You’re ready to build up your upper body. These 20 simple bodyweight exercises will help you develop functional arm strength without the need for a gym membership. Ditch the isolation exercises!

Exercises for functional training imitate actions we take in daily life. These workouts frequently involve complicated motions that work several muscle groups simultaneously. Enhanced strength, agility, and mobility along with a decreased chance of injury are the advantages of functional training.

Many exercise regimens focus only on the “vanity muscles”—the deltoids and biceps, in particular—in an attempt to increase arm strength. Sadly, an imbalance in muscle development brought on by these solo workouts increases the danger of strain or damage to the arms and shoulders.

Concentrating on functional, compound movements is the secret to well-developed arms that are both attractive and useful. Combining mobility, stability, and strength exercises, each arm workout should focus on different muscles found in the upper and lower arms as well as the front, back, and sides of the shoulders.

All skill levels can begin this workout with the mobility and stability exercises. It then goes into a series of fundamental arm exercises using only your bodyweight; how difficult these are for you will depend on your current strength level. Those with advanced fitness are best suited for the last “power set.” If you’re not ready for the challenge, feel free to skip any of the activities in this section.

Each section’s movements set you up for the next step. The inchworm, for instance, gets your body ready for a push-up, which gets your body ready for a power push-up. Work your way down, starting at the top.

Stability and Mobility

Arm Swings: Warming up your muscles for exercise involves dynamic stretching. Maintain a straight spine and contract your abs as you begin to slowly swing your arms out to the side and then cross them in front of your body, switching up which arm swings in front. Increase the swing size gradually until you feel a small stretch in your shoulder blades and chest. Make 20–30 arm swings.

Wall Clocks: Because they engage your rotator cuff and scapular stabilisers, wall clocks are an excellent workout for shoulder stability. Spread your hands shoulder-width apart on a wall. Slide one hand out to the side while keeping it in contact with the wall, without shrugging your shoulders. Return the hand to its initial position. Work on each side for three sets of five.

Shoulder blades squeeze, also known as scapula retraction, is an exercise that helps maintain the health of your shoulders by strengthening the middle back muscles. Maintain a relaxed stance with your arms hanging down by your sides. Imagine you are trying to squeeze a tennis ball in the middle of your back, and gently retract your shoulder blades. Return the shoulders to their initial posture by releasing them. Throughout the exercise, maintain a relaxed upper shoulder posture. Execute three sets of ten.

Extend & Flex: You may strengthen your grip for weighted arm workouts and lessen elbow and wrist pain by training your forearms, wrists, and hands in all planes of motion. With your fingertips reaching long and your palms facing down, begin by extending your arms away from your chest. Point the fingertips downward towards the ground while bending the wrist. Point the fingertips upward towards the ceiling while flexing the wrist. When you move the wrists, maintain a tiny bend in the elbows and keep the upper arm stationary. The forearm flexors are stretched and strengthened by this workout. Work on each direction for 12–16 repetitions.

An exercise that helps your body get ready for push-ups is the inchworm, which tones your arms, shoulders, core, and chest. Position yourself at the end of your mat and place your feet hip-distance apart to begin. With your knees slightly bent, lean forwards and place your hands flat on the mat in a forwards fold. Step your hands out until you are in a full plank position, about one foot at a time. After a brief moment of holding the plank in place, walk your hands back into the forwards fold and roll to your feet. Tip five times.

Chest Foam Roller Stretch: Tight chest muscles cause your shoulders to curve forwards and forwards. This impairs your ability to execute planks and push-ups and weakens the back of the shoulders. Lay down in the middle of a rolled-up blanket or foam roller. Flatten your lower back on the roller. As you spread your arms out at a 45-degree angle, allow gravity to pull them down towards the ground. For one to two minutes, maintain this posture while breathing.

The triceps in the rear of the upper arm and the back of the shoulders are awakened by the upward-facing dog pose. Ensure that your elbows are tucked in close to your body. With your hands flat on the floor beneath your shoulders, lie on your stomach. To enter Upward-Facing Dog, bring your chest forwards, press through the tops of your feet, and extend your arms. The emphasis is on stretching through your upper back rather than straining your lower back, and your legs are powerful and dynamic. Your shoulders are relaxed and lowered away from your ears. Hold for three seconds, then let go. 3–5 times, repeat.


It is vital to acquire proficiency in fundamental functional arm workouts prior to advancing to more intricate and force-intensive movements. The workouts that follow build strength in the arms, shoulders, and core. The basics are your second warm-up if you are proficient enough to do the entire programme, including the “power” component.

Wide Pushup: Focusing on your front shoulder and chest muscles will be made possible by using a wide hand position. With your hands slightly broader than your shoulders and in line with your chest, begin in the complete plank posture. As you descend into a push-up, contract your abs. When you reach the bottom of the push-up, your elbows should be 90º bent to the side. Return to the starting position by pressing up. Iterate 5–10.

Narrow Pushup: Slightly more difficult than the wide push-up, this version targets the tricep muscle, which is smaller and weaker than the chest. Assume a full plank posture, placing your hands squarely beneath your shoulders. As you descend into a push-up, contract your abs. Your elbows should be close to your sides and pointed back at the bottom of the push-up. Return to the starting position by pressing up. Iterate 5–10.

