Contrary to popular belief, you can "weight train" without using weights.
To build muscle strength, you need to push (or pull) against some sort of resistance. In many cases, this resistance can be your own bodyweight.
Bodyweight and minimal-equipment workouts offer a number of benefits. First, you can do them anytime, anywhere — no fancy equipment, gym membership, or commute required. Secondly, they fit easily into your lifestyle. You can squeeze in a bodyweight workout at home, over the lunch hour, or while traveling.
Below, I teach you how to perform an upper body workout at home. Each upper body exercise uses bodyweight or resistance bands (which are incredibly easy to store). All you need is yourself and a little bit of space, so move that coffee table aside and let's get to work.
A Complete Upper Body Workout at Home: 10 Exercises Using Minimal Equipment
Your upper body encompasses everything from the waistline, up — your abdominals, back muscles, arms, and chest. Remember to begin each strength training session with a dynamic warm-up, performing plyometrics such as glute kicks, high knees, and bear crawls.
To save time, I recommend dividing your workout into supersets, pairing opposing muscle groups together. For example, the below workout is divided into three mini-circuits, with back and chest exercises, tricep and bicep exercises, and abdominal exercises paired together.
Circuit 1: Back and Chest Workout
First, you'll work your chest and back. Perform one set of each exercise before moving to the next exercise. Perform two rounds of the circuit before moving to the second circuit.
Resistance Band Row: 12 Reps
To perform a banded row, loop a resistance band around a steady surface, such as a sofa leg or stair banister. (The resistance band should be at chest height, so you may need to perform this exercise from a seated position if your anchor point is close to the ground.)
Grip both sides of the resistance band. Roll your shoulders back and down, and brace your core. On an inhale, pull the resistance band directly toward your chest. Keep both elbows tucked in, as though you are trying to touch your spine with your elbows.
At your end range of motion, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Return to your starting position.
Resistance Band Chest Press: 12 Reps
For a chest press, leave the resistance band wrapped around the same anchor point used for the resistance band row above. This time, step inside the resistance band, walking away from the anchor point so the resistance band is taut.
Grab both sides of the resistance band near your chest, with your palms pointed away from you. Roll your shoulders back and down, and brace your core. On an exhale, push both arms straight out in front of you, keeping your arms parallel to the ground. Once your arms are straight, return to the starting position.
Resistance Band Squat To Shoulder Press: 8 Reps
To perform a squat to press, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Step onto the center of the resistance band. Grab both sides of the resistance band with an underhand grip. Bring your palms up toward your shoulders and your elbows tucked in at your sides (as though you were performing a front squat).
Roll your shoulders back and down, and brace your core. Lower into a squat position, squeezing your glutes. Once you reach parallel, return to a standing position, extending your arms straight above your head as you raise. (In other words, try to make this one fluid motion — do not squat, pause, stand, pause, then raise your arms.)
Pushups: 8 Reps
Begin your pushup in a full plank position. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders, with your core and lats engaged.
On an inhale, lower your chest toward the ground, keeping your entire body in one straight line. Keep your elbows tucked in near your sides, not flailed out in "T" shape. When your chest is 2-4 centimeters from the ground, explode up toward the start of your pushup position.
Circuit 2: Arm Workout
Now, you'll work your arm muscles — primarily your biceps and triceps. Perform one set of each exercise before moving to the next exercise. Perform two rounds of the circuit before moving to your third circuit.
Resistance Band Bicep Curl: 12 Reps
To perform a banded bicep curl, step onto the center of the resistance band, standing with your feet hip-width apart. Grip both sides of the resistance band with either hand.
Roll your shoulders back and down, and brace your core. On an inhale, curl your hands up toward your shoulders, being careful not to move your elbow. Once you reach your end range of motion, return to your starting position.
Resistance Band Tricep Kickback: 12 Reps
To perform a tricep kickback, you may need to use a lighter resistance band (as your tricep is a smaller muscle). Wrap your resistance band around an anchor point at hip height, and step inside it (just as you did for the chest press).
Face the anchor point, holding both sides of the resistance band with either hand. Hinge at your hips, but do not allow your upper back to hunch forward. Your elbows should form a 90-degree angle, with your forearms parallel to the ground and your fists facing the anchor point.
On an exhale, extend both arms straight behind you, being careful not to bend your forearm. You should feel a pull in your triceps. Return to your starting position.
Pike Pushup: 8 Reps
Bend your elbows, and bring the top of your skull toward the ground. Once you reach your end range of motion, press up to your starting position.
Triceps Dips: 8 Reps
To perform a tricep dip, you will need a raised surface, such as a sofa, sturdy bench, or chair. Sit in front of the bench, with your back touching it but not resting on it.
Place the base of your palms on the bench, with your fingers pointed toward your back. Your knees should be bent, with your feet planted on the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and press up so your arms are extended into a straight line, keeping your elbows pointed directly below you.
Now, lower into your starting position, but do not allow your butt to relax on the ground. For an added challenge, extend your legs straight out in front of you.
Circuit 3: Abs Workout
Perform one set of each exercise before moving to the second exercise. Perform two rounds before moving into a cool down, stretching your arms, and rolling out your upper and lower back muscles.
V-Ups: 15 Reps
To begin your V-up, lay with your back pressed into the ground, your body in one straight line, with your arms extended overhead. On an inhale, bring your upper and lower body off the ground, forming the letter "V." Return to your starting position, but do not allow your arms or legs to rest on the ground before performing another rep.
Bicycle Crunch: 15 Reps Each Side
To perform a bicycle crunch, lay with your lower back pressed firmly into the ground. Wrap your left and right hand around the base of your skull. Hover your feet just centimeters above the ground.
On an exhale, crunch your abs together, bringing your right elbow to meet your left knee. Return to your starting position, but do not allow your upper back or legs to rest on the ground. Now, bring your left elbow to meet your right knee. Continue to alternate sides.
Perform This At-Home Upper Body Workout To Build Strength
You don't need barbells, dumbbells, or even a gym membership to build upper body strength.
To build muscle, you need resistance. But in many cases, bodyweight and resistance bands provide more than enough resistance to provide a grueling workout. Plus, resistance band and bodyweight exercises can easily be performed in your own home, or while traveling.
After your upper body strength workout, remember to tie in all four pillars of 4 Legs Fitness: strength, cardio, recovery, and nutrition. Eat a high-quality protein source, foam roll your upper body, and opt for a cardio-based HIIT workout the following day.
For a balanced program that includes all four pillars of 4 Legs Fitness, try the Build Bullet-Proof Health program.
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