Building Strength with Upper Body Workouts at Home
Not having access to a gym on a regular basis can definitely put a strain on your strength training regimen. That is why learning to perform upper body workouts at home is critical for both building and maintaining strength.
Why You Need an Upper Body Workout at Home
You may be used to having a broad range of dumbbells for your use at the local gym. Or maybe you are just getting into strength training at home and want to learn an effective upper body strength training framework. Either way, this post will help guide you through the exercises, equipment, and motivators to effectively and properly workout your upper body at home.
The Different Types of Upper Body Workouts
These workouts are great more building muscle and strength in your shoulders, arms, and pecks.
Here are the 3 key things to remember when working out your upper body (and most other muscle groups in your body for that matter):
1. Focus on technique for efficient workouts
2. Push a few of your sets to failure or high fatigue
3. Minimize rest time between sets
Focusing on these three areas during your upper body workout at home will help ensure you see desirable results both in muscle growth and overall strength.
In terms of the workout itself, try three sets of 10-15 reps following by a fourth set to failure for each type of workout. Rest time between sets can vary from 10 seconds to 60 seconds depending on your desired workout intensity.
Pushups are a tried-and-true classic workout for building strength in your upper body. They also have a profound effect on building core strength since you’re essentially holding yourself in a plant throughout the motion.
While, the video above details 10 different pushups you can do to build upper body strength at home, these 3 should get the job done for you too.
Diamond Chest Press
This type of pushup involves making a diamond shape with your index fingers and thumbs and then lowering your chest towards your hands on the floor. It will take some repetitions over time to build enough strength to do multiple repetitions, but these will definitely help grow your overall upper body strength.
Decline Chest Press
This is similar to a traditional chest press, except your feet should rest on a couch, chair, medicine ball, or bench instead of the ground. The declined movement will be like adding weights to your normal pushup motion, thus intensifying the workout.
Chest Press with Clapping
Once you have really built some upper body strength, this is a good workout to continue your progression. Starting out at one rep at a time is completely reasonable; your strength will improve over time.
Arm Raises (Lateral, Front, and Rear)
In order to focus on shoulder strength, an easy at-home workout is shoulder raises in the front, lateral, and rear. Typically, this workout is done with weights that are on the lighter side (8lbs – 15lbs).
1. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, hold weight on the lighter side at your sides
2. Keeping your elbow locked or only slightly bent, alternate raising and lowering from the front and from the sides.
If you do not have actual dumbbells or resistance bands, then a few at-home alternatives include filled up water bottles, textbooks, or even large candles.
Standing or Kneeling Shoulder Press
The shoulder press workout is an excellent way to work the deltoid muscles in your shoulder. It can be done either by standing or kneeling, however the standing position is a great way to work your core. Done this way, your core stabilizes your body as it works to lift the weights or resistance bands above your head.
1. Hold two dumbbells at chest level with our palms facing your body. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
2. Raise the dumbbells up over your head while at the same time twisting your palms to face away from your body.
3. Lower the weights back down to the starting position and repeat!
Standing Biceps Curl
Biceps are obviously a great muscle to show off, but the bicep curl is also a great workout for strengthening your shoulders too! Careful not to use weights that are too heavy; this is a good workout to slowly increase your dumbbell weight over time.
1. Standing shoulder apart, hold the dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing outward.
2. While holding good posture, slowing curl up the dumbbells until they reach shoulder height.
3. Both the upward and the downward motion of the weights make for great resistance training so don’t forget to go slowly in both directions.
Standing or Seated Overhead Triceps Extension
Similar to the shoulder press, this can be done from either the standing or seated position depending on whether you want to engage your core or focus on specifically targeting your triceps.
1. In the seated position, maintain good posture and hold one dumbbell over the top of your head.
2. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your elbow forms a right angle.
3. Raise the dumbbell back over your head and repeat.
The Best Equipment for Upper Body Workouts at Home
One of the best parts about the workouts illustrated below is that they do not require much expensive equipment to get started. Most, if not all, of those workouts have variants for just using your body weight! Nonetheless, dumbbells, exercise bands, and floor mats are all excellent additions to your home gym setup.
Dumbbells for Upper Body Workouts
The specific weights needed for workouts at home vary based on your fitness goals, but typically increments from 5 pounds to 30 pounds will do the trick.
These products work great for getting a good dumbbell workout in at home:
This adjustable system lets you rapidly switch from one exercise to the next through a unique dial turning system. It eliminates the need for multiple dumbbells cluttering your workout space, which is essential for your home gym.
Exercise Bands for Upper Body Workouts
Resistance bands are a great workout tool because they are affordable, mobile, and versatile. In addition, research shows that engaging in elastic band resistance training improves balance, gait function, and flexibility.
Here are a few of our picks that will work extremely well for a home gym:
Best Value:Resistance Exercise Bands Set with Handles
This set of 5 colors exercise bands are 41 inches in length and come in yellow (10 lbs), blue (20 lbs), green (30 lbs), black (40 lbs), and red (50 lbs). Resistance bands provide you with multiple ways to train your body and it comes with cushioned handles, ankle straps, and a door anchor, which works great for a home gym!
This set comes with 5 different resistance strengths. They are great for teaching you to do pull-ups on your own or if you just want to get more repetitions in. These are particularly useful if you are recovering from an injury and need to slowly strengthen torn ligaments or muscles.
Home Gym Floor Mat
This durable, yet extremely lightweight exercise yoga mat gives you just the right amount of cushioning your joints need during any of the upper body home workout movements. In particular, having a mat during pushups can help reduce the strain on your wrists.
This one also comes of dozens of cool designs!
Smart Home Gym Setup for Upper Body
One last option is to look into a smart home gym setup. A system like Peloton, Tonal, or Mirror will provide you with a plethora of comprehensive workouts to choose from. This helps out a ton in terms of motivating you to get a good workout in.
Mirror’s price is slightly less than Peloton’s smart bike system, which offers a similar home training experience and is a great alternative for those of us who really like the idea of home training. The added benefit is the form feedback the mirror provides and the ability to make your workout space dual-purpose (since Mirror is placed on a wall instead of requiring a bike).
If you are looking for a combination of strength training and cardio, Tonal is a great option, as it contains all the equipment you need for resistance and strength training. Tonal is probably as close as you can get to a full-fledged gym from the comfort of your own home.
The Pandemic Pushup Challenge
Because pushups require little to no workout equipment, they make for an easy workout that just about anyone can do. One way to encourage colleagues who are also working from home to build some strength is to do a month-long pushup challenge.
Each person sets a monthly target for themselves and then their daily pushup repetitions are recorded in a sharable spreadsheet such as Google Sheets or a network Microsoft Excel. In this example, the goal was 100 push-ups a day on average for the whole month of August. You will find that somedays you need a good rest day, while others you might get 200+ pushups in to make up for lost days. Enjoy!
There sure are a lot of great workouts that you can perform right from your own home. In a balanced workout plan, your upper body should be worked out 1-2 times a week. Remember that typically you will want to do three sets of 10-15 reps following by a fourth set to failure for each type of workout. Recovery through mobility, stretching, and a protein shake are critical for the best muscle recovery.
Lastly, don’t forget to have some fun with it! Try the Pandemic Pushup Challenge with your friends or colleagues to get some comradery around building some strength in between conference calls.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Working Out from Home Board!