Build muscle with body weight.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Working out at the gym may be the better option for building an awesome upper body, but if membership fees are out of your price range, or you simply prefer not to wait in line for equipment, home workouts are for you. Using just your own body weight and a few simple, inexpensive pieces of equipment, you can get a seriously challenging, productive upper body workout.1.
Buy a pull-up bar. This will be the best investment you make for building your upper body at home. Pull-ups don't just work your arms, they also hit the whole of your upper-back and have carryover to increasing your strength on other upper-body lifts, claims trainer Adam Copeland on the Elite Fitness Systems website. Look for a pull-up bar that fits in your doorway and that can support your body weight. Switch between wide-grip overhand pull-ups and narrow-grip underhand ones.2.
Make pushups your second go-to exercise. Pushups are often underrated, but they're a highly effective upper-body builder, working your chest, shoulders and triceps, notes trainer Martin Rooney in "Ultimate Warrior Workouts." Don't limit yourself to basic pushups though -- pushups with your feet elevated, on one leg, one arm, and even clap pushups should all be part of your routine, adds Rooney.3.
Add resistance bands to your home gym arsenal. Work your back muscles with band pull-aparts and face pulls, performed with the band secured over your pull-up bar. Perform band overhead presses and upright rows to work your shoulders, or loop a band or two over your back to make pushups harder. Strength coach Eric Cressey also advises using bands to help you with chin-ups and pull-ups if you're struggling with body weight reps. Wrap one end of a band over the bar and place your knees in the loop -- this will give you assistance on the way up.4.
Purchase a kettlebell or two. If space is of the essence, kettlebells are ideal as they take up minimal room and are highly versatile. In "Enter the Kettlebell!: Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen," trainer Pavel Tsatsouline recommends sticking to three basic upper-body moves -- the kettlebell press, performed by holding a kettlebell at shoulder height and pressing it straight overhead, and the kettlebell snatch, where you swing the bell between your legs, then explosively lift it straight above your head in one fluid movement. Both these moves can be performed with one or two kettlebells.5.
Implement a progression scheme. Simply performing the same exercises for the same number of sets and reps week after week will get you nowhere. Pick five exercises and perform each for two sets of eight repetitions on Monday. Aim for two sets of 10 on Wednesday and two sets of 12 on Friday. In the next week, perform three sets of eight on Monday, three sets of 10 on Wednesday and three sets of 12 on Friday. Follow the same progression the next week but with four sets and again the week after but for five sets. In week five, change the exercises and revert back to two sets and build up again.
- Pull-up bar
- Resistance bands
- If you want to train at home but with more equipment, consider purchasing some gym equipment or free weights with friends and store these in a garage.
- Check with your healthcare provider before jumping into your routine. If you're not too confident with your techniques, hire a mobile trainer or coach to come to your home for an hour or two and take you through a few basic upper-body moves.