Get Strong Arms Fast With These 5 Equipment-Free Moves
Whether you’re traveling or just don’t have access to any workout equipment, there are still plenty of ways to get strong, sculpted arms that'll make everyday moves, like picking up your kid or carrying groceries, easier. (Not to mention that tank top season is coming, of course!) These five exercises may not use heavy weights, but they’re guaranteed to tire you out quickly—and build a super-strong upper body as a result. As a bonus, every one of these exercises will also work your core, so you'll get strong abs as well!
Choose any or all of these arm-builders and complete three sets of 10 to 15 reps. Tip: Try adding these upper-body exercises to your HIIT workouts for a super-quick, efficient full-body workout.
Pike push-ups are an awesome variation of a regular push-up that puts much more of an emphasis on your shoulders and triceps. To do them, start in a plank, then walk your feet toward your hands so that you’re in a pike position. Bend your elbows as you lower your forehead down toward your hands. Try to keep your elbows as close to your sides as possible rather than letting them flare out. Raise back up to the starting position, and repeat.
If you want to up the intensity level of these even more, you can try holding one leg straight above you as you do your push-ups or putting both feet on an elevated surface so that your body forms a 90-degree angle.
Plank get-ups work your core while forcing the arms to work unilaterally (one at a time) to ensure you don't just favor your strong side. Start in a plank position with your shoulders directly over your hands. Squeeze your abs and push through your shoulders, then lower down to your elbow on one side, immediately following with the other side. Straighten one arm then the other until you’re back in the starting plank position.
That’s one rep! Switch starting arms and repeat.
Handstands are a fantastic (and fun!) way to strengthen your upper body, and wall handstands are a great way to get started if you can't figure out the balance quite yet. To do them, stand with your back facing a wall, then place your hands on the ground and walk up the wall until you’re in a handstand position against the wall. Push up through your shoulders, tighten your abs and glute muscles, and point your toes. Try to get your hands less than a foot from the wall, getting closer and closer as you get more comfortable. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
If you're new to handstands or want to improve your strength and form, you can check out our free six-week handstand challenge here.
Push-Up Plank Jacks
Push-up plank jumps add a dynamic plyometric twist to regular push-ups and are an amazing equipment-free option. To do them, start in a push-up position, with your shoulders directly over your hands. Tighten your abs, glutes, and thighs, then lower yourself into a push-up so that your chest touches the floor. Push back up, jumping your feet toward your hands. Jump back to the starting push-up position and do another push-up. Finally, jump your feet out wide, then jump them back into the starting position. That’s one rep!
If you're ready to really challenge yourself and get stronger, push-up hops are one of the best exercises to build upper-body strength sans equipment. Get into a push-up position with your shoulders directly over your hands as you engage your core and squeeze your butt. Bend your elbows and knees slightly, then push up explosively so that your hands and feet leave the ground simultaneously. Land back in the starting position, then repeat. Try to link them together rather than resting in between each hop.
It’s totally fine if you can barely get off the ground at first—these will get easier with time and practice! And if this is too tough at first, you can try doing push-up hops with your hands on an elevated surface, or even from a push-up position on your knees (you'll end up hopping your hands only, not your feet).
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the author of The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness. She currently lives in Venice, California, and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
From trying her first push up in college, to teaching herself to do pull ups and handstands, Krista is living proof of her philosophy that everybody is an athlete. She has helped tens of thousands of people to unlock their full athletic potential through her 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts app and 12 Minute Athlete blog. You can find her @12minuteathlete on all social platforms.