Bodyweight Exercise

The Best Bodyweight Upper Body Exercise Ever? You Decide…

Written by Tyler Bramlett

It was tough for me to decide what I really thought was the best upper body exercise ever…

In order to choose I first wrote down what I wanted it to do and I came up with 5 things. For it to be the best ever it had to meet the following criteria:

  1. It must require ZERO equipment and you should be able to do it anywhere
  2. It must be difficult enough that you can build strength with it, not just endurance
  3. It’s gotta work every muscle in your whole upper body
  4. There must be a simple progression that you can use to learn it
  5. Although difficult, it should be attainable by the average person, man or woman

When looking at this list, many exercises come to mind. Pullups came to mind, but they required equipment and progressions can be tricky. Pushups or maybe even One Arm Pushups could work but there’s too big of a gap there.

So… What one exercise could fit all of these criteria?

After thinking about it, the only exercise that could easily meet the criteria I laid out was the Handstand Pushup. It’s a ZERO equipment, challenging exercise that works every muscle in your upper body, and it’s one that anyone can do.

AND… I’m gonna teach you the fastest, easiest and safest progression that you can use to learn it.

The rest of this article is laid out in 2 steps: the first will teach you how to get into the start position, and the second will teach you what I call the ROM progression.

Let’s dig in…

STEP 1 – Get Into The Start Position

The first thing you need to do is learn how to get into a headstand with your back facing the wall. If this is your first time, get someone to help make sure you get into the right position.


To perform the wall headstand place your head about 3 inches away from the wall and your hands about 3 to 5 inches in front of your head. You can use a pillow under your head if need be and assume the kick up position as outlined in the picture below.

From there, kick up against the wall with one leg, hard enough that you can achieve the inverted position.

Make sure you press your hands into the ground the whole time in order to take pressure off of your neck. Work on kicking into and out of the wall headstand position several times.

Once you’ve mastered this, move onto step 2.

STEP 2 – Use The ROM Progression
The Phonebook Trick

The progression technique I’m about to teach you is by far the fastest and safest way to go from a basic headstand to the full handstand pushup.

All you need is a wall and a stack of books (I grab some free phone books from the  supermarket).

Place your stack of phone books on the ground next to the wall In the spot where you will be kicking up.

The stack should be big enough that if you kicked up to a headstand with your head on stack instead of the ground, your arms would only be slightly bent.

Once you have the right amount of books, place your head on the pile of phone books and proceed to kick up (make sure you kick a little harder this time) just like you did before.

In this position, press into the ground and lock out your arms into a handstand position. The range of motion should only be about 1 inch which makes it very simple to lock out your arms in the handstand.

From there bring your head back to the books and repeat for up to 10 reps.

If you’re able to do all 10 reps, then remove one phone book and work your way down until you cannot complete 10 reps.

The height you got to is the height you should be working with on this exercise.

From there, to make progress all you have to do is use this ROM technique 2-3 days per week removing the one book every workout that you can complete 3 sets of 10 reps.

Once you get down to the last 6 inches, you can lower the reps to 2 sets of 5.

Here’s a few pics so you can see what it would look like over the course of a dozen or so workouts…


The Handstand Pushup in my opinion is the greatest upper body exercise in the world!


About the author

Tyler Bramlett


  • Well, I am a 60 yr. young man, weight 300 lbs, ‘boarderline diabetic’, addicted to lazyness, sugar, and bad eating habits? Desperate for change, though intestinal fortitude or mental attitude seem to drive in different directions. I guess I burned out my disapline in the Marine Corps (1971-1975). I need help, please? I rebel to intimidation, and love your encouragement for working out, without thinking my weight is in my ‘fat wallet’. I am only trying to maintaining walking to keep my doctor from doing a gastric bypass – though even that seems too stressful. I have a desk job that is very tough and challenging – but I gotta get away from this computer and work my physical self. You all keep up the great work and thanks for all the great encouragement and support!!

    • Wow James, that’s some story. Unfortunately, you’ll have to really dig in to make this changes. As a binging addict I can relate to your problems. Drinking myself stupid on weekends with friends is kind of a hobby of mine.
      But, silver lining. This can change. You’ll probably could get a lot done if you start planning your meals ahead, focusing on proteins and healty fats (yes, bacon is encouraged) and reducing your carbs. Eating less altogether this way is easy.
      Keep the walking, maybe up the pace and time yourself for distances. Start strength working as well, it’ll get you a shitload better and a lot faster (bodyweight progressions will help a lot).
      Good luck in your journey!

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