How To Build Upper Body Functional Strength Using Your Bodyweight
Using your own bodyweight when training for surf or snow sports is one of the best ways to build functional strength. Sure dumbbells and resistance bands have their place, but if you can’t handle your own bodyweight then you need to focus on those exercises until you can.
In part 1 of this series I revealed my favourite bodyweight exercise for the lower body and showed you some different progressions for that exercise. If you missed what it was, you can check out Part 1 here.
In Part 2a, I am going to show you what I believe is one of the best bodyweight exercises for the upper body…
What Is The Best Upper Body Exercise Using Your Own Bodyweight?
In my opinion there are 2 great upper body exercises you should be doing (the other one I will discuss in part 2b) and the first of those is Pull-ups.
Pull-ups are great because they will help you build a really strong back and arms which is always an asset, especially for surfers where paddling strength is important.
There are lots of different versions of pull-ups you can do, from easy to hard, so don’t worry if you can do many to start with, I can show you some different variations to get you up to speed.
Pull-up grip terminology – There are 3 main grips you can use when doing pull-ups, and I encourage you to try them all out. I think the easiest is neutral grip where your palms face towards each other (although if you just have a straight bar you won’t be able to do this unless you have some parallel bars on your chin-up bar).
Then you have palms facing towards you (traditional chin-up position) and finally palms facing away from you (what I would call a pull-up).
Leg Assisted Suspension Pull-ups
To do this version you will need either a suspension trainer or a towel hooked over the bar. This makes it easier because you can use your legs to help pull yourself up to the bar.
Leg Assisted Suspension Pull-up
Leg Assisted Towel Pull-up
Band Assisted Pull-ups
With band assisted pull-up you loop the band over the bar and then hook your feet or legs in so it can take some of your weight. This makes it easier to perform the exercise. The stronger the band, the easier the pull-up will be.
These are your traditional pull-ups, the ones you have most likely tried before. There are 4 main versions to try…
- Chin-ups – Hands shoulder width apart and palms facing towards you
- Neutral Grip Pull-up – Palms facing towards each other
- Pull-ups - Hands shoulder width apart and palms facing away from you
- Wide Grip Pull-ups – Hands wider than shoulder width apart and palms facing away from you
If you can do more than 10 pull-ups for any of the intermediate versions, then you can have a go at the advanced variations…
- Side to Side Pull-ups – Pull you chest up to one side, lower back down and then pull up to the other side.
- Towel Pull-ups – Loop a towel over the bar and hold one hand on the towel and the other on the bar. Also great for improving your grip strength.
- Weighted Pull-ups – Add some weight to your pull-up either by holding a dumbbell/medicine ball between your legs, or wearing a weight belt or weight vest.
- Don’t just try and get your chin over the bar, actually try and pull your chest up to the bar to really activate your back muscles.
- Lower your body down till your arms are straight each rep– no cheating.
Your Plan To Build Total Body Functional Strength
If you want to get a professionally designed training plan to help you move and perform better in the surf or snow, download one of our step-by-step functional training plans below and see the difference for yourself (all programs come with a 60 day money back guarantee, so if it doesn’t work for you, you can get a full refund – there is nothing to lose!) …
Surfing Workouts - Total Surfing Fitness
Snowboarding Workouts - Total Snowboarding Fitness
Ski Workouts - Total Skiing Fitness
Windsurfing Workouts - Total Windsurfing Fitness
Advanced Workouts - Surf ‘n’ Snow Fitness High Performance Club