No-Equipment Needed Upper Body Pulls

Sometimes gravity is the best form of resistance in your training.

All you need to train is your body. Mastery of that one machine makes the world a playground and almost certainly ensures a life of physical vigor. Bodyweight movement is the best because it is:

  1. Cheap (you need $0 of equipment)
  2. Adaptable (you can do it on a boat, you can do it with a goat)
  3. Safe
  4. The most natural, functional form of training

The majority of our modern health issues stem from abandoning normal human activity and a normal human environment. When we run hills, bear crawl, do push-ups, pull-ups, climb, and use our body weight for exercise, we are replicating the normal human activities that have made us such brilliant physical specimens for most of human existence. Yet, there is often one major problem that comes with bodyweight training. You need some sort of “equipment” to do any sort of pulling action.

The Bodyweight Pull Predicament

We don’t live in a natural environment where pulling ourselves up on trees and rocks or pulling ropes is a daily occurrence. You can drastically increase the number of exercises available to you with something as simple as a pull-up bar, a suspension trainer, bands, or one kettlebell. But, remember, this is an article about ditching equipment. Think of it as physical minimalism. We’re trying to reduce our dependency.

The way bodyweight movement is typically employed is for busy people trying to insert a few movement circuits in throughout their day, use calisthenic training programs, or obtain through group training classes that have limited space and equipment.

There is often no equipment available at all and the tendency is to focus far too much on anterior dominant (front side of the body) exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, mountain climbers, crunches, and V-ups.

These exercises are all great, but they only tend to exacerbate the negative postural trends of modern culture. Think about the position we spend most of our lives in, whether sitting in a car, a desk, or a restaurant booth. You tend to have hip flexors shortened, shoulders rolled forward, and the neck rounded down over a phone, laptop, or meal.

All of these typical bodyweight exercises only contribute to those postures. They pull us forward and in, bring our head closer to our knees. Most strength coaches will audit any program after they write it to make sure pulls are even or greater than pushes in order to counteract the normal living trends.

Some movement is almost always better than no movement, but we are going to be far stronger, more injury resistant, and healthy if we hit the posterior chain (the backside of the body as well). It is simple to do this with the lower body.

Add a few glute bridge variations, some scales and lying abduction work and call it a day. But how do you work upper body pulls without any equipment? Below are a few simple ways.

It doesn’t take much to get a phenomenal workout just in the posterior delt. Gravity tends to do the trick. Keep your shoulders down, chest up, and neck neutral and try these variations of the Y, T, and W for great back exercises that might burn deeply while offering your lungs a rest after a bunch of jump lunges and mountain climbers.

No-Equipment Hinge to Y, T, W, A, and Back

It’s easy to add mild resistance if you’d like.

No-Equipment Lying Back Exercises

Get your body moving in the opposite direction of your normal daily posture by using the following three exercises. All are demonstrated in the video below.

  • Lying Y, T, W, A (Blackburns)
  • Y, W Handcuff
  • Superman

No-Equipment Rows

The rowing motion itself is very important to train, but can be a bit trickier. I like the below two bodyweight row variations. The video demonstrates both row isometric contractions and the reverse push-up crunch.

  • Row Isometric Contractions
  • Reverse Push-Up Crunch

Work These Into Your Day

At the end of the day, you are probably best off if you make it to the park occasionally for some pull-ups. But for the most part, you can accomplish all your pulling needs without any equipment. This makes grabbing exercise anywhere and anytime even more effective and easy to do.

Check out more simple workouts and fun exercises to do when stuck at home.