ARMS WORKOUT AT HOME
What if I asked you to build bigger arms at home without a dumbbell… Could you do it?
I hear a lot of people say that there’s no effective arm workout at home.
They tell me that if you want to build bigger biceps and shredded triceps, you NEED to use a pair of dumbbells at the gym. But is this true?
Not even close!
Guys, listen up: As long as you have a backpack and a dog leash, you can build bigger arms. I guarantee it.
I’m going to provide you with arm workouts at home that anyone can do. For those with a beginner fitness level out there, I’m going to give you modifications of the more difficult exercises that target the same muscles.
And hey, I know a lot of guys watch my videos, but these are arm workouts for women at home too.
So, if you’re looking for good arm workouts at home that don’t require a dumbbell, I’ll do you one better. I’m going to give you the best home arm workout.
But I’ll need you to put in the work, which isn’t going to be easy.
So, if you’re ready to target your arms without a trip to the gym, let’s get started.
ANATOMY OF THE ARMS: THE BICEPS
Before we jump into these at home arm workouts without weights, I want to review the major muscles that you’ll be targeting.
I’ve said it over and over again: If you want to see optimal results, you need to build that mind-to-muscle tissue connection.
Otherwise, you’ll be shorting yourself of muscle mass potential.
First up, let’s take a closer look at the biceps.
FUNCTIONS OF THE BICEPS
The biceps serve three primary functions. First, they control wrist and forearm supination. In other words, they help to rotate the position with wrists and forearms.
Next, they support flexion at the elbow joints. This is when you bend your arm and bring your forearm towards your biceps.
Finally, they are required for proper shoulder muscle flexion. For example, when you bring your arm up and overhead.
What we think of the biceps muscle is actually made up of two sections or heads: the short head and the long head.
BICEPS: SHORT HEAD
BICEPS: LONG HEAD
ANATOMY OF THE ARMS: THE TRICEPS
Now we move on to the other side of the arms with the triceps.
There are plenty of triceps moves but these exercise will make a lot more sense if you understand how the muscle works.
FUNCTIONS OF THE TRICEPS
Shaped like a horseshoe, the triceps muscles are primarily responsible for elbow extension. Without your triceps, you wouldn’t be able to extend your forearm.
The triceps also act as an antagonist muscle for the biceps. They help to stabilize the biceps during bicep-focused movements like curls.
There are three heads or sections to the triceps, and different exercises are required to really hit each one.
TRICEPS: LATERAL HEAD
TRICEPS: MEDIAL HEAD
TRICEPS: LONG HEAD
BEST HOME ARM WORKOUT: BICEPS
We kick off this perfect arm workout with our biceps.
One thing you’ll notice is that while all of these exercises do activate your biceps, each exercise in this workout will target either the long head or the short head of the biceps a bit more. But it depends on the exercise.
I’ve made sure to include an equal number of exercises for each head of the biceps, so you get even development.
After all, you wouldn’t want at home arm workouts no weights that ONLY targeted the short head of the bicep. This would prevent you from developing a full and round biceps muscle.
And if you’re trying to build bigger arms, this is the last thing you want.
But this is exactly where that mind-to-muscle connection comes into play.
I want you guys paying attention to which side of the bicep you feel being activated during every set. Take your time and really focus on the movement and contraction.
The stronger your mind-to-muscle connection, the harder you can work, and the better your results.
First thing I want you to do is get a backpack and fill it up with whatever you can to create some weight. Depending on your fitness level, you might want to start with lighter weight.
From here, put it on your back to get ready for your first exercise: the Weighted Chin-Up.
BICEPS EXERCISE #1: WEIGHTED CHINUPS
Weighted Chinups are one of the best ways to target the biceps for two reasons:
This compound movement utilizes an underhand supinated grip and there is weighted resistance from the backpack.
Speaking of the weighted backpack, be sure to add just enough weight so you can accomplish six to eight repetitions before you reach failure.
The starting position for this exercise is a strong grip and your hands should be at or just inside of a shoulder width distance. Make sure your feet are out in front of you, not tucked behind as you pull yourself up.
Do three to four sets of this exercise with proper form. And don’t rest too long before jumping into our next arm exercise.
If you’re not able to perform a Chinup or if your form is lacking right now, I have a modification for you: Seated Chinups.
ALTERNATE: SEATED CHINUPS
This is essentially a Chin-up with your feet flat on the floor, which is going to be a lot easier, but still challenging to get that height you need.
This modification will still allow you to target the biceps muscles within an effective repetition range.
Once you get stronger, you can graduate to the Weighted Chinup mentioned above.
BICEPS EXERCISE #2: BICEPS CHINUPS
The next exercise for this arm workout at home is the Bicep Chin Up. You might be saying to yourself, “Jeff, we just did Chinups. You want us to do more?”
