8 Bodyweight Arm Exercises: Get Bigger Without Weights
By Sam Munoz | Published: June 7, 2012
“You can’t get bigger arms unless you go heavy on the barbell or on some dumbbells.”
Yeah, that’s what more than one guy told me at the gym. Hearing this advice made sense to me. I had seen the workouts before in magazines and they always threw in 4 exercises for biceps and 4 exercises for triceps. Add in 10 to 12 reps per set per exercise and I was being promised arms bigger than the Hulk.
It made sense at the time. Lift some iron and watch the muscle grow. That’s the common advice and it works, but only if you do it right.
However, lifting weights is not the only way to gain muscle in your arms. If you want to get awesome results you should include bodyweight exercises.
Anytime someone tells me that you can’t get muscular arms by using only your bodyweight I point to a gymnast. Simply look at a gymnast and you will quickly see that weights are not the only way to make significant gains in muscle.
You don’t have to lift like a bodybuilder.
Sure you can grab a barbell, put some weight and go at it.
I am all for that. You can lift heavy weight and see results but having thicker arms is best when you do certain exercises that trigger maximum growth.
That’s where bodyweight movements can come in.
Here are a list of exercises for biceps and triceps without having to use weights.
Bodyweight Exercises For Biceps
Chin Ups: This exercise is one of the forgotten and unsung bodyweight exercises. Some see this as either being too easy while others look at it as too difficult to do. It is often considered a back exercise but in reality it is much more than that. Chin ups are a compound movement that will give your back and your biceps a killer workout. This exercise is similar to a barbell curl except that it follows a natural movement and can be tough as you lift your own weight.
Parallel Grip Chin Ups: Another great option for building your biceps. The palms face each other on parallel bars allowing for a movement that is easier on the wrists and shoulders than a pull ups. The positioning of the hands and arms is very much like a Hammer Curl; however this exercise also works on the lats. If you don’t have access to parallel bars simply grip a bar with both hands with both palms facing each other.
Pull Ups: Some time ago I dropped all biceps curls for about a year. The only stimulation my biceps received was through my back workouts. My primary back exercise at the time was pull ups and my biceps never decreased in size. Whether you choose to do a shoulder wide grip or wider than shoulder wide grip you will still find this exercise giving your lats and biceps a boost. Don’t confuse this exercise with chin ups. Pull ups require a “palms out” grip while a chin up uses a “palms in” grip.
Bodyweight Rows/ Inverted Rows: When was the last time you saw someone at the gym using this exercise? Yeah, I never do either. Simply use a Smith Machine and set the bar below your waist. Proceed to sit down on the floor, grab the bar and with your back flat and facing the floor you then do a rowing movement. For the easier version of this exercise keep your heels resting on the floor. If you prefer a challenge lift your feet off the floor and leave your body suspended, then proceed with performing a row.
Note: Even though these exercises are usually done using a bar you can always use variations with gymnastics rings and using the TRX.
Bodyweight Exercises For Triceps
Dips: This is a popular exercise and rightfully so. Anyone who has ever tried this exercise knows the power and the results you get. You can either use parallel bars, TRX or rings. This exercise primarily targets the triceps and the chest with the back and lats getting some stimulation as well. By doing this exercise with a closer grip, elbows close to your side and your chin tucked in you will target the triceps more.
Bodyweight Triceps Extensions: Place your hands on a strong surface like a bar, bench or rings. Place your feet back so your body is as close to a horizontal position. Your head should be placed in between your elbows. Push your bodyweight up and then lower yourself slowly. This exercise is close to a skull crusher except you are not lying on your back.
Close Grip Push Ups: Any type of pushups exercise works great for your triceps. Most pushups exercises will primarily target your chest with secondary work done on the triceps. However, close grip pushups or triangle pushups will work primarily on the triceps with less emphasis on the chest.
Bonus Exercise Works The Entire Arms
Muscle Up: Every time I see this exercise I think of the guys from “300.” This exercise requires a lot of upper body strength and is a combination of a pull up with dip. The workout is a combination of a biceps exercise and triceps exercise. The entire motion of the exercise is meant to work on the biceps, triceps and the back and chest muscles. Stand underneath a pull up bar and jump up, grab the bar and use the momentum to pull yourself up and push up until the bar is at waist level. Proceed to come back down in a controlled motion. As you can see the explosive pull up motion will work the biceps while the pushing movement and lowering of the body is going to target the triceps.
Tips For Your Next Arm Workout
Looking at these exercises it is tempting to stack a workout with 4-5 or more of these exercises. Avoid the temptation of doing too many exercises all at once. Doing too much at once will only make you over train.
The best way to achieve ideal results is by choosing 1 or 2 of these exercises for biceps or 1 to 2 exercises when doing triceps workouts. If you decide to add weight training for your arms simply do 1 exercise using weights and 1 exercise using your bodyweight.
The best thing to do is to include a bodyweight exercise along with an exercise using weights. Sticking to an all bodyweight workout for your arms works too.
If your goal is to gain muscle stick to rep ranges of 8 to 10 and 3 to 4 sets. Make sure to be as explosive as possible in each repetition.
One thing that is very clear is that you won’t find isolation type exercises in this list. Bodyweight type workouts are always going to be compound type. Unlike dumbbell exercises, like dumbbell curls, you won’t find the equivalent version using your bodyweight. Each one of these exercises works not only the biceps and triceps but also works in conjunction with another muscle group like back muscles or chest.
If you only use weights to add muscle to your arms it is best to add bodyweight exercises as well. The benefits you will gain will be tremendous.
If you have never done a workout using only your body then feel free to try it. A good combination of these exercises will allow you to make significant gains in size.