How to Improve Upper Body Strength at Home? 8 Exercises


Building upper body strength isn’t only good for aesthetics, but it’s also excellent for functionality! Whether carrying heavy items or getting something out of reach, it makes all these more manageable. But what happens when you can’t afford to pay for the gym? How to improve upper body strength at home?

As helpful as using weights is, you can also perform many no-equipment exercises at home to improve your upper body strength. So, put your triceps, chest, and shoulders to work and try these eight exercises!

What are the Benefits of Improving Upper Body Strength?

man holding dumbbell

Nowadays, most fitness enthusiasts focus on lower body exercises. And as essential leg day is, a lack of upper body strength training isn’t ideal. So, include upper body strengthening in your routine workouts for the best results. Before we dive into how to improve upper body strength at home, it’s best to know its benefits!

Here are more upsides of training your upper body:

✔️ It Defines the Upper Body Better

Training your upper body defines it more naturally. Besides that, it can also improve your posture, athleticism, and confidence! 

What we refer to as the “upper body” includes the arms, shoulders, chest, forearms, and hands. And the specific muscles are the following: 

  • Deltoids (shoulders)
  • Biceps and triceps (arms)
  • Pectoralis (chest)

These stabilizing muscles can improve your fine motor skills and guarantee a full range of motion when in shape. With this, you should be able to hold onto things with a firmer grip, extend, pull, push, move, press, and draw better!

✔️ You Get to Enjoy Better Heart Health

Since your upper body encompasses the heart, you can also improve cardiovascular health. Strengthening your cardiac muscles can provide the following benefits: 

  • Upper body training elevates your oxygen levels, improving endurance. 
  • It decreases your risk for heart diseases such as stroke or heart failure, boosting your immune system
  • Exercising your upper body helps you control your weight better.
  • It decreases artery damage from hypertension, elevated blood sugar, and hypercholesterolemia.

✔️ It Boosts Metabolism

Upper body strength training increases your muscle mass, aiding digestion. The more muscle mass you have, the faster and more efficient your metabolic rate will be. With this, your body can get rid of more calories even when resting.

✔️ Training Your Upper Body Helps Maximizes Your Work Outs

Upper body strength training isn’t limited to improving your upper body. It can affect your entire workout and other physical activities. These include:

  • It makes your arms more muscular, aiding you in running, swimming, and cycling.
  • Adding upper body exercises to your routine strengthens your core.
  • It can improve your coordination in any physical activity. 
  • It builds your endurance. 
  • Participating in upper body strength training reduces your risk of injury.
  • It can help you burn calories quicker. 

✔️ Upper Body Strength Training Improves Your Posture

Nowadays, most individuals have poor posture due to their sedentary lifestyles. And this is especially common among individuals with desk jobs. When your chest muscles tighten, back loosens, and shoulders roll forward, expect a hunched-over posture. Luckily, this is still fixable by strengthening your back and shoulder muscles. 

Upper body training makes it more manageable to correct your posture — and improve your core strength!

✔️ A Stronger Upper Body Reduces Risk for Injury

As mentioned earlier, training your upper body can reduce your injury risk. After all, it can help improve your posture, lessening accidents related to bad form. If not, you’re leaving everything to your lower back muscles. As a result, you might experience strain and pain.

How to Improve Upper Body Strength at Home?

how to improve upper body strength at home (infographic)

💪 Press-ups

When correctly performed, press-ups can make your core and lower back stronger than ever. After all, this exercise pulls in your abdominal muscles.

So, not only can press-ups improve your triceps, chest, and shoulders, but they can also give you abs! No wonder it’s become a shared favorite among fitness enthusiasts. It’s the easiest, efficient, and quickest way to build upper body strength.

You can technically do press-ups anywhere as it doesn’t require equipment. All you need are your strong arms and a flat surface!

Here’s how you can do press-ups at home:

  1. Find a room with a flat and even surface. 
  2. Kneel down on the floor on all fours.
  3. Extend your arms and shoulders over your hands. 
  4. Align your hips with your shoulders and feet while staying on your tippy-toes.
  5. Bring your chest close to the floor by bending your elbows. 
  6. Before you reach the bottom, extend your elbows and push them back to your initial position.

If you’re looking to push yourself further, put your feet on a raised area to do press-ups in a decline position. You can do this in 4 sets with five press-ups per rep. And once you get comfortable and used to the sensation, add five more per rep.

💪 Alternating Punches

Alternating punches is an upper body workout that lets you burn calories faster. It’s an excellent aerobic exercise that may also benefit your heart and lungs. Besides that, it can also make your biceps more muscular and defined. 

