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7 Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises For Core Strength

7 Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises For Core Strength

Written by
October 25, 2016
Updated January 29, 2019

Critics of bodyweight style training, often remark that it isn’t the best mode of exercise for strength gains.  You can only progress with repetitions. and it eventually becomes an endurance exercise…They Say.

This could be true of basics such as the push-up or squat, but there is a wide variety of modifications and leverage adjustments that can be made to change the difficulty of most bodyweight exercises.

This is especially true when you understand how to use combinations of movements and also how to adjust from using one training tool to another with the same exercise.

In this post, I’ll share with you a variety of exercises, along with a workout plan, that will improve your strength, balance, and overall body control with just the use of your bodyweight, a level floor, a suspension trainer and the parallettes.

If you haven’t seen parallettes (otherwise known as p-bars) before, they are similar to the parallel bars in gymnastics, but closer to the floor and much more portable.

By raising you up off the floor a few inches, they allow you to do a variety of bodyweight exercises for more repetitions than you could do directly on the floor.

And it’s this fact, that we will be using to illustrate how to combine these two modalities to increase your strength and bodyweight control.

I’ll be demonstrating upper body and core focused exercises that can either be added to your current routine, or when combined, can be done as a standalone workout.

Some Programming Considerations for Parallettes and Floor Exercises

As I mentioned before, the movements I’ll demonstrate will be more difficult on the floor. This is because the parallettes give you more clearance and your hips and legs can drop below the level of your hands.

This obviously can’t be done on the floor, as your movement would stop. So to do these right on the floor, you’ll have to push and lift your body higher to keep it above your hands the entire time.

In these series of exercises, we’ll be taking advantage of that fact by performing them on the floor first for 1-2 repetitions, then resting a minute, then doing as many repetitions as possible on the parallettes. You’ll then rest for another 2-3 minutes, and repeat the circuit for 3-5 sets.

If you are having a hard time with the floor version, set a timer for a minute and make as many attempts as you can, then rest a minute and move on to parallettes. Continue as per the protocol above.

Below, I’ll describe two exercise combinations. The first emphasizes bent arm exercises, and the second emphasizes straight arm exercises. Both combinations demonstrate how to perform each of these exercises on the floor and on the parallettes.

Parallettes and Floor Skill Fusion #1 – Bent Arm Strength

In the following video, I’ll demonstrate each of the exercises we’ll cover below.


Bent Arm Exercise #1 – Arm Levers

Here I demonstrate single and double arm levers, in which you support your body on your upper arms. Keep your elbows tucked in close for support and squeeze your butt and legs strongly to keep tight and assist your balancing.

I start with a single elbow lever on one side, switch over to the other, and then end in the double arm. A two to three second hold is good and shows you have control in the position. You can hold longer as you get better, but work on making the transitions smooth right from the start.

Bent Arm Exercise #2 – Floating Crane Push-Ups

The crane is a yoga pose where you lift your knees up towards your chest, balancing on straight arms. I’ve turned it into a dynamic exercise where you start with bent elbows and straighten up into the crane. This is somewhat like regular push-ups, but here, you take your lower body up with you. It’s a great core builder.

Bent Arm Exercise #3 – L-Sit to Bent Arm Stand

The L-sit is a standard bodyweight move that we’ll put in motion, lifting our hips back and up into the bent arm stand.

Keep your elbows in tight and just as in the Floating Crane Push-Ups, you’ll be using your core strongly. This combination move from straight to bent arms is great for developing body control.

Bent Arm Exercise #4 – Bent Arm Press to Handstand

This exercise now takes you from bent arms to straight arms into the handstand. It’s not an easy move by any means!

The important cues here are to keep your elbows in tight and maintain the vertical alignment of your shoulders directly over your hands.

Parallettes and Floor Skill Fusion #2 – Straight Arm Strength

In this next video, I’ll show you exercises that emphasize more of the straight arm strength that is a staple of gymnastic style training.


Straight Arm Exercise #1 – Tuck to Straddle Planche Repeats

Starting off in a tuck hold, bring your knees back and straighten into the straddle planche for a second, then return to the tuck and repeat. The key here is keeping your elbows locked the entire time.

You could do this exercise with bent arms, but it’d be an entirely different move.

Straight Arm Exercise #2 – Straddle Press Repeats

Here, we’ll do a straddle press to handstand, but instead of stopping in the handstand, bring your legs back down to lightly touch to the level of your hands and then lift back up again. Emphasize a slower negative to develop control.

You’ll want to have a solid handstand before attempting this exercise.

Straight Arm Exercise #3 – V-Sit to Handstand

The V-sit is more difficult than an L-Sit, requiring more abdominal and hip flexor strength to get the position. That core will be worked even more as you lift back and up into the handstand.

Modifying Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises with Suspension Training

In this post I’ve shared some of my favorite exercises for upper body and core strength development, using the parallettes and the floor.

These certainly aren’t beginners’ movements, but are meant for those of you that have been working hard on your strength, and are ready for a new challenge for your bodyweight movements.

If you are new to fitness and want to control the difficulty of bodyweight training, it would be a good idea to consider gym rings or some type of suspension system.

Any beginner can rapidly enhance their bodyweight training performance with s using hundreds of drills; even so, the people who may benefit the most are those new to training all together.

Suspension training uses gravity and your bodyweight to give you hundreds of exercises that can enhance your strength, conditioning, and agility like no other tool available.

Perform hundreds of calisthenic-based movements in a variety of ways to increase your ability to move in new, dynamic ways.

Suspension Training exercises can be broken down into three types: Double Ring Drills, Single Ring Drills, and Hanging Rope Drills.

Each type has tons of different exercises that can be performed to specifically target the upper body, lower body, and core, as well as full-body dynamic movements as well and the Onnit Academy will be releasing hundreds of exercises and routines in their database.

Liked this post? Find more free step-by-step tutorials, in addition to our complete programs, at Visit our site for more information on how to use bodyweight skill exercise to improve your strength, flexibility, and body control.

Ryan Hurst is the Program Director for GMB Fitness, with over 20 years of experience in strength and movement coaching. He holds black belts in Kendo, Judo, and Shorinji Kempo, and he practiced for 10 years as a competitive gymnast. These days, Ryan spends most of his time playing with his kids and helping others move better.
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