These 17 bodyweight arm exercises sculpt and tone your arms anywhere, anytime, no gym required. But they also have one more trick up their sleeve: building functional upper body strength.
Read on to see what functional strength is, why it’s important, and 17 bodyweight arm exercises you can do to increase it and quickly tone your arms.
What Functional Strength Is and Why It Matters
Functional strength is strength that isn’t only about having strong muscles, but also the ability to perform daily ranges of motion.
For example: a typical gym-goer who lifts weight regularly may have a lot of physical strength, but only through certain ranges of movement and in one direction. So, say, a bench press while lying on a bench. They may have strong chest and bicep muscles, but only these muscles are targeted.
Someone who has functional strength, however, may not be able to press as much weight during a bench press as a weight lifter. Instead, they include exercises in their regime like pushups, pullups, and planks. These exercises increase their ability to push and pull in real-life situations, such as carrying groceries or lifting furniture. These types of movements involve working many muscles together, such as your entire upper back and even some of your core.
Functional strength is crucial to long-term health, especially as we age. It not only keeps us fit, but also works the muscle and skeletal system as a whole with real-life movements. This helps your body handle situations that require you to move quickly, like tripping or losing your balance.
17 Bodyweight Arm Exercises for Functional Arm Strength
Try out these bodyweight arm exercises to build your functional upper body strength while also sculpting strong, toned arms.
Supermans target your triceps, shoulders and upper back, along with the added benefit of your gluten and hamstrings.
- To begin, lie face down on your belly with your forehead on the ground. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms face down and keep your legs straight out behind you, slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Inhale, lifting your arms and legs off the ground, focusing on using your back, glutes, shoulders, and triceps. Pause at the top, then slowly lower your legs and arms down. Repeat for 12 reps.
2. One-Leg Knee Pushups
This exercise sculpts your entire upper body, with a focus on your triceps. As a bonus, you also get some glute and core action.
- Begin in a modified plank position, hands beneath your shoulders and knees lowered to the floor.
- Extend your right leg out behind you so that it’s parallel to the floor. Tighten your core and glutes to keep your left hip squared forward.
- With your right leg extended, exhale to bend your elbows, lowering into a pushup. Inhale and straighten your arms, keeping your leg lifted.
- Repeat for 6 reps with your right leg lifted, then switch to your left leg and repeat for 6 reps.
3. Reverse Tabletop with Arm Extension
Reverse table engages your upper and lower back and shoulders, while also sculpting your triceps and the back of your arms and glutes.
- Begin seated with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Place your hands on the ground behind you, fingertips pointing forward in line with your heels.
- Press into your hands and heels to push your hips up. Transfer the weight into your right hand and lift your left arm straight back behind you. Hold for a moment and then place your right hand back down. Switch sides.
- Alternate for 12-15 reps.
4. Tricep Dips
Tricep dips are a classic bodyweight exercise to tone your triceps and the back of your shoulders.
- Begin by planting your hands behind you on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Shimmy your feet out in front of you, keeping them hip-width apart.
- Lift your booty off the floor by pushing through your heels, keeping your arms straight.
- Now bend your elbows and slowly lower your booty until it brushes the ground. Push back up using your triceps until your arms are straight again.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps.
5. High Plank Shoulder Taps
High plank shoulders taps engage your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back.
- Start in a high plank position with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Walk your feet out behind you, hip-width apart. Pull in your belly and engage your thighs and glutes.
- Shift your weight onto your left hand, then lift your right hand up and tap your left shoulder. Try to keep your hips square to the ground.
- Now place your right hand back on the ground. Shift your weight onto your right hand, lift your left hand up, and tap it to your right shoulder. Place it back on the ground.
- Continue alternating side to side for 15-20 reps.
6. Side Elbow Plank
This exercise works your entire upper body while also challenging your balance to build a strong core.
- Place your right elbow on the ground and extend both legs out to your side. Your body should be in one straight line, and you’ll be balancing on the outside edge of your right foot.
- Flex your feet, and rest your top hand on your upper hip.
- Keeping your spine lengthened and your abs engaged, lift your left leg up just higher than your top hip. Now, slowly lower it back to your bottom leg.
- Repeat for 6 reps on both sides.
7. Forearm Plank Jacks
This exercise gets your heart rate up while engaging your shoulders, chest, triceps and biceps, and your core.
- Begin in a forearm plank. Position your elbows directly under your shoulders and extend your feet out behind you, hip-width apart.
