Today I’d like to introduce you to an upper body bodyweight workout that I like to perform from time-to-time.
I’ll openly admit it’s quite intense, although it only involves a handful of exercises, and you’ll be done in no time whatsoever.
However, don’t let the lack of exercises and quick workout time fool you.
You’ll get a serious pump, plus this workout is fantastic for muscle building and conditioning.
WARNING: For Advanced Trainees Only
I will say that the workout is fairly advanced, so you will need to have a good background in training, as well as having high strength and fitness levels.
This is definitely NOT a beginner or an intermediate workout, and I wouldn’t even suggest that you attempt the FULL workout.
You can of course cut down on the rep and set schemes according to your own abilities.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Upper Body Bodyweight Workout
I typically perform this upper body workout in the gym, as it involves a variety of bars that I don’t possess at home.
With that said, the desired “equipment” is available in my local park, and I have often completed this workout out in the fresh air.
Actually, saying that, I also sometimes throw in about three or four 40-metre sprints (after warming my lower body up obviously) at the end, just to get a total body and thorough conditioning pump.
The exercises you’ll use in the workout are centred around pull up, chin up, inverted row, parallel/straight bar dip, and push up variations.
You’ll also be using an assortment of training techniques, sets, and rep schemes, although to save on time and up the conditioning focus of the workout everything is performed in supersets.
You’ll need to warm up the muscles first and I prefer to do this with a mixture of arm swings (forwards, backwards, across the front of the body), as well ultra-slow tempo reps with static holds.
This involves spending around 40 seconds to perform just 1 or 2 push ups and the same for pull ups.
Basically, go through the entire range of motion extremely slowly and hold both the top and bottom position for around 10 seconds each.
Upper Body Bodyweight Workout – Superset One
The first superset simply requires you to perform standard push ups and standard pull ups (palms facing away from you and slightly wider than shoulder width).
This superset involves a descending ladder with both exercises, although as push ups are easier to perform than pull ups, you will be doing more of them.
Perform the following without any rest, as this counts as one set:
- 10 push ups, 5 pull ups
- 8 push ups, 4 pull ups
- 6 push ups, 3 pull ups
- 4 push ups, 2 pull ups
- 2 push ups, 1 pull ups
This is a total of 30 push ups and 15 pull ups and as I say, this is one set.
You are going to perform a total of 3 sets, thus meaning you will have completed 90 push ups and 45 pull ups.
As for rest periods between sets, this will very much depend again on your strength and fitness levels.
I would say for most people, start off with around 90 seconds rest between sets.
However, whenever you perform this workout, in order to up the intensity, rather than adding more reps, sets, or weight, you’ll be lowering the rest periods.
So, in effect this is a type of density training.
I currently perform all 3 sets with 45 seconds rest between each set.
At the end of superset one, grab yourself some water, or a swig of whatever you have in your shaker bottle, and take a good two minutes rest
Pull Up Variations
Superset Two – Dips and Chin Ups
The second superset yet again requires you to perform the most basic form of the given exercise and in a descending ladder format, although with a slightly different rep scheme.
For dips, you should perform these on parallel or straight bars at the standard width.
Luckily my gym has parallel bars that can be flipped over to produce a standard and a wide width. If you don’t have the same type of bar as me, and the parallel dip bars you have access to are static and only have one setting, that’s fine too.
The second superset should be performed non-stop, with as little rest as possible.
If you can make it through the entire set without any rest whatsoever, I bow down in your superior presence, and take it you are part-human, part-machine.
I have the luxury (and I use that term loosely) of dip bars and pull/chin up bars being attached to the same apparatus.
Now this is just one complete superset, but it’s brutal.
The reps for this descending ladder will vary for each person depending on their maximum one-set chin up total (I’m going to assume that you find dips easier than chin ups).
I would suggest starting your ladder at least 3-4 reps below your maximum one-set chin up total.
