It only takes five moves to strengthen your arms without weights

This short bodyweight routine is designed to build upper body strength without equipment

Woman doing a push up
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to build strength in your upper arms, you might think you need to grab a set of weights and do endless bicep curls. But this bodyweight arm workout shows you can build upper body muscle in just 15 minutes without weights.

Working out with the best adjustable dumbbells at the gym or home can be a great way to hit your muscle-building goals. But bodyweight exercises are ideal for when you're traveling, short on time, or new to resistance training.

According to Rhiannon Bailey (opens in new tab), the personal trainer behind this routine, the workout is designed to "target those tiny muscle [fibers] in your arms through the power of resistance training to help strengthen and tone up."

The aim isn't to build bodybuilder-style arms but to develop functional muscle that'll help improve your performance in your workouts, make everyday activities like carrying and lifting more effortless, and increase lean muscle mass.

You'll do each move for 40 seconds, then take a 20-second break before continuing with the next exercise. Repeat the seven-move circuit three times for an effective, time-efficient way to build muscle without weights.

Watch Rhiannon Bailey's five-move arm workout

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This style of exercise is known as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT). Although HIRT workouts often involve weights, Bailey's routine is designed to work your muscles using intense bursts of effort to develop strength in just 15 minutes.

It's a similar technique to cardio-focused high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where the aim is to exercise intensely in short bursts with minimal breaks. This keeps your heart rate elevated, which leads to increased energy burn during your session.

But it has longer-term effects, too, like boosting your metabolism and increasing the amount of energy and fat you burn at rest. This is why many people use a HIIT workout for fat loss if they're looking to lose weight.

Bailey's HIRT routine is ideal if you're tight on time, especially as you don't need any equipment, but training without weights is an excellent introduction to how to build muscle. Using your bodyweight for resistance helps you perfect your form and get the technique just right.

As you get stronger, it's worth picking up a budget-friendly set of the best resistance bands. These lightweight bands are a portable alternative to weights and are ideal for building strength with this full-body resistance band workout.

James Frew
Staff Writer

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.