10 Ways You Can Build Arm Muscles Without Weights

There are guys out there who could spend all day at the gym, and some actually do. For everyone else, hitting the bike and weight room is more of a task than a treat. Getting cardio away from the confines of the treadmill is easy enough. All you have to do is lace up your shoes and head outside for a run, bike, or hop in the pool to swim some laps. Even some strengthening exercises, like squats and planks, are easy to work into a routine away from the gym.

Working your arms is a little more problematic, because most of the go-to moves require a full set of dumbbells and other machinery. The secret to taking these moves out of the weight room is modifying them just a bit. With these moves you can lose the gym without losing your physique.

1. Downward dog push-ups

man doing yoga

This is the start of your downward dog push-ups. | iStock.com

The downward dog is the base for a weights-free arm workout that targets your triceps and shoulders. Plus, it’s a nice departure from the hum-drum push-ups from the plank position.

Take a cue from HowCast’s video on proper form — start yourself in a standard push-up — or plank — position, before pushing up into downward dog. For a rep, use your arms and shoulders to lower your forehead toward the ground. Then, exhale and engage your triceps to lift yourself back up.

2. Chair dips

Man working out in stadium

You can do chair dips anywhere. | iStock.com

While a lot of tricep exercises are difficult to do correctly, the chair dip is a happy exception. You don’t even need specialized equipment. Just begin seated with your feet together on the floor in front of you as you grip the edge of the chair, as Livestrong outlines. Raise yourself off the seat, keeping your arms straight, then move your body forward just enough so you won’t hit the chair as you lower yourself to the ground. Your knees should be aligned with your ankles. Bend your elbows to lower your body until your hips move below the edge of the seat, then push straight back into the starting position. Planning on running stadium stairs? Use those seats to your advantage.

3. Towel curl

Man holding towel around neck for workout

Use a towel to get the biceps of your dreams. | iStock.com

For an unexpectedly effective way to work your arms, Men’s Health recommends this curl variation. You create a sling with a towel to hold one of your feet, allowing you to provide as much or little resistance as necessary. Grab a large bath towel and fold it over a few times, and then hold one end in each hand. Stand with your back leaning against a wall, and position your feet about one foot in front of you. Keeping your right knee slightly bent, bend your left knee, and position your left foot in the center of the towel. Keeping your upper arms still, curl the edges of the towel toward you, using your foot to resist the movement. Pause briefly at the top of the move, then return to the starting position. Repeat sets as you would using dumbbells, switching legs halfway through.

4. Elevated pike push-up

Man working out doing push-ups

Try out these pike push-ups for a challenge. | iStock.com

As with the dips, you’ll need a sturdy chair or bench to perform this move. Placing your feet on the chair or bench, get into the push-up position. Carefully walk your hands backwards until your butt is pointed straight into the air. Slowly lower your body until your head is just above the floor, then push yourself all the way back up, keeping your stomach tight the whole time. Check out Men’s Fitness for photos to give you a better idea of the best form.

5. Single-leg tricep dip

Athletic woman doing push-ups

Try a different twist on dips. | iStock.com/Toxicoz

Start on all fours as you would for doing standard dips. Then, extend your right leg out straight in front of you. Using your core and leg muscles to stabilize the extended leg, push up into your bridge and continue doing tricep dips as you normally would. Taking one leg out of the equation increases the resistance, giving you even more of a burn than you would get with standard tricep dips. Just make sure to switch legs and do equal reps to keep your body balanced!

Feeling like you can handle an extra challenge? Cross this exercise with tricep dips using a chair or a bench.

6. Inverted rows

Strong young black male

Inverted rows are more effective than they look. | iStock.com/DeRepente

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need weights or a gym machine to perform this bicep- and back-working exercise. Travel Strong has a good how-to on doing this exercise, and even suggests using the corner of a sturdy table in place of a pull-up bar. Or take this exercise outside and use the bars at your local park.

7. Band push-downs

Resistance bands for working out

Get yourself a pair of resistance bands. | iStock.com

There’s plenty of pricey equipment out there promising the best at-home workouts. But you don’t need any of it if you have some basic tools. Livestrong explains how to set up a station for this move by setting the anchor at the top of the door before closing it. Next, thread the band through the anchor loop so the handles dangle at either end. You want the handles to be about eye level, so make sure your door is tall enough.

Once you’ve set up your makeshift equipment, you’re ready to execute the push-downs. Grasp one end of the band in each hand. Keeping your upper arms pinned to your sides, extend your arms until your elbows are no longer bent, then return to the starting position. Muscle & Fitness recommends grasping the bands at a resistance that allows you to complete 50 to 75 repetitions.

8. Lateral plank walk

young beautiful woman in sportswear doing plank

Take your plank for a walk. | iStock.com/g-stockstudio

You know those workouts that look like they will be fairly easy, and then you end up sweating bullets halfway through? The lateral plank walk fits that category well. Not only does “walking” side to side in a plank position work every part of your arm from wrist to shoulder, but it will also have you feeling the burn within seconds.

All weights-free arm workouts should have some kind of plank-based workout in it. The position itself works every part of the body, and its many variations are great for targeting your arms. The need for coordination in this exercise also bumps up your heart rate, so you will work up a sweat while working your arm muscles.

9. Towel pull-ups

Man holding towel after workout

Your towel will come in handy once again. | iStock.com

The move is simple to perform. Just sling a towel over a bar, and grasp one end in each hand. Pull yourself up until your chin rises just above your hands. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, and repeat as many times as you can. Be warned, this is an extremely challenging move. If you find yourself unable to complete the pull-ups, Men’s Fitness suggests hanging in the beginning position as long as possible. It’ll still be quite a challenge for your forearms.

10. Arm rotations

sporty woman raising arms

Arm rotations can really get you toned. | iStock.com/Kikovic

Want the built arms of a tennis player? This exercise is where it’s at. While rotating your arms in circles might not seem like much of an exercise without weights, adding a resistance band will help you build your biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Plus, it also serves as a way to get your body loose before doing bigger arm workouts. “This will loosen up your shoulders, reducing shoulder impingement and other injuries,” FitDay explains.

Set up for this is easy: Start making small circles with your arms, then gradually make the size of those circles bigger. AZCentral.com says, “To really hone in on your muscles, complete the circles for two to three minutes in each direction, resting between each exercise for about one minute.”