Are you looking to shred your upper body? Do you want to develop chiseled iron like musculature in the chest, shoulders, arms, back and abs? If you’re like most people out there, you do. I’m not talking about ridiculous “can’t scratch your own back” obesity style mass. I’m talking about athletic Adonis style mass. By now, if you have read many of my other articles, you are well aware of the importance of working your LEGS to help make this happen. Hormonal increases due to leg work INDIRECTLY improve your upper body. That being said, I want to take a moment now to focus on five exercises that DIRECTLY affect the previously mentioned muscle groups. I’m speaking of the following tried and tested Upper Body Bodyweight exercises:


  • Pull-ups
  • Chin-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Dips
  • Leg Raises

    Before we get too far into how each of these exercises is going to carve up your physique like never before, it is important to mention a couple key concepts. These variations will change the way you look at bodyweight training and the results you get from it forever more.

    Variation #1:

    Each of these can be done with ADDED WEIGHT! Whether you’re holding a dumbbell between your feet, use resistance tubing, have a plate resting on your back or are using a weight belt and chain, one thing remains the same: increased resistance (weight) means increased results when form and intensity are maintained. The addition of resistance is a superb way to take a typical body weight exercise to a new level and blast your lean muscle growth to levels off the charts.

    Variation #2:

    ROM (Range of Motion) increase. You may be asking how do I increase ROM? Accomplishing this depends on the exercise. Let’s take Push-ups for example. During a standard push-up you lower your chest to the floor and press until arms are extended, period. This is an excellent movement, but what if you could drop your chest lower than hand level and further stretch the Pecs during the movement? Well, I’ll tell you what that means. Increased ROM when performed correctly means greater muscular activation which leads to greater results.

    So what do you need to make these variations happen? A collection of Pull-up, Abdominal, Dip, Push-up equipment is necessary. Better yet is a combo that has all of these capabilities in one saving space and money. There are a number of options out there; so choose the best one. A good equipment can handle placement and adjustability make the ROM and can handle greater body weight. That means you can work through insanely effective ranges of motion with added weight.

    Okay, okay! Let’s get into what each exercise will do for you.

    The Pull-up: There isn’t much better for the Lats than the old fashioned Pull-up. Perhaps the only thing better are weighted Pull-ups. The overhand wide grip fully activates the Lats and develops the Cobra like back; the V-Taper that is. What’s more is that the biceps get some good work too. If you work focus on your Range of Motion you’ll notice a crazy pump in the rear-delts after your sets as well. On the Basic Trainer you can work through an awesome ROM. The movable bar at top allows you to pull-up directly on the centerline if you like without hitting your head. You can also do a standard pull-up in the normal arcing patter. Either way, the Lats are greatly stimulated. Beyond that you can strap on additional weight if you find regular Pull-ups get to be too easy for you. Let me put it this way, if you are doing Pull-ups for reps with a total of more than 400 pounds YOU ARE RIDICULOUS! Once you see the awesome results in your Lats you are surely going to want to do the same for your Biceps and Mid Back with...

    The Chin-up: You ask, “What does this do differently than the Pull-up?” The underhand grip recruits greater activation in the biceps and mid back. The result of this is bigger arms and a thicker back. Does that sound good? Well if you are looking to develop the physique mentioned at the beginning of the article it should! What else would you need to enhance towards that end? A Chest to match your new back which leads us to...

    The Push-up: One of the simplest and yet most effective upper body exercises in existence. This is the Great Grand Daddy of Chest Development. More reps more reps more reps… That’s what most people think of to get more results. I want to remind you to try adding some resistance. You can have a partner place a weight on your back or stretch a resistance band over your back and hold the ends in your hands. Either way added weight changes the workload. You can also increase the ROM as mentioned before.

    Dips: This is the perfect exercise to work on the lower portion of the chest. It also works the triceps. As you may know, the triceps make up the larger portion of the upper arm. What does this mean? Well that means if you focus on the triceps you will experience a significant increase in arm size in relatively short period of time. To expedite the results you can add some weight to the movement. Holding a dumbbell between the feet or using a weight belt and chain for adding a plate will suffice. However you do it, you will feel the massive increase in work in the way of a blasted Pecs and Triceps. Also let’s not forget the effect Dips have on the shoulders. The good ol’ dip also helps shape the shoulder thus adding to the V-Taper! Now if you have all of the afore mentioned results there is probably only one more thing you are looking for in your upper body... RIPPED ABS! That leads us to...

    Leg Raises: Training the Abs brings up tons of debate material. The main thing to remember is that the rectus abdominis muscles (The Six Pack) is responsible for pulling the ribcage towards the pelvis and vice versa. So if you are looking to develop your Six Pack can perform either movement for the results you desire. Leg Raises are a great option. Personally I like to start with hanging from the Pull-up bar when I’m fresh. Then as I get more fatigued I move to the Back/Arm Rest Version. You can work Bent Leg or Straight Leg. Holding a weight between the feet is another variation to take it to another level. What’s most important here is to focus on the pelvic tilt. The pelvis needs to crunch towards the ribcage. If you are doing this correctly you will thoroughly activate the rectus abdominis and be well on your way to developing your ripped six pack.

    There you have it…A list of the best Basic Bodyweight exercises to become an Upper Body Adonis. But what good is a list? It means nothing if you don’t use it and push to your absolute limits! How are you going to push to your limit? Are you going to work extra hard on your ROM or are you going to strap on additional weight for added resistance? Are you going to increase your intensity my decreasing your rest time between sets? All of these are great options! Use these programs to help you in reaching your ripped physique goals.

    Sample Workout


    Push-Ups: 5×10-30
    Pull-Ups: 5×5-20
    Hanging Leg Raise: 5×5-15
    Chin-Ups: 5×5-20
    Dips: 5×10-20
    Knee Raises: 5×10-20

    These exercises are done with a 20-60 second rest between each set. This is a straight forward way to do the traditional exercises. As mentioned previously in the article, feel free to add some weight to take it to a new level. With or without added weight, if you focus on solid form with good ROM and great intensity you will get results. Solid lean mass gain will result with this type of training and proper nutrition. If you are looking to increase your endurance and want a metabolic boost try the following Dual Circuit Style Routine.

    Dual Circuit Style

    Circuit #1: (4 Rounds)

    Pull-Ups: 4×5-20
    Push-Ups: 4×10-30
    Hanging Leg Raise: 4×5-15

    Circuit #2: (4 Rounds)

    Chin-Ups: 4×5-20
    Dips: 4×10-20
    Knee Raises: 4×10-20
    In the dual circuit you will move through each circuit with zero rest between exercises and only 60 seconds of rest between each round.

  • Author's Bio: 

    Ian Lauer is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. His background in personal training made him an expert in providing countless of valuable advice and a proud member of Team Powertec. Powertec is the pioneer and leader in the area of strength equipment. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, Powertec produces a full line of strength equipment for home and light commercial purposes. Our brand is highly sought after by the educated buyer looking for weight capacity maximization without sacrificing safety, customization of their Workbench home gyms through extensive accessory modularization, and commercial gym quality at home gym prices.