Utilizing bodyweight through upper body exercises

When you think of upper body bodyweight exercises, it’s pretty common for your mind to drift to push-ups and pull-ups as they are the most basic bodyweight exercises.  However, there are many more upper body exercises that you can do that utilize just your bodyweight.

Whether you’re at the park looking for a workout routine to do while your kids play on the playground, or you’re short on time and can’t get to the gym, these upper body bodyweight exercises can provide a great workout in a short amount of time.  Additionally, you could mix in lower body exercises for a well-rounded routine, but we’ll save that for another article.


Why not start with the basics


Think of your push-up as a moving plank that not only works on your core strength & stability, but also the chest, triceps, and anterior shoulder.  If you can’t perform pushups on the ground, regress them and find an elevated surface to do them on.

This will change the angle and make it a little easier.  On the flip side, there are countless ways to progress the push-up, namely plyo push-ups, weighted pushups, and one arm push-ups.



Another great closed chain exercise is pull-ups and its close cousin, chin-ups.  Both are a great way to build upper back strength.  If you can remember back to gym class growing up, pull-ups were the hardest thing to do during a fitness test.  Why?  It requires a lot of strength to pull your body up.  And for some people, the strength to mass ratio just isn’t favorable.  Regress these by working on the negative portion, doing isometric holds, or using bands.  Like the push-up, there are countless ways to progress pull-ups, so have fun with them.



When thinking of body weight dips, I’m sure the image of someone hanging off the edge of a bench just popped into your head. This can cause a great deal of stress on the anterior aspect of your shoulders, and many people cannot even stretch their shoulders to get into that position. For the sake of your shoulder health, we will be performing our dips on parallel bars. You can find these at many parks that have playgrounds, if not your local gym usually has a set of dips bars. Dips are a superb upper body exercise due to the fact they work Pec, Triceps, Deltoids, as well as your Lats. These are all integral muscles for upper body strength and asthenic.



If you haven’t heard about the TRX yet, you’re missing out.  It is a great piece of equipment that strictly uses your own bodyweight to give you a great workout.  In that regard, there are a multitude of exercises you can do that will work your upper body using only your body weight.  If you want to get a little more information on what the TRX is all about, read my very first Watchfit article.  But here are a few basics to get you started.

TRX Rows

Not only is this a great upper body exercise, as you need to recruit bicep, Lats, Lower Traps, Triceps and Deltoids, you also need to fire your core and gluteal muscles in order to maintain a plank-like position through the entire row, and most importantly at the bottom of the row. Keeping tension through the core as the upper body works will help you from dropping your hips down toward the floor at the end of the row and eliminate your bodies’ inclination to lead from the belly, and arch your back while completing the row.



This TRX combination, when done correctly will have you building not only upper body strength but great shoulder stability as well. The main key to these positional rows is to maintain core tension and fully extended arms. Many muscles are recruited in the chest, shoulder, back and core, for this combination.

Be sure to apply the same Core and Gluteal tension as you would a regular row. Once you have extended into the row, return to the end position of said row under control. This essential for this combination exercise.


TRX Bicep Curls

If someone asked you to perform Bicep curls with your own body weight, you may have thought t near impossible. However, with the invention of suspension training it is now possible and quite beneficial for your body. You have seen people in the gym doing biceps curls and while this should be an isolation exercise, it looks as though the use their entire body just to get that weight up.

With the TRX Bicep curl, you are going to maintain the same principles of the regular row. With palms facing the ceiling, shoulders retracted and tension through the body, contract your biceps and think about bringing your fists up to your head. If the angle you have chosen is too easy, feel free to walk under. Too difficult? Walk back. Be sure to only move from you elbows.



These exercises don’t have to be limited to workouts in which you don’t have access to weights.  These exercises can also be programmed into your other workout routines as accessory exercises or as part of finisher circuits. These exercises are essential to include in any program no matter what your goals are. Strength, in particular, will benefit you in everything you do.

Do you play sports? Do you have children? Is your job physical? Do you use your arms and upper body every day? Then you need to include these exercise in your program. If you’ve only been hitting the weights for a long training cycle, a solid deload week can give your body a break and a few body weight workouts can accomplish that while letting you still move.

A fun challenge for these exercises can be to see how you many you can do in a minute and record the reps.  Then after a month or so of including them in your training, test yourself again to see how far you’ve progressed.

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


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