We know what you're thinking: What the hell am I supposed to do at the gym without tricep pushdowns and dumbbell curls? But here's the thing: Without all those heavy weights, you’ll give your body and joints a much-needed break. By altering your body angle and position and getting creative with the right tools at your gym, you can still get the necessary stimulus for real growth in your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and forearms.
Substitute your normal arm exercises with these bodyweight moves for the next few weeks and watch your arms grow like weeds—you’re welcome.
Dips are a phenomenal exercise that not only build your pecs and shoulders, but also blast your triceps and forearms.
Get on a dip bar, keep your chest out, and lower yourself until your elbows make a 90-degree angle. At the bottom, drive back up. To keep pressure off your neck, look at a spot on the ground a few feet in front of you.
To develop bigger arms, you must address what is often any weightlifter's weakest link: grip strength. If you increase how much you can hold, you’ll increase the muscle-building stimulus on your body. Towel pullups are one of the best—and most badass—ways to develop vice-like strength in your forearms.
Wrap two towels around a pullup bar and grab the ends. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up while leading with your chest. If two towels are too difficult, use just one towel and get equal reps on both arms.
TRX Bicep Curls
Traditional bicep curls can leave you susceptible to all kinds of twisting, leaning, and bending, not to mention as well as overuse injuries to your elbows because of all the external resistance. However, doing a curl with the TRX will force you to stay rigid, and it will activate all the other muscles in your body while targeting your arms.
Grab a TRX and face the anchor point. Lean away, keep your body straight, and pin your upper arms to your sides. Then curl the TRX towards you. To make this harder, move your feet closer to the anchor point so your body is angled closer to the floor.
The crab walk looks weird, but it builds total-body stability, but also targets your shoulders and triceps as your arms brace to keep you up. Get into a crab position: hands and feet flat on the ground, chest facing up, knees bent, hips an inch from the ground, arms straight, hands directly underneath your shoulders, and fingers pointing behind you.
Crawl forward by taking a tiny step with your right arm and left leg at the same time, and then another step with your left arm and right leg. Alternate while keeping your hips low and your chest up. To make this harder, crawl backwards or laterally.
Band pushdowns are a great way to build volume into your triceps without putting pressure on your sensitive elbow joints. With so many reps, you’ll get the “pump” as well as a significant time under tension for serious hypertrophy.
Attach a light band to a sturdy overhead object and grasp an end with both hands. Pin your upper arms at your sides and extend your elbows to lockout. Grab the band so that you encounter a level of resistance that will fatigue your arms after 50–75 reps.
Unlike the pullup, the chinup—palms facing you—increases the load on your biceps. While the pullup is probably the better overall back-builder, the chinup succeeds in hammering your arms, leading to a big pump after only a few reps.
Hang from a chinup bar with palms facing toward you and only a few inches apart. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up—make sure you keep your legs straight and held together—until your chin is over the bar. Slowly lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended again. That's one rep.
Hammer your triceps, pecs, shoulders, and core by using a narrow width on the pushup. Get into a pushup position with your hands only a few inches apart. Lower yourself by keeping your elbows close to your sides. To make this exercise harder, elevate your feet or throw on a weight vest.
TRX Triceps Extension
The beauty of TRX exercises is that you can quickly dial up or dial down the intensity by moving closer to, or further away from, the anchor point. That's true for the bicep curl, and for the triceps extension.
Grab the TRX straps and stand facing away from the anchor point. Lean forward and keep your body straight. Now hold your elbows in front of your chest with your elbows bent and your hands close to your fore. While keeping your body rigid and upper arms stationary, extend your forearms forward to activate your triceps and push yourself up.
Pushing anything overhead is an awesome way to build thick shoulders and triceps, but it's tough to achieve that effect with bodyweight moves. Enter the pike pushup.
Pike pushups mimic overhead weightlifting by getting you upside-down. Get into a pushup position and raise your hips until your upper body is vertical from your hands to your hips. (It's probably easier to achieve this position if you set your feet on a box or bench.)
Keep your elbows in as you descend, drive yourself back up, and keep your hips up the entire time. To make this harder, put your feet on a stability ball—your core will need to fight to hold you upright.