Arm Exercises Without Weights You Can Do at Home

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While many upper-body exercises involve equipment like dumbbells and barbells, arm exercises without weights are a solid way to put your muscles to the test, too. After all, the weight of your body is equipment in its own right—you can use it to load your arm muscles and make ’em work. There’s no heavy lifting required, and a gym membership is totally optional.

To be totally clear, it’s hard to work all of the muscles in your arms without weights, so arm exercises without weights are only going to be able to target certain areas, primarily the tops of the shoulders (the deltoids) and the triceps. Other arm muscles, like your biceps, typically need some external resistance to work against. But the exercises listed here are definitely useful for hitting some key muscle groups when you don’t have access to equipment.

Most arm exercises without weights are some version of planks or push-ups, which means they also require you to engage your core, so you’ll work those muscles at the same time. This means you might not feel the same concentrated burn in your arms like you would with, say, a shoulder press, and that’s totally OK. Just because these equipment-free arm exercises don’t isolate the upper body doesn’t mean they aren’t working it. And trust us, you’ll feel the proof later.

Next time you’re looking to get in these arm exercises at home, try combining 4 to 6 of the 20 moves below to create a workout—doing 45 seconds of each move, with 15 seconds of rest in between, and then repeating the whole thing three times, is a good place to start. Some of these arm exercises focus more on specific muscles like the triceps, while others will really challenge the shoulder muscles (including the deltoids and rhomboids), the pecs, and latissimus dorsi (or the lats, the broadest muscles on each side of your back). These are all important areas to strengthen, not only so you can lift heavier weights, but also so you can comfortably perform activities of daily living like carrying grocery bags or lifting your suitcase.

While these exercises are useful for anyone, no matter your fitness level, they’re especially good for beginners. When you focus on just using your own body for resistance (and don’t add weights) it’s easier to learn proper form, which can help prevent potential injuries that arise when you start lifting heavier. (And if you’re looking to make things more challenging without weights, we’ve got a few ideas on how you can do that as well.)

A few of these exercises do require a surface, like a box, bench, or step. Use a stair in your house, your sofa, a park bench, or any other similar and stable surface you can find.

Demoing the moves below are Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; Teresa Hui, a native New Yorker who has run over 150 road races, including 16 full marathons; Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Denise Harris, a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City; and Sarah Taylor, a personal trainer and Canadian-based fitness blogger.

Ready to get started? Here are 20 arm exercises without weights you can do at home to help build your upper-body and core strength, all in one.

  • Start in a high plank with your palms flat, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged.
  • Tap your right hand to your left shoulder while engaging your core and glutes to keep your hips as still as possible.
  • Do the same thing with your left hand to right shoulder. That’s 1 rep.
  • Continue, alternating sides.
  • To make this easier, try separating your legs a little more.
  • Lie on your right side with your right hand directly underneath your right shoulder. Extend your legs and stack your left foot on top of your right, and then squeeze your abs and glutes to lift your hips off the floor. Extend your left hand straight up toward the ceiling.
  • Hold here for a set amount of time.
  • Start in a forearm plank position, with your elbows directly under your shoulders, hands facing forward so your forearms are parallel, core engaged, hips level, and legs extended straight behind you.
  • From this position, reach your right hand forward and tap the floor in front of you. Return your right hand to your starting position, and then reach forward with your left hand to tap the floor in front of you.
  • Continue to alternate sides as you focus on keeping your hips steady throughout.
  • Make it easier: If this exercise feels too challenging, take your feet wider then hip-width apart. The wider your feet, the easier the move should be.
  • Start in a high plank with your palms flat, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged. Place your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lower your left arm so that your forearm is on the floor. Then, do the same with your right so that you’re in a forearm plank.
  • Reverse to return to a high plank. That’s 1 rep.
  • As you move, keep your hips as still as possible. To make this easier, try widening your legs a little more.
  • Start in a high plank with your palms flat, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Drop to your knees if needed.
  • Push through the palms of your hands to straighten your arms. That’s 1 rep.

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