Yes, because this is a completely different type of Chin-Up.
What you’re going to do is take off your weighted backpack and change the way that you perform the Chin Up.
The Bicep Chin-Up is a lot like a Barbell Bicep Curl because it recreates a curl of your body to the bar.
The instructions for this exercise focus on curling your body up towards the bar instead of curling a bar up towards you. This is going to require opening the angle, allowing the elbows to come out. This will help you to spread that angle out wider and then narrow it down as you come up.
Again, I’m literally trying to curl my body towards the bar. You’ll quickly see and feel the contraction on your biceps.
You’re going to perform two to three sets of this exercise to failure. I’m not going to have a specific repetition range for you because everyone’s point of muscular failure is different.
Just because I’m not giving you a specific number of reps doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train hard. I want to ensure that you give it your all for each set, taking each one to complete failure.
Again, if you’re a beginner, I have your back. Instead of the Bicep Chin-Ups, you’ll perform the Chin Curl. Same rules apply here. Perform two to three sets of this to complete muscular failure.
ALTERNATE: inverted CHIN CURL
BICEPS EXERCISE #3: WAITER’S CURL
Continuing with our arm exercises in this biceps workout at home, we have the Waiter’s Curl.
This exercise is going to allow you to get peak contraction on the biceps and minimize the contribution of the forearms to the curl.
A lot of people tend to dominate the curl by allowing the wrist to curl too much and they let the forearm muscles do too much of the work.
But with the backpack, you can utilize the straps to just keep your hands rested underneath it. The goal is to keep your hands parallel to the ceiling all the way up throughout the entire curl.
While this might seem contrary to what you’re used to, you want to have your wrist bent backwards with your palms flat. As you curl to the top, you will see that your forearms are taken out of the exercise, which helps you achieve your goal of peak contraction.
The peak contraction that you’re going to feel on this is amazing and that’s because you’re able to tap into elbow flexion and supination, but you’re also getting a little bit of shoulder flexion as well.
Do this for two to three sets, focusing on hard contractions at the top.
BICEPS EXERCISE #4: LIP BUSTER CURL & NEGATIVE HANG SUPERSET
Now we move on to our final exercise in the biceps muscles portion of this perfect home arm workout, which is a superset of the Lip Buster Curl and Isometric Hang.
But before we do that, I’m going to need you to go and get your backpack again. You’re going to take that backpack and add another key piece of at-home fitness equipment: a dog leash.
Grab a couple of leashes then simply wrap each one around one of the backpack straps.
Finally, put the leashes up and over your pull-up bar.
You’ve literally created a cable machine, which means you can do plenty of cable exercises here including the Lip Buster Curl.
The Lip Buster Curl gives us the opportunity to get our arms up into shoulder flexion, creating peak contraction with the elbow flexion and supination.
We can get that bicep into a really tight contraction, which is perfect for burning them out.
I recommend a higher rep range here but no more than 20 repetitions for a single set. Once you finish your set of the Lip Buster Curl, you jump into the second half of the superset with the Negative Hang.
The goal is to isometrically hold as long as we possibly can.
I want you fighting for a strong negative range of motion and eccentric contraction. Try to elongate that contraction until you can’t hold on to the bar anymore.
Do this superset two to three times to finish out that portion of the workout.
BEST HOME ARM WORKOUT: TRICEPS
Now we move on to the second half of this at home arm workouts (no weights), which is all about the triceps.
Thankfully, even if you put in some serious effort during the biceps section, you should still have plenty of fuel to hit the other side of your arm.
Remember that the biceps play that important antagonist role for the triceps, so working both together is optimal for triggering growth.
TRICEPS EXERCISE #1: WEIGHTED DIPS
We start once again with our bigger, heavier compound exercise: the Upright Dip.
Go ahead and put your backpack on again so you can add the weight you’ll need to push the muscle to hypertrophy.
I know not everyone has a dip station at home, and that’s okay. You can do the dip with just a couple of chairs or an L-shaped kitchen counter.
It’s important to note that these are called Upright Dips. This is because the more upright you stay, the more you shift the focus away from the chest, and the more emphasis you put on the triceps, which is the goal of the exercise.
If you can’t do the weighted version, you have two options:
You can just take the weight off and do them the same way.
Or you can just put your feet down and perform a supported version of the exercise.
Aim for three to four sets and make sure that you go to failure within a six to eight rep range.
You can make sure that you reach muscular failure at six to eight reps by loading up the backpack. This might require some experimentation though.
In short, if you can do more than eight reps and don’t need much time to rest, add more weight.
TRICEPS EXERCISE #2: TRICEPS PUSHDOWNS
Our next exercise is the Triceps Pushdown. Everybody does this one in the gym because the convenience of the cable machine, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it at home.
