Where to begin
Bodyweight exercises are movements that help build strength and fitness, without the need for additional weights. In many cases, they don’t need any other equipment at all. These exercises focus on simply using the weight of your own body to challenge your muscles, so are easy to do wherever you are, whether that’s at home, on your lunch break or at the gym. Yes, absolutely. Many of the best bodyweight workouts include exercises that target the whole body, so you’ll be able to see results in your arms, back and chest with these movements. If you’re aiming to bulk up these upper body areas, we’d generally recommend incorporating some additional weight as you progress, using dumbbells, kettlebells or weighted plates. However, this isn’t always possible, so if you need to keep your upper body bodyweight exercises completely equipment-free, then it’s worth building in more reps, extending the duration of each movement (particularly the moment of higher tension) or trying more challenging variations of each exercise.
5 beginners upper body bodyweight exercises
An excellent all-round exercise, planks will boost your arm, back, chest, shoulder and upper body strength whilst also targeting your core and glutes. Check out more variations of planks here:
- Lie on a mat with your forearms on the floor just under each shoulder and feet hip-width apart
- With your toes on the floor, lift up so your bodyweight is balanced on your forearms and toes
- Focus on keeping your core engaged and your shoulder blades relaxed
- Hold for as long as you can, working on increasing the time as you get stronger
5 advanced upper body bodyweight exercises
It makes sense to look at chin-ups essentially as reverse push-ups. Not only do they work just about every muscle in the body, they specifically target the opposing set of muscles to those most worked by push ups. Chin ups will work the biceps and lats amazingly well, while secondarily stressing the core and deltoids, and creating the kind of full-body tension that packs on muscle all over your frame. You’ll need a basic level of equipment, such as a climbing frame.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Tomas Reuss
This full body movement is excellent for building strength and boosting cardio, working your arms, back, chest, core, legs and glutes. It’s a high energy movement (great for adding in as a HIIT movement) that will also help to burn fat and tone up. Learn more variations to mix up your burpees here. Another advanced variation of a push up, with an extra challenge to burn more energy, clapping push-ups include rapid, explosive movements that are perfect for targeting your chest, triceps and shoulders. This compound movement is another great full-body movement that’s particularly effective for strengthening your upper body, with plenty of work for your core and legs too.
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