There’s nothing like a pair of well-toned arms to top off your look. To achieve that look, however, you’ll have to work the biceps and triceps muscles in your upper arms. If you don’t have time to run to the gym three times a week -- or maybe you just don’t like training with weights -- don’t worry, there’s more than one way to reach your goal. Stand up for strong arms with a variety of resistance exercises.
Warm-Up and Stretches
Warm up before all of your workouts with five to 10 minutes of light aerobics, then perform dynamic stretches such as arm swings and circles. For example, extend your arms at your sides with your thumbs pointing down, bring your arms together behind your back, then swing them forward in front of your chest. Some experts differ, but the general rule is to perform dynamic, or moving, stretches before your workouts, and then static stretches, in which you hold the position for at least 15 seconds, afterward. Static stretches may include a triceps stretch in which you extend both arms vertically, bend from one elbow to touch your opposite shoulder, then rest your other hand on the opposite elbow. To stretch your biceps, extend your arm to the side with the thumb down. Press the back of your hand against a vertical object, such as the inside of a door frame, then step forward outside the door, keeping your arm extended, until you feel the stretch in your upper arm.
No matter how much or how little you weigh, you can use your body weight as resistance to build your upper arms. If you’re very thin, for example, you’ll just perform more repetitions of each exercise. Pullups and chin-ups are classic biceps exercises, although chin-ups, performed with an underhand grip, target the biceps more directly. Body-weight dips focus on the triceps. Hold yourself erect while grasping parallel bars or the handles of a dip machine with your arms extended, then raise and lower your body. Make pullups, chin-ups and dips more challenging by holding your shins parallel to the floor while you do your reps.
Solo Resistance Bands
The curl is the classic biceps free-weight exercise, but you can perform it and still leave the barbell and dumbbells on the racks. Just hold an exercise band in both hands -- use one for support and curl the other arm upward. Perform a triceps extension by holding the band behind your back. Secure the band with one arm at waist-level, grasp the top of the band with the other arm behind your neck, then extend your upper arm vertically. You can also use resistance bands to replicate a lat pulldown to work your biceps or a triceps pushdown.
Partner Resistance Bands
A fun part of working out without weights is the opportunity to exercise with a partner. Use a long band, such as a resistance tube with four handles. Face your partner and stretch the band so it’s horizontal at upper-chest level and fairly taut. Pull the handles back toward your body, then straighten one arm while pulling back the other to perform standing rows. To work your triceps, hold the band about waist-high, bend forward from the hips, then pull the band straight back. Bend one arm at the elbow to move your hand forward, then straighten the elbow as you bend the other arm. In both exercises, alternate arms and make sure you’re in sync with your partner.
- YouTube: Arm Stretches (Bicep & Tricep)
- American Council on Exercise: Chin-Ups
- Anatomy of Exercise; Pat Manocchia
- ExRx.net: Triceps Dip
- American Council on Exercise: Whole-Body Exercise Band Workout
- American Council on Exercise: Triceps Pushdown
- American Council on Exercise: Triceps Extension with Tubing (Partner Assisted)
- American Council on Exercise: Power Standing Row with Resistance Tubing
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.