This might come as a surprise, but you really don't need a gym to work out any part of your body, including your upper-body. What's more, you don't even need any equipment! You can begin with your bodyweight and gradually incorporate some affordable and transportable equipment, such as resistance bands, as your strength grows.
However, you mustn't go into an upper-body strength workout without knowing what you're doing. It's essential to have a good idea of the best upper-body exercises and precisely what muscles they benefit.
This article will consider the best upper-body exercises and discuss how you can incorporate them into your at-home fitness routine!
Full upper-body workout exercises - from home!
Push-ups are one of the ultimate upper-body bodyweight exercises. You can do them at home, in the garden, or anywhere where you have some space! Most people know what a push up is but often have poor form. Here is how to properly do a push up:
- Lie on your stomach on the floor
- Place your palms on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
- Press on the floor, keeping your toes or knees in contact, and raising your shoulders, chest, and abs. Your shoulders should be directly over your knuckles
- In a controlled motion, move your body back down to the floor and up again. This is one rep. Make sure not to chicken wing your elbows. They should be only a few inches away from your body.
- Repeat 10-20 times. Don't worry if you can't make it to 10 at first - just do as many as you can.
- Aim for 3-5 sets of push-ups in one workout.
There are plenty of different varieties of push-ups, perfect for all exercise levels. If you are a beginner at training your upper-body muscles, you can do a push-up on your knees. If you're a pro, try a push up on your toes straight away - and if you're feeling really adventurous, why not raise one foot and do a one-legged push-up or add a resistance band to make it much more challenging?
These are a great way to train your upper-body and add some cardio to your workout. Burpees are loved by some and hated by many, but universally, people know they are a great exercise.
- Start a burpee by standing in the center of your mat.
- Then move your palms to the floor and jump backward, so your body is in the push-up position.
- Jump your feet back inwards and return to standing.
- Try to start with five burpees, but increase to as many as you can when possible!
If burpees aren't hard enough for you, you could incorporate a push-up, squat, or jumping jack into your burpee routine. If you want a slower move, slow-motion burpees are also an option. These entail stepping out, rather than jumping out at the bottom, and are a much easier move for beginners.
This exercise helps stretch and tone the lower back and shoulders. It's a straightforward move to add to your home workout routine; all you need is some space and a mat or exercise-appropriate flooring.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms facing out in front of you and legs outstretched behind.
- Squeezing your muscles, lift your arms and legs upwards so that only your torso is in contact with the ground. Hold for a few seconds, or up to 30, at the top.
- Slowly move your arms and legs back down. This is one rep.
- Continue for around ten reps. Have a break, and try to do ten more!
Banded bicep curls
Bicep curls are traditionally done with free weights, but you can just as easily use long resistance bands. A pull-up assist band works for assisted pull-ups and general training exercises, including bicep curls, so it's a great multipurpose tool.
Here is how to do bicep curls with a resistance band:
- Depending on the band's length, you can do one or two arms at a time.
- If your band is long enough, stand on its center and take each end with one hand.
- Keep your arms at 90 degrees and forearms facing the ceiling.
- Slowly, move your arms upwards so that they meet your shoulders.
- Move your arms back down to 90-degrees.
- Do ten bicep curls on each side. Rest, and then try to do 3-5 more sets.
Of course, you can also complete this move with dumbells or free weights, if you have access to any.
Banded shoulder press
This is one of the best shoulder exercises at home - a classic move that can be replicated using long resistance bands instead of free weights. Here is how to do a shoulder press with resistance bands:
- Loop the resistance band around one foot, and place this foot slightly forward.
- Grasp the other end of your band with both hands. Keep your arms outstretched, with your elbows bent at around a 45-degree angle.
- Slowly pull the resistance band overhead, extending both arms completely.
- In a controlled manner, move your arms back down to the original position.
- Do 10 reps; repeat for 3-5 more sets.
Reverse rows are definitely one to include in all back workouts at home. You will also need a long resistance band for this move. Here is how to do it:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and loop your resistance band around both feet.
- Hold the other ends of the band with each hand, keeping your hands tucked in just outside your torso.
- Lean forward to around a 45-degree angle.
- Slowly move your elbows back so they are sticking up bask your torso
- In a controlled manner, move your elbows back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times, and complete a few sets of this movement.
All you'll need is a chair, stair, or couch for this one. It's an easy but challenging move that will help you build your tricep strength and is definitely an exercise to include in all arm workouts at home. Here is how to do it:
- Start by standing in front of a chair or couch, so your back is facing it. Put your palms on the chair seat with your fingers pointing towards you.
- Walk your legs out so that there is some distance between your feet and the chair.
- Bending your arms, move your butt in a controlled motion towards the floor.
- Don't touch the floor - but once your elbows are at 90-degrees, straighten your arms to move your body back upwards.
- Repeat 5-10 times, depending on how much your body can handle! Once you've perfected your form, you might want to do a few more sets of this move.
If you want to invest in a pull-up bar, pull-ups are an excellent back workout move. A pull-up bar generally goes over your door frame, and if you need some support, you can also use a pull up assist band to help with the move. Here is how to do a pull-up:
- Stand underneath the bar, and with your forearms facing forward, clasp the bar with both hands.
- Pull your body upwards, towards the bar.
- Once your chin is parallel to the bar, move downwards in a controlled manner.
- Try to do as many as you can - work towards 10 pull-ups and then try unassisted!
How can I build my upper-body strength at home?
As you can see, it's easy to do an upper-body workout at home without weights - and there are even plenty of moves that you can do with no equipment at all!
All you need to build strength is resistance (which can be found in bands or body weight) and reps. If you want to build a little strength up and primarily focus on general fitness, you can easily succeed with an at-home upper-body workout. Go through the exercises that we have suggested above a few times a week, and watch your strength increase!
You can definitely build muscle with exercises such as push-ups and burpees, but there will come a time when you're seeking more resistance. You don't need heavy weights for this, though - resistance bands work perfectly well.
If you want to bulk up, you may eventually want to invest in some dumbells and barbells and build your strength this way.
How can I build my upper-body without weights?
Building your upper-body strength without weights is easy at the start - your natural body weight and the resistance that you get from bands will help you with this.
You will need to increase your exercises' difficulty - similar to how you would gradually increase the weights you use. This is called progressive overload and is how any athlete improves.
You can do this by making some of your moves - for example, push-ups - one-armed. One-armed push-ups increase the resistance on that particular arm (remember to repeat on the other side, so both arms get a workout!). You could also do push-ups one-legged, which also adds resistance.
When using resistance bands, you can gradually increase the strength of the bands. The thicker, more robust bands have more resistance and thus are great for progressive overload. Or for a move like pull-ups, using a thinner band or none at all increases the difficulty.
You can also play with the speed. Try doing burpees faster. Or take fewer breaks between each movement.
You don't need a gym for an effective upper-body workout - as this guide has detailed. As long as you have adequate floor space, you can begin this workout routine - and adding resistance bands will make it even more effective!