Ready to enhance your upper body strength? Ditch the isolated exercises and embark on a journey to develop functional arm power through these 20 effortless bodyweight exercises. The best part? You can do them anytime, anywhere, without the need for a gym membership!
Functional training focuses on exercises that replicate real-life movements, engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously. By incorporating compound movements, this form of training offers various advantages, such as increased strength, agility, mobility, and a reduced risk of injury.
While many workout routines solely concentrate on the “vanity muscles” like biceps and deltoids, solely targeting these areas can lead to muscle imbalances and a heightened vulnerability to strain or injury. To achieve well-rounded and practical arm development, it is crucial to prioritize functional, compound exercises. A comprehensive arm workout should encompass mobility, stability, and strength exercises, targeting the upper and lower arms, as well as the anterior, posterior, and lateral regions of the shoulders.
This workout commences with mobility and stability exercises suitable for individuals at all fitness levels. Subsequently, it progresses to a series of fundamental bodyweight arm exercises. The difficulty level of these moves depends on your current strength. Finally, the “power set” is designed for advanced fitness enthusiasts. If you’re not quite ready for the challenge, feel free to skip any exercises in this section until you are adequately prepared.
Each section of exercises prepares your body for the subsequent ones. For instance, the inchworm exercise primes your body for a push-up, which, in turn, prepares you for a power push-up. Start from the top and work your way through the exercises.
Mobility & Stability Exercises:
- Arm Circles: Start with dynamic arm swings to warm up your muscles. Stand straight with engaged abs. Swing your arms out to the sides and cross them in front of your body, alternating arms. Gradually increase the swing amplitude to feel a gentle stretch in your chest and between your shoulder blades. Complete 20-30 swings.
- Wall Slides: Improve shoulder stability by engaging the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers. Stand facing a wall with hands shoulder-width apart, touching the wall. Slide one hand out to the side while maintaining contact with the wall, then return to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 5 repetitions on each side.
- Scapula Retraction: Strengthen the middle back muscles that support healthy shoulders. Stand with relaxed shoulders and arms by your sides. Slowly retract your shoulder blades as if squeezing a tennis ball between them. Release back to the starting position while keeping your upper shoulders relaxed. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Wrist Flexion and Extension: Enhance forearm, wrist, and hand mobility for better grip strength and reduced strain. Extend your arms away from your chest, palms facing down with fingertips extended. Bend your wrists downward and then upward, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. Keep your upper arms still while moving your wrists. Perform 12 to 16 repetitions in each direction.
- Inchworm: Prepare your body for push-ups and engage the chest, arms, shoulders, and core. Stand at the end of a mat with feet hip-distance apart. Bend forward and place your hands flat on the mat in a forward fold (slightly bending knees if needed). Walk your hands forward, one foot at a time, until you reach a full plank position. Hold the plank briefly, then walk your hands back to the forward fold and roll up to standing. Repeat 5 times.
- Chest Stretch with Foam Roller: Relieve tightness in the chest muscles that can impact shoulder posture. Lie down along the center of a foam roller or a rolled-up blanket. Flatten your lower back against the roller and open your arms to the sides at a 45-degree angle. Allow gravity to bring your arms down towards the floor. Hold this position and breathe deeply for 1-2 minutes.
- Upward Facing Dog: Activate the back of the shoulders and triceps. Lie on your stomach with hands under your shoulders, palms flat on the floor. Lift your chest, press down through the tops of your feet, and straighten your arms into Upward-Facing Dog. Keep your legs active, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and focus on extending through your upper back. Hold for 3 seconds before lowering. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Wide Push-Ups: Target the chest and front shoulder muscles with a wide hand position. Assume a full plank position with hands slightly wider than your shoulders, aligned with your chest. Engage your abs and lower into a push-up, bending your elbows out to the sides at a 90-degree angle. Push back up to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Narrow Push-Ups: Focus on the triceps, a smaller muscle group. Begin in a full plank position with hands directly under your shoulders. Engage your abs and lower into a push-up, keeping your elbows close to your sides and pointing back. Push back up to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Lateral Plank Walk: Strengthen the shoulder muscles, core, and hips. Start in a plank position with hands under your shoulders. Take a step to the side with your right hand and right foot, then follow with your left hand and left foot to return to a plank position. Repeat the movement to the other side. Perform 10 steps in each direction.
Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified trainer before starting any exercise routine to ensure it aligns with your individual needs and fitness level.