Build a strong upper body with lean and toned arms with this upper body workout for women with weights. A circuit-style weight workout with eight exercises that hit every muscle group of your upper body. And the best part is you can do it all at home, no gym required!

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Lean, Toned and Sculpted Shoulder and Arms

There’s only one way to get lean, “toned” and sculpted arms – lift heavy weights to grow your muscles.

Once you start to develop the muscles of your upper body, your metabolism will increase to support muscular development, which means you’ll also burn more fat. Of course, an overall calorie deficit is also necessary to shed subcutaneous fat to reveal those defined muscles.

I hesitate to use the word “tone” because it makes most women think of the high rep/low weight exercises.  But “toning” actually requires stressing the muscle enough to stimulate change.

Muscles do not morph from soft to hard – they either get bigger or smaller. So “toning” actually involves increasing muscle size while also decreasing body fat low enough to see the definition or shape of the muscle.

Circuit training for “Toning” Muscles

Circuit training is when you move from one exercise immediately to another exercise (that works a different muscle group). The point is to transition quickly with no rest period except at the end of the circuit.

Circuit training can be effective in achieving that lean and “toned” look because it emphasizes strength while also keeping your heart rate elevated for cardio benefits.

This circuit-style upper body workout for women will target all of the major muscle groups of the upper body in each circuit. So you can train your upper body even when you can’t get to the gym.

This kind of focused workout is both efficient and effective. It supports fat burning by keeping your heart rate up but also builds muscle to create the “toned” look.

Functional Upper Body Strength

Sure, we all want lean, toned, and defined arms while rocking a shoulder-baring dress or tank top, but functional strength is important too. Think about how many times a day you pick up your kids, carry heavy grocery bags, or hoist things over your head. All of those movements require upper body strength.

Women typically have much weaker upper bodies, so it’s important to train the back, chest, shoulders, and arms at least 1-2 times a weak. And this upper body strength workout for women knocks out all those muscle groups with just one 30-minute workout you can do at home.

Need More Upper Body Workouts to Do This Week?


First, focus on getting your form right (even if you have to use less weight) to prevent injury and use the full range of motion. Once your form is perfect, concentrate on progressing your weights to continually challenge your body to improve, stress the muscles you’re working, and create positive change. 

Upper Body Workout For Women

The Equipment

All you need for this upper body workout for women is a set of dumbbells. The Neoprene Hand Weights I’m using in the photos are from Target. They’re durable, comfortable, and available in weights 2-15 lbs. They also go on sale pretty frequently!

As you become stronger, you’ll probably need heavier weights to keep challenging your body and prevent plateaus. The weights I use at home are the Bowflex SelectTech weights that adjust from 5-52.5 lbs.

The Workout

This workout is divided into 2 separate circuits:

Circuit 1: exercises 1-4

  • Lunge position back row
  • Bicep curl to Arnold Press
  • Overhead tricep extension
  • Back Fly

Circuit 2: exercises 5-8

  • Back fly
  • Hammer curl
  • Lateral raise bent arms
  • Tricep chest press

Perform all of exercises in circuit 1 with minimal rest while transitioning between moves. Complete the entire circuit 2-3 times, resting for 1 minute between circuits. Then, move onto circuit 2 and complete it 2-3 times.

1. Lunge Position Back Row

x12 reps (6 on left leg and 6 on right)

2. Bicep Curl to Arnold Press

x10-12 reps

3. Overhead Tricep Extension


4. Chest Fly

x10 reps

5. Back Fly

x10 reps

6. Hammer Curl

x10-12 reps

7. Middle Deltoid Bent Arm Lateral Raise

x12 reps

8. Tricep Chest Press

x12 reps

Shop my Look

Sports bra: Zyia Active White Bomber bra

Leggings: Lululemon Align Pant in Blue Cast

Shoes: Nike Women’s Downshifter 7

Photography by Canon Sawyer |