot you, check your form, and give feedback.

Related Article - Chest Press Vs Bench Press

Expected Results

After using the chest press machine, you can expect an enhanced fitness level, stronger bones, and better mental health in addition to a bigger, firmer chest.  You'll gain muscle, lose fat and burn more calories even while resting. These results will help you look and feel better and increase your confidence and overall well-being. 

Our Favorite Chest Press Machine

Fitking ISO Chest Machine - Plate Loaded
  • Flat or Incline Press
  • Plate Loaded
  • Holds 360 lbs

2. Lat Pull-Down  

Why Is It Good?

Next to the classic bench press, the lat pulldown is one of the most recognized exercises in the gym. The lat pulldown machine is a staple for people who want to increase the mass of their back muscles and get the infamous V-shaped back desired by bodybuilders, weightlifters, and fitness enthusiasts alike. 

Related Article - Lat Pulldown Benefits

What Muscles Does It Target?  

The lat pulldown is a prominent and vital exercise because the overhead pulling motion uses multiple muscles of your back, shoulders, and arms. The latissimus dorsi muscles, or lats, are your "wing" muscles. They are the largest muscles in your back and the prime movers of this multi-joint exercise. 

The lats are enormous. They originate in your mid and lower spine, top of the pelvis, lower ribs, and lower scapula and insert into the front of your humerus (upper arm bone).

Expected Results

The lat pulldown will target your lats and various other muscles that work together to extend and adduct your arms. It's an excellent alternative to the pull-up if you can't perform one without assistance. This exercise has multiple variations to keep it exciting and emphasize different muscles.

Our Favorite Lat Pulldown Machine

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3. Power Tower  

Why Is It Good?

The power tower is an excellent all-in-one piece of exercise equipment. Most power towers combine a horizontal bar, parallel bars, and multiple handles so you can perform a full-body strength workout. Power towers are perfect for home gyms because they allow you to perform several weighted and equipment-free exercises.

For example, you can do pull-ups, triceps dips, and hanging leg raises with your power tower. You can also get several attachments for your power tower, like resistance bands and gymnastics rings, to add even more variety to your workouts.

What Muscles Does It Target?  

The power tower can target just about all of your muscles. First, you can do a pull-up to grow your back muscles. Next, push-ups done with the dips station in the power tower are an effective and great way to develop the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and biceps.

An ab workout you can do on a power tower is a vertical knee raise to strengthen your lower abdomen and get more defined abs. Finally, you can use the horizontal bar of a power tower to perform single-leg squats to target your leg muscles and glutes.

Related Article - Power Tower Workout Routines At Home

Expected Results

Your power towers will add a range of exercises to your at-home fitness routine with just a single piece of equipment. Power towers are a fantastic way to build muscle, lose fat, and keep your workouts versatile and fun.

Our Favorite Power Tower

Weider Power Tower with 4 Workout Stations...
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  • Push-up and Dip Stations; Lock in your form...
  • Knee-Raise and Pull-up Stations; develop...
  • Ergonomic Padding; Hand grips, back padding,...

4. Pec Deck  

Why Is It Good?

The pec deck is a machine meant to increase strength and muscle mass in your pecs. The pec deck is so effective that the American Council on Exercise ranked it one of the best exercises for building chest muscles. 

What Muscles Does It Target?  

The pec deck works your chest and its supporting muscles. It primarily targets your pectoralis major, the muscle that allows you to swing and bring your arms together. The pec deck also strengthens your torso and stabilizes your shoulder blades. Supporting muscles, like your serratus anterior, are also activated using a pec deck machine.

Expected Results

The pec deck is indeed amongst the best exercises you can find to build a massive chest and strengthen your pectorals. It also strengthens your torso and stabilizes your shoulder blades, opening up supporting muscles like the serratus anterior for activation. 

Our Favorite Pec Deck Machine

IRON COMPANY Body-Solid Plate Loaded PEC...
  • 2" x 2" high tensile strength steel frame.
  • Extra-thick and super tough DuraFirm seat and...
  • Fully adjustable to accommodate any size...
  • Articulating arms for unilateral and...

5. Seated Cable Row  

Why Is It Good?

A seated cable row machine will help to increase your upper-body strength by activating numerous muscle groups throughout your body. In addition, the position of a seated cable row allows for more emphasis to be put on your upper back.

This alleviates stress on your lower back compared to other compound exercises like barbell rows, dumbbell rows, deadlifts, or bench presses. 

What Muscles Does It Target?  

