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 triceps and forearms, but also your pecs and shoulders.
Get on a dip bar, keep your chest out, and lower yourself until your elbows make a 90-degree angle. At the bottom, drive yourself back up. To keep pressure off your neck, look at a spot on the ground a few feet in front of you.
To emphasize the pecs, bend your knees and put your feet behind you. To focus on your triceps, keep your legs extended and point your toes slightly 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. Pullups are one of the best—and most badass—ways to develop vice-like strength in your forearms, especially if you hold a towel while doing it.
To do a towel pullup, 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.
Traditional biceps 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 suspension trainer will force you to stay rigid, and it will activate all the other muscles in your body while targeting your arms.
Grab a suspension trainer and face the anchor point. Lean away, keep your body straight, and pin your upper arms to your sides. Then curl yourself toward the suspension trainer's anchor point.To make this harder, move your feet closer to the anchor point so your body is angled closer to the floor.
The classic chinup is arguably even better than the pullup for building your arms. While the pullup is a perfect overall back-builder, the chinup—palms facing you—shifts more of the workload to your biceps.
To to a chinup, grab a bar with your palms facing you (aka supine grip). Keeping your legs extended and your toes pointed—no kicking!—pull yourself slowly so your chin is above the bar. Lower yourself back down gradually and under control. That's one rep.
Often called a "decline" pushup, the feet-elevated pushup intensifies the old-school pushup by shifting more of your body weight to your chest and arms. That makes it a perfect way to build your triceps strength, as well as your anterior deltoids, your pecs, and your core (because you'll need to prevent your hips from sagging).
This exercise is simple: Just do it exactly as you would a standard pushup, but elevate your feet on a sturdy box or bench. To make it even more difficult, put your feet on a slightly unstable surface, like a BOSU ball.
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. Narrow-grip chinups ramp up the difficulty even more, reducing the leverage of your back muscles and shifting more of the workload to your arms.
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 by setting your hands near each other during pushups. A narrow grip reduces your chest leverage, forcing your triceps to absorb more of the work.
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 wear on a weight vest. Just make sure to warm up your arms before attempting these.
The beauty of suspension-trainer 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 biceps curl, and for the triceps extension.
Grab the suspension trainer's 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 lifting 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. Doing a pike pushup with your feet in a suspension trainer, as shown here, will challenge your balance but still let you scale down the load on your shoulders.
Keep your elbows in as you descend, drive yourself back up, and keep your hips up the entire time. Make sure your fingers are pointing in front of you, rather than out to the sides.