November 09, 2021 9 min read

Going to the gym every day can be hard. And there are some days where you simply don’t have the time! But your upper body still needs work to keep you in tip-top physical shape.

The good news is, there are plenty of upper body bodyweight exercises that you can complete from the comfort of your home without any equipment or barbells.

Keep reading to learn more about the best ways for you to work out your upper body at home using a bodyweight workout.

What is Your Upper Body?

Before we delve into the exercises that you can do using your body weight that benefit your upper body, we must define what the upper body is.

Portrait of a Young Physically Fit Man Showing His Well Trained Body

This is because you may be looking to isolate certain muscles, or may need to work out specific muscles on certain days of the week. Your upper body contains several different muscle groups, which are broken down into different muscles. We have broken it down for you below.

Upper Back

Your upper back contains two different muscles. First, the trapezius is a triangular-shaped muscle that comes from your mid-back and extends up to your shoulder blade. You should work this muscle if you commonly suffer from neck or back pain, or if you want the make the back of your shoulders look sculpted.

The second set of muscles found on your back are the rhomboids, which are in the center of your back and extend up to your neck. Work these musclesif you are looking to improve your posture.

Shoulders

Your shoulders have a lot of weight to carry, so it’s no surprise that there are two different sets of muscle here as well. You have the deltoids, which are the muscles on the top of your shoulder. You’ll want to work on toning these if you want to improve your range of motion and have a more defined silhouette.

Besides just the deltoids, the rotators can also be found in the shoulder. These muscles are very important because they help to keep your arm in its place. Have saggy armpits? You’ll want to start by working out the rotators to tone this area.

Chest

The chest is also part of the upper body, and it only has one group of muscles, the pectorals. They cover most of your chest. As a man, you will want to exercise them to increase your chest size and definition.

Arm Muscles

This group of muscles has three players: biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles. And while there are exercises that can be used to isolate each of these muscles, you will probably want to work them out altogether for best results.

Why Is It Important to Exercise Your Upper Body?

  • It Helps Prevent Injury: One of the main reasons you should always be sure to work out your upper body is because it will help keep you from getting injured. Many real-world situations involve your upper body, from helping a friend move to picking up a small child. Either of these could cause your body injury if you don’t have a strong upper body.
  • It Increases Overall Fitness: Even if you are a runner or someone who just uses their lower body for their sport, it is important to have a healthy and fit upper body as well. This is because having a good posture is important even while performing an activity like running. And you can’t have a good posture without working your upper body!
  • You’ll Sleep Better: One of the main benefits of working out is that it helps you sleep better at night. This is especially true when you work the upper body because it can help relax your back and neck—two parts of the body that can often cause you discomfort when you are trying to sleep.
  • You’ll Boost Your Thinking and Memory:While you may be working out to get swoll, numerous studies show that exercise also helps to improve your thinking and memory skills. This means doing a few upper body exercises while you watch TV is good for both your mind and your body, even if you are normally a cardio person at the gym.

Benefits of Upper Body Workouts

Take a peek at the following list to see some additional benefits you can reap by including an at-home upper body workout into your workout routine.

  • Better Posture
  • Boosts Full Body Workouts
  • Improved Metabolism
  • Mentally Rewarding
  • Everyday Tasks Are Easier
  • Easier to Fall Asleep
  • Better Overall Fitness

The 10 Best Bodyweight Exercises for the Upper Body

Don’t worry about having to purchase any equipment like barbells, as all of the following exercises only require the use of your body and items you can find around the house!

Ready? Let’s get started! 

1. Decline Push-Ups

Pushups are a great arm workout that doesn’t require any dumbbells or other fancy equipment. But of course, the regular pushup might be a bit boring, so try them on a decline. This will put more weight on your arms and help improve their general strength and muscle composition.

How to Do Decline Pushups:

  • Find a couch or chair that is at least a foot off the ground that has room for your body length in front of it
  • Place your feet on the chair and get into a push-up position
  • Flex your elbows to bring your chest to the floor
  • Straighten your elbows to return to your starting position
  • Repeat until you have done 3 sets of 10-15 reps, or until you fail and cannot to anymore.

2. Tricep Dips

Tricep Dips

Floor or tricep dips are the perfect at-home workout when you want to work on strength training and defining those arm muscles (especially the triceps).

And, like the pushup, they are easy to set up. Dips are easy to engage in at any time of the day. Waiting for the laundry to dry? Do some dips. Waiting for a timer on the oven? Perfect time to pull over a chair and do some dips!

How to Do Dips:

  • Find a chair or bench that is at least a foot or two off the floor
  • Place both hands on the edge of the surface
  • Put your legs out straight in front of you and rest them on their heels
  • By bending your arms, lower your body towards the floor
  • When you’ve gone as far as you can go, use your arms to push yourself back to your starting position
  • Repeat until you have done 3 sets of 15 reps, or until you fail (or the timer on the oven goes off!)

3. Plank Shoulder Taps

Plank Shoulder Taps

Planks are especially beneficial to the core muscles found in both your stomach and your back. But they are an amazing exercise because they also benefit your arms and shoulders at the same time. No matter what muscles you are targeting, planks should be a part of your at-home workout.

