While we usually link strong arms to the ability to bench press or lift pounds, neither gym membership nor weights are necessary to achieve the arm tone or muscles of your dreams.

In fact, to achieve strong, fit, and sculpted arms, there’s no fancy equipment required. Just some household items and enough space for you to move around. (Although don’t forget to stretch to warm up your muscles and prevent injury before tackling these moves.)

We put together eight exercises you can implement into your routine or into 5 minutes of a busy day while you cook dinner, take a break from your desk, or watch Netflix. Some even engage your core and glutes enough so you can complete a full-body routine.

1. Arm circles

Strengthen your shoulders and arms with simple, yet effective circular motions. You can do this exercise in a matter of minutes without any equipment.

How to do it

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend both arms out straight to your sides to form a T with your body.
  2. Slowly rotate your shoulders and arms to make forward circles about 1 foot in diameter.
  3. Continue for 15 circles, then reverse directions and complete 15 rotations in the opposite direction.
  4. Do 3 sets total.

2. Tricep dips

Build your triceps by using only your body weight. While you can do this on the floor, opting for a couch, bench, chair, or sturdy coffee table also works as a great base.

How to do it

  1. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the furniture you’re propping yourself up on.
  2. Shift your pelvis and bottom forward so there’s a 3- to 6-inch gap between your back and the object — giving you clearance as you dip down.
  3. Bend your legs in a 90-degree angle with your feet planted firmly on the ground, or extend them out in front of you (but don’t lock your knees).
  4. Slowly lower your body down and back up, focusing on engaging your triceps.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.

3. Bicep curls to push press

Although you can use weights for this exercise, it can be just as effective with household items like a can of food or bottle of laundry detergent. This exercise primarily focuses on your bicep muscles but also works your deltoids and core.

How to do it

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your back straight.
  2. Hold your household or office item in one hand with your palm facing forward and your arm extended down to your side.
  3. Keep your elbow close to your body as you curl your bicep — lifting the object to your shoulder in a controlled motion.
  4. Then, turn your hand outward so your palm and wrist are pointed toward the ceiling as you press the object upward above your head. Extend your arm all the way to the top.
  5. Slowly bring your item back down the same way you came until your hand is at your side in the starting position.
  6. Complete 8 reps with one arm then switch.
  7. Aim for 3 sets on both sides.

4. Plank sidewalk

Tone your abdominal muscles as you strengthen your arms. Put a spin on a traditional plank by moving side to side.

How to do it

  1. Set a timer for 1 minute before starting this exercise.
  2. Begin in an elevated plank position with your arms extended beneath your shoulders and your palms planted firmly on the ground.
  3. Extend your legs behind you with your toes pressing into the floor. Your core should be engaged and in-line with the rest of your body.
  4. Rather than remaining stationary, walk your hands and feet to one side. Take 2 or 3 steps in one direction (or as much as your space allows).
  5. Then, return to your starting spot and take the same amount of steps in the other direction. Continue walking side to side until your time runs out.
  6. Extend the exercise by 30 seconds or more if you need more of a challenge.

5. Kickboxing punches

If you’ve ever entered the ring or a cardio kickboxing class, you know that throwing punches burns a lot of calories. They also help tone and strengthen your arms and upper back.

How to do it

  1. Begin your stance with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bring your right arm up in a 45-degree angle with your fist just below your jawline.
  3. Extend your arm across your body as you punch your fist at an imaginary target in front of you. Put force behind your punch but don’t overextend your shoulder muscles.
  4. Throw 15 hard punches with one arm before switching to the other arm.
  5. Complete 4 sets on both sides.

6. Rolling pushups

Step away from the average pushup and try a full-body exercise that tones your arms and engages your back and shoulders.

How to do it

  1. Begin in an elevated plank and lower down for a traditional pushup.
  2. Upon returning to your starting position, lift one arm off of the ground, and extend your hand toward the ceiling. Rotate to your back by planting your free arm onto the ground on the opposite side behind you. Lift your other hand toward the sky as you rotate toward an elevated front plank position.
  3. Lower down into a pushup and repeat — rotating side to side.
  4. Complete 10 pushups for one set and do 3 sets total.

7. Side plank

While commonly thought of as an oblique exercise, side planks also work your shoulders and arms.

How to do it

  1. Lying on your right side on the floor, lift your core up.
  2. Press your forearm into the ground for stability. Your supporting arm and shoulder should be at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Extend your legs out with your feet supporting you. Your torso should form a relatively straight line with your neck, head, and legs.
  4. Engage your non-supporting arm by stretching it toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds then switch to the left side for 30 seconds.
  6. Complete 2 sets on either side.

8. Superman

No equipment is necessary for this powerful lower back, glute, and shoulder exercise. Keep at this exercise and you’ll find your body shaping up to heroic standards.

How to do it

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended.
  2. Engage your glutes and shoulders as you simultaneously lift your arms, chest, and legs off of the floor.
  3. Hold this upward position for 3 seconds. You’ll look like superman or superwoman flying through the air.
  4. Slowly come back down to starting position.
  5. Complete 10 raises for one set, and do 3 sets.

Looking for additional arm exercise ideas? Try these 7 exercises for extra toning.


Jenna Jonaitis is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, HealthyWay, and SHAPE, among other publications. She recently traveled with her husband for 18 months — farming in Japan, studying Spanish in Madrid, volunteering in India, and hiking through the Himalayas. She’s always in search of wellness in mind, body, and spirit.