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May 08, 2021 10 min read

You don’t have to invest in expensive gym equipment to tone your arm muscles.

A resistance band and free weights will make the exercises more challenging, but you can build tons of functional arm strength using nothing but your own body weight. 

The most important thing to remember is that your form greatly impacts the effectiveness of these bodyweight arm exercises. Take the time to practice them no matter how simple they appear at first glance to make sure you get as much out of your arm day workout routine as possible. 

Pair the bodyweight arm exercises in this guide with the right supplement and you’ll start to see results in no time. There are many great arm workouts, but we’ve selected the 10 best ones for both ripped muscles and functional body strength. Read on to learn how you can build the best bodyweight arm workout routine.

fit man warm stretching arms before exercising at the gym

Bodyweight Arm Warm-Ups

Before you start with the full-on arm exercises, you’ll need to prime your arm muscles. This will reduce the likelihood of injury, which is particularly important for the elbow, wrist, and shoulder joint.

Most of these warm-ups are very simple, but you might benefit from a resistance band or small barbells with some of the others. Try a few of these before you start your full arm workout and use them to cool down after you finish.

  • Arm Circles

  • Easy to do and great for opening up your shoulder muscles, arm circles also help get your mindset in the right place for the more intense workouts to come.

    All you need to do to perform arm circles is stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend both arms out to each side. Turn your arms so that your palms are facing the ceiling.

    Move your arms forward in small circles. Your left arm should be going clockwise while your right arm is moving counterclockwise. Make ten circles and then reverse the direction of the circles for another 10 reps.

    You can do multiple sets of these arm circles throughout the warm-up phase to keep your shoulders opened up and allow them to extend through their full range of motion during the main workout.

  • Overhead Shoulder Stretch

  • This stretch will prime your shoulder and arm muscles for bodyweight exercises that require you to lift your arm over your head. It’s simple to do and it hits muscles that many stretches don’t affect at all.

    To do the overhead shoulder stretch, raise your right hand and bend your elbow to place the right hand between your shoulder blades or as close as you can get it to that position. Meanwhile, take your left hand and place it behind your back with the palm facing out.

    Move the left hand up toward the shoulder blades and close to the right hand until your fingers are touching. You’ll feel the stretch in your shoulder and around the tricep muscles. Make sure you reverse hand positions to evenly stretch out both sides of your body.

  • Wrist Flexor & Extensor Stretch

  • The wrist is one of the upper-body joints most prone to injury.

    Although bodyweight exercises reduce that risk, you can further reduce the likelihood of wrist injury with this pair of similar stretches.

    For the wrist flexor stretch, you want to hold one arm straight out in front of your body with the palm facing you. Use your other hand to pull the fingers toward the body until you feel a stretch in your wrist. The extensor stretch is the same except the palm should be facing away from you.

    As with the overhead shoulder stretch, you must make sure that you stretch out each arm for an even warm-up with these wrist stretches.

    Lat Stretch

    The latissimus dorsi in your upper back is an important muscle that powers bodyweight arm and chest exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups. Use this easy stretch to get the blood flowing to this key back muscle so you can exert as much power as possible.

    If you can’t find the vertical pole needed for this exercise, grabbing onto a simple household object such as a lamp will work just as well. The vertical pole doesn’t need to be able to support your body weight. It’s more for stability than anything else.

    Once you find a vertical pole to hold onto, grab it with one hand. Sink back into your hips as if you were about to do a squat and continue lowering until the arm holding the pole is straight. You should feel the stretch on the bottom of your arm. Switch to the other arm after about 30 seconds.

    Cross-Body Stretch

    You’ve more than likely seen this stretch at the gym before. It’s a great way to target the outside of your shoulder before you begin more intense arm workouts.

    Reach across your chest with your right arm and grab onto your right elbow with your left hand. You should feel the stretch on the outside of your shoulder. Hold that position for 30 seconds and then repeat it with your left arm crossing your body.

    Pectoral Stretch

    Your pecs come into play during push-ups and many other arm exercises. Find a flat wall and use this simple stretch to activate your pectorals and prepare them for harder bodyweight arm exercises.

    Stand with the wall on your right side and then raise your right arm so that your palm is flat on the wall. The whole length of your right arm should be near the wall. Rotate your torso away from the wall until you feel the stretch in your right pectoral muscle.

    Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then turn around so you can stretch the left side of your body as well. Make sure the stretch is on the front of your chest and not limited to the side near your armpit. Your body may want to pull in the shoulder blades to accommodate the stretch but don’t let it.

    muscular man doing plank in the gym

    10 Best Bodyweight Arm Exercises

    Add a few of these bodyweight moves to your arm day routine to build tons of muscle and functional strength. If you want to make them even more challenging, add a resistance band or dumbbells to the mix.

    1. Forearm Plank

    To get into the starting position for a forearm plank, begin in a kneeling position and then bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Lean forward until your elbows and forearms are on the ground and then extend your legs fully. You should be in a pose similar to a push-up position.

    Keep your back in a straight line by flexing your core muscles. Hold the position for an isometric workout. If you want to make it more challenging, face your palms upward so balancing is more difficult.

    2. Reverse Plank

    This simple exercise will work out your shoulders and arms while also targeting lower body muscle groups like your glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back, and hip flexors. It’s essentially a reversed version of the forearm plank.

    Sit on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you. Place both palms on the floor just behind you and out to each side. Place the soles of your feet flat on the ground and push through your palms to raise your body.

    Maintain a straight line from your neck through your torso and hold the highest position. You should feel the stretch throughout your body. If you have trouble mastering the reverse plank, try the normal plank position for a few weeks to build up the necessary strength.

