/ / The Ultimate Upper Body Workout At Home Guide for Beginners

The Ultimate Upper Body Workout At Home Guide for Beginners

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While we all might have varying different goals, most people who step foot in the gym do so to improve their health and their physiques. And when it comes to that, one common goal is building a bigger upper body workout at home. To do that, strengthening the upper-body muscles and knowing which upper-body exercises to incorporate into your workouts is key.

But, no matter the fitness goal, the same theme exists for all of us: success. The best way to achieve it is to first identify the problem or goal, then systematically break down the bigger goal into smaller goals.

So for those that are new to training or have been slow to make progress in the upper-body department, the first step is to identify the right upper-body exercises. Master those exercises in terms of load and form, and start incorporating them into your upper-body workout routine.

Below are the best upper-body strength workout at home, and below that are two upper-body workouts that will help you build a stronger chest, shoulders, back, and arms. Perform each one once a week for huge results.

UPPER BODY EXERCISES

BARBELL UPPER-BODY EXERCISES

  • Bench Press: For maximum stimulation of the chest, position your torso on the bench with a slight arch in the lower back; the ribcage held high, and the shoulders shrugged back and downward.
  • Underhand Grip BB Bent Row: Keep the torso bent at an angle of about 75° and pull the bar into the lower abdomen to best stimulate the belly of the lats.
  • Seated BB Military Press: Use a bench with back support and keep your torso upright throughout the set (leaning back engages too many upper pecs). Bring the bar just below the chin before driving it back to the top.
  • Shoulder-Width Grip BB Upright Row: Raise the bar to a level at which the upper arms are parallel to the floor. At the top, the hands should be lower than the elbows to best stimulate the shoulders.
  • Incline BB Press: Use the same torso position that was mentioned above for the bench press. Lower the bar to the top of the chest, just below the chin.
  • Close-Grip BB Upright Row: Take a grip on a BB with your hands spaced about 6″ apart. Raise the bar to about the height of your chin to bring the mid and upper traps into play along with the anterior delts.
  • Partial Rack Deadlift: For complete back development, vary the range of motion from just above knee height to as low as the mid-shins. It is best to stick with one range of motion per workout.

DUMBBELL UPPER-BODY EXERCISES

  • Incline DB Press: Vary the incline of the bench workout-to-workout or set-to-set from 30° to 45° to 60° to target different motor unit pools.
  • One-Arm DB Row: Keep your upper body parallel to the floor throughout the set. As you raise the DB, keep the elbow close to the body, and do not allow the elbow to go higher than the height of your torso.
  • Seated DB Press: To put the greatest emphasis on the anterior delts, press the DB’s with the palms facing each other. To work the anterior delts but also bring the lateral heads greatly into play, press with the elbows held back in line with the torso and palms facing forward.

BODYWEIGHT UPPER-BODY EXERCISES

  • Wide-Grip Pull up: Vary grip widths and the angle of the torso when pulling to effectively stimulate all areas of the back musculature.
  • Chest Dip: Keep your torso leaning forward throughout the set to more strongly engage the pecs. Lower yourself to a point where you can feel a slight stretch in the chest before pushing back to the top. To keep more tension on the pecs, do not lock out.
  • Close-Grip Pullup: Take a slightly less than the shoulder-width grip on the pullup bar. Lift your body up to a point where you feel your biceps are fully contracted while focusing on keeping lats activation to a minimum. Lower yourself to a point where there is still a slight bend in the elbows to keep tension on the biceps.
  • Triceps Dip: To keep chest activation to a minimum and target more triceps activation, make sure your torso remains upright throughout the set. Lower yourself to the point where your upper arms are parallel with the floor.

Step #1: The no-equipment, no-nonsense upper-body workout

In less than 20 minutes, you’ll combine several push-up variations for the ultimate no-equipment upper-body workout.

The instructor offers moves at three difficulty levels, so whether you’re doing a kneeling push-up or a plyometric push-up, there’s a way to make this routine suit your needs.

No warmup is included, so we suggest doing a quick dynamic one to get your muscles primed. You’ll only need a mat and some space, so once you’re warm, press play to start.

Do 8–10 reps of each exercise in order, unless otherwise noted. Rest as little as possible between moves.

We’ll give you the instructions for the moderate-difficulty version as standard, providing the adjustments that make it either easier or more hardcore so you can adjust the workout for your ability level.

You don’t have to stick with one difficulty level for the whole set — if you’re trying at moderate difficulty and thinking you’re not gonna get through all 10 reps, move onto your knees midway through. If you feel like you’re coasting, step it up a notch.

Don’t forget to keep a straight back throughout all these moves.

