10 Best Upper Body Cardio Exercises Without Weights

There are many ways you can get an excellent upper body cardio exercise without the need for any weights or gym equipment and still get in your cardio. Upper body cardio exercises can be performed as a quick warmup, on their own mixed into your current workout routine, or you can create a sequence of multiple exercises for a total upper body cardio blast.

Below, we look at multiple effective exercises that you can perform during a home workout or outside to improve your upper arm strength and cardio:



Throwing shadow punches is excellent for warming up the body and the arms. You don’t need any previous boxing experience; just act as though you are punching something in front of you.

This is an easy upper body cardio workout that is a good exercise whether you are punching slow or fast. To increase your heart rate, start punching faster and maintain this constant movement for five or more minutes.

Arm Circles

Arm Circles

Arm circles are easy and straightforward. Either sitting or standing, extend your arms out wide to either side of your body so they are parallel to the floor and at shoulder height. Then start to draw circles in the air with your arms.

This upper body workout does not require any lower body mobility. You can adjust the size of the rotation- making larger and larger circles, as well as the speed of the exercise. Rotate your arms 20 times in one direction, then 20 in the opposite direction, and repeat.

Overhead Clap

Another simple way to get an upper-body cardio exercise is by doing overhead reaches and claps. This workout can also be performed standing or sitting up in a nice comfortable tall seat.

With your arms to either side of your body, slowly and with control, raise your arms above your head until your palms meet. Then, back down on either side of your body and continue. You want to make sure you are making purposeful and controlled arm movements so that your muscles are working. Do not use gravity to swing your arms; you just won’t get the upper body workout you need.

Tricep Push Backs

dumbbell triceps kickback girl workout exercise at gym

This is an upper-body exercise that works the back of your arm or your triceps. This is another upper body movement that is meant to be performed slow and controlled.

With your legs firmly planted, stand up with your body slightly bent over. Starting with your upper arms in line with your body and your elbows tucked in, slowly straighten your arm while your elbows remain still and your forearms heading straight up behind you. Continue to bend at the elbow and lower your forearms back down.

This is a push exercise where your arm muscles are strengthened by the push motion of your tricep muscle. This arm exercise can be repeated 20 to 30 times.

Bicep Curls

Bicep Curls

The simple bicep curl exercise can also be done without weights. For this upper body workout, it is best to be standing with your weight evenly distributed. Bicep curls are a pull movement exercise, so the muscle is worked out by slowly pulling up your upper arm toward your shoulder.

Bicep curls can be easily done with bodyweight or with any heavy object. You can do single-arm bicep curls while applying pressure with your opposite hand for added resistance. Similarly, you can grab a water jug in your hands and perform the same curling motion. This upper-body movement can be done one arm at a time or simultaneously.

Tricep Dips

Tricep Dips

Another tricep strengthening exercise is the tricep dip. Sitting on the ground with your legs out in front of you and your feet flat on the floor, you will place both hands behind you with your fingers facing forward.

You may also choose to have your hands slightly elevated for more intensity. Once you are in this crab-like position, you will lift your hips off the ground and then bend and straighten your elbows.

If you find dips off a bench or step too easy, you can could always try ring dips or dips from a dip station.

For bench dips we suggest dipping 20 to 30 times in a row and repeating this up to 3 times through for a great upper arm burn.



The classic push-up is a perfect upper body cardio exercise. There are multiple different variations of push-ups as well, but we will start with the basics.

Begin in a plank position, with your hands on the ground or elevated if you want less pressure on your shoulders. Your hands should be your body width apart and in line with your shoulders. Then under control, you will lower your body towards the floor, bending your elbows and then straightening them back up.

Push-ups can be performed slowly or more quickly; however, you need to remember to do them properly if you want an effective workout. Push-ups can be an excellent high-intensity cardio exercise to strengthen your upper body.

High to Low Plank

A plank exercise will work your abdominal muscles, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. Try moving from a high plank to a low plank for an added upper arm cardio burst.

Start in a high plank with your arms shoulder-width apart and one arm at a time move down onto each elbow. Then again, starting with one arm, press back up to straight arms. Repeat this movement 20 to 30 times, increasing in speed.

Walk Outs


Another upper bodyweight exercise is a walkout, in which you start by standing and slowly walk your hands out in front of your body until you are in a plank position. You would then walk your hands back in towards your feet and repeat.

This exercise works for multiple muscle groups and is excellent cardio to get your heart rate going.

Plank Rows

man training dumbbells plank row exercise lifting dumbbell weights

A moving plank position is a great way to strengthen your upper body and sneak in some cardio. Once you are in your plank position, you want to lift one arm at a time, bending at the elbow without moving your hips – alternate rowing each arm upwards 20 times and repeat if you want a longer workout.