Are you interested in developing your upper body? Rather than doing isolation exercises, try these 20 easy bodyweight exercises to build functional arm strength. You don’t need a gym membership!
Functional training exercises are designed to simulate the types of movements that we perform in our everyday lives. These exercises often incorporate multiple muscle groups working together simultaneously. The benefits of functional training include increased strength, agility, mobility, and reduced risk of injury.
When trying to increase arm strength, it is better to focus on exercises that work multiple muscles at once rather than isolating just the biceps and deltoids. This will help create a more balanced development of muscles, which in turn will reduce the risk of strain or injury to the arms and shoulders.
The way to develop strong and practical arms is to focus on functional, compound movements. Each arm workout should include a combination of mobility, stability, and strength exercises, targeting each of the muscles through the upper and lower arms, and the front, back and sides of the shoulders.
This workout starts with mobility and stability exercises that can be tailored to your fitness level. It then moves on to a series of basic bodyweight arm exercises; the intensity of these moves can be adjusted according to your strength. The final section is best suited to people with advanced fitness, but you can always come back to it later.
16 Bodyweight Exercises That Build Serious Muscle
Each section of the workout has moves that will prepare you for the next exercises. For example, the inchworm will prepare your body for a push-up, and the push-up will prepare your body for a power push-up. Start at the top of the workout and work your way down.
Mobility & Stability
1. Arm Swings
Dynamic stretching involves active movement of the body or limbs and is used to prepare for physical activity. It increases blood flow and body temperature, which can improve performance.
2. Start with your back straight and your abs engaged. Gently swing your arms out to the side and then cross them in front of your body. Alternate which arm swings in front.
2. Start by making small swings and gradually make them larger. You should feel a slight stretch in your chest and between your shoulder blades.
3. Swing arms 20-30 times.
2. Wall Clocks
Wall clocks are a great way to improve shoulder stability by recruiting your rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers.
2. Step forward with one leg and lean your body forward while keeping your hands on the wall. 3. Your back leg should be straight and your front leg should be bent at the knee. 1. Place your hands on a wall at shoulder width. 2. Step forward with one leg and lean your body forward, keeping your hands on the wall. 3. Your back leg should be straight, and your front leg should be bent at the knee.
2. Gently move your hand out to the side without raising your shoulders.
3. Move the hand back to the starting position.
4. Perform 3 sets of 5 on each side.
3. Upward Facing Dog
Doing this stretch will help to wake up the muscles at the back of the shoulders and the triceps.
1. Keep your elbows tucked in towards your torso.
To do a push-up, lie on your stomach with your palms flat on the floor under your shoulders.
To come into Upward-Facing Dog, start by drawing your chest forward and pressing down through the tops of your feet. Then, straighten your arms and focus on extending through your upper back. Be sure to keep your legs strong and active, and your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears.
Slowly raise your arm up and hold it there for three seconds before lowering it down again. Repeat this three to five times.
supermans work your triceps, shoulders and upper back, as well as your gluten and hamstrings.
- To begin, lie face down on your belly with your forehead on the ground. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms face down and keep your legs straight out behind you, slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Inhale, lifting your arms and legs off the ground, focusing on using your back, glutes, shoulders, and triceps. Pause at the top, then slowly lower your legs and arms down. Repeat for 12 reps.
5. Squat and Reach
This exercise will help to tone your shoulders and upper back while also working on your glutes.
- Begin with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.
- Keeping your weight in your heels, sit back into a squat. Make sure your knees do not go above your toes.
- As you sit back in your squat, raise both of your arms overhead, with your biceps beside your ears. Hold this for a moment, then return to standing while lowering your arms to your sides.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps.
If you want to move on to more complex arm exercises, you first need to master the basics. The following exercises will help strengthen your arms and shoulders, as well as your core. If you’re advanced enough to do the entire workout, the basics will help warm you up for the second phase.
6. Wide Pushup
If you want to focus on your chest and shoulder muscles, you should have a wide hand position.
Begin by assuming a plank position, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and your chest.
2. Engage your abs, and lower into a push-up.
When you are doing a push-up, your elbows should be at a 90º angle when they are bent to the side.
exhale as you push through your heels to return to the starting position Press your body back up to the starting position, exhaling as you do so. Repeat this 5 to 10 times.
7. Side Elbow Plank
You will work your entire upper body, as well as your balance, to build a strong core.
- Place your right elbow on the ground and extend both legs out to your side. Your body should be in one straight line, and you’ll be balancing on the outside edge of your right foot.
- Flex your feet, and rest your top hand on your upper hip.
- Keeping your spine lengthened and your abs engaged, lift your left leg up just higher than your top hip. Now, slowly lower it back to your bottom leg.
- Repeat for 6 reps on both sides.
8. Forearm Side Plank
This workout targets the shoulder stabilizers, triceps, and obliques—all muscles that can get ignored during every day life!
1. Lie on your RIGHT side with your hips and feet stacked.
2. Place your bottom RIGHT elbow under your RIGHT shoulder.
Raise your bottom hip off the ground to form a straight line while in a plank position.
