Help me build some arm strength!
June 17, 2008 8:47 PM   Subscribe

How can I build some upper body/arm strength without going to the gym to lift weights?

I am only looking to build enough upper body strength to be able to hold myself up in some yoga poses that I currently have trouble with (back bend and headstand). What are some things I can do at home to help build the strength I need to do these? I am open to buying some hand weights/dumb bells, though I have no idea what to do with them to use them correctly. Any advice would be appreciated!
posted by to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Pushups. What I'm doing right now for a similar goal.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 8:54 PM on June 17, 2008

I was dreading the push up answer. LOL.
posted by at 9:04 PM on June 17, 2008

Seconding the pushups. When I started to lose weight, one of the first things I started to do were pushups. They require no equipment and only just enough space to do on the floor. I actually have started doing at least 100 pushups on the bathroom floor right before I get in the shower.

if you want to get a little equipment, I have a set of resistance bands with a door attachment. I love these because I don't have enough room for work out equipment at home. They're easy to use & cheap. Here's a PDF from Reebok that has a few resistance band exercises.
posted by aristan at 9:04 PM on June 17, 2008

No, the pushups are fun! Thanks to recent mentions on MeFi I am doing the hundred pushups plan. I'm up to 28! Come on in, the water's fine!
posted by HotToddy at 9:07 PM on June 17, 2008

If you can feel the muscles that are not strong enough when you're trying to get into the poses, you should be able to build them up by finding or inventing poses and movements that also stress those same muscles.

For example, as a fat man, I have trouble doing pushups. I want to get better at doing pushups, so I'm building strength in the muscles I need by doing them with my body on an incline instead of horizontal: doing pushups with my feet on the floor and my hands on the edge of the clawfoot bathtub. Some people do them by leaving the knees on the floor instead of pivoting off the toes. There are lots of variations. Find one that's just slightly too hard for you, and do it until it isn't any more; then find a harder one.

I can also not do chin-ups, but I do want to be able to do them. So, I lie on my back with my head under the kitchen table, reach up and grab the edge, and do something like a chin-up against the resistance of only part of my bodyweight (our kitchen table is very, very heavy - yours might not be stable enough to get away with this).

Furniture is your friend.
posted by flabdablet at 9:25 PM on June 17, 2008

Direct link to the 100 Push-ups Training Program:

30 minutes a week, spanning 6 weeks ... you'll love it!
posted by mahoganyslide at 9:45 PM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by notyou at 9:52 PM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

....or Shovelglove!
posted by Squee at 10:17 PM on June 17, 2008

Pushups AND pullups. Nothing fancy, all you need is a $15 bar to put underneath a doorway, and you are set. You need absolutely NOTHING besides your hands and body to do pushups.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:33 PM on June 17, 2008

Re: pushups - if you can't do proper ones, try some easier alternatives, like putting your knees on the ground. Or, if you're anything like me when I started, do them against the wall! The further your feet are from the wall, the harder it gets.
posted by minus zero at 11:39 PM on June 17, 2008

Can I hijack this thread a little bit? I'm interested in this too, but pushups are rough for me because my toes don't bend all the way back, and putting the weight on the tips of my toes hurts... anyone have any good mods?
posted by paultopia at 12:30 AM on June 18, 2008

pushups are rough for me because my toes don't bend all the way back, and putting the weight on the tips of my toes hurts...

Put your feet on your bed instead of on the floor, and with your instep (top of foot) down instead of your toes.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:01 AM on June 18, 2008

If you are looking to strengthen your arms in order to continue with some yoga poses, why not also try yoga poses to help strengthen your arms? All of the poses listed on Yoga Journal - Arm focus include detailed instructions and also list variations for the poses.

If you want to stick with pushups, you may also want to do tricep dips using the end of the bed, the coffee table or something else at a comfortable height.
posted by kirstk at 3:07 AM on June 18, 2008

Try some exercise or fitness bands.

They come in a number of different resistances, they are easy to store, and usually

posted by sandpine at 10:01 AM on June 18, 2008

5 Tibetans (which are pretty much yoga.) Everything everyone else has mentioned is great, too.

I'd like to mention that the problem may not be arm strength as much as it seems. Yoga depends most on your core muscles. If they're undeveloped, or you're not using them correctly during the poses (which is easy to do), then you're going to feel it in your extremities because those muscles that are ending up doing more work than they should be.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2008

How about some medicine ball exercises? I'm currently obsessed. Check this link and this video for ideas.
posted by impactorange at 11:11 AM on June 18, 2008

also dips. with two chairs, or a chair and a table, you can do some modified/assisted dips by placing your hands on one and feet on the other.

not sure how much upper body strength it will give you, but jumping rope is also a pretty great at-home exercise. it might be more of a tone/cardio thing, but in conjunction with pushups and dips you can definitely feel it working your upper body (and everything else).
posted by blapst at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2008

I whitewater kayak, but it's not really the sort of thing you do "at home."
posted by craven_morhead at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2008

I always found pushups a little rough on my wrists until I found push up bars which are nothing more than suspended handles you can place on the floor. They not only make pushups less stressful on your hands and wrists but you can change the angle to work out different muscles.
posted by any major dude at 2:04 PM on June 18, 2008

Seconding SHOVELGLOVE here. It's the only exercise program that makes you look insane, and fabulous.
posted by SECONDHANDSMOTE at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2008

I've found this workout plan extremely effective. Have been follwoing it for over 8 months now (which is a record for me). It is designed specifically to be used at home with almost no equipment, and is based on just three excercises which keeps it simple and enjoyable.

I have noticed a huge increase in upper body strength but without much of the bulkiness you would expect from going to the gym / a weights program.


Plus, in reponse to paultopia; try resting your ankles on a basketball. Not only will this keep your toes out of the way, it will help concentrate the excercise on your core muscles by forcing you to balance throughout the excercise. It will make the pressups harder until you get used to it, but the payoff will be worth it.
posted by HBWonderful at 4:08 AM on June 19, 2008

Push ups are the ultimate upper body strength besides dumbells. I would highly recommend getting a set of dumbells though, particularly the set that lets you dial the amount of weight you need. I think Nordictrack makes something like that and they can be found affordably online on eBay or other sites.

Push ups will get you a big upper body increase but the key is to either do them really fast, as explosive exercise helps build much more muscle or retarded resistance push ups. Those are where you start in the normal "up" position and lower yourself down over the course of 10 seconds. Then raise yourself up in another 10. The stress put on your muscles is much greater than a standard push up and will help build more.

I also recommend getting a swedish exercise ball and putting your feet/legs on that and doing the push ups. It makes your core much more unstable and allows for greater muscular build as well!
posted by PetiePal at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2008

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