How to Do an Upper Body Workout With No Equipment

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 03, 2022
4 min read

Is it possible to have a great upper body workout without equipment? What is an upper body workout, anyway? Read on to learn some upper body workout exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime.

Upper body workout benefits include increasing your general strength and endurance. These workouts can also increase your bone density, prevent your body from losing bone mass, fight chronic pain in your back, boost your metabolism, and increase stability in your joints. 

Push-ups. To do a push-up, drop to your knees and place your hands on the ground just outside of your shoulders. Shift from your knees to your feet as you place them about as far apart as your hips and in line with the rest of your body. Your feet shouldn’t be turned in or out. Keep your hips aligned with your shoulders and your lower back held in place. Try keeping your core tight to avoid dropping your hips and lower back. Press into your hands as you bend your elbows and lower your entire body in unison toward the ground. When you've gone as low as you can, push the ground away from you until you’ve returned to your starting position.

Wall push-ups. These are a great alternative to push-ups for those at the beginning of their upper body training or those who are recovering from an injury. Stand a few feet away from an empty wall. Raise your arms to shoulder level and set your palms on the wall a little wider than your shoulders. Take a step or two back from the wall so that your elbows are bent and you are leaning forward. Breathe in, and breathe out as you push yourself away from the wall. Breathe in again as you go back to your initial position. 

Tricep dips. You can do tricep dips on any solid, stable object around the house that stands at about knee level. For example, you can use a chair. Sit down and set your hands on the seat on either side of your hips. Slide forward until your backside is no longer on the seat and your hands are behind you supporting your weight. With your feet flat to the ground and your knees bent at 90°, lower yourself as close to the ground as you feel comfortable. Use your arms to push yourself back up until your arms are straight again.

Arm circles. To increase your shoulder strength and stability, stand in a wide-open area and raise your arms straight up and out to your sides. Bring them to shoulder level. Wave both arms in small circles, reversing the direction after 20 circles or so. For more intensity, you can make the circles larger or increase your speed.

Downward dog. This yoga position is a great addition to your upper body workout. Start as if you’re doing a push-up, and stop once you’ve lowered your body toward the ground. Instead of pushing your entire body back up, shift your weight back and your hips up until you're making an upside-down “V” with your body. Straighten your back, drop your shoulders, and keep your palms flat on the ground.

When it comes to working out your upper body, don’t forget to stretch regularly! Benefits of stretching your upper body include:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved circulation
  • Promoted muscle performance
  • Decreased risk of muscle injuries
  • Reduced stiffness and soreness of muscles
  • Decreased tension
  • Better relaxation

Stretch before you begin your workout to loosen your muscles, and take a few minutes to stretch after physical activity to promote range of motion and flexibility. Take your time while stretching — you should hold each stretch until you notice that you’re slightly uncomfortable (at least 20 seconds in most cases). If you feel pain, you’ve held it too long. Focus on the muscles targeted during your exercises, and repeat each stretch a few times. Some upper body stretches include:

  • Reach your arms straight out behind you, interlace your fingers, and lift your hands to the ceiling.
  • Bend one elbow and let your hand rest on the back of your neck. With your other arm, pull the bent elbow gently behind your head. Repeat for the other side.
  • Stand up straight and let your arms drop to your sides. Lock your hands together and bring your shoulder blades in toward each other. Loosen up your shoulders by moving them up and down.

If you’re a beginner or don’t have access to equipment, a great way to start working out your upper body is with your own body weight. When doing an upper body workout no equipment, keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure to exercise on a regular basis so that you reap all of the benefits. Three or four days a week should be your goal, but even one or two days is a great goal, depending on where you’re starting from.
  • You should give your muscles two days of rest in between upper body workouts.
  • Pay attention to your form. Doing each exercise properly will ensure that you’re exercising the correct muscles! 
  • Some exercises might seem easy because you aren’t using weights or resistance bands. Do repetitions until you notice that you’re breaking your form due to muscle fatigue and take a break. This is called a set. Do a few sets if you can. 
  • In between sets, rest for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • In order to protect your joints, don’t lock them while doing any upper exercise.

Notice how your body feels while you’re performing your upper body workout with no equipment. If you feel any pain, stop what you’re doing! You may need to consult with a health care provider or other professional in the health field to determine what kind of movements you should or shouldn’t be doing.