Losing Fat the Right Way: Reveal a Rippling Upper Body

Key Points

  • Losing upper body fat requires consistent action to yield measurable results.

  • Strategic combinations of cardio activity, strength training, and proper nutrition are most effective for upper body fat loss

  • Fat loss and weight training of targeted muscle groups reveal upper body strength and definition.

With nearly 40 percent of Americans qualifying as "clinically obese," it's no wonder the fad diet and fitness industries are booming. Most people claim that they could do better or would like to see some changes involving fat loss and improved muscle tone. Most don't know what to do to lose upper body fat while preserving lean muscle mass.

Taking responsibility for your health involves eating well, getting enough exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. Taking steps to lose upper body fat has a significant effect on the way you look and feel. Unfortunately, the time and energy demands of work, family, and social engagements often push self-care to the back burner.

Shedding That Excess Fat

Shedding fat begins a process of uncovering your most healthy, vibrant self. Not only does it improve your self-confidence and self-esteem, but it also improves all aspects of your health and quality of life.

Don't fall victim to those fad diets and quick-fix pills for shedding body fat. Consistent steps toward health, such as eating well, engaging in physical activity, and reducing stress all play a part in creating the body of your dreams. Take responsibility and start moving toward health by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

All Fat Is Not Equal

You need a certain amount of fat in your body's tissues to maintain good health. Some fats are good, while others contribute to weight gain and chronic disease development that significantly impacts the way you look and feel.

Check out the following most common types of fat.

Woman performing upper body exercise

White Adipose Tissue

White adipose tissue is responsible for storing excess energy in triglycerides. White adipose tissue exists both under the skin and around the organs as a form of protection.

Brown Adipose Tissue

Brown adipose tissue has the vital task of generating heat in the body and burning calories. You find BAT in small amounts in adults, mostly in the neck and upper back. Brown fat breaks down glucose and fat molecules to maintain body temperature.

Beige Adipose Tissue

Beige adipose tissue is essentially white fat that encloses adipocytes with thermogenic traits. They offer protective benefits of white fat with the calorie-burning properties of brown fat. Beige adipose tissue is found in small amounts in adults.

Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat lies just beneath the skin, giving the body its shape. It pads muscles and bones, improves blood vessel and nerve function, and controls body temperature, ensuring you don't get too warm or cold.

Intramuscular Fat

Intramuscular fat is located between muscle cells, waiting to be used as energy stores for exercise. The presence of excess intramuscular fat is associated with conditions like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Epicardial Fat

Epicardial fat is a thin layer of fat surrounding the heart that serves to protect this vital muscle. Though beneficial in small amounts, an increase in thickness or density contributes to developing diseases like diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and heart disease.

Is all fat bad? Fat is not considered detrimental when protecting organs and tissues and provides a vital energy source. When you let it build to unhealthy percentages in the body, you must create an action plan to reduce body fat percentage and lose weight.

Upper body muscles

Dangers of Upper Body Fat Storage

Those sporting apple shapes may not realize they are more at risk for developing certain chronic health conditions. If you are genetically predisposed to storing fat on your upper body be aware that you have some work to do to avoid some consequences.

Cardiovascular Disease

Excess visceral fat around internal organs such as the heart, liver, and pancreas may lead to inflammation and insulin resistance. Both of these are risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease. Visceral fat in the upper body also leads to the hardening of the arteries and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Type 2 Diabetes

The presence of visceral fat triggers the release of fatty acids and other molecules that interfere with insulin signaling and production, contributing to a condition called insulin resistance. Other issues that trigger the onset of type 2 diabetes include hypertension, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome.

Sleep Apnea

Excess fat around your neck and chest puts immense pressure on your airways, causing them to narrow. This restriction increases your likelihood of developing breathing difficulties during sleep. Reducing your body fat percentage decreases your risk of inflammation, allowing you to breathe easier day and night.

Fatty Liver Disease

Visceral fat accumulates around vital organs as you gain weight, releasing fatty acids and other unsavory substances that increase fat accumulation in the liver. When more than ten percent of the liver's total weight is fat, it's classified as fatty liver disease, a serious, life-threatening condition.


Upper body fat storage increases the risk for several types of cancer, including colon, breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer. Cytokines and adipokines present in large fat volumes promote inflammation and damage to your DNA, which leads to the development and growth of cancer cells.

Joint Pain

Anytime you carry excess weight on your body, it stresses and strains your joints. Increased inflammation and excess stress inevitably cause joints to wear out over time, causing mobility issues that interfere with your quality of life.

Dumbbell curl

Causes of Upper Body Fat Storage

Upper body fat storage is most often caused by several factors including:

  • Poor diet and nutrition

  • Physical inactivity

  • Increased alcohol consumption

You may also be genetically predisposed to holding that "apple" weight in the neck, shoulders, arms, and midriff. Taking strategic steps in the form of diet and exercise intervention work wonders for turning your health around and improving energy and fitness levels.

How Long Does it Take?

Losing body fat is the same for both upper and lower body fat loss. Spot reduction is less effective than following general guidelines for weight loss and overall body fat reduction.

Weight loss is most effective when you aim to reduce one to two pounds of body weight weekly. A lively mix of weight training, cardiovascular activity, and a caloric deficit optimizes your chances of retaining muscle mass while promoting efficient fat loss.