The lateral delts, which are muscles that assist you in lifting objects straight out to the side of your body, are strengthened with the Lateral Plank Walk exercise. With your feet hip-distance apart and your hands directly under your shoulders, begin in the complete plank posture. Step your right foot and hand out about six inches to the right, shifting your weight slightly towards your left hand and leg. Step with your LEFT hand and foot to return to your starting position, then slant slightly to your right side. For five to ten “steps,” keep moving your hands and feet to the right before moving back to the LEFT. Repeat three times.

Forearm Side Plank: This exercise works the obliques, triceps, and shoulder stabilizers—all muscles that are sometimes overlooked in daily life! Stack your feet and hips as you lie on your RIGHT side. Put your lower right elbow exactly beneath your upper right shoulder. To make a straight line in a plank, lift your lower hip off the ground. You should feel a tiny pinch in your waist and be lifting from your bottom oblique. Raise your upper hand to the sky or rest it atop your upper hip. Hold for ten to thirty seconds. Change places. (You can alter this exercise by keeping your lower leg on the ground.)

Exercise: Rear Deltoid Raise: You can perform this exercise with or without free weights. With your feet shoulder-width apart, take a stance and hold your dumbbells palm-inward. Your body should nearly parallel the floor as you lower it with a hinge from your hips. Raise your arms out to the sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together with a very tiny bend in your elbows. Lower the weights back down carefully and slowly. Make careful to extend your neck and traps as much as you can. Perform three sets of ten repetitions.

Tricep Dips: You can perform this workout with a kitchen chair, coffee table, park bench, or even the edge of your bed. Put your hands on the edge of a chair or table so that your fingers hang off. As you raise your hips and position them directly in front of the chair, maintain your shoulders over your wrists. Maintaining your elbows pushed back and your chest raised, bowed your elbows and lowered your hips. Using the backs of your arms, press yourself back up. Perform three sets of ten repetitions.

Reverse Plank: This exercise expands the chest and works the triceps and rear deltoids. Beginning in a seated position, place your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees, and extend your arms behind you, directing your fingertips towards your feet. Squeeze your rear end, keep your elbow slightly bent, and raise your hips straight up so that your body is in a straight line from your throat to your knees. The head can stare along the thighs or up to the ceiling. Hold for five breaths, keeping the legs squeezed and the spine extended. Legs must be straight to move forwards. Repeat three times.

Decline Pushup: This is an advanced exercise that builds on standard wide or narrow pushups. It targets your shoulders and upper chest while increasing the resistance. The exercise will get more difficult the higher your feet are raised. With your hands on the ground and your wrists somewhat wider than your shoulders, gently place your feet back onto a chair or bench. Now you ought to be in the plank posture. Execute a push-up while maintaining a straight spine and bending your elbows to the side. When you’re ready, start with a lower decline and work your way up to a higher one. *You can perform push-ups with your hands broad or narrow. Repeat 5–10 times in 3 sets.

Pike Push-Ups: This exercise gets your body ready for handstands by focusing on the top of your shoulders, much like an overhead press does! Start with your hands wider than your shoulders in the downward-facing dog position. To keep your neck in alignment with your spine, shift more weight into your hands than your feet and glance at your belly button. Press yourself back up after bending your elbows out to the side and lowering yourself till your head’s crown just touches the floor. Repeat 5–10 times in 3 sets.

Dead Hangs: This warm-up strengthens your forearms and hands and gets your body ready for a pull-up. Look for a horizontal bar that you can leap up to and grab with ease. Leap to your feet and grasp the bar with your palms pointing outward. Now hang there, but remember to keep your back, core, and upper body taut. While it might be simple to dangle from a pull-up bar, your shoulders should be lowered and your core should be firm during a dead hang. This facilitates the activation of the muscles required for pull-up strength. Hold for ten to thirty seconds.

Power Set

These last four workouts are undoubtedly more difficult. They may or may not be appropriate for you right now, engage a variety of muscles, and demand strong core muscles and proper posture. If you’re not quite there yet, use these workouts as your benchmark and keep going.

Push-offs: This exercise intensifies the push-up by adding an explosive component that works more muscle fibres in the arm, shoulders, and core. With your hands directly beneath your shoulders, begin in the plank posture. As if performing a narrow push-up, bend your elbows to lower yourself towards the floor while maintaining your elbows close to your sides. Put force into your arms and raise your hands a few inches off the ground as you press back up. Gently touch the ground, then instantly bend your elbows to perform another push-up. If necessary, adjust by performing this exercise elevated on a bench or chair. Repeat for ten to twenty reps.

Wide to Narrow Pushup: To take the previous exercise even further try switching between a wide and narrow push-up, after each hand “jump.” Begin by performing a narrow-style push off, as written above. However, once you have powered off the floor, quickly separate your hands further apart, to land in a wide push-up position (elbows bent to land). Push off again and land in the narrow position (elbows bent to land). That’s one full repetition. Complete 4 – 8 full repetitions.

Pull-ups: This is an excellent upper body strength workout that is functional. You can work your biceps, triceps, lats, traps, shoulders, and core, depending on how you hold the weight. Locate a horizontal bar that is within easy jumping distance of you. The classic neutral-grip position is shown, but you can also do wide or narrow versions (narrow grip with palms facing you, and wide grip with palms facing away from you). Leap to your feet and grasp the bar. Next, move your shoulder blades away from your ears and down your back. Pull your chest up towards the bar, using your biceps and your shoulder blades together to hold the position for a brief moment. Lower yourself back down under control, then repeat 10–20 times.


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