Arms are definitely the most trained muscles.
Every beginner wants to build big biceps and triceps. Beacuse arms are not covered and it’s easy to show them off.
I’m sure you have heard arguments that it’s not possible to build big arms through bodyweight exercises. This argument is untrue, and the person who said that didn’t know the bodyweight arm exercises I’m about to share.
The major difference between lifting weights and bodyweight exercises, especially in arm training, is that you can’t do isolation exercises in bodyweight training. Which to me is an advantage – because when you are doing chin ups to build biceps, you’ll also be working your lats – talk of killing 2 birds with one stone. So these exercises will not only give you bigger and stronger arms but a stronger upper body as well.
In this article I will only focus on biceps and triceps. The beauty of bodyweight exercises is you don’t necessarily have to train the forearms. Forearms get stronger as you do pull exercises, pushups and other arms and chest exercises.….. So if I were you I wouldn’t do forearm targeted exercises.
You’ll realize that there aren’t as many bodyweight biceps exercises as triceps exercises. But that shouldn’t be a problem – the biceps exercises in this list are enough to build some big guns. And again you should build do more triceps exercises if you want big arms. Why? Because triceps make up two thirds of the upper arm and they are flexed when the arms are straight.
If you were to compare two guys, one with big biceps and the other with big triceps. The one with big triceps will have the illusion of bigger arms when the arms are straight.
Having strong arms is also a big advantage in sports. In fact you can’t perform well in most sports if you don’t have strong arms. For example, swimming, boxing, basketball…the list is long.
I might also note that women should train arms too. You don’t have to do the advanced exercises. Just do intermediate exercises to get firm and toned arms.
Training for maximum gains
I’m sure you know people who train arms all the time but they never seem to grow, or maybe that’s the case for you. While you might not be genetically gifted to build Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mountain-like biceps, you can use these strategies to grow big and defined arms.
Squeeze and engage the muscles: Try using the muscles you want to build as much as you can. When doing chin ups engage the biceps and squeeze them at the top. Same applies for triceps exercises.
Slow negative reps: Do the movement slowly when resisting gravity, take 2 to 3 seconds when on eccentric motion. This will speed up your gains and build bigger muscles. When doing push exercises raise the body slowly, when doing pull exercises pull up slowly.
Do harder exercises: Instead of doing the same exercises, keep advancing – Once you 10-12 reps of an exercise advance to a harder variation or a different exercise.
Now let’s look into the exercises that will give you stronger and muscular arms.
Important: Click on the images for a how to video on the exercise.
Bodyweight Biceps Exercises
You will need a pull up bar to do some of the exercises in this list.
If you haven’t been training these are the exercises you should start with. Also download the free bodyweight beginner routine.
Inverted curls knees bent
Grab the bar with arms shoulder width apart and an underhand grip (your forearm facing you). Then bend your knees at a 90 degree angle and pull yourself up until the chest touches the bar.
Do full range of motion if you have enough space. And remember to lower the body slowly and engage the biceps.
Static biceps curls
This is an isometric exercise.
Just bend one arm at a 45 or 90 or 120 degree angle then try to curl it as you use the other arm to resist the movement. Just like bodybuilders do when flexing.
Hold for 30secs to a minute.
When doing this exercise: Keep your core tight and don’t let the upper back round over.
Negative chin ups
The starting position will be at the top. Step on a chair or ladder high enough such that your chin is above the bar, then grab the bar and lower yourself. Return to starting position and repeat.
Chin up static hold
This is another isometric exercise. Grab the bar with an underhand grip and then raise your body until your elbows are on a 90 degree angle and hold that position (it’s more effective than what he’s doing in the video).
You can also play around with the static hold angles. You can hold at the top or at the bottom, where the arms are slightly bent.
When you build some strength, start doing these exercises. Or you can just start with them if you are strong enough.
You can use a pull up bar or door frames. Just a reminder – biceps exercises are underhand grip. Even though overhand grip works the biceps it’s not as effective.
Do full range of motion, this means that you lift yourself up until the chin is above the bar then lower the body until arms are in lockout.
One common mistake you want to avoid is kicking your legs for momentum as you pull.
