In this post, I’ll talk a bit more about two techniques you can use to build your upper body without lifting weights. I want to preface this post by saying that I am an advocate of training with weights. There is nothing better. But, if you can’t get to a gym or don’t have weights at home, there are still ways that you can improve your physique. So, I wanted to share some techniques that will help you do just that. If you follow these routines for six weeks, you’ll be able to see the results in the mirror.  


I developed a chest routine based primarily around push-ups after an injury prevented me from being able to use most apparatus-based training methods for chest. I used the push-up routine in preparation for the Mr. America contest and it, along with other techniques, was successful in getting me where I wanted to be. From this experience, I learned that push-ups truly are invaluable. So, here are a couple of push-up routines that will be sure to challenge your muscles.

Push-up Variation #1
First, you’ll get into the push-up position with your hands positioned just outside your shoulders. Do one controlled push-up using perfect form. You want to go slow enough so that you feel what you’re working. Then, stand straight up. Go back down into push-up position and do two perfect push-ups. Then, stand straight up. Continue this process while increasing the number of push-up reps you do by one with each set. Continue until you are doing at least 10 or more push-ups and go until you start losing reps in the process. This routine is based on one that Marines did many years ago. This drill is a fun way to challenge yourself and add variety to your workout. You won’t be able to do as many as you think you can.

Push-up Variation #2
For more advanced trainees, try this push-up variation. First, you’ll do as many push-ups as you can do on your first set. Rest for a couple of minutes. Then for the second set, try to repeat the number of push-ups you did in the first set. If you can’t quite get the same number of reps as you did in the first set, it is ok.

Be sure to record your reps for each set so you can track your improvement over time.

Just record the number of reps you were able to perform in each set. Continue this process for about five more sets. Be sure to make note of the number of reps performed in each set. You’re always trying to repeat the number of reps you performed in the preceding set. A day or two later, you’ll do the routine again. This time, you’re trying to exceed the number of reps you performed in each set from the previous day’s workout.

For either of these push-up variations, perform the routine twice per week. Cycle through these exercises just like you would exercises for any body part. In other words, you don’t want to perform these exercises on two consecutive days. You’ll want to allow for a day of rest in between.

Shoulders, Back, & Arms

To develop shoulders, back, and arms, you’ll need to do chins or pull-ups.

You can improvise a chin/pull-up bar if you don't have one. Be creative.

Remember, you can always improvise a chin/pull-up bar. One of the best places to look is at playground at a local park or school. You can use monkey bars, swing sets, and other equipment to do your chins/pull-ups.

Chins are performed with an underhand grip, whereas pull-ups have an overhand grip with palms facing away. If you want to work mainly arms on a given day, do all chins. If you’re trying to stress back and shoulders on a given day, do all pull-ups.

Chins/Pull-ups Routine
Chins/pull-ups are more difficult than push-ups, but you’ll still want to set rep standards with the following routine just as you did with the push-up routines outlined above. On the first set, do as many chins/pull-ups as you can. Rest for a couple of minutes. Then, try to repeat the number of reps on the second set. Repeat this process through the next 4-5 sets. Losing reps is no sin in this routine. The key is to keep a written record of how many reps you’re able to perform in each set. This provides a measure of comparison over time so you can work to improve.

Cycle this routine into your workout schedule allowing for rest in between days where you work the same body part. Again, you can use chins for an arm day and pull-ups for a back/shoulder day. 


If you do these two movements, push-ups and chins/pull-ups, with no missed days for six weeks, you will definitely see results in the mirror and feel it in your clothes. The uphill sprints and lunges detailed in previous posts will take care of your lower body development if you push it.

If you have drive and ambition, the rewards will be there.

I’d love to hear any questions/comments you have about these or any of the other routines I’ve posted on the blog. Next time, I’ll talk more about recommendations for waist work.

Until next time, keep training hard.