How to Do Planks:

  • Find a space where you will fit on the floor comfortably
  • Grab a timer
  • Get in the push-up position, but stretch your arms out until they are straight your shoulders should be in line with your wrists
  • Rest the lower half of your body on the balls of your feet
  • Start your timer
  • Touch your right hand to your left shoulder, return it to the floor
  • Touch your left hand to your right shoulder, then return it to the floor
  • Repeat these movements while maintaining the high plank position
  • Maintain this position for as long as possible, taking an equal amount of rest afterward. For example, start with maintaining the position for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds
  • Repeat 3-5 times

4. Bicycle Sit-Ups

Bicycle Sit-Ups

Sit-ups are another great exercise for your upper body, as they tone those abdominal muscles. But sit-ups can be difficult to do without assistance, which is why at home you should try the bicycle variation instead.

How to Do Bicycle Sit-Ups:

  • Lay comfortably on your back
  • Lift your knees until they create 90-degree angles with your legs
  • Place your hands behind your head
  • Lift your head from the floor connecting the left elbow with your right knee
  • Switch and connect your right elbow to your left knee
  • Continue switching back and forth
  • Repeat for at least 30 seconds, then take a 30-second break
  • Repeat this exercise until you can do it no more, steadily increasing the length of time you do it for

5. Burpees

How to do Burpees

Burpees are a rather challenging exercise that works several different groups of muscles in your body. Although most of these muscles are in the upper body, doing a few burpees can help strengthen the muscles in your lower body such as your glutes and lower back as well.

How to Do a Burpee:

  • Start in a standing position and be sure you have plenty of space
  • Get into a squatting position in good form with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Next, jump so that your feet leave the ground
  • Return from your jump to the squatting position
  • Place your hands on the floor transferring your body to a push-up position
  • Complete one pushup
  • Return to the squatting position
  • Start from the beginning
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 10-15 reps or until you can do no more

Burpees are a challenging and demanding exercise.

If you find yourself unable to do them, don’t be afraid to just stick to push-ups and planks until you are ready.

6. Superman

Man doing superman exercise

Although supermans are generally practiced in yoga, they are a great upper body exercise that doesn’t require too much expertise and no equipment to perform. You’ll want to do superman’s in order t work out your back muscles and to build strength in both your back and core.

How to Do Superman’s

  • Get into the starting position in which you lay facedown on your stomach with one ear to the floor. Your arms should be by your side.
  • Without using your arms, lift the top half of your body off the floor
  • Lift your legs simultaneously
  • Stretch your arms out in front of your like superman does when he flies
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds, or until you can no longer
  • Repeat this exercise 3-5 times, taking a 30-second break between every 30 seconds of being in the superman position.

Besides just being a great back workout, regularly engaging in the superman pose also helps your glutes, so don’t be afraid to throw a couple of these into your leg day!

7. Mountain Climbers

Man doing Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a unique exercise that works out your arms, shoulders, and core in addition to your quads. It is a difficult exercise for beginners, often found under its other name, the running plank.

How to Do Mountain Climbers:

  • Get into the starting position, with is a plank position
  • Check that your hands are shoulder-width apart and directly under the shoulders
  • Pull your left knee to your chest before placing your foot back on the ground
  • Pull your right knee to your chest before placing your foot back on the ground
  • Continue repeating the two above steps for a period of at least 30 seconds
  • Take a 30-second break
  • Repeat the entire process 3-5 times or until you find that you can do no more.

8. Lunges

Man doing lunges

Lunges are perhaps one of the more well-known exercises on this list, while also being one of the easiest for beginners to engage in.

While lunges may seem like a leg exercise, they actually help you to build muscle in your upper body as well. This is because you hold a proper posture while you do lunges—which strengthens your core, back, and shoulder muscles.

How to Do a Lunge:

  • Start in a standing position with plenty of room to move
  • Step your left leg forward, kneeling until your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Your left foot should be directly below your left knee. Keep your upper body straight. Keep both your left and right hands on your hips.
  • Step your right leg forward until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle. Your right foot should be directly below your right knee. Continue to keep your upper body upright in a straight line.
  • Continue alternating legs for at least 30 seconds or until you find you can do so no longer. Then take a 30-second rest.
  • Repeat this exercise 3-5 times, or until you can do no more.

9. Handstands

Handstands are an extremely difficult exercise that is not for beginners. You should not engage in handstands unless you have significant upper body strength. That being said, they are a great full-body exercise that specifically builds arm, shoulder, and core muscles.

 

How to Do a Handstand:

  • Be sure you have plenty of room
  • Bend over and place your hands flat on the floor
  • Kick your legs up one at a time until they are over your head. Tighten your ab muscles to keep them there. Squeezing your glutes can also help.
  • Keep your body in a straight line, supporting your entire body weight with your arms
  • Hold this position for at least 30 seconds before taking a 30-second break, or until you find you can do so no longer.
  • Repeat the handstand for 3-5 repetitions if you are able

10. Side Plank

Man doing a side plank

For the final no equipment exercise that you can do at home to help with your strength training routine, you should engage in side planks. Side planks are beneficial for your obliques, abdominal muscles, and arm muscles.

How to Do a Side Plank:

  • Lay on either your right or left side with your legs stacked one on top of another
  • Place the hand of the arm that is closest to the floor on the floor and use it to lift your body until it is a diagonal line. So if you are laying on your right side, this would be your right hand.
  • Once your body is in a diagonal line, lift the opposite arm to the ceiling in a straight line. On the right side, this would be your left arm and vice versa. 

Ready to Work Your Upper Body?

Hopefully, by now, you've realized that you really don't need any fancy equipment like barbells or a resistance band in order to strengthen your upper body. Of course, if you are trying to train for a specific goal, you should always discuss your plans with a personal trainer before you start exercising at home.

And if you need an idea where to start, check out this article on Hershel Walker's workout routine to get you started.