Home upper body workouts: 5 exercises you can do without equipment

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Strengthen your upper body from home without weights with this no-equipment arm workout.

Being at home all the time has been a difficult adjustment to make – especially in terms of our exercise routines. While cardio is fairly easy to keep up for runners and cyclists, it can be hard to know how to stay on top of your strength training

Add this to the fact that we’re likely sitting hunched over screens more, this period of isolation will probably have an adverse effect on our strength, posture and energy levels.

Never fear though. There are plenty of exercises you can do to strengthen your upper body from the comfort of your living room, no expensive gym equipment required. We’ve picked our five favourites for you to try, with a few variations thrown in to keep your workouts interesting. 

Arm circles

Arm circles are a great way to kick-start your upper body workout, because they activate the muscles and warm you up. To start with, stand up straight and hold your arms out from your shoulders so they’re parallel to the floor. Then simply draw circles in the air with your fingertips. Do this for 30 seconds drawing circles forwards, and then for another 30 seconds going backwards.

If you wanted to add some weight, you could try doing these with a bottle of water in each hand. 

Tricep dips are a great bodyweight exercise

Tricep dips

Tricep dips work your triceps (obviously), as well as your chest and core, and they’re a good workout to do at home because they get your whole body moving. Start out by sitting on the floor in front of a chair or a step, with your knees bent and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Then place your hands on the platform behind you, with your fingers pointing forwards.

Keep your back straight and push yourself up by straightening your arms, so that your glutes lift off the floor. Once your arms are fully extended and your thighs are parallel to the ground, start to lower yourself back down. Do not sit down completely, but push yourself back up and repeat 10 times. 

Press-ups (with variations)

Chances are you already know how to do a press-up, but if not then now is the time to learn. They’re a great way to build your upper body strength without equipment, by working your triceps, chest and shoulders, and they can even help strengthen your back. 

Mix up hand positioning to target different muscles: bringing them closer together and keeping the elbows tucked in will work your arms, and the wider you go the more you’ll engage your chest.

You can also try a decline press-up, in which you start out in the same position as a classic press-up, but with your feet behind you on a raised platform, box or step. Doing a press-up from this position makes it more challenging, and requires you to really engage your core


Burpees are a really dynamic upper body exercise which will work your core, shoulders, triceps and chest. To do a burpee, start by standing up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down and touch the floor, then kick your legs out behind you so you’re in a plank position. Brace yourselves, we’re about to do another press-up.

Complete your press-up by bending your elbows and lowering your body down towards the floor, and then straighten the arms again. From here, you need to jump your feet towards your hands so that you’re back in a squatting position. Jump into a standing position, and then immediately go into another rep. Repeat 10 times. 

Home workouts: the tempo used to perform exercises is something Sophie believes is regularly underrated.

Plank (with variations)

The plank is an old faithful upper body and core exercise, which opens up your chest and shoulder blades, and activates your arms and core. Come down onto your forearms with your feet out behind you and hold this position for a minute or more, engaging your muscles to keep you still and balanced.

To make this more difficult, you can try extending an arm out straight in front of you to tap the ground, before bringing it back to starting position. Then alternate arms and repeat. 

You could also try commandos, which involve pushing yourself up from the forearm plank position, one arm at a time, into a high plank. Once both arms are straight, return your arms one by one to their original position and repeat. Keeping your hips still as you do this will work your core and chest muscles. 

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Image credit: Getty 

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