The seated cable row machine works several muscles in your back and arms, including:

  • Latissimus dorsi (your middle back) 
  • Rhomboids (the muscles between your shoulder blades) 
  • Trapezius (in your neck, shoulders, and upper back) 
  • Biceps brachii (the front of your upper arm)

When performing a seated row, the primary muscles used are your lats and rhomboids. In addition, the trapezius and biceps assist your lats and rhomboids during the movement. 

Expected Results

The seated rower machine will help build your upper body strength by working your back and upper arms. This exercise does an excellent job toning and strengthening your upper body, which is essential for everyday movements. 

Our Favorite Seated Cable Row Machine

GDLF Lat Pull Down Machine Low Row Cable...
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GDLF Lat Pull Down Machine Low Row Cable...
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6. Rowing Machine  

Why Is It Good?

Rowing machines activate both your upper and lower body with every stroke. This strengthens and tones your muscles and improves your endurance. Rowing also provides some surprising benefits for your heart and lungs. 

What Muscles Does It Target?  

Many people assume that rowing only works your arms. However, rowing is a full-body workout. The major muscle groups a rowing machine targets are your:

  • Quads 
  • Calves
  • Glutes 

Rowing also strengthens your upper body muscles, like your: 

  • Pecs 
  • Arms 
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Obliques 

Expected Results

Rowing is a full-body workout, so it will strengthen and tone the major muscle groups in your arms, legs, and core. It will also increase your cardiovascular endurance. If you consistently use the rowing machine, you'll become stronger, feel less out of breath more often, and notice some muscle gain. 

Our Favorite Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with...
  • This item benefits from an Extended 90 Day...
  • Low impact workout that engages all major...
  • Track your progress with real-time reliable...
  • Designed to fit most users: 14-inch seat...

Benefits Of Exercise Machines For Your Upper Body  

The most effective way to build upper-body strength is by weight training, hypertrophy training specifically. Hypertrophy-based weight training with upper body machines is designed to increase your strength and the size of your muscles simultaneously. 

In addition, upper body workout machines provide the stability and support needed to perform upper-body workouts effectively, especially as a beginner.  

Upper-body machines also help you lift heavier weights conveniently and can help prevent common beginner mistakes that could lead to injury.  

To us, if you had to choose just one upper body workout machine, it should be the power tower. If your gym has a power tower, you can do a complete upper body workout using that one piece of equipment.  

With your power tower, you can do pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, push-ups, and more, working every muscle in your upper body. 

While you're at it, you can also do leg raises, knee raises, etc., to work your chest, arms, core, and legs for a full-body workout.

best upper body gym equipment

How To Choose Gym Equipment For Your Upper Body Workouts

Deciding to get a bigger and stronger upper body is one thing. Figuring out which pieces of upper-body equipment to add to your home gym is a much more complex task. You need to take your time choosing your equipment to ensure it fully serves your exercise needs. 

The first thing to consider is price. Some of the machines listed above do not come cheap. Before you buy anything, you always need to be sure the price tag is within your budget so you aren't making bad financial decisions.   

You also need to ensure you have enough room in your house for the machine. And just because the machine fits in your home gym, it doesn't mean you have room for it. The machine might fill the room so much that you don't have space to move around and actually exercise. 


Common Upper Body Gym Equipment Questions  

Can you build muscle in your upper body without going to the gym?  

It is definitely possible to build strength and muscle in your upper body without going to the gym. There are plenty of bodyweight movements you can do and various upper body machines you can purchase for your home gym to work your upper body. 

What exercise is best to build upper body muscle without any equipment? 

If you don't have any equipment at all, push-ups are a simple and effective bodyweight movement to increase strength in your upper body. Push-ups target the pectoral muscles in your chest and the triceps in your arms. All you need is an empty spot on your floor to get started with push-ups. 

Read More - Push Ups Vs Bench Press

Can you work out your upper body every day? 

Rest is vital for any workout routine, and it is not necessary to work out every day. If you plan your workouts correctly with active recovery days, you can work your upper body four to six days a week. 

What exercises burn upper body fat quickly? 

It's important to remember that there isn't a silver bullet to losing upper body fat and building strength. But, if you design a workout program using the machines we talked about above and eat a healthy diet, you will burn fat and build muscle in your upper body.


Conclusion

Now that you understand which upper body gym equipment will give you the solid upper body you are looking for, you can start designing your home gym. Just add in some of the machines above with your curls and push-ups, and you'll have the upper body you've always dreamed of. 

Paul J