Losing fat can be challenging, however losing fat in localized regions can be downright frustrating. When looking to lose upper body fat, such as around the waist, back, chest, and arms you will want to pay close attention to your diet and workout consistency.
When trying to lose upper body fat, the same fat loss rules apply: you need to be in a caloric deficit, as well as add weight training exercises that build muscle mass in the upper body.
Below, we will discuss the health risks associated with having too much upper body fat, how to lose upper body fat, and some of the best exercises to help you lose upper body fat.
Looking for a workout program that can help you build muscle and tone up your upper body? Let the Fitbod design a workout program tailored to your goals and monitor your progress every step of the way.
What Causes Upper Body Fat?
Upper body fat can be caused by poor diet, physical inactivity, and increased alcohol consumption.
Additionally, genetics can play a role in the location of where you store your fat, however, diet and exercise interventions can promote upper body fat loss and improved fitness and health.
Health Implications of Having Too Much Upper Body Fat
There are many health implications for high levels of total body fat, however having higher levels of upper body fat has been linked with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased risks for metabolic complications, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Additionally, upper body fat accumulation has also been associated with moderate impairment of lung function.
Takeaway: Carrying excessive body fat has significant health detriments.
How Long Does It Take To Lose Upper Body Fat?
Losing body fat is a process that is the same for lower and upper body fat loss.
Research has shown repeatedly that there is no such thing as “spot reduction” (i.e. losing weight in a specific area of your body). The only way to lose upper body fat is to follow the same guidelines to lose fat in general.
Overall, you can look to lose 1-2lb of bodyweight per week, with a good portion of that weight coming from fluid and fat loss.
If you weight train and eat in a calorie deficit, you can increase your odds of retaining as much muscle as you can and optimize your fat loss results.
Over 8-12 weeks, this means you could lose 4-8lbs of body fat (not scale weight), which would make a significant difference for most people toward their weight loss goals.
Related Article: Muscle Weight vs Fat Weight: What’s the Difference?
7 Ways to Lose Upper Body Fat
Below are seven ways to lose upper body fat.
Note: most of these are ways to body fat throughout the entire body, as localized fat loss is not possible.
1. Increase Calorie Expenditure
When we talk about losing weight, most people constantly think about eating less. While that is a necessary part of the dieting process, eating less is a means to an end. The end is placing yourself in a calorie deficit (see next step).
You can also increase the deficit by exercising more and becoming more active in daily life.
Aim to get 10,000 steps a day, following a Fitbod fat loss workout program, and eating less are all great ways to collectively increase your deficit and maintain muscle mass.
2. Be in a Calorie Deficit
Eating less is a great way to lose fat, and in fact, is a necessary part. Aim to eat 300-500 calories less per day (or a 5-10% decrease in daily calories), which should come from cutting out calories from fat or carbs, as you want to maintain a higher protein intake to ensure muscle retention.
If you want to learn more about how to lose fat, be sure to check out this article.
3. Train the Upper Body Muscles with Weights
Lifting weights is key to retaining as much muscle as you can during a diet phase. Training the upper body muscles with weights will help you build muscle and improve muscle definition and tone as you lose body fat (from your diet and being in a calorie deficit).
Without training weights, you may find that you still lose body fat, however, may not have the muscle to give you the shape and definition you want.
4. Use Light to Moderate Intensity Cardio to Burn More Fat
Cardio can be a helpful way to increase caloric output and place yourself in a greater calorie deficit. While cardio is not inherently necessary for fat loss, and does not burn fat more than other forms of fitness, it can be a great way to improve fitness, heart health, and expend energy.
HIIT is a common practice of cardio, however, training in less intense workout ranges may be better to mobilize fat stores and use fat for energy.
According to that study, most people would benefit from training at an intensity of 60-65% of VO2max, which is roughly 70-75% HR max if looking to maximize fat usage as a primary source of fuel during exercise.
Adding in light cardio days, taking long brisk walks or hikes, and placing your heart rate within the 60-80% HR max zone is a great way to burn calories, mobilize fat stores, and improve fitness.
5. Cut Down on Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption, in addition to consuming too many calories, has been shown to promote fat gain.
Researchers found that in the presence of an already existing diet higher in calories (so a diet where you are not losing weight), adding ethanol (a component of alcohol) decreases fat oxidation (fat usage as an energy source for the body) up to 24-hours post alcohol consumption.
This led researchers to conclude that individuals who habitually consume alcohol and are in a calorie surplus will be at a greater risk of having the surplus calories be deposited directly into fat stores.
6. Stop Smoking
Research has found that smoking results in higher adipose tissue being accumulated around the central region of the body (torso and abdomen), despite generally lower body fat levels in smokers vs non-smokers.
Adipose tissue, also know as body fat, are fat stores located throughout the entire body (under the skin and between the internal organs).
