Upperbody Workout

It’s a common misconception that in order to become strong and fit, you must shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars on at-home gyms, or an expensive gym membership. In reality, you can become just as strong and fit using only your own bodyweight. This article will cover exercises for the upper body, and more importantly, some possible routines for your strength/fitness workout in general. The exercises here focus on upperbody, excluding the abs, though I suggest that routines are not exclusively focused on any one part of the body.

The key behind any good workout is an effective routine; you can’t become strong or in-shape if you only work out once a week. By the same token, if you work out all the time, you’ll actually end up become weaker. Because your workout won’t involve much more than your own body, it shouldn’t be any problem do establish some type of training pattern during the week. Needing to get to the gym isn’t an issue. Although routines tend to vary based on goal and the individual, some general things to keep in mind are:

  • Don’t train to failure more than once a week. (e.g. don’t do pushups until you can’t lift yourself multiple times a week)
  • Take a break. Always have at least one day of rest.
  • Variety is a must. If your muscles get used to a set pattern of training and intensity, then you’ll eventually stop seeing improvement. Vary exercises (for your muscles for you own personal excitement), duration of exercises, and difficulty of exercises.
  • Don’t overtrain.

Here I’ll cover a variety of upperbody exercises. You should be familiar with many, though I’m going to throw in some variations that you may not be aware of. The muscle regions that the exercise focuses on will be italicized.

Standard Push Up and Wide/Narrow Variations
The standard push up works the chest , triceps, and back. Hands should be pointed forward and at shoulder-width. Don’t arch your body into a pyramid shape, or dip. Instead, keep your back rigid and straight, and direct your eyes straight down or forward (but not up). Go down low, but don’t ever come to a rest on the floor; although some parts of the pushup will be easier than others, you should never come to a full rest during the technique. A wide variation on the push up focuses on the chest . Instead of having hands at shoulder-width, they should be comfortably wider than that. Aside from that technique is the same as the standard push up. A narrow variation focuses on the triceps , and the inner chest. Make a diamond with your hands (closed fingers, pointer fingers touching, and then extended thumbs touching) and extend it in front of your chest. In position, your hands should be directly underneath the center of your chest. This is probably the hardest of these variations, and don’t be discouraged if you can only do 5-10 at first.

Dive Bomber Pushup
This focuses on the triceps, shoulders, and chest , and adds difficulty to the standard pushup exercise. Set yourself up as though you are going to be doing a normal pushup. However, lean back onto your heels and push your butt into the air. Walk your feet up a little bit until you are in a comfortable bridge position. From here, you are going to put your weight onto your heels, and then ‘dive’ down low, through your arms. You should finish in position close to what the bottom of a normal push up would be. Then, you are going to push yourself back up into your starting position, and continue.

Standard Pull Up (Both grips) and Variations
The pull up is a great exercise. Slight tweaks and twists and greatly alter or increase the difficulty of the exercise, making it quite the tool for an upperbody workout. If you don’t have a bar in the house, a thin tree branch will do. If worse comes to worse, you can purchase a bar that can fit in a doorway for as low as 16 dollars.
Let’s start with a standard pull up with palms facing you. This will work out your biceps, forearms , and chest. The exercise itself is pretty self explanatory, but to get a good workout, you should be extending your arms (but don’t lock your elbows) when you go down, and going up to your collarbones on the way up. If you do the exercise with your palms facing away from you, the workout’s focus on the biceps and forearms will be noticeably increased. Shoulders will also be targeted. When your palms are facing away, go up to your chin. If you do a wide pull up with palms away from you, you will increase difficulty. Focus will remain in the biceps, with increased focus in shoulders and chest. If you lean forward so on the pull up, your neck/back touches the bar, you will increase focus on triceps and shoulders. A narrow pull up with palms facing you will increase focus in forearms and biceps.

Dips simply involve holding yourself up vertically with your arms, and then dipping down, and back up again. This targets triceps, shoulders, and chest. If you can’t find suitable surfaces that you can dip between, you have two alternatives. 1) You can go to a playground, or 2) you can do a variation of the exercise. For the variation, all you need is a chair or railing, or bed. Stand with your back to the object. Place your hands behind you and put them on the object; palms should point towards your butt. Then dip down low, and back up again. This works best with a low object, and be sure that you position yourself in such a way to avoid unnecessary strain.

Developing A Routine
It’s likely that you were already familiar with most of the exercises outlined above. The hard part is not necessarily the exercises, but rather their organization into a useful routine. Here I’ll outline how to develop a routine, and then I’ll give a sample.
A routine is always going to be personal. It needs to be tailored towards what you can do, and what you hope to do. This means that you need to start with a test. Before you can plan a routine, you need to test yourself. Test yourself simply by going through the exercises and gauging about how many you can do.
Sucessful routines tend to consist of a challenging workout, followed by a lighter recovery workout, follow by another challenging workout, and so on. With that in mind, you would look at the results of your little pre-test, and you would consider what components would make a given workout challenging, and what would make a workout light. Think in terms of sets and repetitions. As I mentioned in the beginning, you should not make going to failure a regular part of your training. This should be done once every 1-3 weeks, usually to evaluate yourself. Also, be sure to consider what muscle groups are being worked out when you choose an exercise. If your chest already is getting a thorough workout from the 3×25 set of normal pushups, you probably don’t need to do any dive bombers. Here are some sample guidelines for a workout routine:

Example 1
Monday: Very hard upper body workout
Tuesday: Very mild UB workout
Wednesday: Medium UB workout
Thursday: Medium UB workout
Friday: Hard UB workout
Saturday: Very (very!) mild, UB workout
Sunday: Rest
(note: you can have a very hard workout without training until failure. It’s okay sometimes, but it should not be a weekly thing)

Example 2
Monday: Medium UB workout
Tuesday: Medium UB workout
Wednesday: Hard UB workout
Thursday: Hard UB workout
Friday: Very mild UB workout
Saturday: Mild UB workout
Sunday: Rest

Example 3
Example 3 simply incorporates other muscle groups (e.g. lower body, abs) into the mix. This could be done by simply alternating. If you have a day where you have a hard UB workout, then give yourself a light LB workout. The general idea would be to not tire out your entire body at once. This type of workout is usually preferable, and can be combined with the above.

Every week, you’ll want to increase the difficulty of your reps or sets. Don’t make drastic jumps, but by the same token, don’t make tiny ones. And again, most importantly, don’t become so bound to your routine or your specific exercises that you no longer see improvement and/or become bored. Mix it up…if things become too boring or easy, then try changing your routine’s organization. Also, realize that there is probably an infinite amount of ways to organize your workout. It doesn’t have to start on Monday, and it doesn’t have to follow the variations as shown in the examples. These are simply some rough guidelines for you to build on. Good luck.

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