- Engage your core, firmly keeping your elbows planted. Jump your feet out wider than hip-width, then jump them back in.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
8. Decline Pushups
This exercise is excellent for sculpting your chest, triceps, biceps, and upper back.
- Begin in a high plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Walk your feet a few inches toward your hands to get a slight lift of your hips toward the ceiling, bringing your body into a V-shape.
- Gaze down between your hands, keeping the V-shape with your body as you bend your elbows and bring the crown of your head towards the ground. Exhale, pressing back up and straightening your arms.
- Repeat for 12 reps.
9. Chaturanga Pushups
This exercise deeply works your triceps while also engaging your core.
- Start in a high plank position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core, glutes, and thighs, and make sure your belly doesn’t sag toward the floor.
- Keeping your elbows hugged to your side, inhale and bend your elbows to lower yourself down into a tricep pushup. Exhale, pressing your body up and straightening your arms.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
10. Plank Side Walk
Plank side walks sculpt your upper and side back, triceps, and shoulders while also getting your heart rate up and engaging your core.
- Begin in a high plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and feet behind you, hip-width apart.
- Cross your right hand over your left as you step your left foot to the left. Then, simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, so you’re back in plank position. Move your hands together as your feet step apart.
- Repeat for 5-8 steps to the right, then 5-8 steps to the left, which equals one rep on each side.
- Do 5 total reps.
11. Rolling Forearm Side Planks
Forearm side planks also work your entire upper body, along with your obliques, glutes, and core.
- Start in a forearm plank, elbows beneath your shoulders and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Roll onto your right forearm into a side plank, reaching your left arm up to the ceiling, making sure your hips and feet are stacked one over the other. Pause for a moment, then return to your forearm plank.
- Repeat on the left side.
12. Triangle Pushups
Triangle pushups work your biceps, triceps, and chest. This one can be difficult, so if you need to, lower down to your knees.
- Begin in a high plank position, hands directly beneath your shoulders and feet behind you, slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Bring your hands together in a triangle formation beneath your chest.
- Bend your elbows and lower toward the ground into a pushup. Push back up, engaging your triceps and core.
- Repeat for 8-10 reps.
T-pushups work your entire upper body while also engaging your core to help improve your balance.
- Begin in a high plank position with your feet and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and core engaged.
- Inhale, bending your elbows to 90 degrees, and lower yourself into a pushup position. Exhale to press back up. Rotate your heels at the top, open your chest, and lift your left arm into the air to bring your body into a side plank position.
- Place your left hand back on the floor and inhale, lowering back down into a pushup. Now, as you exhale, press up and lift your right arm into the air for a side plank on the opposite side.
- Alternate for 12 reps.
14. Tricep Dips with Leg Lifts
This variation of regular tricep dips further engages your triceps and shoulders while also working your lower abs and glutes.
- Sit on the edge of a bench with your hands just outside of your hips, fingers pointed toward your feet.
- Move your butt off the bench, bending your legs at a 90-degree angle. Lift one leg out in front of you.
- Now, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and lower for one dip. Push back up so your arms are straight.
- Repeat for 8 reps, then lift the opposite leg and repeat the same movement.
15. Inchworm with Shoulder Taps
This exercise works your entire upper body and core while also getting your heart rate up.
- Begin by standing, then bend at the waist to place your hands on the floor in front of you.
- Walk your hands out until you’re in a high plank.
- Tap each hand to your opposite shoulder, engaging your core and glutes to keep your hips from rocking side to side. Walk your hands back in and return to your standing position.
- Repeat for 8-10 reps.
16. Squat and Reach
This exercise challenges your shoulders and upper back while also working your glutes.
- Begin with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.
- Keeping your weight in your heels, sit back into a squat. Make sure your knees do not go above your toes.
- As you sit back in your squat, raise both of your arms overhead, with your biceps beside your ears. Hold this for a moment, then return to standing while lowering your arms to your sides.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps.
This exercise engages and sculpts your shoulders, triceps, and biceps while also tightening your upper back and core.
- Begin in a forearm plank with your elbows parallel to one another and your feet hip-width apart.
- Inhale, picking up your right forearm and placing your right hand on the ground. Then exhale, picking up your left forearm and placing your left hand on the ground underneath your left shoulder, which will bring you to a high plank position.
- Now lower your right forearm back to the ground, then lower your left forearm back to the ground, bringing you back into your plank position.
- Repeat for 8 reps on your right arm, then 8 reps on your left.
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