Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body Strength

Find Your Personal Trainer

Published: September 1, 2023

Building upper body strength is an essential component of any comprehensive fitness regimen. However, not everyone has the luxury of access to weights or a gym membership. In such situations, and even otherwise, bodyweight exercises for upper body strength emerge as a remarkably practical and effective solution. As experienced practitioners and professionals like any competent freelance personal trainer Dubai would endorse, these exercises can conveniently be performed anywhere, anytime, without necessitating any special equipment. They ingeniously leverage your own body weight to work a plethora of muscle groups, providing a resistance that can be as challenging, if not more, as lifting conventional weights.

These are the best types of bodyweight exercises for upper body strength

When it comes to the best bodyweight exercises for upper body strength, several exercises top the list. Each exercise targets specific muscles, delivering an effective workout. Here are some key exercises:

  • Classic and modified push-ups
  • Pull-up and chin-up progressions
  • Dips and their variations
  • Handstand push-ups
  • Other exercises like dive bomber push-ups, and various plank variations

Mastering the Art of Push-Up Variations

The push-up, often hailed as the cornerstone of any strength training regimen, brings multiple benefits to the fitness enthusiast. It primarily targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, and even the core. But, did you know its versatility extends far beyond the standard form? By altering your push-up technique, you can isolate specific muscles and vary intensity levels, thus adding variety to your workout and enhancing overall muscle development.

For instance, incline push-ups involve placing your hands on an elevated surface. This variation is less strenuous, ideal for beginners, and emphasises the lower chest muscles. On the contrary, decline push-ups, which involve elevating your feet, present a tougher challenge, focusing on the upper chest and shoulder muscles.

If you want to work your chest muscles more intensely, wide-grip push-ups are the way to go. Your hands are positioned wider than shoulder-width apart, putting a greater load on the chest muscles. Narrow grip push-ups, with hands placed inside shoulder-width, shift the focus onto the triceps and shoulders, offering a killer arm workout.

people doing a bodyweight exercise for upper body strength
Push-ups are a great bodyweight exercise for upper body strength.

Diamond push-ups, named for the diamond shape your hands make, present another challenge. By placing your hands close together beneath your chest, you significantly increase the workload on your triceps. They can be tough to master but offer great rewards in terms of upper body strength.

Unlocking Upper Body Strength: Pull-Up and Chin-Up Progressions

Pull-ups and chin-ups are renowned as pillars of Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body Strength. Primarily focusing on the back muscles and biceps, they also solicit the shoulders and core, thus offering a comprehensive upper-body workout. The beauty of these exercises lies in their scalability, allowing both beginners and advanced fitness enthusiasts to reap their benefits.

For those new to the fitness journey, assisted pull-ups, which use a resistance band to decrease body weight, offer an excellent starting point. They help build the strength needed to perform unassisted pull-ups over time. Negative pull-ups, another beginner-friendly variation, focus on the eccentric or lowering phase of the movement. They help build muscle strength effectively.

Once you’ve built foundational strength, it’s time to challenge yourself further. Wide grip pull-ups, where hands are placed wider than shoulder-width apart, place a greater emphasis on the latissimus dorsi, the largest muscle in the upper body. On the other hand, close grip pull-ups, with hands positioned within shoulder width, shift the focus more onto the biceps.

Regardless of your gender, these exercises form an integral part of effective arm workouts for women and men. Integrating these pull-up and chin-up progressions into your routine can significantly improve your upper body strength and redefine your fitness journey.

Dips and Dip Variations: A Power-Packed Home Workout

Dips serve as an effective strength-training tool that targets key muscle groups such as the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Notably, dips require minimal equipment, further enhancing their appeal as a home workout solution. You can perform them on parallel bars at a park, a dip station in a gym, or even between sturdy pieces of furniture at home.

Executing a standard dip involves raising and lowering your body with your arms, activating the chest and triceps significantly. By leaning forward slightly, you shift more emphasis onto the chest muscles, whereas a more upright posture recruits the triceps more intensely.

a man doing tricep dips
Tricep dips are one of the easiest and most effective exercises you can do.

