Categories: Wellness

This 5-move, no-weight arm workout will leave your entire upper body shaking

Whether you refuse to drop a Jackson or more on a single pair of dumbbells or can’t bear the thought of sharing a set with sweaty strangers at the gym, you might feel like your arm workout options are limited to traditional bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, tricep dips, and arm circles. But spending your entire sweat sesh performing those mindless moves can get real old, real fast.

The solution to your body’s boredom: Power through this five-move, no-weight arm workout crafted by Danyele Wilson, a NASM-certified trainer, HIIT master trainer, and Tone & Sculpt coach. Each of the exercises is designed to target multiple muscle groups in your upper body — not just your biceps and triceps. The bear hold with alternating arm raises exercise, for example, challenges your shoulders and your core, in addition to your arms. The eccentric hand-release push-up move, on the other hand, works both your back and your biceps.

Even though you’re ditching the dumbbells, these no-weight arm workout moves can still help you meet your gains goals. In challenging your body in unfamiliar ways, such as by moving through the bodyweight moves slowly or upping the reps, sets, or amount of time spent on each move, you’re actually able to build muscle, Alexis Colvin, MD, an orthopaedic sports medicine surgeon at the Mount Sinai Health System, previously told Shape. Without the added resistance, Colvin explained that you’re also able to put all your focus into building and maintaining proper form — a major key to injury prevention.

Ready to build biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles you can’t wait to flex? Roll out a mat and give Wilson’s no-weight arm workout a shot. Once you can perform the workout with ease, increase the time spent performing each move to continue challenging your muscles.

5-Move, No-Weight Arm Workout

How it works: Perform each move in the no-weight arm workout circuit for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds rest. Repeat the circuit for a total of 3 rounds.

You’ll need: A mat.

Superman to Pull-Down

Without any frills, the superman exercise trains your back, glutes, and shoulders, according to the American Council on Exercise, but Wilson likes to up the ante by adding a pull-down to this no-weight arm workout move. As a result, the exercise will target the rear delts, back, and biceps, she says. “This is going to help develop your functional pull strength and can also help improve core stability and posture,” explains Wilson.

A. Lie on stomach with arms extended straight overhead, palms resting flat on the floor. Extend legs straight back, toes touching floor and glutes engaged.

B. Gazing slightly forward at the floor, simultaneously lift head, chest, arms, and legs up and off the floor. (Imagine you’re in a Superman-style flying position.)

C. Slowly drive elbows down as if they were going into your back pocket and squeeze shoulder blades together. Briefly pause, then extend arms straight forward and slowly lower head, chest, arms, and legs back to start.

Repeat for 30 seconds.


Credit: Nathan Cowley/Pexels

Also known as plank up-downs, this no-weight arm workout move challenges your chest, shoulders, core, and, of course, arms, and it also helps to improve balance and stability, says Wilson. “It’s a great high-intensity, low-impact movement that is sure to spike your heart rate and add a bit of a cardio challenge to this workout,” she adds.

A. Start in a high plank position with hands directly underneath shoulders and legs extended, feet hip-width apart.

B. Keeping core tight and glutes engaged, place right elbow on ground, then left elbow on ground to lower down to elbow plank.

C. Place right hand under right shoulder, and left hand under left shoulder to return to high plank position. Repeat with left side first.

Repeat for 30 seconds, alternating which arm goes first.

Eccentric Hand-Release Push-Up

If you thought traditional push-ups were challenging, wait until you try Wilson’s version in this no-weight arm workout. Slowing the tempo during the eccentric (aka lowering) portion of the push-up “is a highly effective way to progress your basic push-up and build massive strength,” she says. “Time under tension is key here, [so] lower as slowly as possible to the ground while maintaining a solid plank formation.” And by including a hand-release (quickly lifting your hands off the floor while you’re at the bottom of the push-up), the move further engages the back and biceps, she says.

If you’re not quite ready to do a full-fledged push-up, you have options. Instead of starting in a high plank position, begin in a modified plank position with hands directly under shoulders, knees on the floor, and toes touching the floor.

A. Start in a high plank position with hands directly underneath shoulders and legs extended, feet hip-width apart.

B. Engage core by tucking the tailbone and drawing the navel in toward the spine. Lock in the lats by drawing the shoulders down and away from the ears. Engage the glutes and quads.

C. Push elbows out so the arms form a 45-degree angle to the body. Look down to keep neck neutral. Slowly lower body down to the floor, keeping core engaged throughout the movement and ensuring body forms a straight line from head to knees. Chest, core, and thighs should hit the floor at the same time.

D. Lift hands up and off the floor, hold for one beat. Then, return hands to floor and quickly press chest then thighs off floor to return to start.

Repeat for 30 seconds.

Bear Hold with Alternating Arm Raises

Credit: Gustavo Fring/Pexels

This no-weight arm workout move takes the tabletop yoga pose to the next level. The combination of hovering your entire body just a few inches off the ground and lifting your arms into the air will target your arms, shoulders, chest, back, and core, says Wilson. “[They] all need to engage and work together on this one to create a strong, stable base to complete this movement properly — [with] minimal to no rocking back and forth,” she says. “This is a phenomenal way to increase your anti-rotational core strength and additionally improve your shoulder health and mobility.”

A. Start in a tabletop position, with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips.

B. Maintaining a flat back, lift knees 2 inches off the ground. Hold this position, hovering off the floor.

C. Quickly raise right arm forward and up until parallel with head and back. Lower arm back down to floor, and repeat on left side.

Repeat for 30 seconds, alternating arms.

Bodyweight Shoulder Press

Whether you want to call it a bodyweight shoulder press or pike push-up, this no-weight arm workout move is the perfect swap for a dumbbell overhead shoulder press, says Wilson. “We’re still training that functional overhead push strength while targeting your shoulders, triceps, and core,” she says.

A. Start in a downward dog position, with hands shoulder-width apart, palms pressed into mat, and feet hip-width apart.

B. Keeping elbows tucked at a 45-degree angle, slowly bend elbows to lower upper body until top of head touches floor. Push back to start.

Repeat for 30 seconds.

This story first appeared on

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Ivan Samkov/Pexels)

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Ailing Tsai

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