Upper Body

This page offers a brief overview of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts that can be done at home that focus on the upper body. These workouts are here to inspire you to be active when you are interested and try something new. Therefore you should never feel obligated or pressured to exercise, please listen to what your mind and body are asking of you. We have tried to make each of these workouts accessible and scalable to any level, if you are unsure of a movement please google it as we have not yet had time to make tutorials for all movements. If you have any questions or comments please reach out to us! We would love to hear from you. 

Modifying Movements 

We all have different physical skills, experiences, and previous injuries. Therefore it is imperative that you adapt each movement to fit your needs and desires. You can modify these movements in any way, but we suggest a few possible ways below.
  • Push-ups: To increase the difficulty you can make them clapping push-ups, or vary the position of your hands. At any point if it becomes too difficult to do a push up here is a step wise way to make them easier. 
    • Plank Push-up: Come down in a flat plank till your chest touches the ground, then drop your knees and come up. 
    • Knee Push-up: Drop your knees to the ground, bring your chest to the ground, push up. 
  • Dips: To increase the difficulty put a weight on your lap, to decrease the difficulty move 

Making at Home Weights 

If you do not have weights or stretch bands, here are a few ways to make weights at home. You can fill up any bag (hand bags, backpacks, suitcases) with heavy items (filled water bottles, books, canned food) from around your house. Get creative! If you do have weights or resistance bands, please make sure they are appropriate and safe to use. 


Black Jack

This workout gets its name from everyone’s favorite poker game. Throughout it you will be building sets of 21 with groups of 3 different movements. This workout focuses on burning out a specific muscle group one at a time. You will need one weight that you can do 7 reps of raises with. Make sure you do not go over 21 and bust! 

  • 7 regular push ups, 7 wide push-ups, 7 diamond pushups 
    • You can modify push-ups 
  • 7 regular dips, 7 wide dips, 7 regular dips 
    • You can make dips easier by bringing your legs closer in
  • 7 front raises, 7 side raises, 7 bent raise 
    • You can drop weight if needed 

Repeat 3 times!

Bear’s Play

This workout is inspired by one of our favorite woodland creatures, soft, cuddly, and with an upper body that can run faster than you. For this workout you will not need any weights, but you will need space, about 15 feet. Try to channel your inner bear..

  • Do as many walking push-ups as you can within the space you have (10-15 feet)
  • Bear crawl back to the start 
  • Do 15 dips or 15 handstand push-ups 

Repeat until you feel like a bear 

Delicious Deltoids

Yup, this workout has one focus and one focus only, those deltoids. While there are a number of different movements that work your entire upper body, each one will hit a different part of your deltoids. For this workout you will need one set of weights that you can do for 10 reps with. See the start of this page on how to make weights at home. 

  • 10 front delt raises 
  • 10 decline push-ups 
  • 10 side delt raises 
  • 10 dips (as deep as you can go!)
  • 10 bent raises 
  • 10 upright row 

Repeat for 3 rounds or until you can not feel your shoulders. If too easy, increase your weight! 

Scrub Body

This workout mainly focuses on building biceps, ticepts, and forearms for surgery season. You will need two sets of weights, a heavier set that you can do for 4-8 reps, and a lighter set that you can do for 10-14 reps. For making at home weights see the top of this post. 

  • 8 reps bicep curls, heavier weight 
  • 8 reps overhead tricep extension, heavier weight 
  • 14 reps bicep curls, lighter weight 
  • 14 reps overhead tricep extension, lighter weight 

Repeat counting down by reps of two for 3 rounds. (8-6-4 and 14-12-10) 


This workout will target the larger muscles, chest, back, shoulder, and core. Perform each movement for either until 1 minute has or until you have reached muscle failure. You will need one weight for all exercises, see above for how to make weights. 

  • Push-ups: One round each of Traditional, Diamond, Neutral
  • Single arm rows
  • Shoulder Raise: Forward and Lateral 
  • Dips 
  • Arm circles: One round forward and reverse
  • Regular Plank for
  • Sit ups
  • Flutter Kicks
Push Up Ladder

Just when you think you’ve done all the possible push up variations you can do at home…BAM push up ladder surprise. This one is easily scalable and will get your shoulders, chest, back and arms feeling it by the time you’re done.

The move for the push up ladder goes like this:
-Start with your chest on the ground, legs straight out
-Bring your elbows in close and move up to the plank position
-Then move up into the push up position
-Then move into an elevated push up position (use a coffee table, couch, stack of books etc)
-Do 1 elevated push up
-Make your way back down through each position
That’s 1 rep
Increase difficulty by moving both arms to each position simultaneously (IE ‘jumping’ rather than ‘stepping’).

