It’s very difficult to build a well rounded, muscularly balanced upper body workout without weights. There are some muscle groups that are very difficult to isolate without a dumbbell, but this workout does a very good job of targeting all of the muscles as well as many ranges of motion, all without a single piece of equipment.
Something important about this workout; this workout can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. It’s easy to look at the exercises and roll your eyes, but truly, if you try it, and you do it properly, you’re going to feel this in your muscles, no matter how strong or big you are. This is largely because you’re literally working against yourself. Keep your muscles contracted all the way through this routine, and you’re not only going to be surprised at the challenge, but you’ll likely earn some sore muscles.
45 Seconds on, 15 seconds rest
Muscles targeted; arms, shoulders, chest, upper back, lower back
Warm up and cool down not included; both strongly recommended
Printable Upper Body Workout
1 Walkdown + Shoulder Slaps - Keep a slight bend in elbows and walk hands from the floor at feet to a tall plank; slap each shoulder - forcing your other arm to compensate the support - then walk back up to a standing position
2 Back Bow Pulls - Lie facedown and contract upper back, lower back, and thighs, lifting each off of the ground as far as possible without using jerking motions or momentum. Extend arms above head, then contract muscles and “pull” your arms back down so that are tucked into your sides, working against your own strength
3 Variable Bicep Curls - Standing tall with elbows pinned to sides, squeeze and contract biceps to complete a “curling” motion, working only against your own strength. For this particular variation, stop at three points during your curl to let the contracting of the muscles really burn; at the top of the curl, middle, and bottom
4 Traveling Rows - Standing tall with core pulled in tight and glutes/thighs lightly contracted, reach arms forward, then contract upper back muscles to pull arms back, at descending and ascending heights
5 Push Ups + Reach - Complete the most advanced version of a push up that you can, then extend arm out forward in front of body so that you’re shifting your weight into one arm. This transfer of balance works the upper body in a slightly different way and also calls upon the core muscles for support
6 Tricep Dips + Toe Touch Kick - With weight in feet and hands (similar to a “crab walk”), keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides, lowering your body towards the ground. Once you press your back body up and away from the ground, kick one foot out, and tap it with the opposite hand
7 Arm Circles - Extend arms directly out from shoulder joint and do small circles; switch directions halfway through
8 Overhead Press - Act as if you’re pressing a heavy ceiling up and away from your head. Make sure to squeeze and contract your muscles; done properly, this will make the strongest of arms and shoulders burn
9 Bentover Row & Extension - Bend at the waist and bring arms up to the sides, hold this position & extend the arms, then bend at elbows again, just before letting arms hang down straight again (while remaining bent forward)
10 Palm Presses - Stand tall and press palms together in front of chest; do repetitions or variables of pressing hands together as hard as you can, in between quick breaks of rest
Were you able to tap into the feeling of working “against” your own strength? Did you find it challenging to maintain the discipline to keep pushing yourself all the way through? Was it humbling? Let us know what you thought of this workout & what workouts you’d like to see filmed in the future.