If cancer and disease risks aren’t enough to stop you from smoking, the science showing that smoking can promote localized fat accumulation around the midsection will.
7. Sleep More
Researchers found a positive correlation between increased sleep and weight loss, especially fat loss, in a long-term 12-month behavior weight loss intervention study.
While the exact number of hours of sleep needed can vary, aim to get enough sleep so that you feel refreshed in the morning and have energy throughout the day.
If you find it hard to get up, or you are dragging throughout the day, try getting 30-60 minutes more of sleep a night and reassess until you find the number that works best for you.
Related Article: Should I Lose Weight Before Building Muscle?
8 Best Exercises To Help You Lose Upper Body Fat
Below is a list of some of the best exercises to help you lose upper body fat.
Note: It is important to remember that all of these exercises are great for developing more muscle in the chest, shoulders, back, and arms. The key to upper body fat loss is to lose fat generally (i.e. all over), and then train the upper body using resistance.
1. Barbell Press
The barbell bench press is a great exercise to build upper body muscle, specifically in the chest, triceps, and anterior shoulder.
The barbell is a great way to perform a bench press as it allows you to lift heavier loads and can be done with a variety of grips (narrow, medium, wide).
2. Dumbbell Bent Over Row
The dumbbell bent over row trains the back muscles, as well as the biceps and forearms.
Performing the bent-over row with dumbbells allows you to increase the range of motion and vary your grip, as well as offers you the opportunity to add a twist (wrist pronation and supination).
All of these tweaks can help you build more muscle and better individualize your training.
3. Lat Pulldown
The lat pulldown is a back-building exercise that can be done by all levels and can be trained with both heavy and lighter weights to help you build more muscle and definition in your back.
Unlike the row, the pulldown develops muscle fibers of the back that can help give you a broad, more V-shaped physique
You can also substitute pull-ups and assisted pull-ups into your program if you do not have access to a lat pulldown.
4. Arnold Dumbbell Press
The Arnold dumbbell press is a shoulder-building exercise that is great for adding muscle and definition to all heads of the shoulder.
Unlike other shoulder exercises, the Arnold dumbbell press targets all three heads of the deltoid at once, making it a great exercise to boost your shoulder workout results.
If you do not have access to dumbbells, you can also perform barbell shoulder presses, cable shoulder presses, or machine shoulder presses.
5. Push Press
The push press is an explosive upper body exercise that trains the shoulders, triceps, and lower body.
This complex exercise is great for adding muscle and burning calories, as you can move heavy loads and use a ton of muscle mass in the process.
You can perform the push press with a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell.
6. Dumbbell Skullcrusher
The dumbbell skullcrusher is a triceps isolation exercise that can help you build muscle on the back of the arm.
Building triceps muscles will also help tighten up the arms and give you more definition.
If you do not have access to dumbbells, you can also perform skullcrushers with a barbell or EZ bar, or perform cable rope overhead triceps extensions to get many of the same benefits.
7. Barbell Curl
The barbell curl is a biceps exercise that can help you build muscle and definition of the arms.
While rows and pull-ups train the biceps to a certain degree, adding specific exercises for the biceps, like the barbell curl is ideal for improving muscle tone and definition.
8. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
The dumbbell lateral raise is a shoulder isolation exercise that can be done to add additional training volume and emphasis to the shoulders.
If you want to increase muscle growth and definition of the shoulders, the lateral raise could be a great way to train them without needing to lift weights overhead (which may be tough for some people based on mobility and previous injuries).
Other lateral raise exercises like cable lateral raises are also great variations of this movement and can offer you similar benefits.
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How can I lose weight from my upper body?
To lose weight from your upper body, you should focus on losing weight and fat as a whole, by placing yourself in a caloric deficit through eating less and increasing your daily activity. Adding weight training into your routine can also help you build muscle and definition as you continue to lose fat.
How can I lose chest and arm fat?
While there is no such thing as “spot reduction”, you can lose chest and arm fat by losing fat and weight throughout the entire body. Some people lose weight in areas faster than others based on genetics, however, adding upper body exercises for the chest and arms can help you build muscle to improve muscle shape and definition as you continue to lose weight and body fat.
Does walking burn upper body fat?
Walking is a great low-impact exercise to burn calories, however walking, as with any exercise or movement does not spot reduce body fat from certain areas of the body. When you lose weight and fat, your body will lose it based on your genetics. If you want to lose upper body fat, you need to place yourself in a caloric deficit and also do resistance training to build muscle.
Does running burn upper body fat?
Running does not burn any more upper body fat than it does throughout other parts of the body. Running is a way to expend calories and place yourself in a caloric deficit (assuming you are also eating less). If you place yourself in a calorie deficit, by whatever means necessary, you will lose body fat from both the lower and upper body.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.