Warm up with 3 rounds of 20x jumping jacks, 10 sec high knees

The push up ladder movement described above will be abbreviated as “PUL”

  • 3x PUL
  • 1 round of workout
  • 6x PUL
  • 1 round of workout
  • 9x PUL
  • 1 round of workout
  • 6x PUL
  • 1 round of workout
  • 3x PUL

The workout consists of:

  • 20x jumping jacks
  • 15x air squats
  • 10x leg lifts
The Bread Maker

Everyone’s been getting into the cooking mood after spending so much time at home. Making bread has become the new fad that it seems like everyone is doing (me included!). But the more bread I make, the more I realized I’ve been slacking on my kneading muscles. So this workout is designed to strengthen the muscles you ~knead~ to make bread while also burning off some of those extra carbs.

Preheat oven to 450 with jumping jacks until you break into a light sweat then

4 rounds of

  • 10x push ups
  • 15x dips
    • You can use a coffee table or chair for these
  • 20x russian twists
  • 2 min cardio (choose one)
    • Jumping jacks
    • Burpees
    • Sprints (if you have room)

You’ll know you’re done when your triceps are sore and you hear a hollow sound when you tap on your chest.

Atlas Shoulder Shrugs

We’re focusing on the upper body today! You’ll coming out of this feeling like you can carry the world (or maybe once you’re not sore anymore…)

Warm up – shoulder mobility (arm circles, dynamic self-hugs) 3x 15 sec each

4 rounds, 1 minute rest between rounds

  • 10x feet elevated push ups
    • The higher your feet are, the harder it gets!
  • 20x mountain climber
  • 30 seconds weighted arm circles
    • Textbooks, boots, potted plants can all be used for weights
    • A little weight goes a long way here!!

Finisher: handstand holds (feet against the wall)

