You don’t need weights to build upper body muscle and strength, two movement educators told Insider. Gymnasts, who are very muscular but don’t train much with weights, are a prime example, Jay and Steph Rose said. You can challenge yourself from home with a principle called “accommodating resistance.”
Whether your goal is bulging biceps or simply lean arms and a svelte back, many people think using weights like dumbells, kettlebells, and barbells are required for building upper body muscle.
However, it’s possible to build muscle and strength using just your body weight, according to movement educators, Jay and Steph Rose of Phase SiX.
Our upper bodies can be challenged using gravity — think push-ups and inverted rows.
“That’s how gymnasts do it. They stay away from weights and they look jacked,” Jay said.
With the help of some equipment to allow you to recreate “pull” exercises as well as “push” ones, you can sculpt your upper body and build strength.
Use ‘accommodating resistance’
Jay and Steph told Insider “accommodating resistance” can make an exercise equally difficult throughout the whole range of motion to maximize gains. It can be done with your body weight, but bands or chains can be helpful, too.
The “lean forward push-up,” as an example, uses accomodating resistance to build strength and mobility simultaneously.
To do it, start from a high plank position with shoulders over the hands, pushing up through the upper back and shoulder blades, then lean the body as far forward over the hands as you can before lowering the body down. At the bottom, you move the body back again just as far as necessary so you can push back up to the starting position.
Use simple furniture (or people) for pulling movements
Push movements, such as the bench press, can be recreated without equipment by doing exercises like push-ups.
Pull movements, however, can be more challenging to recreate.
In the gym, a common pulling movement would be a bent-over row holding weights in some capacity. If you’re at home without weights, however, you can perform inverted rows using a suspension system like a TRX or even the underside of a secure table, Jay and Steph said.
If you usually perform chin-ups with added weight in the gym, you can up the resistance from your home pull-up bar by asking someone to hold you and try to prevent you from moving.
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