How to Get Big Biceps & Triceps With Bodyweight
In contrast to many weight-lifting exercises that isolate certain muscle groups, bodyweight exercises typically involve more muscles and rigorously work your core musculature. They use movements that are functional and applicable to activities you perform in your daily life, such as lifting or pushing. Instead of cluttering your home with equipment, you can perform bodyweight exercises to build your biceps and triceps with a few chairs and a chin-up bar. You can easily progress the difficulty of bodyweight exercises by modifying form and getting creative.
Perform chair dips to work the triceps. Begin by sitting on the edge of a sturdy chair or bench. Place your hands on the edge of the seat beside your hips, palms down and fingers pointing forward. Keep your legs together and knees bent. Edge your buttocks forward and off the chair. Bend your elbows to lower your buttocks to the floor and then push your body up to starting position. Perform 10 to 15 reps for one or two sets.
Do pushups with a shorter lever to strengthen your biceps and triceps. Stand in front of a raised platform at hip level -- table, bench or couch. Position your hands shoulder-width apart on the platform with arms extended. Step back to assume the pushup position with legs fully extended, body in a straight line and weight resting on your toes. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest to the platform and then push your body back up to starting position. Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Try a modified chin-up, which builds your biceps. Set the chin-up bar at chest level and take hold of the bar with an underhand grip and hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Hang from the bar with both legs together and feet planted on the ground, which reduces the load. Pull your body up until your chin is just over the bar and then lower back to starting position. Aim to complete two sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Perform a triceps extension with one arm, lying on your right side with your left foot stacked on top of the right. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on the ground in front of your chest. Push your upper body off the ground with the triceps of your left arm, keeping your hips and legs still. Lower your body back to starting position. Perform 10 to 15 reps for one or two sets.
Advance from a modified chin-up to a regular chin-up to strengthen your biceps. Set the bar high enough so your legs clear the floor when you hang straight down. Use the same form as a modified chin-up but hold the top position for a second or two before lowering your body back down. Perform eight to 10 reps for two or three sets.
Progress from a modified pushup to a standard pushup, increasing the size of your lever. Use the same form as a modified pushup but place your hands on the floor. Aim to complete two or three sets of eight to 10 reps.
Add elevation and instability to a chair dip to give your triceps an extra-hard workout. Use the same arm and body position as a regular chair dip but rest your feet on top of an exercise ball. Keep your legs fully extended and ankles flexed. Shoot to complete eight to 10 reps for two or three sets.
Perform a tough variation of a chin-up by using only one arm. Set the bar at the same height as you did for a regular chin-up. Begin by grasping the bar with your right arm. Hold the wrist of your right arm with your left arm. Use standard chin-up form. Perform six to 10 reps for two or three sets. Reverse arm positions and repeat the exercise with the left arm.
Alter the hand and arm position of a standard pushup to perform a triangle pushup, which puts more stress on your triceps. Begin in the standard pushup position but position your hands close to each other. Form a triangle with your forefingers and thumbs. Bend your elbows so they flare to the sides and form a 45-degree angle with your body. Lower your trunk as close to your hands as possible and then push your body back up to starting position. Perform two or three sets of eight to 10 reps.
Perform a warm up of five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, such as jogging or jumping jacks, before doing bodyweight exercises for your arms.
If you feel any pain in your shoulders, avoid the exercise.
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Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.