7 Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises You Can Try Today
The beauty of bodyweight exercise training is that you can bring the bodyweight workout with you anywhere. Whether it’s lower body or upper body weight exercises, their flexibility makes it easy to train anywhere using only your body weight, which means no excuses. Some of the best bodyweight exercises are ones you’re probably already familiar with in your workouts. But in this case, we’ll be focusing on exercises that strengthen upper body muscle groups. These upper body bodyweight workouts will provide a foundation for getting your upper body muscles strong and keep you supported in the work you do every day!
1 | Down Dog to High Plank
This core strength move is a great start to any workout routine because it’s super simple and activates the entire body.
First thing’s first: get into a high plank position. Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders. Come up off your knees while straightening your legs out so that your hands and toes are the only points touching the ground. Engage your core muscles to maintain a flat back and keep your tailbone tucked in.
Now, all you have to do from here is shift back into a Downward Dog: allow your hips to press up and back so that your legs are at about 90-degrees to your torso. Make sure you’re pushing away from the floor and maintaining a neutral head (look at the floor, not straight up at your hands). You should look like an upside-down V.
Move back and forth between these two compound exercise positions to get your body warm and your arms, back, and shoulders ready for an upper body workout. There’s no need to move fast with this bodyweight training position or any other strength training exercise; studies show that bodyweight training works even at slow speeds.
2 | Push-Ups
You probably know where we’re going with this one, but we’ll remind you to keep your push up form where it should be.
Push-ups are great upper body exercises that will work out your arm muscles and build shoulder strength. Get into that high plank position again (as seen above). You can have your hands below your shoulders or just slightly farther out. Bend at the elbows until they reach 45 degrees and push back up.
If that’s too much, keep those knees on the floor. You can also opt to push up while standing next to a wall. Press your hands on the wall and keep your toes a couple of feet away from it. The same general rules as the push-up apply, but gravity will do much more work for you while your body gets strong enough to move to the next upper body strength variation.
3 | Loaded Beast Shoulder Taps
The “Loaded Beast” comes from an emerging type of workout called Animal Flow. Animal Flow is low to the ground and mimics the way animals move. The idea is to connect with our bodies to make them more strong, mobile and coordinated.
One of the basic moves of Animal Flow is the Loaded Beast. This actually looks a lot like the prep we just went over for push-ups. Get on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders, knees under your hips, and toes on the floor. Now, take all of the weight off of your knees and into your toes so that your knees are hovering a few inches off the ground (while still bent). Now you’re in a strength training position.
From here, all you have to do is tap your shoulders (one at a time) with the opposite hand. Seems simple, right?
But here’s the catch: try not to move the rest of your body. To see muscle growth, you’ll have to activate all of your muscles to keep still-talk about feeling the burn in this upper body bodyweight workout.
4 | Tricep Dips
The bodyweight tricep dip targets-surprise!-your triceps, but the deltoids, pecs, and back will also get plenty of work in with this arm workout move.
This bodyweight tricep exercise can be done at different levels, depending on your ability and what is available to you. A classic dip bar is the most challenging variation in which you support your entire body’s weight with just the muscles of the dip.
We recommend using a bench or chair for a supported tricep dip. The movement is simple: put your hands on the edge of the bench or chair with your fingers facing forward, starting with straight arms. Put your legs out in front of the chair, either bent (this is a more supported variation) or straight (less-supported and more difficult). Ensure your lower back almost touches the chair and use your triceps to lower your body toward the floor. Once the angle of your arms reaches 90 degrees, come back up.
5 | Supermans
Supermans are one of those movements that work a lot of your body at once, and it’s especially great at targeting the back for muscle growth (which isn’t easy to do with your body weight).
To perform the Superman upper body workout, lay face-down and stretch your arms over your head. You should look like a flat board here. Now, all you have to do is lift your arms and legs off the ground simultaneously, about 4-6 inches, creating a bowl-like shape with the back of your body. Keeping your head neutral (look forward and down rather than up at your hands), hold the position for up to 5 seconds, and come back down.
6 | Supermans with Pull-Up
If you’d like to keep going with the Superman theme, try a Superman “Pull-Up” variation.
Get into the same compound exercise position, but this time keep your toes on the ground while your torso comes up. Now, engage your back like you’re trying to pinch a pencil on your spine as you bend and pull your arms from straight out in front of you to the sides of your chest. It should look like a sideways pull-up.
7 | Forearm Plank
The Forearm Plank is another one of those movements that works your upper body strength but actually requires more muscles than you think.
Get into the push-up position we described earlier and lower yourself onto your elbows with your hands forward (elbow-to-forearm angle should be 90 degrees). Resist the urge to clasp your hands together, keep your palms either on the ground or in fists.
Like the push-up position, engage your core strength and glutes to tuck your tailbone under and keep your back flat. Don’t let your stomach arch to the ground, and don’t let your bottom stick up into the air. The Forearm Plank is about finding your center and using those shoulders to hang on to it!
Start Your Upper Body Workout Routine with Chuze
A lot of us feel pressured that we have to be throwing big weights around the gym to be successful in it, but focusing on bodyweight exercises that work out different arm muscles like these is just another fantastic way to bring your fitness to the next level!
The great news is that you can try these exercises at any of our locations, simply search for “gyms near me” to find the nearest one to you. You can also find bodyweight workouts like these on iChuze Fitness, our virtual fitness platform. If you decide to diversify your routine and add weight training or other forms of exercise to your routine, we’ve got you covered on that too.
Make sure you stretch at the end of your workout to give your body an easier recovery.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- “10 of the best upper body bodyweight exercises (beginners and advanced).” Pure Gym. 3 September, 2021. https://www.puregym.com/blog/10-best-upper-body-bodyweight-exercises/
- Barroso, Mark. “10 Equipment-Free Moves for Your Upper Body.” Aaptiv. https://aaptiv.com/magazine/bodyweight-exercises-arms
- Schwecherl, Laura. “50 Exercises for a Bodyweight Workout You Can Do Anywhere.” Greatist. 24 November, 2020. https://greatist.com/fitness/50-bodyweight-exercises-you-can-do-anywhere