Some of the most effective workout routines only require one thing: you (and perhaps some motivation). Photo by ADVOCATE news services

The best arm workouts to do without weights, according to fitness experts

  • Jan. 25, 2018 1:58 p.m.

Despite how it may appear on social media or via the majority of gyms’ (typically aggressive) advertising, an effective workout doesn’t have to involve an overwhelming number of bells and whistles. In fact, some of the most effective workout routines only require one thing: you (and perhaps some motivation). And as it happens, this is especially true when it comes to toning your arms. Truth time: Some of the best arm workouts can be done without weights. Don’t believe us? Well, we have the proof from four leading fitness experts to change your tune.

We reached out to top fitness experts (aka the same people who have spearheaded their own fan-loved workouts and trained Hollywood’s A-list) for their thoughts and handpicked arm workouts without weights that are not only the most effective for sculpting the biceps and triceps of your dreams but are also easy to maneuver from home, while traveling, or anywhere in between. Keep reading for four expert-approved arm workouts you can do without weights.


“As a boxing coach, one of my favorite upper-body exercises that we do at Prevail Boxing (ahem, currently one of Hollywood’s most in-demand workouts) is shadowboxing. Essentially, this weightless workout entails punching the air while envisioning you’re fighting an opponent,” explains Milan Costich, who is the founder of Prevail Boxing.

The benefits: According to Costich, shadowboxing is a major calorie burner that helps improve technique and coordination, encourages your ability to stay mentally present, and ignites a killer burn from your arms to your back muscles to your core.

Directions: “Start with your feet shoulder-width apart in a staggered stance, typically with your more dominant hand in the back. Put a little bend in your knees for stability, engage your core, and bring your fists up to either side of your face for protection and stability,” Costich tells us. “Exhaling with every punch, you’ll alternate between your jab (lead hand) and cross (back hand), extending your punches fully, rotating your thumbs down, and then focusing on the recoil for a sharp, speedy strike.” For maximum impact and results, Cositch recommends starting off with three-minute rounds to get the sweat pumping. (He suggests using a mirror, if handy, to keep an eye on that all-important form.)


As celebrity trainer Ashley Borden makes clear, there’s something to be said for a classic workout or exercise regimen that simply utilizes your inherent body strength. And for super-toned arms sans the equipment, she favors planks. Though the exercise is widely heralded as one of the best for your core, a minor update (read: shoulder taps) can make all the difference if you’re looking to sculpt your arms. (Not to mention, Borden was also featured in the second season of Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian, so she knows a thing or two when it comes to the most efficient, effective exercises).

The benefits: Since you’ll be engaging your core, shoulders, and your triceps, this updated plank is a one, two, three punch of burn and helps to tone and strengthen your entire upper half — fast.

Directions: “First, start in high plank position with your core braced and your glutes and legs tight,” explains Borden. “Then, without moving your hips up and down or side to side, alternate tapping your same shoulder with the same hand, make sure to keep your arms directly under your shoulders.”


For super-sculpted upper arms (which always seems to the most stubborn area, no?) Julie Diamond of Burn60 recommends this user-friendly workout, which is perfect for when you’re on the go or running short on time. In other words, you’re officially out of excuses to get your arm workout in! Enter: standing arm circles.

The benefits: Not only will you definitely feel the burn with this one (it’s a good thing, trust us) this workout also involves very controlled movements of the arm so you’ll be able to keep your form’s A-game and really target those upper arm muscles to reap the most benefit.

Directions: According to Diamond, “Start the workout by standing up straight with feet on the floor and arms extended out to the side at a 90-degree angle from your body, parallel to the floor. Next, start moving your arms in small fast circles and do as many rotations as you can. (A great playlist will help!) Then reverse directions and repeat.”


Pilates lovers, rejoice. This next arm workout without weights comes from Andrea Speir of SPEIR Pilates and incorporates everything you love about the workout into a simple arm exercise, which actually happens to have toning benefits for the entire body.

The benefits: “This full-body move chisels and tones the entire backside of the arms,” says Speir. (Aka your triceps and a notoriously tricky area to target.) “The bonus is that you get a killer core workout while getting a quick hit of cardio! Oh, and you feel like a pretty cool break dancer. Or maybe that’s just me.”

Directions: “To start, have a seat with knees bent, feet flat, and with hands resting on the mat with fingertips pointing toward the body. Then extend one leg up toward the sky, lower it down (keeping it straight!), and as you kick it back up, bend your elbows. And if the leg dancing isn’t your cup of tea today, you can do this entire exercise without! Just find that starting position with both feet grounded on your mat, and then proceed to bend and straighten arms. I recommend trying 20 per leg,” Speirs tells us.

Her parting tip: Once in position, shift your weight back an inch or two toward your hands so the shoulders are directly above the wrists. This helps line your form up perfectly. Plus, don’t forget to scoop those abs in and up along your spine for the ultimate core connection as well.

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