    3. Tricep Dips

    Find a chair or a raised platform that can support your body weight to do these tricep dips. Your pecs, lats, anterior deltoids, rhomboids, and stabilizers like the biceps and lower traps will benefit from this arm workout.

    Sit on the chair or raised platform and hold onto the sides just outside your legs with both hands. Point your fingers toward your feet and keep your feet hip-width apart. Push your body forward with your hands until your butt and torso are past the edge of the chair.

    Lower your body until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. If you can’t get them that far, anything from a 45° angle is fine. Push yourself back up to the starting position to complete one rep.

    4. Push-Ups

    This classic bodyweight arm exercise also targets your chest muscles. It has enough variations to accomplish a few different goals. For example, a wide hand position focuses on the pecs while a narrow position makes the triceps do all the work.

    To do a standard push-up, start in a kneeling position and then lean forward to place both of your palms on the floor. Make sure your hands are directly underneath your elbows and your wrists are straight under your forearms rather than pushed forward.

    Extend your feet out and support your lower body weight with your toes. Keep a straight line through the torso. Lower your weight by bending the elbows and then push through your palms to complete one push-up.

    4. Lateral Plank Walk

    Add a bit of cardio to your upper body workout with this plank variation. To do it, make sure you have enough room to move - at least a few feet to each side. If you don’t have room to go very far in each direction, you can move back and forth instead.

    Get into a standard push-up position. Rather than raising yourself with the chest muscles, the lateral plank walk challenges your core, upper arms, and stabilizer muscles by making you balance and move sideways.

    Move your right leg and right arm out to the side and then follow suit with the left leg and left arm. You should wind up in the same position a short distance to the right. Continue in that direction or move back with the left leg and arm back and forth.

    sportsman doing shoulder exercise with resistance band

    5. Rear Deltoid Raise

    You can do this exercise without any additional weight or you can use resistance bands or dumbbells to make it more challenging. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge at the hips until your torso is almost parallel with the floor.

    Bend your elbows slightly and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you raise your arms out to the sides. Slowly lower them back to the starting position. Make sure you don’t tense up your neck and traps during this exercise.

    6. Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups

    Both of these bodyweight arm exercises are stellar for overall strength and wellness, but the chin-up is usually thought to be easier than the pull-up. Find a horizontal bar or invest in a pull-up bar for the house. If that’s not possible, find a low coffee table and do bodyweight rows instead.

    Stand underneath the horizontal bar and grab it with an overhand grip for a pull-up or an underhand grip for a chin-up. Pull your feet up until you’re in a dead hang and then pull the bar down to the ground to raise your body until your head clears the bar.

    7. Bodyweight Rows

    If you don’t have the horizontal bar available to do chin-ups or pull-ups, you can do this inverse version to mimic the upper body strength gains. Slide underneath a low horizontal bar or a sturdy coffee table and grab onto the edge with both hands. Lift your body so that only your heels make contact with the floor.

    Lift your body up to the table or bar until your chest makes contact and then lower back into the starting position. The lower the bar, the harder the bodyweight row will be.

    8. Inchworm With Shoulder Taps

    The gradual progression of this arm exercise will build body strength in your upper back, chest, arms, lower back, and abs. The shoulder tap will force your balancing muscles to go into high gear and you can also practice keeping your hips still. Start in a standing position and then bend at the waist to place your hands on the ground in front of you.

    Walk forward with one hand at a time until you’re in a high plank position, then engage your core to stabilize your hips while you raise your left arm to touch your right shoulder and then touch your left shoulder with the right hand. Reverse the steps to return to the starting position and complete one rep.

    9. Rolling Forearm Side Planks

    To perform a side plank, you just need to get into a push-up position and then roll onto the side and support your body weight with your forearm. One arm will be left hanging. You can extend this arm into the air for balance and a bit more of a workout, but the main benefit of the side plank is from the isometric pause and the strain on your core and stabilizer muscles.

    Make sure you maintain a straight line in your torso. Holding the side plank position for a minute or more is a challenge enough for most people, but you can also progressively add more time to make sure you continue building strength with your side planks.

    Once your finish on one side, roll into a side plank on the other side and start the plank immediately. The reduced downtime will give your upper arm and core muscles an even greater workout.

    Young man practicing chaturanga exercise

    10. Chaturanga

    This unique bodyweight exercise targets muscles all over your upper body. It’s derived from yoga and you might also hear it called a low plank. To do the chaturanga, begin in a plank position with your feet hip-distance apart and your shoulders directly over your wrists. Keep a straight line from your neck to the heels of your feet.

    Next, shift your plank position forward by moving the shoulders in front of your wrists and your feet onto the tips of the toes. Roll your shoulders back without shifting them relative to the wrists and lift your head and neck. Just make sure to keep the head in line with your spine.

    Pull your elbows back and into your torso until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Hold that position for a bit and then move into what’s called the upward dog pose.

    Straighten your arms as you lift your chest as if you were showing your t-shirt off to the wall in front of you. Your back should bend to accommodate your arm position. Move back to the starting plank position to complete one rep.


    Building huge arm muscles and plenty of functional strength doesn’t require fancy gym equipment or tons of heavy weights. All you need is the time and space to commit to the killer bodyweight arm exercises in this guide and you can build muscle mass and tone your upper arm muscles.

    You don’t have to do all ten exercises in one session, but by adding a few of these great arm exercises throughout the month you can vary your workouts and keep your muscles guessing. Add resistance bands or dumbbells for a real tough session and you’ll start to see your biceps and triceps start to bulge in no time.