Building Effective Arm Workouts Without Weights
It’s coming. Summer is barreling towards you faster than you know. One day very soon you’ll wake up to shorts weather and the urge to get to the edge of any coastline to dip your toes in the sand and feel the sun beaming down on your skin. And with summer comes a checklist of sorts.
Your job right now is to mark as many of those boxes on that list as possible. Getting lean, building broad shoulders, refining your six pack and increase muscularity is all on there. Your work might be cut out for you if you were the type who let everything “go” under sweats over the winter.
Sure, the cold months are for bulking and building more foundational muscle so you can strip the fat away later and show off your hard-earned work. Arms are a major item on your priority list. What’s the use in have a nice, shapely chest and back and wide shoulders without a set of guns to complete the look?
Here’s the issue you may be facing: Is this yet another year you will tirelessly toil away in the gym performing never-ending sets of curls, lying extensions and cable pressdowns only to come up short on results? Are bigger arms merely a dream and not a reality?
If you’re tired of the same-ole boring arm workouts you’ve grown negatively accustomed to then maybe you need a big shift in thinking. Maybe you need to approach arm training a totally different way.
Enter the non-weight arm workout. Before you run away from the screen and think, “Oh man, not another one of these bodyweight articles” let me explain how you can make this work for bigger arms in record time.
Marc Lobliner and Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler discuss arm training and how to build bigger arms.
Can you grow bigger arms without weights?
The short answer: Yes. The trick with using your bodyweight for increases in muscle mass has always been the progression factor. In order to increase stress on the muscle using a barbell you would simply add another plate, but with bodyweight training it’s tough to systematically add weight. This is where a little creativity comes in.
By using specific angles and body positions you can easily and instantly increase resistance on the targeted muscle without the use of plates, dumbbells or even a gym. Plus, you’ll get an indirect core workout along the way since all of the exercises require you to maintain a strict body position of balance and stability.
What you’ll need
Although you won’t need traditional equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, cable machines or other body part-specific machines you will need a few pieces of equipment that can easily be a part of any home gym.
- Low fixed bar
- Pull-up bar
- Suspension trainer (optional)
Your Arsenal of Arm Building Exercises
So, beyond diamond push-ups what does this arm workout consist of? Some of these exercises will seem familiar but read carefully, they will all have some key points that will significantly alter how they affect your results for bigger arms.
Suspension trainer/fixed bar arm curl
Stand facing a suspension trainer and grasp the handles parallel to each other. Form a straight line with your body with your feet firmly on the floor toward the wall the trainer is fixed to. Extend your arms out and perpendicular to your body. Your body should be forming about a 45 degree angle from the floor.
While only flexing at the elbows curl your body weight by bringing your hands toward and over your forehead. Squeeze for a second before returning to the extended starting position again.
Make it tougher: In order to increase intensity simply move your feet closer to the wall decreasing the angle between you and the floor. This puts you at a mechanical disadvantage increasing the load on your biceps. This exercise can also be performed using a fixed bar at about the height of your midsection.
Reverse-grip biceps chin-up
Taking a reverse grip on the chin-up puts the biceps in a strong position. In other words, your biceps get a huge amount of stress. But it doesn’t stop there. For the traditional pull-up, in order to get optimal back muscle stimulation you need to arch your back for a better contraction.
Here you want to take your back out of the equation as much as possible. To do this round your back as you pull up and focus on flexing at the elbow versus the shoulder joint.
Make it tougher: If you are already or quickly become proficient at this exercise one simple way to progress is to perform one-and-a-half reps. Pull up to the bar and then lower yourself down half way. Next, pull up to the top again and then lower yourself all the way down. That is one rep.
Suspension trainer/fixed bar triceps press
Stand facing away from the suspension trainer with your hands facing the floor. Place your feet close to the wall or from the direction the trainer originates form. With your body at about 45 degrees from the floor extend your arms straight overhead. You should be in somewhat of a plank position.
Bend at you elbows only bringing them overhead as your body is lowered toward the floor. Feel a deep stretch in your triceps and then reverse the movement back to the straight position.
Make it tougher: Moving your feet closer to the wall will decrease the angle of your body to the floor making the exercise harder. Just be sure if you do decide to use this tweak that you still maintain that straight line with your body. You can also perform this on a fixed bar around hip height.
Triceps floor press
Many would chalk this up as just a diamond push-up, but here you’ll be doing this floor triceps exercise a bit differently. In order to better target the triceps (more than the traditional diamond push-up) you’ll work them at an angle that will focus less on your chest and more on your arms.
For beginners, start in a push-up position with your knees on the floor. Place your hands and elbows by your sides (your hands should be just under your deltoids). With your elbows pinned by your sides press up using your triceps only. Contract at the top and then lower back down.
Make it tougher: To make this more of a challenge, once you get stronger try performing the exercise while in a standard push-up position – while on your toes instead of your knees. This places more of your own bodyweight onto your triceps.
Other alternate exercises and techniques
Later into the program you may want to switch things up a bit or add in a few other techniques. This is natural especially when you want to progress and have no choice but to be creative with body weight training.
The parallel bar dip is a great alternative to any triceps exercise. However, a few key points must be kept in mind. First, make sure your elbows stay by your sides throughout the movement. Second, keep your body in an upright position. Avoid leaning over and engaging more chest muscle than triceps.
Biceps and triceps ladders are very effective when you want to up the ante on intensity. This mimics drop sets when you use traditional weight loaded exercises. These can specifically be used with the suspension trainer biceps and triceps exercises.
Start either move in the position described above. Once you reach failure take one small step away from the wall increasing the angle of your body to the floor making the exercise a bit easier. Once you reach failure again keep taking a small step away and continue your sets.
The “No Weight” Arm Building Workout Program
Below is a simple but highly effective superset arm routine that can be done almost anywhere. Begin with a few reps of push-ups and pull-ups for a warm-up to start and then get to it.
- Superset: Suspension trainer arm curl with suspension trainer triceps press – 4 to 5 sets of 10-15 reps
- Superset: Reverse-grip biceps chin-up with triceps floor press – 4 to 5 sets of 10-15 reps