Want Toned Arms? Try These Calisthenics Arm Exercises

Do you want toned arms? Strong arms? You don't need any fancy equipment, or fancy exercises you just need these 3 calisthenics arm exercises...

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Do you want toned arms?

You want them to be shapely. Get rid of the wobbly bingo wings. Feel confident wearing vests in the summer.

But where do you start?

You haven’t got any weights. And the last thing you want is bulky arms. You don’t want to look like a man.

Don’t worry. With these calisthenics exercises you’ll be showing off your, toned, sexy arms in no time.

And the added bonus...these exercises are all bodyweight exercises. You don’t need any special equipment.

Sound good?

Let’s do this...

Do you want strong toned arms? Here are the 3 calisthenics arm exercises you should be doing...

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: Stronger Arms not Bigger Arms

Before we go any further, I want to put your mind at rest about one thing...your arms won’t look bulky, or man like with these exercises.

It’s a concern a lot of my clients have when they start strength training.

‘I don’t want to look like a man’.

But don’t worry, strength training won’t turn you into a bodybuilder. In fact, you’ll only become a bodybuilder, and look like a bodybuilder, if you work really, really hard at it.

It doesn’t come by accident. It comes with dedication.

Muscle needs a few things to grow big.

It needs an impetus, a reason to grow. That is covered with training. A progressive programme that increases the load on your muscles. Yes, bodyweight training will do this, but, your muscles won’t be as loaded up as they would be with weight training.

It is still a great way to build strength. But big muscles won’t happen, because the load on your muscles isn’t sufficient.

It also needs a carefully regimented caloric intake. Just like anything else, muscle needs energy to grow, so you’d need to eat enough of the right type of calories to help it grow really large. Carefully controlled protein, carbohydrate and not too much in the way of refined sugar.

And it needs testosterone. Muscle needs testosterone to grow. And whilst us women do have testosterone, we don’t have it in the same quantities as men do. We really don’t have enough to make our muscles really big.

So, please stop worrying about strength training. It will help you get stronger. It will help you build muscle. But it won’t make those muscles really big and bulky. And bodyweight training, certainly won’t.

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: What Are, and Where Are Your Arm Muscles?

The main muscles in your arms are the Biceps Brachii and the Triceps Brachii. Both of these muscles, along with back muscles and shoulder muscles should be worked in an arm/upper body workout.

So, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about arm muscles and exercising them, making them stronger?

When we work our arm muscles, we usually concentrate on the main muscles of the upper arm, the biceps brachii and the triceps brachii.

We tend not to focus too much on the other muscles, the brachialis and the brachioradialis. That’s because when you work your arms, they’re going to be activated. They will be getting a workout.

So, let’s look at the two main, different muscle groups.

Bicep muscles

Your biceps are on the front of your upper arm and they run between the shoulder and the elbow. It’s a two headed muscle, hence bi, the long head and the short head. Both heads start on the scapula, but then they come together to form one muscle belly before it joins to the elbow.

It’s main function is elbow flexion. To bend the elbow. Think bicep curl.

Triceps muscles

The triceps, or the triceps brachii, are on the back of your arm. Roughly opposite the biceps. You may have guessed from the tri, it’s a three headed muscle, the medial, lateral and long head.

All of the heads start in different places, but they come together to form one muscle belly and join at the elbow.

It’s main function is to extend the elbow. So, straighten your arm.

The biceps bend your arm, the triceps straighten.

The exercises I’m going to talk about below will work both the biceps and the triceps very well. But, that’s not all they’ll do.

They are, what we call compound exercises, so they work a few different muscle groups at the same time.

As I’m describing the exercises, I will highlight which muscles are being used.

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: Bodyweight Arm Exercises

Just a few more points before we get on with the exercises, all of these are bodyweight exercises. You don’t need any special exercise equipment, or heavy weights, to get them done. You just need your own body weight.

As you progress to an advanced level you might want to invest in resistance bands, a pull-up bar, possibly some gymnastic rings. But they are not needed straight away.

Just with the calisthenics core exercises, there are some really cool moves you can do, once you get to an advanced level, front lever, one-handed wall pull up, for example. I’m not going to concentrate on them.

It’s much better to concentrate on the basics. Get strong in those and then move on. Don’t jump in to the advanced stuff too soon, it’ll just end in injury.

Whatever your level, it’s always worth spending time of the basics. There is a reason these exercises are good.

Please make sure you can complete the following exercises with good form before attempting them in a workout.

If you can’t, or don’t want to work with a personal trainer locally, then do get in touch and we can make sure you’ve got proper form.

Calisthenics Arms Exercises: The Best Exercises

Ok, so there are three main bodyweight arm exercises. The push up, triceps extension and the bodyweight row.

They are all amazing at their jobs, working your arm muscles and your back, helping you get stronger arms and a stronger upper body in general.

There are obviously more exercises that work, and that will strengthen your arms. I’m concentrating on these, because I think they’re the best. And getting stronger in these movements will help you massively in other areas. Training wise and just general life.

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: The Push Up

The push up is not an easy exercise to master.

It’s a tough movement. And to do it properly, requires lots of strength in your upper body and your core.

Yeah, it’s not just an upper body exercise. It’s a core movement too.

If you think about the motion of a push up, which I’ll go into detail on in a moment, you really do have to stabilise your core. Especially when you’re pushing away, back up to the starting position.

The likelihood is, you’re going to struggle with push ups.

I don’t say that because I think you’re not strong, I say it because I know how tough the exercise is, and how tough it is to do it properly.

Common Push Up Mistakes

The common mistakes made when trying to do a push up are, the neck not being in a neutral position so the head is closer to the floor than the chest and splaying arms out to the side.