Here’s how you can do alternating punches at home:

  1. Stand in an area with a flat and even surface with your foot in front of the other. 
  2. Ball your fists below your chin. 
  3. Start extending and punching one of your arms at a time at the front. It should resemble a straight line beginning from your shoulders to your hands. 
  4. Bring the extended arm back into a guard position and do the next, and repeat.

I recommend starting slow until you maintain a constant tempo with your arms. Once you get used to the punching, you can increase your speed and power in each punch for better results. And if you have dumbbells at home, grab those and start punching with them on each hand.

It’s best to do 30-second to one-minute sets on alternating punches per workout. You can add more time per rep if you see fit. 

💪 Biceps Hold Under the Table

One of the most creative ways to activate your biceps is by doing regular bicep holds under the table! It’s an excellent way to define your upper body muscles if you have no equipment at home. Doing it this way provides the same benefit of pre-exhausting your muscles and increasing your strength. 

Here’s how you can do biceps hold under the table at home:

  1. Stand up straight and place your feet beneath your hips. 
  2. Put your hands flat under a table, desk, or other flat objects with your palms upward.
  3. Have your elbows near your sides and maintain a 90-degree angle.
  4. Press your palms up against the surface and pulse. 
  5. Keep your back straight. 

I recommend doing this every 10 to 15 seconds per rep and doing this at least four times per workout. You can add more time as you get used to the exercise. 

💪 Arm Raises (Side and Lateral)

Lateral or side arm raises enhance your muscle strength, tone, and mass. Aside from that, arm raises can decrease your risk of injury by stabilizing your joints and bones! And best of all, arm raises can improve your posture, promising an even safer upper body workout!

Here’s how you can do side and lateral arm raises at home:

  1. Stand straight with your feet at least a hip distance apart. 
  2. Roll your shoulders back and clench your core by looking straight ahead. 
  3. Keep your arms still and raise them to your shoulder level. Slowly bring them back down.
  4. Stretch your arms to your sides while keeping them at shoulder level and slowly bring them down.
  5. Alternate between steps 3 and 4 until you complete a rep. 

You can challenge yourself by adding dumbbells or heavy objects to the mix. If not, you can make things intense by slowing down the return of your arms. Either way, it’s best to do at least 10 to 12 reps of side or lateral arm raises for the best results!

💪 Triceps Dip on the floor

Triceps dips are among the best exercises for arm and shoulder strength. It’s a simple activity, and you can do it anywhere in your home. And best of all, it comes with several variations, allowing you to match it to your fitness level!

Here’s how you can do triceps dips at home: 

  1. Sit down and place your feet flat.
  2. Bring your feet toward your hips while bending your knees. 
  3. Bend your elbows and put your hands on the floor and place them behind your hips.
  4. Slowly get your hips off the floor by expanding your elbows. 
  5. Lower down your body, and repeat. 

You can add more resistance to your triceps dip by raising one of your legs in the air or putting your hands on the edge of a piece of furniture. Either way, do at least three sets of 10 to 15 reps daily for the best results!

💪 Shoulder Press

If you’re looking to strengthen your shoulders and upper back, performing shoulder presses is the best way to go! Although it’s most beneficial to your anterior deltoid (the front shoulder muscle), it also works out your triceps, deltoids, and pectorals!

Here’s how you can do a shoulder press at home:

  1. Stand with your hands on your shoulders’ sides while bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle. 
  2. With your hands facing forward, push them up upward. 
  3. Stretch your arms before bringing them back to the initial position.

I recommend adding dumbbells or other heavy objects to the mix to perform shoulder presses with more resistance. With this, you can enjoy a hotter upper body in no time! You can do shoulder press for 8 to 12 reps in at least two or three sets.

💪 Inchworms

Inchworms are the best for strengthening your upper body’s core. Aside from that, it also works wonders for your hamstrings and calves. 

Here’s how to perform Inchworms at home:

  1. Stand straight.
  2. Keep your feet 4.0 mm apart.
  3. Bend your body and put your hands facing forward on the floor and place it before your toes.
  4. Go in front using your hands, one hand at a time. 
  5. Get your heels off the floor while maintaining a straight line. 
  6. Once in a planking position, do one press-up before returning to the initial form.

You can boost the number of press-ups per rep to add more resistance to your workouts. 

💪 Plank Raise

Spice up your regular planks with leg raises for a more efficient upper body workout. It can activate your abs better, all while strengthening your core! With this, you can enjoy improved balance, posture, and back. And finally, plank raises aren’t limited to your upper body as they can also define your glutes.

Here’s how you can do plank raises at home:

  1. Start by putting yourself in a regular planking position. But with this, have your weight rest on your forearms.
  2. Keep your body straight from your shoulders down to your ankles. 
  3. Clench your abdominal muscles and push up onto your hands without moving your hips. Alternate with each hand and between regular and extended positions.