1. One-armed push-up variation (both sides)

The one-armed push-up is a notorious show-off move and an ambitious place to start.

  • Start on your knees, with hands placed on the mat directly in line with shoulders. Raise and cross your feet, keeping knees on the mat.
  • Lift one hand and put it behind your back. Your other hand should still be planted on the mat, with arm slightly bent.
  • Lower yourself steadily, bringing your face to almost touch the mat. Then push back up.
  • Try to be explosive as you reach the top of the movement.
  • Do 5–10 reps with each arm.

The easier version: The same, but with your knees closer to your wrists.

The harder version: The motions are the same, but start in full push-up position with your toes on the floor and your legs straight. Make sure your legs are wider than the mat, for support, and that your arm is more central on the mat.

If you think the 15 variations on the humble push-up you’re about to see are wild, wait until you get a load of this rundown of 82 different push-ups to try.

2. Push-up

Because you can’t beat the classics. There are only two variations on offer here — a standard push-up from high plank position and an easier one on your knees.

We’re not gonna give you a blow-by-blow on nailing the perfect push-up. Instead, check out this guide — it breaks down in detail how to absolutely smash a push-up for maximum benefit.

3. Kneeling archer push-up

Think of the kneeling archer as a dab that gets you buff.

  • Get into kneeling push-up position, with hands on either side of the mat.
  • Lean into left arm, pushing down into the mat and keeping right arm straight. Be sure to look along your right arm for stability.
  • Push back into a kneeling push-up position, then lean into right arm, looking along the left arm. Leaning into both sides counts as 1 rep.

It’s not all about push-ups, though — there are plenty of alternatives that work the same muscle groups.

4. Diamond press-up

This is more challenging than your average push-up — but isn’t that the point? This variation will work your mid chest and triceps a bit harder than the standard push-up.

It’s tough.

  • Form a diamond shape with your thumbs and fingers on the mat (as demonstrated in the video).
  • Get into kneeling push-up position.
  • Lower yourself down toward the diamond shape of your hands.
  • Push back up.

The easier version: The same, but with your knees closer to your wrists.

The harder version: The motions are the same, but start off in full push-up position with your toes on the floor and your legs straight. Your feet should be lined up with your body.

(This is your friendly reminder to keep your back straight.)

Here are even more ways to pump up that chest.

5. Hindu push-up

This one gets the top of your chest primed — and doesn’t look a million miles off from a yoga pose.

  • Start with toes planted on the floor, hands planted body-width apart, and your butt as high in the air as it will go, forming an upside-down V shape with your body. (Yogis, think Down Dog.)
  • Bend elbows to lower yourself, dipping nose in front of thumbs.
  • Move head forward, keeping it low to the mat and staying parallel, while lowering hips to the mat.
  • Move head back up, keeping hips close to the mat. Make sure the movement is fluid and smooth.
  • Return to the starting position — carefully.

The easier version: Start on your knees instead of your toes.

Which are better for your chest muscles — push-ups or bench presses? We give the final verdict on this age-old pectoral stand-off.

Take a break here — you can also stretch out to keep those arms limber and those joints poised for action.

6. Dragon walk

We’re pretty sure dragons fly, but they also have notoriously puny arms, so…

  • Stand at the back of the mat, bending forward so your fingertips touch the mat, while keeping legs straight.
  • Walk hands forward until you’re in a push-up position.
  • Walk feet forward to meet hands, making sure to keep your butt in the air.
  • Stand up straight and turn around for the next rep.

The easier version: If you have less flexible hamstrings, keep your knees bent during that first step. Then, instead of walking your feet forward, walk your hands back to where you started.

Dragons? Pah, try bird dog instead as part of this awesome 20-minute arm workout.

7. Bodyweight triceps extension

This move involves switching between high and low plank positions, working the sh*t out of those triceps.

  • Start in a high plank position, keeping back straight and palms down on the mat.
  • Steadily bring left elbow to the mat, then right elbow, forming a low plank.
  • Return to a high plank in the same order (left elbow first, then right).
  • Repeat, but start by dropping your right elbow this time.

The easier version: The same, but on your knees instead of your toes.

The harder version: Drop and raise both elbows at the same time (sheesh).

This mix of two different planks not enough for you? Fine, try 45 others.

8. Plank side walk

Become a crab with hencher arms. (This one will hurt, but your abs and shoulders will thank you too.)

  • Start in a high plank position with feet firmly together and toes pressed against the floor.
  • Move both left arm and left leg sideways (about a body’s width) at the same time, keeping both straight and being sure to lift them from the floor. Keep your butt at a regular height.
  • Bring right arm and leg back to meet left arm and leg in their new position, finishing in high plank.
  • Repeat this for the length of the mat. Voila! You have 1 rep.
  • When you’re done, drop your knees for support.

