It is possible to build bigger arms without weights, using a combination of body weight exercises and resistance bands. Whilst not as favorable as free weights for building size in the biceps and triceps, impressive results can be obtained by following a well-structured routine consistently.
Which Muscles Make The Arms Look Big?
The biceps may be the glamour muscle that are often the disproportionate focus of any new fitness enthusiast, but it’s arguably the triceps that gives the appearance of size to a relaxed arm.
The triceps are responsible for extending the arm at the elbow and has three heads. They tend to be underdeveloped in most untrained individuals because of our generally sedentary lifestyles and as such, respond well to resistance training. Even in many trained individuals, priority in terms of training effort is often given to the biceps resulting in sub-optimal arm development.
Here are four facts about the triceps:
- Triceps are used for pushing;
- Triceps have three heads;
- Triceps make up 2/3 of the muscle volume of your arms;
- Strong triceps can contribute to punching power.
The biceps are a two-headed muscle and are responsible for the turning of the forearm and flexing the arm at the elbow and at the shoulder. Biceps also respond well to resistance training and don’t need to be overly stressed in order to respond with an increase in mass.
Here are four facts about the biceps:
- Biceps are used for pulling;
- Biceps have two heads;
- Biceps make up 1/3 of the muscle volume of your arm;
- Strong biceps can make everyday activities such as lifting heavy baskets of groceries a breeze.
The triceps are substantially bigger than the biceps and your training should be biased in favour of the triceps to reflect their greater mass.
Don’t Forget The Forearms
Most people focus their attention and efforts on building large biceps and triceps and neglect the forearms. If you’re doing lots of heavy compound weight lifting, this may not be a problem. Forearms can be effectively trained by deadlifts and farmers walk exercises, for instance.
However, if you are training without weights then you should ensure that you plan your arm development program to include forearm work, otherwise you’re unlikely to sufficiently advance your forearm size.
The forearms are made up of flexor and extensor muscles. Many people mistakenly think that they will achieve satisfactory forearm development as an automatic benefit of training their bicep and triceps. But this isn’t generally the case. Yes, there will be some consequential development of the forearms through upper-arm exercises, but unless they are trained specifically they will never reach their full potential.
To get bigger arms without weights, you’re going to need to hit all of the muscles of the arm. The workout below has been designed to do just that.
Creating Resistance Without Weight
The secret to building bigger arms without using weights is to find other forms of resistance. Resistance bands with handles offer a great alternative to free weights. They are cheap and portable, so can be used anywhere – even when you’re away from home.
Gravity can also help, so if you have access to a chin station or even a door frame pull up bar you will be able to use this to overload your biceps and stimulate growth.
Some websites and YouTube channels advocate creating makeshift weights using cans, rucksacks or water containers. My advice is that you shouldn’t waste your time making these as they don’t perform well. Either the makeshift weights are too awkward to use effectively or there is simply insufficient weight to provide any kind of meaningful resistance.
A door frame pull up bar and a set of resistance bands will provide all the tools you need for a fantastic workout, all without breaking the bank.
Bigger Arms Without Weights: The Workout
The thought of putting all the above into practice in terms of crafting a well-thought-out total arm transformation workout may give you a headache.
So to give you a head start I have come up with a straightforward arm routine that will cover all the bases.
This arm routine is made up of two phases: each one a circuit of exercises that focus on the biceps, triceps and forearms respectively. Structuring the workout this way will ensure that you get maximum benefit from the time you spend exercising. I’ve also factored in convenience so that you won’t need to adjust the resistance band anchor point within each phase – allowing you to better focus on the workout.
|Chins with pause and slow negative||8||3|
|Resistance Band Overhead Tricep Extension||12|
|Resistance Band Tricep Pushdown||12|
|Resistance Band T Rex Forearm Curl L||20|
|Resistance Band T Rex Forearm Curl R||20|
|Low Anchor Point Bicep Curl||15||3|
|Low Anchor Tricep Kickbacks||10|
|Seated Resistance Band Curls||20|
If you’ve never trained your arms before, you may find that you have significant pain in the days after completing this routine. Don’t be alarmed! This phenomenon is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). To be honest if I don’t get DOMS after a workout, I’m always a bit disappointed!
You will get results by performing this routine just once per week as part of a total body training regime. If you are well trained then you may wish to consider repeating this arm workout ensuring at least 48 hours of rest between sessions.
In terms of exercise form, check out the instructional videos below.
The video shows negative pull ups. primarily the purpose of this exercise is to provide a progression exercise for those unable to perform a complete pull up. Pausing for 3 seconds at the top of the exercise, then slowing your descent so that it takes 3 seconds to fully extend your arms, puts strain and tension on your biceps.
If you are comfortably able to perform a pull up, then do so but focus all your effort on your biceps, and repeat the movement for as many reps as you can manage to a max of 8 (you want to leave some juice in the biceps for the rest of the workout).
Don’t Forget To Fuel The Growth
As with any program designed for muscle growth it is vitally important that you fuel your body appropriately. This means getting the required number of calories for your goal as well as ensuring you have sufficient intake of protein.
This sample meal plan should be manageable to incorporate into your daily routine and will provide around 3000 calories. It will also provide you with all the protein and other nutrients you need to see sustainable growth.
Porridge made with 1 cup (80 grams) of oats and 2 cup (400 ml) of milk (goats ideally)
A sprinkle of dried ginger and turmeric
Throw in a handful of blueberries / strawberries and mash in 1 banana.
Morning Snack: Nuts and Fruit
Two handfuls of mixed nuts and a handful of dried apricots or figs.
Lunch: Tuna Pasta Salad
1 cup (100 grams) of pasta with 4 ounces (100 grams) of drained Tuna
2 tablespoons of salsa
A few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
A handful of pitted black olives
1 Wholemeal pitta bread sliced
Morning Snack: Cottage Cheese with Berries
1 cup (200 grams) of cottage cheese and a handful of blueberries or spinach
Dinner: Steak, Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
4 ounces (100 grams) of lean steak,
2 sweet potatoes
6 florets of broccoli
Evening Snack: Yogurt
1 cup (200 grams) of plain yogurt
Remember that if you’re not eating right you’ll never fuel your body to grow. Use this plan as a template for your daily diet, tailoring it to suit your tastes.
As for supplements, there’s only two I’d recommend: creatine and whey protein. You can read about the different kinds of creatine in this article.
How Long Until I See Results?
If you’re new to training then you can expect to see significant results within eight weeks.
For people who are returning to training after a significant period away from the gym, then this workout should get you arms back into awesome shape very quickly – as you’ll have the benefit of muscle memory. Realistically, in 4 weeks, your arms should be looking toned and thicker providing that you’ve also been eating correctly.
If you’re already in good shape and simply switching to this workout for a change, then you should expect to find that your arm muscle volume is maintained.
Read this article about how you could turbocharge your gains by harnessing the effect of myostatin reduction. Seriously, read the article. You need to know this secret to maximizing your gains.
Let Me Know How Your Arm Gains Are Going
If you’ve given this workout a shot let me know how it went in the comments and if you’ve been doing it for a while then let me know how much your arms have changed.
Remember, consistency is the key. If you don’t skip your workouts and eat healthily you will get the results you want.