8 killer arm workouts you can do virtually anywhere

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Get ready to put your arms to work!
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Hollis Johnson

Having strong arms is no easy feat.

From your triceps to your palms, there’s a lot of muscles to put to work.

Now that we’ve tackled stretching and leg exercises, we asked New York University physical-therapy professor Marilyn Moffat, who also wrote the book “Age Defying Fitness,” to help guide these tips.

To keep things simple, she gave us the best exercises for your arms that you can use virtually anywhere with minimal equipment. No weights required.

These workouts are great on their own but they’re even better in combination, so feel free to mix and match. Repeat or hold each exercise until it gets to be too much, building up at your own pace. And remember: If you have any unusual pain or problems with the exercises, please stop doing them and consult a physical therapist.


Exercise #1: Let’s get started in a plank. A standard plank works more than just your arms, but it’s key to activating everything from your forearms to your deltoids.

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For a modified plank, go onto your forearms. You’ll still feel the exercise along your arms. It might be worth using a yoga mat for this one.

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If you want to take your plank to the next level, lift up one leg for a few seconds. Then do the other one.

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My wrists always feel the pressure from planks (which, Moffat said, is the correct response). To counteract the pressure, it’s important to spread out your fingers as wide as possible to more evenly distribute your weight.

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Exercise #2: Side planks. In addition to feeling this along your obliques, both arms should be feeling activated.

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Modification: To tone down the workout, place your forearm and top leg on the ground, still reaching that top arm up (ideally straighter into the air).

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Exercise #3: Chair push up. Grab a chair — ideally near a wall for safety — and position yourself as if you’re about to sit on the edge. Instead of taking a seat, put your arms on the chair and lower yourself down below its edge. For all of these, start with two repetitions to see how you feel, and then try to get up to 8-12 repetitions before you get too tired.

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While down, keep your elbows back and close to your sides, not spread out to the left and right. Your back should also be straight and closer to the chair (and pull your neck back even farther than how I have it so it’s in line with your body). Repeat these chair push-ups, increasing the amount you do every time.

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Try to keep your neck in line with your body (mine is a bit too far out).
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Hollis Johnson

Modification #1: For a different feel, place your legs straight out in front of you, moving up and down.

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Pushing up is the hardest part. Remember to keep your arms close to your sides.

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Modification #2: If you really want to push your arms to the extreme, place one hand on the chair and hold the other out in front of you. Repeat with the other arm.

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Exercise #4: Reverse chair push up. You can also use the chair to do modified push ups. Moffat said she prefers the modifications, as a way to get your body moving that’s feasible for everyone. This can also be done standing up or against a wall.

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Exercise #5: Toes on the chair. Placing your feet on the chair, lower yourself down through a push-up position. This push-up modification might be my favorite.

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Be careful not to over-extend your back on this one. Once you’re lowered down, push back up to straight arms.

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Exercise #6: Reverse plank. Ditch the chair and go for a reverse plank on your forearms, putting your body in a full diagonal with your head back and in line with your body. This one you should really feel along your triceps.

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Exercise #7: Burpees. Turning over, add some motion with a modified set of burpees — no vertical jump required.

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Modification #1: Instead of jumping into the pose, bring each leg up toward your hands one by one. This should still give the arms a good workout.

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Exercise #8: Arm circles. To finish up, go into arm circles, both clockwise and counterclockwise. Be sure to continue your circles in one direction until your arms are thoroughly tired before reversing the direction.

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Bonus exercise #9: Down dog. If all else fails, know that a solid “downward-facing dog” yoga pose is one of the best body strength training poses.

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Hollis Johnson