Here are five unconventional exercises for the upper body that will challenge you. I’m a certified personal trainer. I sometimes have my clients do at least a few of these exercises to ensure that they are always challenged and also have fun at the same time.
Farmer walk drop sets
The first set is with dumbbells that you can walk with for about 60-90 seconds before failure. After setting them down immediately grab a lighter pair and do another 60-90 second walk.
After that, quickly grab an even lighter pair of weights and go for another 60-90 seconds. If your traps aren’t ablaze by the third set, repeat in your next trap workout day with heavier dumbbells.
Those with little experience with farmer walks may experience grip and wrist failure before trapezius failure. This upper body exercise targets the upper trapezius muscle and shoulders.
Different dumbbell kickback
Replace the bent-over, single-arm dumbbell kickback with a seated, double-arm kickback: dumbbell in each hand. Hold the weights over your head with straight arms.
Keeping upper arms vertical, bend at elbow so that forearms are parallel to the floor, dumbbells behind you. You can even go a little past parallel. Keep those upper arms vertical; they do not move at all.
Now return the weights to the starting position. Use weights heavy enough to make 8-14 reps difficult but without losing form. This upper body exercise targets, of course, the triceps.
Insert both feet into suspension straps (one for each foot), and grab a suspension strap in each hand, suspending yourself off the floor. This assumes that you have access to a pair of suspension straps that are spaced at the right distance apart.
Now begin doing pushups. As you push up, go ahead and bring your hands and feet towards each other, forming an upside down V with your body.
This is an advanced exercise and should not be attempted by those who can’t easily knock off regular pushups or who have any issues with their shoulder joints. This upper body exercise targets the chest, shoulders, triceps and core.
Get into a handstand position, close to a wall so that your feet are against the wall, body straight but angled slightly away from the wall.
Begin ambulating laterally with your hands, “walking” your feet along the wall laterally to keep pace with your hands. See if you can walk across the entire wall, then walk back to the starting point. This upper body exercise targets the shoulders, triceps and core.
Plate shoulder shrugs
With a 45 pound plate in each hand, feet shoulder width apart, shrug your shoulders as high as possible, keeping the arms straight. Hold one second, then lower. Do 20 reps, feeling the tension in the upper trap muscle. This upper body exercise targets the higher trap muscle and shoulders.