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The #1 Best No-Equipment Workout for Upper-Body Strength

Sculpt the upper body of your dreams with these trainer-approved exercises.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Are you on a mission to strengthen your upper body without needing any fancy equipment? If so, you're in the right place. Here, we'll reveal the #1 best no-equipment workout for building upper-body strength right in the comfort of your home—courtesy of health and fitness expert Mike Masi, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews. Regardless of your fitness level, Masi's no-equipment workout is designed to help you sculpt and tone your arms, shoulders, chest, and back without weights or machines.

We get it—not everyone has the time to hit the gym and lift weights. Fortunately, bodyweight training can be an effective way to boost your strength and improve body composition. A 2021 review in Sports Medicine found that bodyweight exercises like chin-ups, pushups, and pull-ups can help you build muscular strength and even improve cardiovascular health when performed with enough volume and intensity.

Beyond the health benefits, bodyweight training removes the need for expensive gym memberships and bulky equipment to reach your fitness goals. All you need is your body weight, a safe area with enough space to do the exercises, and a determination to put in the work. With just a few simple exercises, you can target all the major muscle groups in your upper body and see actual results in no time. And since this workout can be done anywhere, anytime, it leaves no room for excuses to skip your workout.

Whether you're pressed for time, traveling, or prefer the convenience of working out at home, keep reading for Masi's #1 best no-equipment workout for upper-body strength. And when you're finished, be sure to check out This Low-Impact Exercise May Be Better for You Than Cardio, Study Suggests.



First up is the classic pushup, a staple bodyweight exercise for targeting your chest, shoulders, and triceps while engaging your core for stability.

To perform this exercise, Masi says, "Lie face down with your palms on the ground shoulder-width apart. Push your body up until your arms are fully extended, keeping your body straight. Lower back down. If needed, use an elevated surface to make this exercise easier." Complete four sets of 10 to 15 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

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This dynamic movement is excellent for toning your arms and adding definition to your abdomen.

"Start in a plank position on your forearms. Push up from one arm to a pushup position, and then follow with the other arm. Return to the forearm plank by lowering one arm down and then the other," says Masi. Perform four sets of eight to 10 reps per arm with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Downward Facing Dog

downward dog

You might think this movement is meant for yoga only, but it can be an excellent way to strengthen your upper body.

"Start in a pushup position, then press your hips up to the ceiling, letting your arms go over your head," instructs Masi. "Keep your heels off the ground by staying on your toes. Hold this position for one to two seconds before returning to the starting position." Aim for five sets of 10 to 15 reps with 60 seconds of rest between.

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Arm Circles

illustration of arm circles

Arm circles can help improve shoulder mobility and can be done with or without weights.

"Stand with your arms extended by your sides, parallel to the ground," says Masi. "Make small circles with your arms, and continue until the shoulder muscles start to burn. Alternate direction of the circles with each set." Complete four sets of doing arm circles for 30 to 60 seconds uninterrupted. Rest for 60 seconds between each round.

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Bear Crawls

illustration of woman doing bear crawls

Bear crawls are a dynamic full-body exercise that engages your shoulders, arms, core, and legs.

Masi tells us, "Begin on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift your knees slightly off the ground. Move forward by stepping with your right hand and left foot simultaneously, then your left hand and right foot. Keep your back flat and hips low. Moving backward with the same exercise can make this harder and more of an upper-body focus." Do four sets of 30 to 60-second bear crawls, resting for 60 seconds between sets.

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Tricep Dips

illustration of tricep dips exercise

Tricep dips are a go-to upper body exercise for firing up the triceps, the largest muscle group in your upper arms.

"Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair or bench. Place your hands beside your hips and grip the edge. Move your hips off the chair with your legs extended forward. Lower your body by bending your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle, then push back up to the starting position. You can elevate your feet on a surface to make this slightly harder or assist with a leg to make this exercise easier," explains Masi. Complete four sets of 10 to 15 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Adam Meyer, RHN
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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