This 10-minute upper body workout can be done at home, at your local park, or at the gym. Your choice. The workout is super simple and requires minimal space and equipment – just your body weight, a resistance band, and a kettlebell.
The five exercises that comprise this workout are a mix of functional and explosive movements. So, as well as targeting your upper body, this workout will also fire up your metabolism and get your pulse rate going.
You might be wondering how a short duration training session can confer so many benefits. Is it possible to get a good workout in just 10-minutes? The answer to that question is Yes. Even short workouts can improve your health and fitness. They can also burn fat, build muscles and improve fitness levels.
However, there’s a catch. And that is, if the workout is short, it should be high intensity. Exercising at high intensities has been shown to be an effective training method. In fact, it’s been argued that high-intensity training is in some ways more beneficial than long, steady state workouts.
So, though this workout only takes 10-minutes to complete, you will be working at maximum intensity throughout. By maintaining a high intense work rate, you will ignite your metabolism while encouraging the body to burn fat.
And because it’s such a short duration workout you’ll easily be able to find time to fit it into your day; either before breakfast, over lunch, or before you settle in front of the TV for the night. But if you have time or a bit more juice in the tank, you could throw in another round or two turning it into a 20-minute or even 30-minute workout.
How it works
We’ve established that this is a high-intensity 10-minute upper body workout. Okay, so after a progressive pre-workout warm-up, you are to complete the five 2-minute AMRAPs below. Starting at the first exercise, press-ups, set a 2-minute countdown on your training timer and try to perform as many repetitions as possible. The moment the buzzer sounds jot down your score and move on to the next exercise. Repeat until you have a score for all five exercises.
Methods of modification
With all our workouts, circuits, and training sessions, the exercises are not immutable – that is, you can change them to suit your preferences or equipment availability. If you’re feeling on physical form, and you’d like to challenge yourself, there’s always the option of throwing on a weighted vest, including a plyo element to some of the exercises, or extending the time of each AMRAP.
Also, if you’ve got access to the kit and want to add extra resistance to this workout, you could change the press-ups for the bench press. This minor modification will help build greater strength in the chest muscles.
The same could be said for the resistance band shoulder raises. If you don’t have a resistance band you could instead use dumbbells or a kettlebell.
10-Minute Home Upper Body Workout
Probably the best upper body exercise in existence, the press-up develops arm, shoulder, chest, abdominal and lower back strength. In addition, this multifaceted exercise also (isometrically) works the hip flexors and quadriceps.
Kneel on a soft training mat.
Position your hands in line with your chest and a little over-should-width apart.
When you're ready to start, raise your knees off the mat and, with your feet together, lower under control.
At a minimum aim to lower until a 90ᵒ angle forms at your elbow.
To increase the intensity of the press-up, try and touch your nose on the mat.
2: Resistance band bent-over rows
Bent-over rows are unrivalled for developing upper back strength. But they also help build a strong lower back, as it is these muscles that fix you in position during the exercise, and powerful arms.
Position your feet shoulder-width apart and evenly over a double fold of the resistance band. There should be two loops protruding from the sides of your feet.
Keeping your back straight bend down and grasp those loops.
Position yourself in the bent-over row positions and begin pulling.
Try to pull the resistance band up until your hands are level with your torso – so a deep rep.
Repeat continuously for 2-minutes.
3: Resistance band shoulder raises
This exercise works the medial head of the shoulders, including the upper chest, muscles of the arm, trapezius, and lats.
Position your feet shoulder-width apart and on a resistance band. The band should not be doubled over; instead, stand on a single strip so that there is plenty of slack.
Grasp the band and organise your hands so that they are evenly spaced.
Under control and keeping a slight ‘kink’ at the elbow raise your hands to your front. Instantly you should feel an intense burn in the shoulders.
Lower under control and then repeat for 2-minutes (if you can!).
4: Kettlebell high pulls
The kettlebell high pull is a functional exercise that develops strong shoulders and trapezius muscles. Furthermore, this simple exercise can be modified into a whole-body movement: simply break through the upper body mould and get the legs involved by performing a squat before initiating the pull.
Place the kettlebell below your centre of mass – you should be standing over it. Keeping the back straight squat down and hold it between your legs.
Taking a dip at the knee swing the kettlebell back and thrust it forward with the muscles of the glutes and pelvic griddle.
Now, this exercise is probably sounding very much like a kettlebell swing. However, the difference with the high pull is that you are to pull the kettlebell up to your chin. The kettlebell should remain close to your body – like a barbell vertical lift.
Much like the press-up, just without the pressing bit, the plank isometrically works almost all the muscles of the upper body. Yes, planking is primarily a core/abdominal/transverse abdominus exercise, it also targets the triceps, shoulders, chest, hip flexors, and quadriceps.
Kneel on a soft training mat.
Position your elbows directly under your shoulders. For balance, point your elbows out a touch so that you form a pyramid (your arms being the base and your feet forming the point).
When you’re ready to initiate the plank raise your knees off the mat and hold.
Try and maintain the plank position for a full 120-seconds.
Building upper body strength at home frequently asked questions
FAQ: How can I build upper body strength at home?
Answer: There are tons of ways you can build upper body strength at home. A workout like this one is a good place to start. Bodyweight, or calisthenics, exercises are a free and easy way to build upper body strength.
There’s also the option of purchasing a kettlebell or a dumbbell set. These items of training equipment of relatively cheap but they allow you to perform a staggeringly wide range of exercises. And they are great to include in HIIT, AMRAP, and/or EMOM workouts.
FAQ: Can you build upper body without weights?
Answer: Some people think you can’t build upper body strength with bodyweight exercises alone. That, to build strength you need a fancy gym and loads of weight training equipment. And perhaps a bucket of protein powder and a course of steroids. But this is obviously not true. Think of how immensely strong gymnasts are. I’d go so far as to say that gymnasts are pound for pound some of the strongest athletes. Yet their training is comprised almost entirely of bodyweight exercises. How many bodybuilders could hold a crucifix?
Enjoyed this upper body home workout? Has it left you hungry for more? Click on the image below and get your copy of the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits Vol. 1.
Circuit training is one of the best forms of physical exercise for maintaining and increasing overall-fitness. A well designed circuit will provide a great cardiovascular workout, strengthening the heart and lungs in the process, whilst also improving muscle endurance and developing functional strength. This unique combination, of fat burning and muscle building, which singular exercises, such as running, cycling, swimming or weights cannot give, will help to sculpt a lean defined physique.
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.