The common mistake a lot of people make with push ups is thrusting their faces towards the floor, thinking they’re getting ‘close to the floor’. But, it’s not your face we want close to the floor, it’s your chest. That’s the important part.

Your neck should be in a neutral alignment and your gaze should be down at the floor. If you can see your toes, it’s likely that your head is too close to the floor and you need to take it back slightly.

Another key mistake people make is splaying their arms out to the side.

Your arms, your elbows should stay firmly by your side.

Yes, these pointers will make the movement harder, but, they will make the movement right.

So, how do you do a push up?

How To Do A Push Up

The push up is a great exercise for strengthening and toning your arms. Here's how you do one properly. The push up works the pectorals, deltoids, back muscles, latissimus dorsi, biceps and triceps.

Starting in a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders engage your core, bend your elbows and slowly lower yourself to the floor. Your body should remain in a straight line.

You should concentrate on getting your chest as close to the floor as possible, but you shouldn’t go all the way down.

Hover just above the ground for a second and then straightening your arms, push back up to the starting position.

The great thing about push ups is that there are tons of variations and they can be scaled easily depending on your fitness level.

If you’re struggling with them you can drop your knees to the floor. Everything else remains the same, but your knees will stay on the floor throughout the move.

Push Up Variations

If you struggle with a regular push-up you can drop your knees to the floor. In fact, it's better to have your knees on the floor and concentrate on getting your chest close to the floor.

This makes a push up easier as you won’t have to push up your whole bodyweight. The floor and your knees are helping you out.

You might be keen to get off your knees to do a proper push up, if that’s the case, I applaud your determination. But, it’s better to stay on your knees for a little longer and focus on getting your chest to the floor and keeping your elbows at your side.

If you’re at a more advanced level you could try a reverse grip push-up. This is where your hands are pointed towards you instead of away. Or, perhaps a single arm push up, a diamond push up, a dive bomber push up. Or a negative push up.

Negative push ups are a great way to build muscle strength in a particular move. So it would be great if you’re keen to progress to a proper push up.

The idea is you’d make the downward movement harder, but the push movement a little easier. So, that could look like, full push up for the downward movement, drop your knees to the floor for the upward movement.

Or, slowing down the downward movement, doing it for a count of 3, whereas the upward movement would be straight up.

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: Bodyweight Row

The bodyweight row is a great accompaniment to the push up. It's the same basic movement but whereas the push up is a push, the bodyweight row is a pull.The bodyweight row works the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids, as well as your pectorals and your biceps.

The bodyweight row is the perfect accompaniment to the push up.

And that’s because the push up is a pushing motion, the row is a pulling movement. Now for this one a bit of equipment might make the movement easier.

It’s not essential because you can use your coffee table or a towel secured in a door frame. But, if you had a suspension trainer, like a TRX, or even a sweeping brush extended over two sofas, it might help.

Whatever you’ve got, bodyweight rows are a great exercise and should be a must do in your workout routine.

So, if you’re using your coffee table, you’ll need to squirrel underneath it, lying down facing upwards. Grab the sides of the coffee table, engage your core and lift your body up towards the table, keeping everything in a straight line. Only your heels remain on the floor.

Hold at the top briefly and then lower back down.

Throughout the movement make sure your core is engaged and every stage of the exercise should be done in a controlled manner.

As with most strength based exercises, workouts, focus on control over speed.

The muscles used in the bodyweight row are… the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids, as well as your pectorals and your biceps.

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: Triceps Extension

The triceps extension is a classic exercise and can be varied depending on your fitness levels. The triceps extension primarily works your triceps muscles.

The last of my calisthenics arm exercises is the triceps extension, or triceps dip, as they’re commonly called.

It’s another classic and probably the best known of the tricep exercises.

You will need something to lower yourself down from. Think stair, chair or sofa.

Sitting on the edge of the stair, extend your legs out straight, so that your heels are on the floor. Your hands should be by your side on the stair, with your fingers curled over the edge.

When you’re ready, engage your core and shuffle your bum off the step.

Lower your bum down to the ground, without going all the way to the ground, hold there for a second and then push back up to the starting position.

This is another one that can be scaled depending on your fitness level.

For example, if you’re struggling with that version, bring your feet in closer to the step, bend your knees and have your feet flat on the floor.

On the other hand, if you’re stronger, you might want to try a triceps dip between two bars, or even a weighted triceps dip.

They get very tough very quickly though, so make sure you feel strong in the version I’ve described above before you try anything more advanced.

Calisthenics Arm Exercises: Just 3 Exercises is All You Need

Calisthenics workouts are a great way to get a strong and toned body. And your workout plan doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy.

The best exercises are often the basic exercises.

They’re never easy. And if they start to feel a bit easier, there’s always a way to toughen them up again.

So, don’t be put off by bodyweight stuff. It can be really effective.

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What are 3 Calisthenics arm exercises?

The best calisthenics exercises for your arms are:

  • The push up
  • The bodyweight row
  • The Triceps extension

They are basic movements, not easy movements, but basic. I think it’s important to concentrate on the basics and make sure you’re strong and really confident in the movement before you move on to anything more advanced.

Even if you are at a more advanced level, it is always worth while to return to basics every now and then.

The advanced moves may look cool and be a party piece, but the basics will stand you in good stead strength wise.

How do I strengthen my arms with calisthenics?

The secret to any strength exercise, or workout, is to slow down and control the movement.

I, all too often see people rushing through the movements. Concentrating on getting the reps done rather than the quality of the reps.

The problem with that, when it comes to strength training, is that momemtum can steal effort away from your muscles. By slowing the movement down and controlling it, you’re making sure your muscles are doing all the work.

Do I need weights to tone and strengthen my arms?

Absolutely not.

Bodyweight exercises are more than enough to create a challenging and effective strength training workout.