Realistically, if you can’t perform more than 10 pull ups with strict form (I’m talking arms fully extended at the bottom and ensuring that your chin is above the bar at the top), then you may be better off performing 2 whole supersets, resting for around 60-90 seconds between supersets.
RELATED====>How To Do 10 Pull Ups
Your aim should be to complete each exercise (dips and chins) in alternating fashion with a rep scheme of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 with as little rest as possible.
This will give you a total of 55 reps for both exercises.
With this superset you can progress by adding an additional set at the top of the ladder.
I am currently performing this superset starting with 15 reps of each exercise and working my way down to 1 rep.
This gives me a total of 120 reps of each exercise (I told you, it’s brutal).
I typically find myself completing 15 reps of each exercise, taking about 30 seconds rest, then onto 14 reps of each exercise, again taking 30 seconds rest, and this continues until I get to about 9 reps of each exercise.
I find that I am then on the “home strait” then and the urge to finish this superset kicks in and I start taking less and less rest.
How To Dip
Superset Three – Dips and Inverted Rows
The last two supersets are actually to just finish off the pump, and you’ve completed the majority of the hard work already.
In fact, you are now into the realms of what would be considered “normal” in terms of reps and sets.
I turn the handles over on the parallel dip machine so I can complete wide-grip dips and I use the smith machine to complete my inverted rows.
This superset merely requires you to complete 4 sets of 10 reps of each exercise.
However, swap your grip on the inverted row for each set, so you’ll complete two sets with an overhand grip and two sets with an underhand grip.
You should take 45-60 seconds rest between each superset.
So, you’ll perform 10 wide-grip dips and then immediately perform 10 overhand inverted rows.
Rest 45 seconds and repeat.
Continue until you have completed your 4 sets and then rest for 90-120 seconds.
You will have completed 40 reps of each exercise.
Smith Machine Inverted Row
Superset Four – Decline Push Ups and Hammer-Grip Pull Ups
We’re almost done – the final superset.
This time you’re going to perform this superset in an ascending ladder until you find you can’t perform the required number of hammer-grip pull ups (palms facing each other).
Hammer-grip pull ups are also commonly referred to as neutral-grip pull ups.
Once again, I’m assuming that decline push ups (feet on a raised platform such as a box or a bench) will be easier for you than the hammer-grip pull ups, so you’ll be performing double the amount.
The aim is to get to 10 hammer-grips pull ups and 20 decline push ups, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t make it.
By now, I’m guessing that your forearms, pecs, lats, bi’s, and tri’s will be on fire.
In fact, you may only get to about 3 pull ups before you decide that’s enough.
- 1 pull up, 2 push ups
- 2 pull ups, 4 push ups
- 3 pull ups, 6 push ups
- 4 pull ups, 8 push ups
- 5 pull ups, 10 push ups
- 6 pull ups,12 push ups
- 7 pull ups, 14 push ups
- 8 pull ups, 16 push ups
- 9 pull ups, 18 push ups
- 10 pull ups, 20 push ups
If you make it all the way to the top of the ladder that will add a further 55 pull ups and 110 push ups to add to your total.
That’s it, you’re done.
Curl up in a ball on the floor and cry.
You will also probably also have to get someone to help you to shower and dress you for a day or two, so it’s not all bad.
So, there you have it, my go to upper body bodyweight workout for whenever I’m feeling a little sadistic.
Admittedly, this isn’t a workout that I perform regularly day-in, day-out, but more as a test, although I see no harm in completing the workout once a week (take a rest day the next day).
I will also say that this is a great test of mental strength, as you’ll generally want to call it a day well before the final exercise.
I did warn you it was going to be brutal.
As I’ve mentioned, this workout is definitely not for beginners or intermediate trainees, but it is possible to scale down the reps and sets in order to fit in with your current abilities.
All-in-all, a superb workout using just your bodyweight, and one that will produce some awesome results.
Further Reading====>Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises