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Calisthenics, which are exercises using the body’s weight can be used and varied in many ways to increase muscle definition. The arm muscles include the biceps, triceps, forearm flexors and extensors.  Arm definition is usually characterized by deltoid muscle that surrounds the shoulder and its visual relationship with the biceps and triceps of the upper arm.  The forearm musculature includes the flexors and extensors of the wrist. If you recall the cartoon character “Popeye”, his forearms would instantly become more prominent when eating some spinach. Unfortunately, it is not that simple, but this article will provide you with a few exercises that will help increase the definition of your arms, while working other muscle groups as well.

Also check out these Flabby arm exercises with resistance bands


Theses muscles, particularly the biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles respond well to higher repetition exercise. However, it is important to remember that technique should never be sacrificed in an effort to maximize gains and minimize the chance for injury.  To promote efficiency and functionality, I find it beneficial to perform multi-joint and global movements, encouraging multiple muscle groups working together. Certain muscle groups and body parts, for example, the arms can be simply emphasized by modifying positioning and movement.

Jump rope

This is a great exercise for the entire arm, but particularly the forearm. The repetitive circumductive motion of the wrist engages all of the muscles of the forearm.  This repetitive and open chain movement of the wrist provides a good interval between the exercises listed below which all require the wrist to be in an extended closed chain position. Therefore, I like my clients to alternate between jump rope and push-up variations in an effort to make the workout more enjoyable, comprehensive, and most importantly, without injury. Not only are you getting a forearm workout, you are also getting a calf and cardiovascular workout. No question the sweat will start pouring, which is indicating that your metabolism is increasing. That is not a bad thing in any set of exercises without weights.  Jump roping can also be simulated without an actual rope.  Once you master the timing of using the jump rope, you can add many different variations to mix it up.

Chair dips

This exercise emphasizes triceps and deltoids, and can be varied to increase the challenge and work different portions of the muscles involved. Using a stable chair or elevated surface, you would put your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, grabbing the armrest. Your feet will be in front of you with heels on the ground and knees straight. To start the motion, you would lower yourself by bending the elbows in a controlled manner until about 90 degrees of flexion. You will then elevate yourself by extending your elbows and firing your triceps at the top of the movement.

Arm Exercises without Weights - Push up exercises

Push-up variations

There is so much that can be accomplished by simple changes to hand positioning and arm movement. These exercises work the entire arm, but when modified can isolate certain muscle groups. The forearm muscles are for the most part, acting isometrically to provide the base of support for the rest of the movement. Positioning of the legs will vary according to ability level.

A modified push-up position would include the knees assisting the base of support by being in contact with the ground (A padded surface is recommended for this). In this position, your knees will be flexed to about 90 degrees, which would position the feet in the air. It is important that when the movement of the push-up is performed that a straight line is formed and maintained by the head, shoulders, hips, and knees.

Another variation to leg positioning can be starting with your toes and balls of your feet in contact with the ground (here you add your ankles to that straight line your body is forming) and shoulder width apart. You can gradually decrease that base of support by bringing your feet closer together. From there, to make it more challenging you can push-up with only one foot on the ground and the opposite hip extended. Gradual decrease of base of support (according to ability level) will engage the core and also tax the arm muscles a bit more. That is why the pushup is a great functional and comprehensive exercise. Here are some variations with hand positioning and arm movement:

Diamond Push-up: This variation is performed with the index fingers of both hands (palms down on the ground) in contact with one another and the thumbs of both hands in an abducted position also in contact with one another.  This positioning of your hands forms a “diamond”.  When lowering into a push-up position, the elbow will flare out. You will find that this particular exercise will burn the triceps quite a bit, because more elbow movement is required in this motion. Make sure to lock the elbows at full extension to fire the triceps.

Inchworm Push-up: This variation starts from a standing position. You will bend forward at the waist until you can touch your palms(shoulder width apart) to the ground. Then you will walk your hands out forward until you get to the straight line push-up position as described above and then you will execute the push-up. Here you are only halfway done. You will then need to walk your hands back until you are in a forward bend position and then walk your feet backward until you are in a push-up position and then you will execute another push-up. This particular variation requires core stabilization through movement and more action by the forearm muscles and the deltoids during the walking phase. The push-up movement here uses the chest shoulder and triceps.

Duck Under Push-up: This variation gets the shoulder muscles and triceps more involved.  The “straight line” rule does not apply to this exercise. Start position involves hands shoulder width apart with palms down on the ground with the upper arms even with your head and butt in the air. From this position you will bend your elbow with them at your side instead of flaring out. As you are doing this, you are lowering your head and bringing it forward, as if you are ducking under a horizontal bar. You will continue this movement until you achieve full elbow extension.  Here you are halfway done. You will then need to reverse the movement to return to start position.

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