Get powerful with pull-ups.
Pullups, pushups and dips work all the major upper body muscles, and a workout program based solely on these exercises can help you gain muscle and impressive upper body power. If you're looking for a muscular back, bulging biceps and trained tris, a workout combining compound upper body exercises can help.
Warm it Up
Before you start any intense activity, fire up your nervous system and muscles with a thorough warm-up. Increase your core temperature with a short circuit of mountain climbers, pushups and pullups. Stop each exercise before your muscles get fatigued, then move onto the next. Next, do some dynamic stretches such as hip circles, shoulder circles and side bends. Warming up helps activate more muscle fibers, improves muscle performance and reduces the risk of injury.
Coordinate Muscle Groups for Power
Writing for Schwarzenegger.com, strength coach John Romaniello explains that pushups, pullups and dips are closed chain kinetic exercises. Closed chain kinetic exercises involve moving your body toward or away from a fixed object. This necessitates the coordination of several muscle groups, inducing strength and muscle gains, and increasing your ability to generate power.
Crank Out Pushups
Pushups target upper body muscles involved in pushing actions. These include your chest, shoulders and triceps. Depending on your strength and fitness levels, do three to five sets of as many pushups as you can. To increase resistance, place your feet on an elevated surface, or have a training partner place a weight on your back. If you can't do full pushups, relieve some of the pressure on your arms by keeping your knees on the floor. Gradually work toward doing full pushups. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps of knee pushups. Once you can do 20 reps on all three sets, introduce one set of full pushups.
Come to Grips With Dips
Dips like pushups, activate the pushing muscles of your chest, shoulders and triceps. Dips are harder than pushups as you move your body through space balancing your weight solely on your arms. If you find dips difficult, place your feet on a bench beneath the dipping station and gently push off with your feet. Dips place significant stress on your shoulder joints. Reduce this stress by lowering your body only until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Tilt your body forward to accentuate your chest, and keep your body upright to focus on your triceps. Do three to five sets of as many reps as you can. Increase the resistance by attaching a weight to a dipping belt or have a buddy place a dumbbell between your crossed ankles.
Generate Pulling Power
Pullups target the numerous muscles that make up your upper back such as the lats or latissimus dorsi, trapezius and rhomboids, together with your biceps. Many people find pullups difficult. If you do, place a bench under the pullup bar and gently push off with your feet. Alternatively, do neutral-grip pullups using parallel bars or a D-attachment. These are easier than the traditional wide-grip pullup. To focus on your biceps, do reverse-grip pullups or chins. Do three to five sets of six to 15 reps. Increase the resistance by attaching a weight to a dipping belt, or have a training buddy place a dumbbell between your crossed ankles.
Get Up for a Challenge
If you are feeling strong and up for a challenge, ramp up the intensity of your workout with tri-sets. Tri-sets involve three back-to-back exercises with no rest between sets. Doing as many reps as you can of each exercise, do a set of dips, then pull-ups, followed by pushups. Rest for about two minutes, then perform two to four more tri-sets.