I Do CrossFit and These Are the 10 Bodyweight Exercises I Do For Strong Arms
As a CrossFitter, I love pressing a heavy barbell overhead, swinging a kettlebell, or hanging from a bar; these exercises are the reason my arms are so strong. But bodyweight moves have their place, too! They're challenging in their own way, and these 10 are my favorite — not only because they leave me sore for days, but also because I can do them anywhere. Pick a few of these exercises and design your own upper-body workout — no equipment necessary.
Why I do it: This has to be the ultimate bodyweight exercise for arms. I try to focus on doing quality reps with my knees off the ground to really strengthen my arms. Bending the elbows back behind me is a great way to target the triceps.
- Start in a plank position with your arms and legs straight, shoulders above the wrists.
- Keeping your upper arms parallel, bend your elbows lowering your chest until your shoulders are in line with your elbows. The elbows should touch your ribcage.
- Inhale to straighten the arms. This counts as one rep.
Why I do it: For strong triceps and to open my chest, I love doing these dips. It's great practice for ring dips (a huge goal!).
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your hands behind you, with fingertips pointed toward your butt. Lift your pelvis off the ground, straighten your elbows, and shift your weight back so your shoulders are directly over your hands.
- Slowly bend your elbows to lower your pelvis toward the floor, then press into the floor to straighten, but not lock, your elbows; this completes one rep.
Why I do it: This is not only a great full-body exercise that gets the heart rate elevated, but adding in the push-up and the jump forward is a major arm workout!
- Lower into a crouching squat with your hands on the floor.
- Do a squat thrust by jumping your feet back into a plank position.
- Do one basic push-up, bending the elbows and then straightening back to a plank.
- Jump the feet forward to the hands, and come into a squat.
- Do an explosive jump straight up, getting as much height as you can.
- You've just completed one burpee!
Plank Side Walk
Why I do it: This exercise is absolutely a workout for the arms, but it is also great practice for lateral wall walks, which is great practice for handstand push-ups and handstand walks (both goals).
- Begin in plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders, and with your body in one straight line.
- Simultaneously cross your right hand over your left as you step your left foot to the left. Then simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, so you're back in plank position. Your hands move together as your feet step apart.
- Repeat this for five steps to the left and five steps to the right to complete a rep. Be sure to keep the hips low as you move, drawing the navel toward the spine.
Why I do it: Aside from loving gaining new perspective from being upside down, which always lifts my mood, holding myself upside down is an incredible workout for my upper body. It's fun to practice holding a handstand in the middle of the room for as long as I can. Again, this is also a great way to strengthen my arms and core for handstand walks.
- Kick up with control into a handstand split, and slowly scissor your legs together.
- Concentrate on holding your gaze at one point on the floor below you, keeping the hips stacked over the shoulders, fingers spread wide. Hold for as long as you can. Read through this guide for more handstand tips and, for more advanced moves, try handstand push-ups or handstand walks.
Why I do it: I love exercises that make my muscles quiver, and this is one of them. We often hold this for 30 seconds in class, but I also like doing hip dips in this position.
- Start on the floor, resting on your forearms and knees.
- Step your feet out one at a time, coming into plank position on your elbows.
- Contract your abs to prevent your hips from sticking up or sinking. Your spine should be parallel to the floor, with your abs pulling toward the ceiling.
- Hold for 30 seconds and work your way up to one minute as you get stronger.
Why I do it: This is definitely a great workout for the core, but holding plank for this exercise is also a great shoulder strengthener.
- Start in a traditional plank position.
- With your core engaged, bring your right knee forward under your chest, with the toes just off the ground. Return to your basic plank. Switch legs, bringing the left knee forward.
- Keep switching legs and begin to pick up the pace until it feels a little like running in place in a plank position.
Why I do it: As a yoga instructor, I do side plank a lot in my classes, but that doesn't make them any easier when I'm doing them in my CrossFit classes! We hold each side for 30 seconds and it feels like forever!
- Begin in a plank position and roll to your right side, allowing your feet to roll too, so you're balancing on the outside of your right foot and the inside of your left. To advance this move, stack your right foot on top of your left.
- Reach your left arm toward the ceiling and lift your waist away from the floor to make your obliques fire away.
- To take pressure off of your wrist, press your right fingertips into the floor.
- Hold for 30 seconds; work toward holding this position for a full minute. To complete a set, repeat on the other side.
Why I do it: Plank is hard, and elbow plank is hard, but moving from one to the other is even more challenging, which is why this exercise is so effective at strengthening my upper body.
- Begin in a full plank. Lower your right elbow to the mat and then your left, coming into an elbow plank.
- Put your right hand on the mat and straighten your right elbow. Do the same on the left to return to a full plank.
- This counts as one rep.
Down Dog Push-Up
Why I do it: Holy triceps! It's fun to try lifting and lowering both elbows at the same time. It looks like a simple bodyweight move, but it's hard! I also like that the Down Dog part of this exercise offers a nice stretch for my shoulders.