If you're pressed for time and can't get to the gym, or simply don't care for using free weights, you can get an effective upper body workout without weights. Using just your body weight, you can work your back, shoulders, chest and arms. Best of all, these exercises can be done at varying levels, enabling you to start at a level that is comfortable for you to advance as you gain strength.
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The front plank works your entire upper body, especially the back extensor and abdominal muscles. In addition, it works the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. The exercise is very efficient and takes only a little time to do, so you can do a front plank while waiting for your shower to warm up or your coffee to brew. To do a front plank, lie face down on the floor. Brace your core and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Lift onto your forearms and toes. Hold for 30 seconds. If you're just starting out, hold for five seconds, lower back down and repeat. If you're advanced, hold for one minute and repeat.
A triceps dip works the back of the arm, which is often neglected at the gym and can be troublesome to work. Using your body weight and a low wall or sturdy table, you can work this tough spot. Sit on a bench or low wall and place your hands at the edge, fingers pointing down. Walk your feet forward so that your body can dip below the level of the wall or bench without hitting it. Brace your core and roll your shoulder blades back and down. Descend until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Rise back up to a straight arm without locking your elbows and repeat. If you're new, keep your body close to the bench or wall and keep your knees bent. If you're advanced, move your body further away and straighten your legs.
The pushup is a comprehensive upper body exercise that works the chest, shoulders, back and arms. It's also an exercise you can modify based on your level of ability. Since all it requires is a space to lift and lower your fully extended body, you can do pushups anywhere. To do a pushup, lie face down with your arms bent and hands just outside your shoulders. Brace your core and roll your shoulder blades back and down. Lift onto your toes and hands. Descend so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor and repeat. If you're new to pushups, lift onto your hands and knees. If you're advanced, alternate lifting one leg at a time to increase the challenge.
The chest dip works the pectoral muscles. It requires a set of parallel bars, sawhorses or very sturdy high-backed chairs set back to back with space for you to stand between. The chairs must be able to support your body weight. To do a chest dip, put a hand on either bar, palms facing in and lift onto your palms. Lean forward from the hips and bend your legs behind you. Dip down until you feel a stretch in your chest, arms flaring out. Rise up to straight arms without locking your elbows and repeat until fatigued.