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Maintaining a strong upper body is essential for overall fitness and functionality to your entire body.
Even though many people may associate an upper body workout with going to the gym and making use of various bits of gym equipment.
You may be surprised to know that there are several bodyweight exercises you can do right in the comfort of your own home to target your upper body muscles.
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In this article, we’ll explore five of the best upper body exercises that require little to no equipment, making it convenient for anyone to incorporate them into their home workout routine.
Muscle of the Upper Body
There are of course many muscles that make up the upper body but when focussing on five specific exercises, you want to ensure that you activate the following muscle groups:
Your shoulder muscles comprise of your deltoids which are three smaller muscles: anterior, medial and posterior.
The primary muscles responsible for back movement are the latissimus dorsi, commonly called the lats, and the trapezius, usually referred to as the traps.
A strong back plays an important role in strength training by allowing you to lift more weight. It helps with good posture and lowers the risk of injury to the upper body.
The main muscles that engage movement in the chest are the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and the serratus anterior.
The pectoralis major, which gives your chest its shape, works with the shoulder joint to allow for a large range of motion.
The biceps brachii (located to the front of the upper arm) and triceps brachii (located to the rear of the upper arm), work together to allow for overall movement of your arms.
Your forearms (the lower part of your arm) help with gripping and control of the wrist and fingers.
Your abdominals are made up of several muscles including the obliques, rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis.
Good core strength is important as it can help to prevent conditions such as low back pain and provide support to your spine.
5 Upper Body Exercises At Home
Now that you know the main muscles you’ll want to activate during your training, let’s take a look at some of the best exercises you can do at home to fire up those muscles.
Push-ups are a classic ‘do anywhere’ body weight exercise that targets the same muscles as the bench press exercise.
These include the chest, deltoid muscles, triceps, and your core.
They require no equipment, and you can modify them to match your fitness level with the most basic involving resting on your knees rather than your toes.
There are many variations of the push up including the pike push up and the diamond push up offering different levels of intensity.
How To Do The Push Up
- Start by lying face down on the floor.
- Position your feet hip-width apart and rest on your toes.
- Place your hands flat on the ground either side of your upper chest.
- Hold your body just off the ground slightly. This is your starting position.
- Engage your abdominals and extend your arms at the elbows and push your body upwards.
- Keep your elbows tucked in as you go.
- Now lower yourself back down to the start controlling the descent.
- Aim to complete between 8 and 12 repetitions.
The bench dip is an isolation exercise that will effectively isolate the triceps increasing muscle mass and strength.
All you need for this exercise is a sturdy chair or bench and if you want to make it more challenging raise your feet off the floor.
This variation is slightly different from a standard dip using dipping bars. The bench dip is far easier to perform and perfect for beginners.
How To Do The Bodyweight Dip:
- Begin by sitting on the edge of your chair or bench with your hands either side and gripping the front edge.
- Extend your legs out in front of you so that your glutes come away from the bench.
- Then slowly lower your body until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle.
- Push yourself back up to the starting position.
- Complete three sets of 8-12 repetitions, focusing on maintaining good form throughout the exercise.
Plank Shoulder Taps
Plank shoulder taps will work the core, shoulders and arms whilst helping to strengthen your wrist joints.
You start this exercise in a push up position and your core will be working hard to keep your stable as you bring one hand off the floor.
How To Do The Plank Shoulder Tap:
- Start in a plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart to give you some stability.
- While keeping your core stable, lift your right hand off the ground and tap the left shoulder.
- Return to the starting position and repeat with the other hand.
- Aim for three sets of 10-15 taps on each side, maintaining a straight line from head to toe.
The Superman exercise is a compound movement that targets the upper and lower back muscles, shoulders, and glutes.
It’s also a great way of improving spine health whilst helping to improve your posture and strengthen the posterior chain muscles.
How To Do The Superman Exercise:
- Start by lying down on your stomach with your arms extended overhead and your legs straight.
- Simultaneously lift your arms, upper chest, and legs off the ground, creating a slight arch in your back.
- Hold this position for a second or two, then slowly lower back down.
- Repeat for three sets of 10-12 repetitions, focusing on contracting your lower back muscles throughout the movement.
- You can make this exercise more challenging by raising just one arm and the opposite leg each time.
Renegade rows are a challenging exercise that targets the back, shoulders, and core.
Whilst this can be performed using your own bodyweight. You can increase the intensity by incorporating a pair of dumbbells or a couple of water bottles for this exercise.
How To Do The Renegade Row:
- Start by adopting a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and feet just beyond shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your body stable, row one hand up to your side while maintaining a straight arm on the opposite side. Don’t allow your elbow to flare out.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
- Lower your hand back down to the start and repeat with the opposite arm.
- Aim for three sets of 8-12 repetitions per arm, focusing on engaging the back muscles and maintaining proper form.
Building upper body strength doesn’t always require fancy gym equipment or the commitment of monthly membership fees.
The five suggested upper-body exercises in this article can be done in the comfort of your own home, providing an effective workout that targets various muscle groups.
However, be sure not to neglect your lower body.
For a balanced physique you’ll want to be sure to add in some leg exercises too.
As with all exercises, remember to focus on good form and gradually increase the intensity as you become more comfortable. By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you’ll be on your way to a stronger and more resilient upper body.