You can add more resistance to this exercise by adding a press-up each time you come into the extended plank position. I suggest doing plank raises for 10 to 12 reps for at least 2 to 3 sets.

 How to Warm Up for Upper Body Strength Training at Home?

a lady doing a situp

No matter how pumped you are to start your upper body training, diving straight into it isn’t ideal. Being unprepared will lead to sore muscles, stinging joints, and depleted energy. And those can hold you back from doing more regularly and injure you! That’s why, before tackling how to improve upper body strength at home, doing warm-ups is a must!

Preparing your upper body for the intense workout ahead activates your muscles. With this, you should have a more seamless session and reduce pain.

Here are more benefits of warming before tackling upper body exercises for better insight:

✔️ It Lets You Focus Better

Even if you’re incredibly physically fit, not having the mindset to work out won’t do you any good. Mental readiness has become a priority during upper body training. After all, focusing on the exercises to withstand the tough workout sessions would be best. An in-depth warm-up lets you prepare your mind for the arduous training.

✔️ Warm Ups Help Deliver More Oxygen to Your Muscles

The higher the oxygen levels in your muscles, the more efficient they perform anaerobically! You’ll tackle active exercises and other intense physical activities more efficiently. It improves your body’s work capacity and enhances recovery between sets. 

✔️ It Improves Your Blood Flow

Since warm-ups deliver more oxygen to your muscles, they can also improve blood circulation. As a result, your body will be able to pump up more oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and remove all byproducts that might’ve been causing soreness in your body. 

In short, warm-ups before your upper body training can improve your circulation to active muscle tissues. 

✔️ Doing Warm-Ups Activate Your Underused Muscles

Before tackling how to improve upper body strength at home, you need to activate your underused muscles first! Targeting your tinier back muscles helps you maximize your lift potential. As a result, you should be able to do the upper body exercises better. Moreover, activating your muscles first reduces your risk of injury during the session.

✔️ It Restores Your Mobility

Performing warm-up exercises before tackling upper body exercises can restore your mobility. I recommend doing lighter techniques that won’t exhaust your muscles beforehand. Avoid dynamic warm-up exercises, as they can tire your body before you even start!

That said, here are different warm-up exercises to try before you dive into your upper body training at home:

🏋️ Arm Circles

Maintain your body’s core stability and activate your muscles by doing arm circles. Aside from that, this exercise can also awaken your triceps, biceps, traps, and shoulders. 

🏋️ Jump Rope

Getting on the jump rope helps move your wrists, prepping it for some serious lifting! Aside from that, it can also activate your shoulders without added pressure. Finally, jump roping can warm up your body by increasing your heart rate. As a result, you get a conditioned body with full coordination, ideal for upper body training!

🏋️ Side Planks

Doing side planks before an upper body workout can improve your body’s coordination. And they can activate your core, preparing you better for heavy lifting. 

🏋️ Scapular Push-Ups

Prep your body and mind by connecting them with scapular push-ups. These engage your upper lats and traps, letting you perform pushing exercises smoothly. Not to mention, this exercise also promotes healthy scapular motion.

🏋️ Band Pull-Apart

Activate your upper back for smoother pushing exercises by doing band pull-apart. These engage your small upper back muscles, reducing soreness and pain. 

🏋️ Scapular Slides

Scapular slides can help activate your serratus anteriorly and rhomboid. These are responsible for keeping your smaller muscles active in your upper body training. Also, they prep your upper traps for heavier lifting or movements. And finally, this exercise improves shoulder mobility and coordination.

🏋️ Yoga Push-Ups

You can enhance your body’s endurance and prep your upper muscles better with yoga push-ups. They also boost shoulder strength and stability, activating your T-spine while facilitating thoracic mobility.

Additional Safety Tips to Gain Upper Body Strength at Home

lady holding weight behind her head

As intense as upper body training is, it’s relatively well-rounded and efficient. But many fitness enthusiasts put themselves at risk for injury! Whether due to doing an incorrect form or overall negligence, upper body exercises can hurt you. So, don’t be like other novices that copy whatever they see other people are doing. Be mindful, and exercise with caution.

Educate yourself and stay safe by keeping these safety tips and techniques in mind:

✅ Always Warm Up 

As mentioned earlier, warming up helps you prep your body better for the workout and reduces your risk for injury. So, before tackling your upper body exercises, spend a minimum of 5 to 8 minutes on warm-up activities. Whether it’s cardio or yoga stretches, these should have your body and mind conditioned better. As a result, you get to work out more safely. 

