There seems to be a huge conundrum with regards to training the arms using bodyweight exercises. Traditional arm workouts include many isolation movements, which are important when specifically targeting the arms.
So then is it possible to isolate muscle groups when training without any equipment? Bodyweight training as heralded as a system of training that incorporates majority compound movements.
Fact is that you can not TRULLY isolate a muscle group with bodyweight training, but you can get awfully close. In today’s article, you will learn 2 bodyweight exercises targeting the biceps, and 3 bodyweight exercises targeting the triceps. You’ll also learn some great variations and ways to make the movements more difficult, so you’ll always be challenged!
The best way to perform this movement is at a park. Most parks have a low-hanging horizontal bar. To perform this exercise, lie under the bar with knees bent and feet planted on the ground. Grab the bar with and underhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Pull your body towards the bar until the chest touches the bar. Pause, then slowly lower your body back to starting position. Repeat.
Here are some ways to make this exercise harder:
Lift one Leg Up
Instead of keeping both feet on the ground, simply lift one leg up. This will engage more of your core and make the movement twice as hard. This is a great variation is you do not have any additional equipment (mentioned later in the post)
Place your Feet on an Elevated Object
Simply placing your feet on an elevated object will make a huge difference. The higher the object, the more difficult the movement will become. You can start off with chairs, or grab a few box steps.
Place your Feet against a Wall
Ever see rock climbers, or those movies where commandoes are repelling down the side of a building? They look like they’re walking on the wall! If you can find a place against a wall to place your suspension system, then place your feet against the wall, straighten out your body, and row.
The first time I did these, I thought I could pump out 8 repetitions easily. But I only managed 5 repetitions.
Place your Feet on a Stability Ball
I’ve tried this once, and it was super difficult. I barely managed one repetition. So I will keep practicing the feet against a wall, before attempting the stability ball variation. However, I’ve been placing the stability ball on a tire to keep it still.
This prevents it from rolling out from under you, but still gives you that uneven surface feeling. So I have yet to try the stability ball with tire variation.
Experiment on your own. Find a variation that allows you to only pump out 5 repetitions, and slowly build up to 10 repetitions. You will definitely be much stronger and bigger through suspension training!
Parallel Grip Chin Ups
Traditionally, to perform this exercise you needed a V-handle chin up bar. Some chin-up bars have this feature. However, if you do not have access to a V-handle chin-up bar, then you can perform these in the park. Go to the parallel dip station, and kneel down between parallel bars. Grab the bars with a palms-facing in grip. From this position, pull your body up off the floor, until your shoulders touch the parallel bars. Pause, and lower slowly.
Bodyweight Triceps Extensions
You can perform this movement using the same horizontal bar you used for the bodyweight rows. Stand in front of the bar, and place your hands approximately 6 inches apart using a false (thumbless) grip. Step back a little. From this position, lower your body so that your head go under the bar. Keep your elbows tucked in close. When you get to your lowest position, reverse the movement, and press back to starting position. Make sure to keep your entire body tight. The only movement that should occur is with your elbows.
Close Grip Push Ups
Get into a regular pushup position. Place your hands closer together than you would a regular pushup. Now lower your body down while keep your elbows close to your body. Go down until your chest is an inch off the floor, pause, and return to starting position.
There are more difficult push up variations you can use which also help you target your triceps. Check out this article for more variations: Push Up Variations
Dips are an awesome movement. They hit your chest, triceps, and shoulders. With slight modifications, you can work your triceps more than your chest, which is the focus of this article.
How to get big triceps with dips:
- While doing normal dips, keep your body as straight as possible, and look straight ahead.
- You want to go slightly lower than a 90 degree angle – but not too low, or you may risk injury.
Once you’re able to perform 15 solid dips without stopping, it’s time to add weight to your dips. Here are some ways to add resistance to your dips:
#1 – Wear a Weighted Vest
The easiest way to add resistance to your dips is to wear a weighted vest. In fact, a weighted vest is great to add resistance to all your bodyweight movements. A good vest costs about $40, and you can eventually add more resistance to it as you get stronger rather easily.
#2 – Use a Dip Belt
Another option is to use a dip belt. However, you will need weight plates for this to work. So if you do not have any weight plates available, there is no point in purchasing a dip belt, unless you plan on grabbing a full weight set as well.
#3 – Put a Dumbbell Between your Feet
This is the cheapest option, although it is a bit difficult to pull off. You can grab dumbbells of various sizes at garage sales. The main limitation to this technique is that your feet can only carry a limited amount of weight
#4 – Wear a Book Bag fills with Stuff
This is super easy if you’re a college student or an avid reader. Grab a nice book bag, fill it with some heavy textbooks, and go! The only drawback is that the backpack can become bulky, and there is a limit to how much weight you can put in it without the book bag ripping.
#5 – Cross your Feet and Put a Dumbbell on Top
Placing the dumbbell above your calves will allow you to securely carry more weight. However, you will need a training partner to place the dumbbell there. If you’re training in a gym, then you can ask someone for help. However, if you have access to a gym, then you have access to weight plates and so you can use the dip belt instead.
#6 – Leveraging
Place greater emphasis on one side then the other. This easier to do with pullups then dips, but still a great technique. Shift all your weight on one arm, and perform 5-15 repetitions on that side, before shifting your weight on the other side.
Now, the key is to take these movements and build a solid routine out of them. Check out this guide on how to design a bodyweight muscle building workout.