The best single upper body exercise is going to be equivalent to the best total body exercise. I know some members have questioned squats/dl's as "upper body exercises", but your body chemistry is going to respond best to the increased power requirements from the compound total body exercise, thus enhancing the results on your upper body. Weight training is only partly about stressing individual muscle groups. It also involves shifting your blood chemistry for effective recovery. Therefore, continually doing isolated upper body lifts is going to unnecessarily strain your muscles without adequate recovery, unless you're using supplements to shift your body chemistry (note however, that pull-ups/bench press press are NOT isolated, but do not nearly deliver the same chemistry-altering impact as deadlifts/squats).
Deadlifts are an easy win as the best, single movement compound exercise (though most people do not keep their abs tight enough, which minimizes the total-body workout benefit). If you're in a bind for time (and you want a brutal 10 minute workout ), try Burpee-Pull-ups. Essentially a Burpee-Pull-up is a combination of a Burpee and a Pull-Up. a) Position yourself under a pull-up bar. 1) Do a Burpee. 2) on the jump simultaneously do a pull-up. 3) Land on your feet and repeat. After about 15 of these, you're going to be breathing hard. You can alternate your hand position on the pull-up each jump to increase endurance and maximize the amount of muscle groups used.
Upper body muscles conditioned: Chest (burpee), abs (everything - especially the burpee if you keep your core tight), traps (pull-up), biceps (chin-up), upper and lower back (both), triceps (burpee - but try to keep your hands somewhat close on the burpee push-up). That's about every core upper body group in one 10 minute workout (plus, you get you get a killer cardio workout and improve your jump).
Edited by threeleggeddog - 8/8/11 at 9:17am