You can do wide grip and close grip variations.
Tighten your core and keep the body straight and together. If you don’t have a bar just use a table or a broomstick.
These are the best bodyweight bicep exercises for building muscles.
One arm chin up
Trying to do this exercise when your arms are not strong enough could lead to shoulder injury. Only attempt this after your arms get strong. Even then keep a low number of reps.
The one arm chin up primarily works your biceps, shoulder and lats.
Feet elevated inverted curls
Instead of doing the inverted curls with your feet on the floor, put them on a high surface like a chair. Then do the exercise from that position.
Some key pointers: keep he body straight – do full range of motion – do eccentric motion slowly (2-3secs).
This exercise also works your lats and forearm.
Bodyweight Triceps Exercises
Here you will find a wider variety of exercises. Remember, if you want bigger arms you have to hit the triceps more.
These are exercises someone new to bodyweight training or one who has been living a sedentary lifestyle.
Close grip push up
Keep your body straight and your feet close together (keep your feet together when doing all push exercises).
This exercise works the triceps, chest and the shoulders.
Some pointers for this exercise are: keep your core tight to avoid sinking the hips – keep the head in its neutral position – your elbows should bent backwards and not sideways – do full range of motion, go down until the chest almost touches the floor then push up until the elbows lock.
Just bend your knees in front of you and place your palms behind you, then lift your butt. Start crab walking back and forth in this position.
Wall push up
Keep your core tight when doing this exercise. You can make the exercise harder by standing far from the wall or easier by standing closer.
Keep your torso upright and feet straight. Just go down as far as you feel comfortable. Going too low poses shoulder injury risk.
Doing it with bent knees makes it easier because it reduces the amount of weight you are lifting.
You need a stable table or a high surface to do this exercise.
The difficulty of this exercise will depend on the height of the surface, to make the exercise harder use a low table. A high table makes the exercise easier.
Just keep your core tight and make sure that the hips don’t sink.
If you find this movement too difficult for you, find a low table and do the exercise on your knees.
Diamond push ups
Just form a diamond with your arms below your chest then lower your body until the chest touches the arms the rise slowly until the arms are straight.
Keep your core tight, body straight and feet together.
Chinese push up
Avoid bending your knees and keep your back straight when doing this movement. The only thing that should move is your hands.
One arm wall push ups
Just place your palm horizontally on the wall, directly to your chest then lean towards the wall until your arm chest almost touches the hand.
Remember you can adjust the difficulty of the exercise by standing close or far from the wall. Keep your body straight and the head in its neutral position (don’t stretch the head forward).
Tiger bend push ups
Make sure you control your movement when doing this exercise, lower your body slowly. Don’t sink your hips and keep the core tight.
Feet elevated bench dips
This exercise is harder because it increases the amount of weight you are lifting.
Dips mainly work the triceps and chest.
If you don’t have bars, find to surfaces of the same height, which are at least your waist height. And make sure they are stable.
Place your hand on the two surfaces and take your feet off the floor by bending them – that’s the starting position.
Lower your body as far as you can, by bending your elbows. Then rise up until you lock your elbows.
The common mistake you should avoid is swinging your legs for momentum. Also if you find the exercise too difficult you could slightly step on the floor for support.
Feet elevated Chinese push ups
This makes the exercise a lot harder and activates the triceps more.
The L sits mainly work the abs, triceps and shoulders.
Just hold that position for 10 to 15 seconds and do 3 to 4 reps.
One arm push up
It’s the holy grail of all push exercises. And it’s not an easy one to execute. It requires a lot of balance, coordination and strength. Start practicing it by placing one arm on a chair or on a basketball.
Only after you can do a fair number of push ups should you attempt the one arm push up. Attempting it without enough strength could cause injury.
Inverse push ups
Not everybody can have Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arms but you can build big and strong arms with these exercises. And the good news is you don’t need weights or any equipment to do it.
Just focus on the points suggested for each exercise for maximum gains.
You may also what to check out the bodyweight leg exercises. Don’t be that guy who obsesses over arms but never trains legs.
Do you have any bodyweight arm exercises suggestions? Leave a comment below.