Forget weights — it only takes 8 moves to sculpt your upper body and abs

a photo of a man performing a side plank
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bodyweight workouts are great for all abilities and especially helpful when you don't have access to specific fitness equipment or a huge gym. This is something many of us will face over the Christmas period while we travel to see our friends and families. Rather than trying to find some make-do weights in place of your favorite kettlebells, you can get just as good a workout in with this eight-move upper body and abs session.

The beauty of bodyweight workouts is that they often involve working more than one muscle at a time rather than isolating a certain muscle or muscle group.  So you will find you're training more than one part of your body in one workout and engaging in functional movements which are useful for improving balance and strengthening your muscles for everyday activities. You can read more about functional training here.

Now, the one thing we do recommend sourcing before getting stuck into this eight-move routine for your upper body and abs is something to place between you and the floor. I always lay out one of the best yoga mats before completing any bodyweight exercises at home or on the road. If you don't have access to a mat, place a thick blanket down instead to protect your joints as you exercise

What is the bodyweight workout?

The routine comes from fitness trainer, Shaina Fata, and it requires you to complete eight exercises all with a slight twist. Fata is known to get creative with her bodyweight workouts which is great for those who get bored of performing planks and burpees over and over again in a workout. Check out the routine below if you are ready to get a good upper body and abs pump in.

Reverse Table Lift to Crab Toe Touch (20 reps, 3 rounds)

Start seated with hands behind you, fingers pointing towards your feet. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, creating a reverse tabletop. Extend one arm across to touch the opposite toe. Return to the reverse tabletop position and alternate sides.

Diver Push-ups (10 reps, 3 rounds):

Begin in a downward dog position. Lower your chest towards the floor while simultaneously diving forward with your head and chest. Scoop back up to the starting position.

Table Crosskicks to Toe Taps (14 reps, 3 rounds)

Get in a tabletop position with the front of your body facing the ground, hands and feet on the ground and knees hovering. Crosskick one leg to tap the opposite hand to toe. Return to the tabletop position and alternate sides.

Seated Tricep Press to Leg Lift (10 reps, 3 rounds)

Sit with your hands behind you, fingers pointing forward. Push your elbows down to the ground while engaging your core. Raise your body up while maintaining control of your core and then lift both legs toward your head. Repeat for ten repetitions.

Downdog to Knee Tap (10 reps, 3 rounds)

Start in a downward dog position, forming an inverted V with your body. Tap your right knee to your left elbow while keeping your hips high. Return to the downward dog position and alternate sides.

a photo of a woman in the downward dog position

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Child's Pose to Push-up (12 reps, 3 rounds)

Begin in a child's pose with your hands extended on the floor. Transition to a push-up position by sliding forward, keeping your body straight. Perform a push-up and return to the child's pose.

Rotating Forearm to Side Plank (14 reps, 3 rounds):

Start in a plank position with elbows resting on the floor and your forearms placed one in front of the other underneath your chin. Rotate your body to one side, lifting your arm towards the ceiling for a side plank. Return to the forearm plank and rotate to the other side, alternating throughout.

Plank Frog Hops (10 reps, 3 rounds)

Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists. Jump your feet towards your hands, keeping your knees close to your chest. Jump back to the plank position, engaging your core throughout.

What are the benefits?

The wonderful thing about a workout like this upper body and ab one is that you can easily tailor it to your fitness level without having to faff around removing or adding any weight plates or exercise machines. Also, you can make slight modifications to any moves that feel too strenuous for you and then, with practice, perform each exercise as normal. 

Plus, the combination of exercises engages various muscle groups, promoting core stability, upper body strength and improved posture. There is also a good degree of mobility involved in this routine and you will find the more you practice these moves the greater ease you will feel as your body transfers from one position to another. 

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.