Getting chiseled biceps and defined triceps is about way more than boasting muscles. A strong upper body can actually reveal a lot about your overall health. It's true: Your grip strength and ability to do push-ups may even predict how long you live.
So what better reason to start strengthening those arms? Here, Emily Gotika, CPT, shares the only exercises you'll ever need to get strong, sculpted arms.
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Bonus: These exercise require zero equipment, so you can do them whenever (or wherever) arm inspiration strikes. Or, put them all together into a circuit (and repeat three times through) for a killer 6-minute arm workout designed by Gotika and demonstrated by Brittany Hammond, CPT.
1. Push-Up With Shoulder Tap
Though this exercise will definitely build arm and shoulder muscles, it's also a great compound movement that can help you gain total-body strength, especially in your chest and core, Gotika says.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Step your feet back and straighten your legs so that you're balanced on your palms and toes.
- Check your body and hand position: Your body should make a straight line from head to hips to heels, and your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly wider apart.
- Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your body to the floor.
- Make sure to keep your body in one straight line from the neck through the spine to the hips and down to the heels.
- Press into your palms and push the floor away from you to come back up to a high plank, still keeping your body in one straight line.
- Tap your left hand to your right shoulder, then your right hand to your left shoulder. That's one rep.
- Repeat 5 times.
To modify, perform this push-up variation against a wall or a sturdy elevated surface like a workout bench.
2. Lying Triceps Extension
"Never underestimate the power of using body weight to build strength," Gotika says. This move targets your triceps and is guaranteed to set the back of your arms on fire. Control is key, so don't rush here.
- Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Press your upper back into the floor and your shoulder blades down.
- Holding a single dumbbell with both hands, bring your hands together straight above your chest.
- Keeping your elbows pointed straight up toward the ceiling, bend your arms and bring your hands toward your face.
- Then extend your arms back up.
- Repeat 8 times.
To make this move easier, stand facing a wall, place your hands on the wall at chin-height and shoulder-width apart and bend your elbows until your forearms touch the wall. To finish the rep, press into your palms to straighten your arms back to starting position.
3. Arm Pulse
"This exercise looks easy until you do it for 1 minute straight," Gotika says. That's because keeping your arms lifted requires multiple muscles, and the small movements are especially taxing for your shoulders.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Raise your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
- Keeping your arm muscles and hands engaged, pulse your arms up and down quickly.
- Complete 10 pulses with your palms facing down, then 10 with your palms facing up.
- Continue alternating for 60 seconds.
4. Triceps Dip
Dips are another muscle-trembling move to train your triceps. Elevate your legs on a workout bench to make them even more challenging, Gotika says.
- Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair or workout bench.
- Place your hands palms down on the chair on either side of your hips and extend your legs out in front of you.
- Carefully slide your butt off the edge of the chair while keeping your arms straight and your back close to the edge of the chair.
- Slowly bend your elbows to almost a 90-degree angle while lowering your butt toward the floor,.
- Push back up to the starting position.
- Repeat 8 times.
For the ultimate triceps burn, try using a dip bar at the gym and let your legs hang freely. This way you’ll have to hoist your whole body with every dip.
5. Dive Bomber
"This full-body movement requires core, leg and back strength but relies mostly on the arms for support," Gotika says.
- Start from a tabletop position on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Curl your toes under and press through your hands and toes to lift your knees away from the mat or floor.
- Extend your arms while lifting your hips up and back. Your body should form an inverted “V.”
- Bend your elbows, guiding your chest down toward the ground.
- When your chest is almost touching the ground, lower your hips and snake forward to upward dog.
- Use your core to lift your body up and back to starting position.
- Repeat 5 times.
To modify, stop after step two, pressing back to downward dog. Still too difficult? Try placing your hands onto a stable surface at hip-height.