Bodyweight training doesn’t require a dedicated gym and uses minimal equipment, so you can fit in a workout whenever you have some spare time, wherever you are (like your living room). When we think of upper body exercises, we think pullups, bench presses and shoulder raises, but there are so many more moves to build muscle. In fact, there’s a whole host of arm moves that require no equipment.
By virtue of their supportive nature, bodyweight moves tend to activate the abdominal and lower back muscles. This is a win-win when primarily targeting your upper body and back. To increase the intensity of bodyweight exercises, you can increase the number of repetitions or change the movement to make it offer more resistance, such as elevating the feet during a push-up.
Starting Position: Lie prone (on your stomach) on the floor or on a mat, with your arms and legs fully extended. Point your toes away from your body and fully extend your elbows and fingers, positioning your palms facing inwards. Stiffen (“brace”) your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine, depress and retract your scapulae (pull shoulders back and down) and attempt to hold these positions throughout the exercise. Align your head with your thoracic (upper) spine.
Gently exhale and slowly lift your arms off the floor (maintain a formation of the letter “I”), with palms facing inward. Keep your head aligned with your thoracic (upper) spine. Focus on generating most of your lift through your shoulders and not the low back although some low back extension (arching) is acceptable. Hold this position for 1 – 2 seconds then relax and return to your starting position.
From the same starting position, gently exhale and slowly lift your arms off the floor, moving your arms into the “Y” formation (45-degree angle to form the letter “Y”) as illustrated with palms facing inward. Maintain your head alignment with your thoracic (upper) spine. Focus on generating most of your lift through your shoulders and not the low back although some low back extension (arching) is acceptable. Hold this position for 1 – 2 seconds then relax and return to your starting position.
Lie flat on your chest with your toes tucked and forehead relaxed on the ground. Start with your arms extended forward, thumbs facing up and lifted off the ground. As you exhale, pull your elbows toward your sides, mimicking a pull-up. Keep your arms as high as possible to avoid grinding/clicking/popping in your shoulders. Your chest remains flat on the ground for the entirety of this exercise. Focus on external rotation through the shoulders to improve shoulder mobility while moving through these pull-ups. Reps should last at least 5 seconds each.
Keep your arms straight, your butt clenched, your core tightened, and your elbows as even with the floor as you can. Gradually lower yourself until each elbow is at a 90-degree angle or less. Try to go all the way down until either your chest or nose or chin lightly touches the floor, inhaling along the way. Once your chest or nose or chin is touching the floor, hold for a brief pause before thrusting yourself back into the starting position, exhaling as you go. Prevent your elbows from flying outward during each rep and keep them somewhat close to your body. Maintain a steady and consistent formation throughout each repetition.
The yoga push-up is similar to a standard pushup, but we add a hip hike and "reach" at the top. Start out by performing a standard pushup as described above: Try to go all the way down until either your chest or nose or chin lightly touches the floor, inhaling along the way. Once your chest or nose or chin is touching the floor, hold for a brief pause before thrusting yourself back up. Keeping your toes and your hands in the same spots, extend your arms fully and lift your butt into the air into a "downward dog" yoga position. Hold for one second and return to the starting pushup position.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of your couch with your palms down and your fingers facing forward. With your legs extended in front of you and your arms straight, lower your body by bending your elbows. Keep lowering your body toward the floor until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Press your palms into the couch to push back up to the starting position.
Grab your favorite dish towel or bath towel, head over to your sturdiest door, open it and wrap the towel around both the inside and outside door handles. Standing with your feet at least shoulder-width apart, straddle the door and grip the ends of the towel with either hand. Slowly pull yourself towards the door, pausing for a second when your face or chest is close to the door. Slowly reverse the movement by allowing your body to fall away from the door while you maintain tension in the towel.
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