Forget the gym — tone and sculpt your upper body with this 4-move bodyweight routine

a woman performing mountain climbers on an exercise mat
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're looking to tone and strengthen your arms but don't like the idea of lifting weights then you will like the sound of this four move, no equipment, bodyweight workout for the upper body.

Better yet, it comes from popular fitness trainer Kayla Itssines who is known for crafting together efficient and effective home workouts, especially no-equipment routines like this. 

The only thing we do suggest is one of the best yoga mats to add a little protection to your hands, elbows and joints during this floor-based routine. Of course, if you don't have an exercise mat to hand, you could lay down a thick blanket or towel instead.

Want to find out what bodyweight moves are involved in the routine? Stick with us.

What is the four move upper body workout?

There are just four exercises to complete and you will perform 15 reps of each. But don't get too excited when you finish one round as you have another two to go!

Below you can find a list of the exercises involved, video demonstrations from Itsines' Instagram post, and a little on the benefits of this workout.

  1. Push-up - 15 reps
  2. X-plank - 15 reps
  3. Commando - 15 reps
  4. Shoulder Tap - 15 reps

First and foremost, bodyweight training is a great way to strengthen upper-body muscle without weights, and the no-equipment elements means you can complete them anywhere. If you prefer to work out at home or want a routine you can use while traveling and without access to your usual fitness equipment — this workout will come in useful.

Depending on what type of strength training you are used to, such as more traditional weight lifting with the best kettlebells or barbell, or adding resistance to your high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, you may be unsure of what a suitable rep range is for a standard bodyweight workout. 

A rep range of around 15 repetitions is an ideal number, it's not so low that you will feel under challenged but it's also not so high that you should find yourself struggling to reach the final reps. 

That being said, everyone is on their own fitness journey and if you do find this upper body circuit too challenging to complete, be sure to make amendments. You could either reduce the reps or speak to a trainer and learn how to modify the exercises to suit your abilities better.

We always like to emphasize that you aren't ever going to notice results overnight but you can use a routine like this bodyweight one to work toward your bigger exercise goals. 

For example, when you become more comfortable with these upper-body strength moves, then you can consider adjusting the intensity and variation of these exercises. This is a way to progressively overload your muscles to promote muscle growth and increased strength over time. 

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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.