If you need guidance on how to plank the right way, we’ve got you covered.

9. Half push-up hold (20 seconds)

You know the point during a push-up that you really want to get past — that awkward halfway mark when you’re exerting the most energy? Yeah, you’re gonna hold yourself there for 20 seconds, and it’s going to feel like forever.

Enjoy.

  • Start in a high plank position, keeping feet close together.
  • Drop into a push-up, but stop halfway, at the point of maximum engagement.
  • Hold it right there for 20 seconds, keeping your butt as level as possible.

The easier version: The same, but on your knees instead of your toes.

Life is all about push and all, so when you’re done with these, why not give pull-ups a try?

10. Pike hold (20 seconds)

This one doesn’t look like much, but you will feel that burn in your shoulders.

  • Start in a similar position to the Hindu push-up — toes planted, feet on the mat, butt in the air, and legs as straight as possible.
  • Rise up onto toes and, at the same time, tuck your head under so you’re looking straight at knees.
  • Hold for 20 seconds.

The easier version: Keep a bend in your knees and focus on tucking your head.

We put together a rundown on how to do pike push-ups.

It’s time for your second break, which means more stretching.

11. Stagger push-up and squat jump

Here’s where it gets tricky. These next 5 moves are all about plyometrics and getting your heart rate up.

  • Start in a push-up position with left hand farther forward than right hand.
  • Do 1 push-up in this position, then switch hands, bringing right hand forward and moving left hand back.
  • Do another push-up.
  • Jump feet forward toward knees, like in a burpee. Keep knees in line with elbows.
  • From this squatting position, launch yourself up vertically into a jump.
  • That’s 1 rep. For the next rep, start with your right hand farther forward.

The easier version: Do the staggered push-up steps from your knees.

12. Clap push-up

This is where it all goes a bit nuclear. This works your triceps, shoulders, and chest to a ridiculous extent. It’s just very difficult to do, especially after 11 other exercises.

  • Start in a push-up position, with feet close together and back straight.
  • Do 1 push-up to get some momentum going, and then…
  • This next bit will be super quick – pay attention: Launch yourself up with an explosive push, then clap quickly, immediately placing your hands down to “catch” yourself.
  • Mid-catch, use your momentum to push yourself back up.

The easier version: Do the rep from your knees (to be honest, though, this is very difficult whichever way you spin it).

Explosive exercises can pack a world of benefits — check some out here.

13. Half push-up to full push-up

This is is simple in concept, but not so much in execution.

Essentially, you complete a rep when you do 2 push-ups, but on one of them, you go down only halfway. Alternating between the two requires a lot more control.

The easier version: Do the rep from your knees.

Bodyweight exercises aren’t just about strength training — they make for great cardio too. Learn more here.

14. Circular archer push-up

At this point, the workout is becoming monstrous. You’re so close to the finish line — but f*ck, does it burn right now.

This is essentially a kneeling archer with extra spice.

  • Start in kneeling push-up position, with hands on either side of the mat, feet raised and close together, and back straight.
  • Lean into left arm, pushing down into the mat and keeping right arm straight. Be sure to look along your right arm for stability.
  • From this position, push up on the left side, then lower yourself back into a kneeling push-up position.
  • Lean into right arm, looking along your left arm.
  • Push up on the right side in the same way.
  • Leaning into both sides counts as 1 rep.

The easier version: Move your knees closer to your wrists.

The harder version: Start in full push-up position.

Rather have someone else in the scrum, sweating with you? Here are 29 partner exercises for the team-up episode you never knew you wanted to be in.

15. Uneven push-up

Final hurdle, now — we know you can push through (pun intended). Remember the staggered push-ups from earlier? This is the same, but you’re switching after 10 instead of alternating.

  • Start in full or kneeling push-up position.
  • Keeping arms on either side of the mat, with left hand farther forward than right hand, do 10 push-ups.
  • Switch your hands around, putting right hand farther forward, and do 10 more.
  • Peel yourself from the mat, summon what strength you can, and give yourself a pat on the back — you’ve done it!

We rounded up the best workouts for your shoulders. Best of all, you can do them all at home.

Step #2: upper body workout at home with dumbbells

Step #3: upper body workout at home for beginners

Step #4: best upper body workout at home

FAQ’s

How can I build upper body strength at home?
How can I build my upper body without weights?
What are 5 upper body exercises?
What is the best workout for upper body?
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Take Your Results To The MAX!


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