It's possible to lose up to 10 pounds of body fat over 8-12 weeks, making a significant difference for those diligently working on weight loss goals.

How To Shed Unsightly Flab

Taking the "easy" way of liposuction yields impressive results, but it does little for setting you up with habits that do more to shape healthier actions that ensure long-term success. Take these strategic steps to see an impressive reduction in upper body fat and whole-body results.

Increase Calorie Burn

When talking about losing weight, most people think about calorie restriction first and foremost. This is a necessary part of the equation, but there are other ways to tip the scales in your favor.

Increasing your physical activity and burning more calories is a very effective way to speed up your results. Aim for 10,000 steps daily while watching your nutrition to shed pounds while maintaining muscle mass.

Create a Caloric Deficit

Leverage your physical activity efforts with a caloric deficit, and you have a magical equation for fat loss. Reducing your caloric intake by 300-500 calories a day yields a one to two pound weight loss per week, which is a sustainable method.

Man with defined muscles

Sculpt and Train With Weights

Reshaping the upper body becomes much more enjoyable and effective with the element of strength training. By specifically targeting upper body muscles, you effectively build and define muscles as you lose body fat. Yes, you may achieve fat loss with diet alone, but it won't yield the same results as strength training, which gives you beautiful, sculpted muscles.

Go Easy on the Cardio

With cardiovascular exercise, more does not always equal better. The most efficient caloric burn and fat loss results occur at a training intensity of 60-65 percent of VO2 max, perhaps 70 percent if you're looking to maximize fat usage as a primary energy source for activity.

Adding light to medium cardio days, taking long walks, and keeping your heart rate within the 60-70 percent zone is a perfect way to burn calories, shift fat stores, and improve overall fitness.

Cut Out the Alcohol and Cigarettes

Alcohol consumption has clear connections to upper body weight gain. Researchers found that adding alcohol to a higher-calorie diet decreases fat oxidation within 24 hours of consumption, making excess fat even more difficult to lose.

If cancer and heart disease risk aren't enough to keep you from smoking, perhaps the fact that smoking promotes localized fat accumulation around the midsection is enough motivation to put down that cigarette. Higher levels of adipose tissue are found in those who smoke, compared to lower levels found in non-smokers.

Get Good Sleep

Long-term behavior weight loss intervention studies show that increased quality sleep has positive correlations to fat loss. While the ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, try increasing your sleep by 30 to 60 minutes daily.

Best Exercises for Upper Body Sculpting

You have a handle on fat loss, and you've mastered the art of keeping a caloric deficit. Now it's time to train and sculpt those muscles to reveal an enviable upper body physique. Which exercises are best for sculpting and promoting upper body fat loss?

Woman doing shoulder exercises

Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is a great way to build upper body muscle in the triceps, chest, and shoulders. Varying your grip — close, wide, medium — gives muscles a comprehensive workout while building balanced strength. For those without access to barbells, the push-up is a great alternative.

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Dumbbell bent over rows are a powerhouse move for biceps, forearms, and back muscles. Dumbbells allow you to increase your range of motion and vary your grip, improving grip strength and coordination.

Lat Pulldown

If there's one exercise to incorporate that will sculpt a beautiful back, it's the lat pulldown. This exercise develops that broad, v-shaped physique that many find so attractive. Pull-ups and assisted pull-ups also target shoulder and back muscles to make your backside as impressive as those pectorals.

Skull Crushers

Proceed with caution; the dumbbell skull crusher specifically targets the triceps for the kind of look that all strive for when sporting sleeveless fashions. You achieve tight, toned triceps with a few overhead reps of a dumbbell that just barely misses your noggin.

Hammer Curls

Hammer curls strengthen and develop the upper arm muscles–the brachioradialis, biceps brachii, and brachialis. These muscles assist with upper body strength and elbow flexion, making both exercise and daily tasks easier.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the exercises that you can perform to sculpt the upper body while focusing on fat loss. However, they give you a good start toward building the kind of sculpted frame that's easily celebrated once you slough off protective layers.

Don't forget one vital piece of the fat loss puzzle — nutrition.

Proper Nutrition for Fat Loss

All the repetitions in the world won't do a thing for your physique if you're gorging on daily burgers and milkshakes; you must eat like a prizewinning thoroughbred to see those rippling muscles appear.

In addition to reducing your caloric intake, follow these nutrition tips for impressive results:

  • Increase your protein intake — eat lean chicken, fish, eggs, and full-fat dairy to meet daily requirements. Aim for one ounce of protein per pound of body weight to preserve lean muscle mass.

  • Choose healthy fats. Avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish help keep you full while providing vital nutrients.

  • Limit refined carbohydrates. Highly processed foods like white breads and pasta cause blood sugar spikes, contributing to fat storage. Opt for whole grains, fruits, and veggies instead.

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Staying hydrated helps you feel full and energized and prevents you from overeating. Drink half your body weight in ounces daily for best results.

Man doing dumbbell curls

No Magic Equation Except for Consistent Action

There is no magic equation for quick success when striving to achieve any level of health and fitness.

Fitness model Greg Plitt gives a gentle reminder for those who want to achieve optimal health and fitness. "The clock is ticking — are you becoming the person you want to be?" Consistent practice and application of these exercise and nutrition strategies are the best way to get the results you're looking for.

For more tips and tricks related to your ultimate wellness, check out FitnessCorner.

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