For fitness enthusiasts seeking an additional challenge, weighted dips introduce an extra level of difficulty. By using a weight belt or a weighted vest, you can increase the resistance, accelerating strength gains. Another advanced variation, the L-sit dip, not only amplifies the intensity but also engages the core, enhancing overall stability and strength.

Elevating Fitness Levels: Handstand and Handstand Push-Up Progressions

Handstands and handstand push-ups are compelling exercises that go beyond strengthening the upper body. They enhance balance, stability, and core strength, attributes essential for overall fitness. Although challenging, their progressions cater to different fitness levels.

Beginners can start with wall-assisted handstands, using a wall for support while learning to balance. Another beginner-friendly exercise is the pike push-up, which replicates the handstand push-up motion with feet still grounded. Tripod headstands, where the head and hands form a triangle base, provide a less intimidating alternative, promoting balance and strength.

As you gain confidence and strength, freestanding handstands become attainable. Mastering these requires practice and patience but delivers comprehensive benefits in terms of strength, balance, and body control. For fitness enthusiasts seeking even more challenge, resistance-added variations, like using resistance bands or weighted vests during handstand push-ups, can take your upper body strength to new heights.

Other Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body Strength

While the aforementioned exercises form the foundation, there’s a spectrum of other bodyweight exercises that can enhance your upper body strength. Dive bomber push-ups involve a swooping motion, increasing shoulder mobility while working on the upper body muscles.

Plank variations also contribute to upper body strength. A side plank, for instance, works the obliques, shoulders, and arms, while a straight-arm plank focuses more on the chest and shoulders. Inclusion of exercises like mountain climbers, burpees, and bear crawls introduces an element of cardiovascular fitness, fostering a balance between strength and endurance. Whether you’re working out independently or with a male vs female personal trainer, integrating these varied exercises can complement your routine, enhancing overall fitness levels while honing upper body strength.

Sample Upper Body Workout Routine

Implementing a well-rounded workout routine that incorporates these bodyweight exercises can significantly improve upper body strength. Consider performing 3-5 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise, with 1-2 minute rest intervals between sets. Always prioritize proper form and gradual progression to avoid injuries and maximize your gains.

a woman doing a plank
Try this bodyweight workout at home!

Unlocking Fitness Potential with Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body Strength

Bodyweight exercises for upper body strength offer a convenient and adaptable approach to improving fitness. From push-ups to pull-ups and dips, these exercises work multiple muscle groups, can be done anywhere, and are suitable for all fitness levels. The Harvard Health article underscores the numerous health benefits of regular strength training beyond just building muscles. So why wait? Start your bodyweight workout routine today and unlock your fitness potential.

Get Matched With The Best Personal Trainer

Dubai PT logo image Schedule a Free Training Session With Our Top Rated Trainers X

Please leave your info and we will provide you with a list of openings for your complimentary training session

Dunja Zaric - trainer profile image

Dunja Zaric

  • Customized entry-level training
  • Home, gym & outdoor workout
  • Cardio & Strength training
  • Professional nutrition guidance
  • Dance & Bodyweight courses
View Profile

Voja Budrovac - trainer profile image

Voja Budrovac

  • Nutrition specialist
  • Providing fast results
  • Home, gym & outdoor workouts
  • Internationally certified
  • Hundreds of satisfied clients
View Profile

Aly Mohamed - trainer profile image

Aly Mohamed

  • Fat loss & muscle building expert
  • Over 15 year of experience
  • Level 3 certified personal trainer
  • Speaks English & Arabic
  • Home, gym & outdoor workouts
View Profile

Kate Nadich - trainer profile image

Kate Nadich

  • Strength building expert
  • Certified personal trainer
  • Over 6 years of experience
  • Postnatal recovery programs
  • Weight-loss & nutrition specialist
View Profile

Djordje Brajkovic - trainer profile image

Djordje Brajkovic

  • Weight lifting & cardio training pro
  • Internationally certified
  • Home, gym & outdoor workouts
  • Faculty degree in sports & fitness
  • Kids' & teenagers' training programs
View Profile