The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body

A stereotype bodybuilder is usually portrayed by a ripped guy lifting weights around. Contrary to popular opinion, muscle mass can be built without weights.

You can also get that defined body you used to have before pregnancy without purchasing weights or becoming a gym member. With that being said, below are some of the best bodyweight exercises for the upper body.

Bodyweight when properly used would give the desired result just like external weights. But before that, let’s meet our friends in the upper body.

Knowing The Upper Body

According to Wikipedia, the human body can be broken down into different muscles and muscle groups. The upper body boasts of a variety of muscles and contains different body parts. The arms, abs, chest, and back are the body parts usually targeted during exercise.

These body parts must be exercised equally as one getting bigger or looking more toned than the rest leaves the body shape looking weird.

Things that you need to know

  • Most people neglect the back and that does not only give bad posture but causes back pain and other complications.
  • Some people believe that bodybuilding without weights yields no tangible result.
  • This belief is wrong as research has proven that beginners exercising with weights yields the same results as without.

It’s not as if your muscles can tell the difference

The absence of weights sometimes gives people the excuse not to work out. For that, I have made it my mission to ensure that none of the exercises here requires the use of any weight apart from our body weight.

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10 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body

1. Push-ups

A standard push up, when done correctly, affects the following muscles: the pectorals (or chest muscle), the deltoids (shoulder muscle), the triceps muscle found at the back of the arms, the abdominal muscles, and the serratus anterior (that is the wing muscles directly under your armpit).

As you can see, no upper body workout would be complete without the push-up. However, if you are planning on making your workout a little more challenging you can do other varieties of push up like the wide arm push up, diamond push up, decline to push up, etc.

How to do it:

  • Start on all fours with your weight supported by your hands beneath your shoulders and toes.
  • Ensure your body is straight and your core is locked.
  • Lower your body until your chest is a few centimeters from the ground.
  • Then push your body back up by fully extending your arms.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 10 reps.

2. Dips

The dip is an upper-body strength exercise that primarily focuses on the triceps muscles of the arm, its secondary targets are the anterior deltoid of the shoulder, the pectoralis muscles of the chest, and the rhomboid muscle of the back.

The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body - deep

How to do it:

  • Secure an elevated surface (can be a piece of furniture like a chair, bed, bench, etc.).
  • Place your palms at the edge of the elevated surface with your fingers facing you and arms straightened.
  • Your feet, while still deeply rooted on the ground, should be moved a few steps away from the elevated surface with the knee slightly bent.
  • Now, lower your body by bending your elbows till your body almost touches the ground,
  • Return to starting position. That is one rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 15 reps.

3. Plank

The plank is a great exercise for working your core. The core includes the muscles in the area of the belly and that of the mid and lower back. Besides the core, the plank also strengthens your spine, your abs, your pelvis girdle, your shoulder girdle, and even your legs.

The plank not only works the upper and lower body but also improves the whole body posture and improves stability.

The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body - plank

How to do it:

  • Start on all fours with your palms facing down directly below your shoulders and your toes behind.
  • Ensure your body is straight from your head to your ankle.
  • Tighten your core and hold the position for 30 – 60 seconds (as you are capable).

4. Burpee

The Burpee is a good full-body calisthenic exercise that aims to build muscle strength and endurance in both your upper and lower body. The burpee works the muscles in your shoulders, chest, arms, abdomen, hips, buttocks, and legs. The burpee is a good exercise to boost cardio fitness and burn fat.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet a shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down till your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • From the squat position, place your hands on the floor.
  • Kick your legs out behind you and assume a press-up position.
  • Push up till your arms are straight and then tuck in your legs at the bottom of the squat position.
  • Drive upwards through the heels till you are a few centimeters off the floor. That is one rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 10 reps.

5. Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers work the entire core. They are considered to be a full-body workout because they also work the glutes, legs, shoulders, and triceps asides from working the core.

BEST EXERCISES FOR A BIGGER BUTT - Donkey kicks or Mountain Climbers

How to do it:

  • Start on your fours in a climbing position.
  • Bring your left foot forward, directly under your chest, while straightening the right leg.
  • Keep your hands on the floor.
  • With your core tight, jump, and switch legs. Your left leg should now be straightened behind you with your right foot forward. That is a rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 10 reps.

6. Superman

The superman is a great exercise that strengthens the lower and upper back, it also works the glutes and hamstrings, and increases overall core strength.

The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body - superman

How to do it:

  • Start in a lying position. Lie face down.
  • Extend your legs behind and your hands should be placed on a mat in front of the forehead.
  • By contracting the glutes and thigh, raise your arms, chest, and legs off the floor.
  • Lower back down. That is one rep.
  • Repeat for 10 – 15 reps.

7. Inchworms

The inchworm is a core exercise but when done well, it can be felt in the shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides.
  • Bend at the waist and place your hands on the floor.
  • Walk your hands forward to come to a high plank with your hands flat, wrists stacked under your shoulders, and your core, quads, and butt engaged. Pause for a second.
  • Walk your hands back to your feet and stand to return to start. That is one rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 10 reps.

8. Pull up

The pull-up is one of the best exercises for strengthening the back muscles. Pull-ups work the following muscles of the back: the trapezius (this connects the neck to the spine and the shoulder-blade), the thoracic erector spinae (the muscles located on the thoracic spine), the latissimus dorsi (the largest upper-back muscle), and the infraspinatus (located on the shoulder blade).

The pull up makes our back strong, improves posture, and secondarily strengthens the arms and shoulder muscle.


How to do it:

  • Secure an elevated bar (in fact, it has to be jumped at to be grabbed).
  • Jump and grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than the shoulder-width and your feet slightly in front of your body.
  • By squeezing your core, pull your chest to the bar.
  • Return to starting position. That is one rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 10 – 20 reps (depending on how capable you are).

9. Lateral plank walk

The lateral plank walk specifically targets the abdominal muscles. It also works some parts of the thigh, arm, and lower-leg.

How to do it:

  • Start in a plank position with your palms flat, hands shoulder-width apart, wrists directly below your shoulders, your legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged.
  • Still maintaining the plank position, move to the right with your right hand and right foot. This is one rep.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction. This is another rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 10 reps for each side.

10. Crunches

Crunches work the rectus abdominis muscle (also called abs) in the mid-section of your body. The crunch is a great exercise for building the six-pack ab, which makes the abdominal muscles strong.

How to do it:

  • Start by lying face up. Hands behind your head, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
  • By engaging your core, move your whole upper body above the floor or mat, whichever.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Then lower your body back toward the ground. That is one rep.
  • Perform 3 – 5 sets of 15 reps.

Now you know the exercises to do to get that body and make the shirt look firmer. The exercises can be done anywhere, your home, garage, living room, your garden all that is needed is space and mat if the floor is too hard. With consistency and dedication, you would get the best version of yourself. You might want to take it a little bit slow though if you are new to working out. Don’t rush it.


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