To get the most out of this exercise, you should lift from your bottom oblique and feel a slight pinch in the waistline.
Stretch your top hand towards the ceiling or place it on your top hip.
6. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds.
Switch to the other side, keeping your bottom knee on the ground.
T-pushups are a type of pushup that works your entire upper body while also engaging your core to help improve your balance.
- Begin in a high plank position with your feet and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and core engaged.
- Inhale, bending your elbows to 90 degrees, and lower yourself into a pushup position. Exhale to press back up. Rotate your heels at the top, open your chest, and lift your left arm into the air to bring your body into a side plank position.
- Place your left hand back on the floor and inhale, lowering back down into a pushup. Now, as you exhale, press up and lift your right arm into the air for a side plank on the opposite side.
- Alternate for 12 reps.
10. High Plank Shoulder Taps
This exercise will engage your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back.
- Start in a high plank position with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Walk your feet out behind you, hip-width apart. Pull in your belly and engage your thighs and glutes.
- Shift your weight onto your left hand, then lift your right hand up and tap your left shoulder. Try to keep your hips square to the ground.
- Now place your right hand back on the ground. Shift your weight onto your right hand, lift your left hand up, and tap it to your right shoulder. Place it back on the ground.
- Continue alternating side to side for 15-20 reps.
11. Dead Hangs
This exercise strengthens your grip and prepares your body for the pull-up.
Find a horizontal bar that you can easily jump up to and reach.
Start by holding the bar in front of you, then jump up and grab it with your palms facing away from you.
Hang from the pull-up bar, making sure to keep your upper body, back, and core tense. It may be easy to just dangle there, but during a dead hang your shoulders should be down and your core should be tight.
This helps prepare your muscles for the power you’ll need for pull-ups. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds.
If these final four exercises seem too difficult, don’t worry. Just keep practicing and use them as a goal to work towards.
12. Push Offs
As your arms and shoulders push up, your low back and glutes must work to stabilize your body. This exercise engages more muscle fibers throughout the entire arm, shoulders and core than a traditional push-up. As your arms and shoulders push up, your low back and glutes must work to stabilize your body, giving you a more well-rounded workout.
2. Step one foot at a time back into a lunge, making sure your front knee bent 90 degrees and your back knee hovering just above the ground. 1. Get into a plank position with your hands placed directly under your shoulders. 2. Step one foot at a time back into a lunge, ensuring that your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle and your back knee is hovering just above the ground.
Bend your elbows until your hands are close to the floor. Keep your elbows close to your sides, as if you were doing a narrow push-up.
Press back up, keeping your arms straight and lifting your hands off the ground.
Land on your toes and immediately bend your elbows back into another push-up.
Do this exercise 10-20 times, modifying by doing it on a bench or chair if needed.
13. One-Leg Knee Pushups
This exercise strengthens and tones your upper body muscles, with a particular focus on the triceps. Additionally, you also work your glutes and core.
- Begin in a modified plank position, hands beneath your shoulders and knees lowered to the floor.
- Extend your right leg out behind you so that it’s parallel to the floor. Tighten your core and glutes to keep your left hip squared forward.
- With your right leg extended, exhale to bend your elbows, lowering into a pushup. Inhale and straighten your arms, keeping your leg lifted.
- Repeat for 6 reps with your right leg lifted, then switch to your left leg and repeat for 6 reps.
14. Tricep Dips with Leg Lifts
This version of tricep dips will work your triceps and shoulders more, as well as your lower abs and glutes.
- Sit on the edge of a bench with your hands just outside of your hips, fingers pointed toward your feet.
- Move your butt off the bench, bending your legs at a 90-degree angle. Lift one leg out in front of you.
- Now, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and lower for one dip. Push back up so your arms are straight.
- Repeat for 8 reps, then lift the opposite leg and repeat the same movement.
This exercise works your shoulders, triceps, and biceps, as well as your upper back and core.
- Begin in a forearm plank with your elbows parallel to one another and your feet hip-width apart.
- Inhale, picking up your right forearm and placing your right hand on the ground. Then exhale, picking up your left forearm and placing your left hand on the ground underneath your left shoulder, which will bring you to a high plank position.
- Now lower your right forearm back to the ground, then lower your left forearm back to the ground, bringing you back into your plank position.
- Repeat for 8 reps on your right arm, then 8 reps on your left.
16. Pull Ups
This is a great exercise to improve the strength of your upper body. By changing your grip, you can focus on different muscles, such as the biceps, triceps, lats, traps, shoulders, and core.
1. Find a horizontal bar that you can easily jump up to and reach. The picture shows a traditional neutral-grip position, but you can also do wide or narrow variations (wide grip – palms face away from you, narrow grip – palms face towards you).
2. Jump up and hold onto the bar.
3. Then draw your shoulder blades down your back and relax your shoulders.
Use your biceps to lift your chest up to the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for a second, then lower back down and repeat 10-20 times.
There are 16 moves in the workout. Let me know which ones you will use this week.