Bodyweight Exercises to Get Bigger Arms & Chest

A young man is doing pull ups outdoors.
Image Credit: Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock/Getty Images

You can get big pecs, biceps and triceps without purchasing a weight set or machines. You already have a large amount of weight at your disposal -- your body. Exercises that make your arm and chest muscles lift your body against gravity exercise these areas to build strength and bulk.

Pushups for Pecs

Pushups build muscle in the chest and arms. Difficult variations of the pushups also work the shoulders, glutes and abs. To build muscle, you want to lift heavy weights. One way to make your chest and arms lift more weight doing a pushup is to add a leg lift. To perform this variation, first assume pushup position with your arms straight and hands in line with your shoulders. Then, lower your chest toward the floor and simultaneously lift one leg toward the ceiling. On the next repetition, raise the other leg.

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Inchworms for Arms and Abs

Inchworms are another body-weight exercise that works the chest and arms. Inchworms are an advanced, total-body exercise that also work your abs, shoulders and back muscles. To perform inchworms, start bent over with your fingers on the floor just in front of your toes. This is the starting position. Next, walk your hands forward and lower your body into pushup position. Do one pushup and then walk your feet forward to your hands as you come back to the starting position. With every rep, you move forward.

Chair Dips for Triceps

Chair dips are one of the best exercises for your triceps. Just make sure that you use a sturdy chair that won't tip, break or roll out from under you. To begin, sit in the chair and grip the edge of your seat, placing your feet together on the floor in front of you. Raise your buttocks off the chair holding your arms straight, and bring yourself forward just far enough so that you won't hit the seat when you lower into a dip. Align your knees with your ankles. This is the starting position. Bend your elbows next, lowering your hips below the edge of the seat, and then press your arms straight again. You should feel your triceps working when you lift yourself up.

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Chinups for Biceps

Chinups do not require weights, but they do require a pullup bar. You can find one at the gym or likely a playground if you don't want to purchase one for your home. Chinups target the biceps and the back. To begin, hang from a bar with your knees bent and your palms facing you with your hands in line with your shoulders. Next, bend your elbows and pull yourself up to the bar. You should feel the biceps working to bring your chin up to the bar.

Related Reading

The popularity of bodyweight exercises is on the rise. In 2013, bodyweight strength training made the list of the top 10 fitness trends for the first time, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. If you're looking to strengthen your arms, you don't need to invest in a gym membership or bulky weights. You can build strength effectively using just your own body weight, often in the comfort of your own home.

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Biceps

Step 1

Perform underhand chin-ups to strengthen your biceps. Hold the bar with an underhand grip and lift your feet off the floor. Use your arms to pull your body body up until you can place your chin over the bar. Slowly return to the starting position. If you're not strong enough to do a full chin-up, use a bar that is low enough that you can reach the floor with your feet throughout the entire exercise if necessary.

Step 2

Use a table in your house to do inverted curls. Lie on your back under a sturdy table with your hands grasping the top of the table and your knees bent. Pull your body up toward the table, then slowly lower your body to the starting position.

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Step 3

Try ledge curls if you are a beginner to exercise. Stand in front of a horizontal, wist-high protruding ledge, such as a table or a kitchen counter. Make fists with your hands and place them under the ledge with your palms facing each other. Press up on the ledge as if you are trying to lift it. Simultaneously bend at the waist, keeping your back straight. Relax your arms and return to the standing position.

Triceps

Step 1

Adapt the seated dips exercise based on your exercise level. Find a bench or sturdy chair that is at about knee level. Turn away from the bench, extend your arms back and put your hands on the edge of the bench. Your knuckles should face forward. If you are a beginner, bend your knees in a 90-degree angle. If you are a more seasoned exerciser, straighten your legs out in front of your so that only your heels are touching the floor. Lower yourself backward until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Return to return to the starting position.

Step 2

Use triceps push-ups -- also known as diamond push-ups -- for a challenging triceps workout. Lie on the floor in the push-up position and bring your hands together in a diamond shape on the floor so that your thumbs and index fingers are close together. Using your arms, lower yourself to the floor and then raise yourself back up. If this exercise is too challenging, keep your knees on the floor throughout the movement.

Step 3

Add bodyweight triceps extensions to target the back of your arms as well as your abs and glutes. Put your hands on the edge of a table or sturdy chair, keeping them close together. Walk your legs back so that you are standing on your toes and you are facing the ground. Your head should be in line with your shoulders. Lower your body until your forearms are parallel to the floor, then raise your body to the starting position.

Things You'll Need

  • Chin-up bar

  • Bench

  • Sturdy table

Tip

Warm up for five to 10 minutes with light activity such as walking to increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare them for the work ahead. Cool down the same way to return your body to its pre-exercise state. Perform static stretches after your workout to increase flexibility and help speed the recovery process.

Warning

Stop exercising immediately if you feel a sharp or sudden pain. Stop performing an exercise if you find you are straining and losing your form, as improper form can lead to injury. Don’t hold your breath during the exercise, as this can cause a dangerous increase in blood pressure. Don’t exercise the same muscles two days in a row. Allow at least 48 hours for your muscles to rest and recover.

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