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Upper Body Home Gym Exercises

by Steve Theunissen
upper body exercises

Think you can’t get a serious home gym upper body workout without the benefit of a mega-expensive equipment set-up?

Think again!

With the most basic equipment it is definitely possible to work your upper body to the max, whether you are intent on building muscle, upping your strength levels or both.  In this article we will present you with two training options:

  • Bodyweight
  •  Upper Body Dumbbell Workout (2 x 30 pound dumbbells / Pull Up Bar)

Muscles of the Upper Body

When it comes to working with  upper body exercises, it is important to hit every muscle group. If you don’t, you will end up with uneven strength and development. This will not only make you look muscularly unbalanced but it will also affect your coordination and could easily lead to muscle injury. (1)

These are the muscle groups that should be worked in an upper body regimen:

We have not included forearms as a separate muscle group to be worked because they will get enough stimulation from your other movements.

When it comes to working the upper body, you have the option of working the whole body in one session or dividing it into two parts and working them on different days. This is often done as part of a 3-day split where you train legs on the third day, along with a smaller body part.

Here is what a typical 3-day split looks like:

Day One:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Core

Day Two:

  • Back
  • Biceps
  • Core

Day Three:

  • Legs
  • Shoulders

Our home upper body workouts will be based on this 3-day split format.

Home Bodyweight Upper Body Workout Plan

For this home bodyweight upper body workout we are assuming that you do not have any weight training equipment at home. However, we also assume that you do have other things, such as chairs and a sturdy dowel-like handle that you can place between then to perform exercises like inverted pull ups (a shovel handle is great). We will also make use of a backpack that you can fill with books to make a resistance.

This workout also makes use of supersets to increase the muscle fatigue without having to use a large resistance load. Supersets involve doing two exercises back to back with no rest. (2)

Each exercise must be done for 60 seconds. When you are unable to continue in good form you can modify the move to make it easier. On many of these exercises you can drop to your knees to lessen the amount of body weight that you are having to contend with.

Complete 3 sets of each superset with as little rest as possible between sets. Then give yourself a 60-second rest before moving to the next superset. (3)

The Workout

Day One – Chest & Triceps Workout

Exercises One & Two:

Wall Push Ups

supersetted with

Floor Flyes

Note: For wall push ups, have your feet as high on the wall as you can manage. Floor flyes are done on a  slick floor with cloths under your palms. Start in a pushup position with your hands together. Then slide them out to lower your body to the floor. Reverse this action to complete the rep.

Exercises Three & Four:

Standard Push Ups

Woman doing push-ups in gym

supersetted with

Triceps Standing Bodyweight Extensions.

Exercises Five & Six:

Diamond Push Ups

supersetted with 

Reverse Dips

Exercises Seven & Eight:

Lying Leg Raises

supersetted with

Crunches (Feet Elevated)

Day Two – Back & Biceps Workout

Exercises One & Two:

Inverted Pull Ups (Palms Away)

supersetted with

Hyperextensions

Note: Use a 2 x chair and dowel handle set-up for the inverted pull ups and the edge of the bench to perform hyperextensions.

Exercises Three and Four:

Chin Ups (Palms Facing)

supersetted with

Backpack curls (load books in the bad and hold it by the straps)

Exercises Five & Six:

Elbow Raise

supersetted with

Superman

Note: For the Elbow Raise, lie on you back with knees up and arms in line with your shoulders and bent at the elbows. Now push down on the elbows and tense the upper back to bring your head and shoulders off the floor. Lower and repeat.

For Supermans, lie face down on the floor with your arms at your sides  and legs straight. Arch your body so that legs and chest are off the floor. Only the core should remain in contact with the floor. Pull your shoulders back and tense your lower back. Lower and repeat.

Exercises Seven & Eight:

Mountain Climbers

supersetted with

Elbow to Knee Sit Ups

Day Three – Shoulders

(to be worked after legs)

Wall push ups

supersetted with

Front Raises

Note: to perform front raise, lie face down resting on your elbows and toes. Now, keeping a straight torso, lift your left elbow up toward the ceiling. Come up as high as you can then slowly lower and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides between reps.

Dumbbell Upper Body Workout Plan

Day One – Chest & Triceps Workout

Exercise One & Two:

Wall Push Ups

supersetted with

Dumbbell bench press

Exercises Three & Four:

Dumbbell push press

supersetted with

Dumbbell Flyes

Note: for the dumbbell push press press the dumbbells into each other as you push them up.

Exercises Five & Six:

Dumbbell Lying Triceps extension

supersetted with

Reverse Dips

Exercises Seven & Eight:

Lying Leg Raises

supersetted with

Crunches (Feet Elevated)

Day Two – Day Two – Back & Biceps Workout

Exercises One & Two:

Pull Ups

supersetted with

Inverted Chin ups

Exercises Three & Four:

Dumbbell Deadlift

supersetted with

One Arm Row (30 secs each side)

Exercises Five & Six:

Renegade Rows

supersetted with

Elbow Raises

Exercises Seven & Eight:

Mountain Climbers

supersetted with

Elbow to Knee Sit Ups

Day Three – Shoulders

(to be worked after legs)

Seated Dumbbell Press

supersetted with

Front Raises

Note: For front raises, use a single dumbbell with both hands grasping the handle. Raise the weight in front of your torso to the level of your nose and then slowly lower and repeat.

Conclusion

Perform your workouts on alternate days. That means doing your 3 workouts either on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Continue this program for six weeks. Aim to progress through all three sets of each exercise for a full minute without rest. When you can do this without dropping down to a modified version of each exercise, you will have conquered the workout!

References

  1. https://thrivenowphysio.com/how-muscle-imbalances-can-cause-chronic-injuries/4
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28796130/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556132/

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