✅ Challenge Your Muscles Slowly

Challenge your upper body muscles by increasing resistance in increments. The best weight to start on varies and depends on the exercise. You can determine what works for you by picking a weight that exhausts your targeted muscle(s) by the last two reps. And it should let you keep good form. If what you chose didn’t work out, pick something lighter.

Meanwhile, add more weight if your exercises seem too easy to finish. Specifically, 1-2 lbs for arms and 2-5 lbs for legs, or if you want something more challenging, add another set of rep! When adding these, remember that you must be able to do all the reps while maintaining good form to stay safe.

✅ Stick with Your Fitness Routine 

Always stick to your fitness routine no matter how easy your upper body training gets! After all, working on all your major upper muscles twice or thrice weekly is for the best. Doing this provides you with enough rest while gaining more without feeling overwhelming pain. So, stick to a balanced routine even once you learn how to improve upper body strength at home!

✅ Be Attentive to Your Form 

Whatever upper body exercise you do, always pay attention to your form. That means you need to align your body correctly for each activity. Incorrectly doing this can increase your risk for injuries and insufficient gains. If it’s your first time doing upper body training, begin with little to no weight. I recommend focusing on slow and smooth lifts for gradual improvements! 

As you become more confident and stable in your form, you can add more weight or sets to your upper body regimen.

✅ Skip Exercises that Includes Doing Something Behind Your Head

Whether it’s pressing or pulling, these are things you should never do behind your head. It increases stress on your rotary cuffs or shoulder muscles. And as a result, you’ll get an even worse posture or develop neck or spinal disorders over time! I recommend pressing or pulling exercises in front of your head for safety.

✅ Never Let Your Elbow Pass Your Shoulders

Limit your range of motion to where your elbows and shoulders are. If misaligned, your shoulders’ tendons can get strained, resulting in a debilitating injury over time. So, whether you’re doing press-ups, pull-ups, reverse fly or fly exercises, never let your elbow go past your shoulders!

✅ Always Do Raising Exercises to Your Shoulder Level Only

Raising exercises to your shoulders is an efficient way of improving your upper body strength. But if you perform these above your shoulders, your rotary cuff tendons can get pinched. And this repetitive motion can lead to tears, inflammation, or worse, rupture! So, avoid lifting too high to keep your shoulder muscles intact. 

✅ Always Have Your Core Involved

All upper body exercises need core strength to be effective and safe while supporting your lower back. So, to be safe during your workout, activate your abs before doing any exercises. And remember to keep them involved throughout the session!

✅ Never Hesitate to Stop If You Feel Pain or Discomfort

Upper body exercises challenge your body a lot, especially your upper muscles! As a result, you may get a sore body. Although it’s good to push yourself now and then, stop if you feel pain or discomfort during the session. I recommend assessing the issue before determining if you should continue with your upper body training.

If the pain is due to incorrect form, consider hiring a personal trainer to have you sort it out. But if it continues even after correcting it, consult a physical therapist.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What to do if I have no upper body strength?

A: The fastest way to gain upper body strength is through weight exercises. Specifically, you must perform hypertrophy-based training. It helps improve your strength and muscle size naturally and simultaneously. I recommend pairing these with a high-protein and low-carb diet for the best results.

Q: How to improve upper body strength at home without weights?

A: The best way to gain upper body strength without equipment at home is through push-ups. You can do regular ones, one-armed push-ups, kneeling archer push-ups, or Hindu push-ups. Aside from that, I also recommend doing the Dragon walk, press-ups, and planking.

Q: What’s the best time to work out for upper body strength?

A: Although it’s different for everyone, working out at night benefits upper body strength training. It’s an excellent time to build muscle as your muscles often weaken when the sun’s out. And they become stronger throughout the day. Hence, your muscles peak during the early evening! So, if possible, work out around 7 to 9 pm for the best results.

Q: How long until I can gain more upper body strength?

A: Depending on your routine and commitment, it’ll take around 3 to 4 weeks to see visible changes in your upper body. But you should be able to see actual results of your upper body training after 16 weeks. Still, it varies per person, based on their goals and what kind of strength training they’re doing.

Q: What foods can improve my upper body strength?

A: You can hasten your upper body strength training by consuming foods rich in healthy fats like avocado and fatty fish such as herring or salmon. Aside from that, you should also add more protein to your diet and lessen carbs! This way, you should be able to speed up your training progress. 

Final Words

How to improve upper body strength at home? From regular press-ups to plank raises — these are some of the best exercises for upper body strength. There’s so much you can do besides push-ups to enhance your upper body strength. Either way, as challenging as it is to work on your upper body without using conventional gym equipment, it is possible! So, explore the exercises mentioned for more efficient training.

Leave a Comment