And I know what you’re thinking: “Can’t I just use a resistance band for this?”
Resistance bands change the strength curve that you feel when you do the exercise, so they aren’t an appropriate substitute.
Instead, you’ll want to throw those dog leashes over your pull-up bar again.
Using the dog leashes and pullup bar, you can replicate the strength curve that we would on cable machine.
Start with your hands at shoulder height or the top of your chest height. Your arms will form a 90-degree angle. Don’t let the upper arms leave your sides as you push down.
I want you to perform two to three sets within the 10 to 12 repetition range.
The goal is muscular failure so if you find that you can do more than 12, increase the weight.
TRICEPS EXERCISE #3: TRICEPS PUSHAWAYS
The next exercise also utilizes the straps but in a different direction.
Instead of pushing them down, you’re going to push them away, fulfilling that primary responsibility of the triceps: extension.
You can think of the Triceps Pushaway like a reverse Triceps Kickback.
The Triceps Pushaway gives us a unique advantage for getting a great controlled stretch on the long head of the triceps.
Remember that the triceps muscle has three heads. But only the long head crosses the shoulder, attaches to the scapula, and benefits from this overhead stress position to get a stronger contraction.
Let the elbows drift high on the way up. Every time they drift up, you’re getting more of a stretch on that triceps long head. Again, this will ensure a better contraction.
Do this for two to three sets in that 10 to 12 rep range with complete control.
And make sure to load up the weight as needed to create failure in that range.
TRICEPS EXERCISE 4: TRICEPS COMBINATION
Finally, we move on to our last exercise, and it’s a combination move – Something I like to call the Triceps Trio.
You’ll perform three variations of a Pushup. You’ll start with the most difficult exercise then move to an intermediate level Push-Up and finish strong with an easy version.
Naturally, you’ll take them all to failure in a drop fashion burnout.
If you’re advanced, stay on your toes throughout the duration of this trio. If you’re new to fitness, you can drop down to your knees.
The first one up is the Pancake Pushup. You’ll immediately notice that this is going to feel a lot like you’re in a plank position. But this one is more focused on the triceps, not the upper body like the chest.
With that said, be sure to keep your core tight throughout the movement.
4A) PANCAKE PUSHUP
Place your feet hips width apart so you don’t wobble around as you move through the exercise.
As I mentioned, if this is new to you, the modification here is to go to your knees.
ALTERNATE: PANCAKE PUSHUPS FROM KNEES
During this modification, you actually have your elbows tucked underneath you and your forearms are flat on the ground.
You push straight down through your forearms and your hands to come up to the top. Then try to lower yourself back down all the way as close as you can to the ground before you push back up again.
It’s like an isolated Triceps Push Down, but this time it’s done with your own body weight. If you feel this more in your chest muscles, take a moment to reset your form and try again.
And as soon as you get done with that, remain in a Push-Up position but change the hand position so the fingers are facing behind you in a Planche-Style Pushup.
4B) PLANCHE-STYLE PUSHUPS
You get a nice tight contraction because this position opens the arms up into abduction and extension.
When you come off the top of this exercise, you can feel a really tight triceps contraction. You’ll do this until failure.
And then from there, you’ll make one more change of position in your hands, forming a diamond in the center of your body.
4C) DIAMOND CUTTER PUSHUPS
The Diamond Cutter Pushups are the easiest version, but they will feel like hell because they are last on the list.
Rep out all the way to the end with correct form. Perform two to three sets of burnout repetitions.
ALTERNATE: DIAMOND CUTTER PUSHUPS FROM KNEES
You take the whole thing to failure and that’s your workout.
HOME ARM WORKOUT SUMMARY
Putting it all together, here’s a workout summary for both beginners and advanced lifters.
Guys, I promise you, you don’t have to sacrifice gains or results just because you don’t have a gym to train in.
What’s more, if you want to build bigger arm, you don’t need to exercise with dumbbells. You can gain serious lean muscle mass from your home.
If you know what you’re doing, you can get a great workout at home… or anywhere for that matter.
Find the right ATHLEAN-X program for you based on your goals and your equipment!
- You don’t NEED a weight room to build bigger arms. You just need a pullup bar, backpack, and dog leashes.
- Load up your backpack with books or whatever is in the room and adjust this weight load to achieve muscular failure for the reps I provide.
- For the biceps, I want you to perform the following: Weighted Chinups, Biceps Chinups, Waiter’s Curls, and Lip Buster Curls with Negative Chin Hangs Superset.
- For the triceps, you can perform the following: Weighted Upright Dips, Triceps Pushdowns, Triceps Pushaways, and Triceps Pushup Trio.
- The key to an effective home workout is to put in as much effort as you would the gym.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.