  • Beginner – 3x 15 seconds
  • Intermediate – 2x 30 seconds
  • Advanced – 2x 60 seconds
Chris Lites
Chris is a second year medical student at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. After graduating from Columbia University in 2016 with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior he worked in consulting and then managed a private practice for a cardiologist. Currently obsessed with boxing, calisthenics and functional strength training, Chris has always been a fitness fanatic. Since becoming a NASM certified personal trainer in 2018 he has been committed to promoting exercise and general wellness within each of his communities.
Jacob Klickstein
Jacob is a 4th year MD/PhD student at Tufts University School of Medicine working on his PhD in neuroscience. He currently works to create motor neurons from human stem cells, but when he isn’t in the lab, he can be found running down the esplanade, practicing handstands or tending to his indoor forest. Before joining Tufts, he worked as a clinical research assistant creating and maintaining a patient tissue bank for Alzheimer’s disease research. While at MGH, he helped establish the MGH running club and ran the 2017 Boston marathon. He continues his obsession with running as the leader of the TUSM running club and now as the COO at Medicine in Motion.
Amanda Cao
Amanda is a 2nd year student at Harvard Medical School. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri before attending college at MIT, where she graduated in 2019 with a degree in Biology. Amanda has always enjoyed playing sports and keeping active, and her favorite forms of exercise include swimming and boxing. Amanda is excited to work with Medicine in Motion to combine her interest in physical activity with her passion for building community within her profession.
Michael Duggan
Mike is a second year medical student at the University of Queensland-Ochsner Clinical School in Brisbane, Australia. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2016 with a BS in Biology, he worked as a clinical research coordinator on childhood obesity focused research projects at Massachusetts General Hospital. His biggest fitness accomplishments to date are running the Boston Marathon and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. He is looking forward towards utilizing fitness to create and develop a sense of community among medical students.
Shani Aharon
Shani Aharon is a 4th year medical student at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. She considers herself adventurous, and would try any sport once: she grew up figure skating, rowed crew in college, played ultimate frisbee while working, and now runs in her free time in medical school. Having a few years of work-life balance as a healthcare consultant prior to medical school, Shani is passionate about maintaining mind-body wellness and helping do the same. She’s excited to put her past experience to good use as the CFO of Medicine in Motion.
Logan Briggs
Logan Briggs is a 4th year Harvard Medical Student. He swam for, and captained, the Dartmouth swim team and graduated in 2016. During a gap year before medical school, he worked as a wilderness guide in Tanzania and biked across the US to raise money for medical service work that he later performed in Nepal. Having been a lifelong swimmer, transitioned to triathlete, Logan strongly believes that regular exercise and social connection is the key to balance and happiness. He helped found Medicine in Motion to extend those benefits to others.
Chase Marso
Chase is a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical school and co-founder of Medicine in Motion. A former Augustana University quarterback and basketball coach in his hometown of Brandon, SD, he has always had a passion for physical fitness and a desire to encourage others in athletic achievement. Chase sees Medicine in Motion’s mission of inspiring others towards their physical fitness goals while promoting philanthropy as Medicine in Motion’s most unique and worthwhile endeavor.
Cray Noah
Cray is an engineer and doctor-in-training dedicated to innovating ways to increase access to preventative medicine and health technology. As a fourth-year student in Harvard’s MD/MBA program, he brings experience working at the nexus of biomedicine and business in the medical device startup space during his time at Georgia Tech and now in Boston. While passionate about innovative biotechnology, Cray believes creating community through exercise and fitness is the best form of preventative medicine to date and is dedicated to furthering that mission through Medicine in Motion. A native Texan, Cray has transitioned from football to triathlons, tennis and sailing since moving northeast.
Michael Seward
Mike is a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School (HMS) where he co-founded Medicine in Motion in 2017 with Chase, Logan, and Derek. As a varsity ice hockey player at Harvard College, he became interested in nutrition and for his senior thesis implemented a traffic-light food labeling study in the college dining halls to encourage healthy eating choices. After graduating, he worked for two years in clinical research at an Obesity Prevention Program at HMS and worked at the Hospital for Special Surgery where he saw the alarming rise in knee replacements mirror national trends in obesity. This sparked his interest in the intersection of orthopaedic surgery, nutrition, and fitness, and his medical school thesis investigates a pre-operative remote weight loss intervention and mobile app for patients anticipating total joint replacement surgery.
Derek Soled
Derek is a fourth-year MD/MBA candidate at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School. He serves as the student council co-president at the medical school. Derek graduated from Yale University in 2016 as a double major in biology and sociology and was the captain of the Yale fencing team. He then pursued a MSc in medical anthropology from the University of Oxford where he set an all-time record in the pole vault. A recipient of the Walter Byers Scholarship, an honor bestowed by the NCAA to the country's best overall male and female student-athlete each year, and a current member of Team USA for fencing, Derek is passionate about sport and continues to compete at a professional level as well as coach low-income children in Boston. As a first-year medical student, Derek co-founded Medicine in Motion.
Avik Chatterjee, MD, MPH
Cross-Fit Extraordinaire
Frank McGovern, MD
Collegiate Swimmer, Triathlete
Noelle Saillant, MD
Runner, Cyclist
Dana Stearns, MD
Professional Cyclist
Jennifer Tan, MD
Bootcamp, Cyclist
Grant Riew
Grant is a first year medical student at Harvard Medical School. He graduated from Harvard College in 2019 with a degree in Human Evolutionary Biology and Economics. He is interested in the effects of modern environments (low activity, lots of sitting, and lots of calories!) on human health and disease and has previously researched the effects of exercise on joint health. Grant is now excited to be involved in MiM research and and can’t wait to get active with others to promote healthy lifestyles. In his spare time, Grant enjoys hanging with friends, going on long walks, and playing the cello.
Sara Rubin
Sara is a 6th year MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School and is currently in her 4th year of the Immunology PhD Program studying blood cell development in zebrafish. After graduating from Princeton University in 2014 with a degree in Chemistry, she spent one year conducting research that the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. In addition to her passion for medicine and science, Sara is an avid athlete who over the years has participated and competed in many different sports including gymnastics, softball, tennis, and pole vaulting. She was introduced to CrossFit and weightlifting in 2014 and hasn’t looked back since, always looking for opportunities to train and compete with friends and to share her love and knowledge of the sport of fitness with others. She is eager to bring her passion for fitness and community building to Medicine in Motion.
Jenny Sullivan
Jenny is a second-year medical student at UMass Medical School. She received her undergraduate degree in Global Health at Georgetown University in 2018, where she was also a diver on the Swim and Dive team for four years. Jenny is excited to find the same sense of community, support, and passion for fitness that she had during college athletics as a member of Medicine in Motion.
Erica Lee
Erica is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Maryland - College Park in the Integrated Life Sciences Honors College. She is pursuing a degree in biology with a minor in business. She is interested in the effects of burnout in the medical field as well as how action can be taken to mitigate this growing issue. Erica has been swimming and playing soccer since she was six years old and looks forward to being able to combine her love of sports and science!
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