It is a truth universally acknowledged: we all want toned, beautiful arms. But finding good arm workouts without weights? It’s not so easy.
Sometimes you just don’t want to drag your tired body all the way to gym to stand in front of a weight rack, worrying that you’re going to drop something or pull a crucial muscle. Fortunately, you can totally get a killer arm workout at home without touching a single heavy object.
Each move should be done for one full minute—you can start with one run-through (so five minutes and you’re done!), and then repeat them as you gain strength.
Exercise #1: Wall Push-Ups
Sure, push-ups aren’t the easiest thing in the world to do. But wall push-ups allow you to adjust your difficulty level, making them easier than “normal” push-ups.
To do them, stand up straight facing a wall, with your face about six inches away from the wall. Place your hands on the wall shoulder width apart. Step back as far as you can with both feet on the ground. Inhale as you go down into the push-up, keeping your glutes tucked as you descend, and exhale as you push away from the wall.
Tip: If the push-ups are too difficult with a full step back from the wall, walk your feet in a little to where you can comfortably do them, says Graham. You’ll be able to build up to it.
Exercise #2: Floor Dips
You can do dips in a chair, but Graham says that people often lift up too high, turning the workout into more of a pelvic thrust than an arm workout. On the floor, it’s easier to watch your form.
To do them, sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet and fingers facing forward, as if you’re about to do a crab walk. Then, tighten your abs, tuck your glutes, and lift your pelvis up until your body is in a reverse tabletop position. Lower your body by bending your arms, activating your triceps. As you near the floor, keep your butt off the floor so that your core and arm muscles remain active. Keep repeating the dips for one minute.
Tip: If you’re a beginner or don’t necessarily have core control yet, it’s okay to touch the ground, but try to touch it just slightly and push back up.
Exercise #3: Half Circle Arm Rotations
Those arm circles you had to do in gym class are surprisingly good at building upper body strength, but the repetitive motion makes it easy to zone out and abandon quality circles. Half-circle rotations are a more active move that works deep into your arm muscles.
To do them, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold your arms out parallel to the floor. With your palms facing forward, cup both hands as if you’re holding a tennis ball in each hand. Rotate your whole arm forward in a half circle so that the cupped hand goes from facing forward to facing behind you. Keep your elbows locked to maximize muscle engagement. Then, rotate back into your original position. Rotate back and forth as fast as you can.
Tip: Think of the motion as a slap forward and a slap back
Exercise #4: Weight-Free Rows
To create resistance with a weight-free row, all you need is your own fist. Though typically done with a dumbbell, making a tight fist activates the muscles of your arm enough to make for a substantial workout.
To do it, bend slightly forward by hinging at the hip. Bend your elbows at your sides, and pull your arms back without unbending at the elbow, creating a rowing motion. This works biceps and triceps in addition to activating the muscles of your upper back. Repeat for a full minute.
Tip: Make sure to keep your arms close to your sides to maximize the effectiveness of this workout.
Exercise #5: X Jumps
Your inner cheerleader finally has an outlet with X jumps, a cardio move that engages your whole arm and simultaneously strengthens your abs and legs.
Stand with your feet spread out shoulder width apart and your arms by your sides. Jump up and spread your arms out over your head so that you form an “X” shape at the top of your jump. As you land, bend your knees slightly to soften your landing.
Tip: This can be tough to do for a full minute when you’re just starting out, but do as many as you can.
Originally published July 2016. Updated June 2017.