3 At Home Upper Body Workouts For The Best At Home Strength Sessions

One of the benefits of going to the gym is that you have full access to all of the strength training equipment you need to put together a great upper-body workout.

However, gym memberships are expensive, and you might not always have the time to get to and from the gym, or you might simply prefer doing an at-home upper body workout.

While there are plenty of possible upper body exercises you can do at home, the challenge with putting together an upper body workout at home is coming up with enough exercises that you can do with minimal exercise equipment.

In this article, we will discuss how to structure an effective at home upper body workout with various types of home exercise equipment and give you complete lists of upper body exercises at home.

We will cover the following: 

  • Best At Home Upper Body Workout With Dumbbells
  • Best At Home Upper Body Workout With Resistance Bands
  • Best No Equipment At Home Upper Body Workout

Let’s dive in! 

A person doing a plank.

Best At Home Upper Body Workout With Dumbbells 

If you plan to do a lot of at home upper body workouts, it typically makes sense to invest in some exercise equipment.

One of the best values that you can buy in terms of the versatility in the types of exercises and at home workouts you will be able to do is a pair of adjustable dumbbells.

You can use dumbbells to strengthen nearly every major muscle in the body, and you will be able to build muscle and increase strength with your upper body workouts at home. 

There are also plenty of lower body exercises that you can do with dumbbells, and many people find that it is more intuitive and natural to do dumbbell workouts vs. resistance band workouts.

Additionally, it is easier to accurately keep track of the weight that you are using when lifting dumbbells rather than using resistance bands, enabling you to effectively implement the principle of progressive overload in your home workout routine.

Bicep curl with a dumbbell.

A pair of adjustable dumbbells is much more compact and affordable than buying a full rack with pairs of dumbbells in each 5-pound increment.

We recommend the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, which are now supported with motion tracking via the JRNY app. This means that you can check your form to ensure proper technique and execution and the exercises you are performing.

If you are doing upper body home workouts to increase strength, work up to performing 2-6 sets, 3-5 reps per set, and at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the load. If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle growth), try to perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.

The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should aim for with your weights.

Here is an example of an at-home upper body workout with dumbbells:

Weighted superman exercise with dumbbells.

Warm-up: Forward and reverse arm circles and windmills for 60 seconds, followed by trunk twists for 30 seconds.

Complete 2-3 sets of the following exercises:

  1. Dumbbell chest press
  2. Dumbbell single-arm bent-over row
  3. Dumbbell chest fly
  4. Dumbbell bent-over reverse fly
  5. Dumbbell biceps curls
  6. Dumbbell overhead triceps extensions 
  7. Dumbbell overhead press
  8. Dumbbell alternating forward and lateral raises
  9. Dumbbell shrugs

Gradually increase the weights that you use as you get stronger.

A person doing a resistance band pull apart.

Best At Home Upper Body Workout With Resistance Bands

You can get a great upper body workout at home with a set of resistance bands.

Resistance bands are inexpensive, compact, and easily stored away when not in use. You can learn more about the benefits of resistance bands vs dumbbells here.

Note that you will need to have somewhere secure that you can anchor your bands for certain upper-body resistance band exercises, but most sets come with a door anchor that you can use to hold the band.

It can be more challenging to know exactly what equivalent weight you are lifting with resistance band workouts, but you can still progress the difficulty of your at home upper body resistance band workouts by performing more reps and sets and using bands with higher tension as you get stronger.

Alternatively, you can use smart resistance bands that allow you to see the equivalent weight that you are lifting.

For example, the WeGym Rally Pro X3 Resistance Bands allow you to dial in specific resistance loads you want to use up to 110 pounds, much in the way of using traditional weights, yet you still have the convenience, portability, and functionality of traditional resistance bands. 

A mini loop resistance band.

Here is an example of an at-home upper-body resistance band workout:

Warm-up: Forward and reverse arm circles and windmills for 60 seconds, followed by trunk twists for 30 seconds.

Complete 2-3 sets of the following upper body exercises at home:

  1. Standing chest press with the resistance band anchored in the door facing away
  2. Standing resistance band rows facing the anchor point in the door
  3. Standing resistance band chest fly (same position as the chest press but perform the fly movement)
  4. Standing resistance band reverse fly
  5. Resistance band biceps curls standing in the center of the band
  6. Resistance band overhead triceps extensions standing in the center of the band 
  7. Resistance band overhead presses standing in the center of the band
  8. Resistance band alternating forward and lateral raises standing in the center of the band
  9. High plank shoulder clocks if you have a small loop resistance band

Follow the same guidelines for strength and hypertrophy goals in terms of the number of reps as described above.

A tricep dip on a bench.

Best No Equipment At Home Upper Body Workout 

If you are trying to do an upper body workout at home without any exercise equipment, you will need to rely on bodyweight upper body exercises and/or make use of weighted objects you have around the house to add resistance.

When you are performing at home bodyweight upper body exercises, it could be more challenging to increase strength and build mass.

External resistance, either in the form of dumbbells, weight machines, resistance bands, or other forms of free weights, help overload the muscles.

Without external resistance, is it still possible to perform upper body workouts at home and increase strength and potentially build muscle, depending on your fitness level, the exercises you choose, and the training volume that you do.

When you are performing a home upper body workout without equipment, you should focus on doing as many reps as possible, ideally performing your sets to failure if your goal is to increase strength and mass.

A person squatting holding a water jug.

This will help maximize the training stimulus for your muscles to support physiological adaptation.

If you are a beginner, it is much easier to make significant improvements in strength and muscle size even when you are doing an upper-body bodyweight workout.

As you get fitter and stronger, start trying to perform each set of each exercise to failure and look around your home for a weighted object that you can use to add resistance.

Good examples include bags of dried beans or rice, milk jugs or water jugs filled up, or a book bag filled with books.

Here is an example of an at-home upper body workout without equipment:

Warm-up: 60 seconds of forward arm circles and 60 seconds of reverse arm circles, gradually increasing the speed and range of motion per rotation.

A burpee.

Then, complete 2-4 rounds of the following exercises, depending on your fitness level:

  1. Burpees (jump squat with a push-up)
  2. Regular push-ups (from your knees if you are a beginner and from your feet if you are intermediate or advanced)
  3. Up-down plank (forearm plank pressing up to push-up position and then back down over and over)
  4. Biceps push-ups (turn your hand in the opposite direction so that your fingers are pointed towards your toes)
  5. Triceps dips off a chair with your legs straight (knees bent for beginners)
  6. High plank with shoulder taps (push-up position, lifting one hand up to tap the opposite shoulder)
  7. Weighted Superman (hold a bag of rice or a heavy book over your head)
  8. Pike position push-ups (downward dog, then do push-ups)
  9. Inverted table rows 
  10. Prone Y’s, T’s, A’s, and W’s with water bottles in your hands

Another great inexpensive piece of exercise equipment for upper body workouts at home is a pull-up bar. 

You can do pull-ups, chin-ups, dead hangs, hanging leg raises for your core, and use the bar as an attachment point for resistance bands for pull-downs and other upper-body exercises.

If you don’t have any equipment but want to work your biceps, check out our guide to the best no-equipment biceps workout here.

An at home upper body workout exercise, the dumbbell chest press.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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