5 Moves to Tone Your Arms Without Weights

Alana Massey
5 Moves to Tone Your Arms Without Weights
Photo: Alexandra Simone/Getty Images

Who among us wouldn’t want to have toned, fierce arms? Unfortunately, dragging our tired bodies to the gym just to hang out in front of the weight rack seems like a drag, and finding good arm workouts without weights isn’t so easy.

Fortunately, we did the hard work for you (other than, you know, the actual workout) and consulted Jasmine Graham, founder of paceforsuccess.com and owner of the boutique gym Fit Factory NYC for her very best arm workouts. Here’s how to tone your arms—without weights.

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.

jessica biel arms

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Exercise #1: Wall Push-Ups

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Credit: Instagram | @caligirlgetsfit

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

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Credit: Instagram | @yasmeenhfitness

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.

Serena Williams arms

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Exercise #3: Half Circle Arm Rotations

arm circles 5 Moves to Tone Your Arms Without Weights

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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.

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attends amfAR's 22nd Cinema Against AIDS Gala, Presented By Bold Films And Harry Winston at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 21, 2015 in Cap d'Antibes, France.

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Exercise #5: X Jumps

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Credit: Instagram | @katybeaver

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.

A version of this article was originally published in July 2016. 

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