Exercising can be a challenge, but when you don’t have access to weights, you might lose motivation to continue pushing your body. However, although certain muscle groups (hello, biceps!) can be hard to train, you don’t technically need weights to get a good workout.
Whether a weight set isn’t feasible for you or you prefer to steer clear of free weights altogether, here are a few options for training your biceps at home without a hitch.
A Basic Understanding Of Biceps
Before starting, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the biceps muscles. While detailed knowledge of muscle fibers and anatomy isn’t necessary at this point, you need to understand how the biceps works.
The biceps consists of a two-headed muscle with connections in the elbow and shoulder joints. This muscle is responsible for flexing your arm, whereas the tricep extends the arm. Your tricep is on the backside of the upper arm and is shaped somewhat like a horseshoe.
When you contract your biceps, the muscle shortens, and when you contract your tricep, your biceps elongate. Both muscles are essential, as they’re responsible for enabling you to complete everyday tasks, but they’re also highly visible. So, if you want massive arms, you’ll need to train your biceps and triceps.
How To Work Out Biceps Without Weights: 4 Freehand Exercises
Since we primarily use our biceps for pulling movements, training these muscles without weights is challenging. However, if you don’t have a set of dumbbells, you can still create quite the burn in your upper arms. Here are a few excellent bicep exercises to try at home without dumbbells:
MaxPro Cable Machine
A cable machine like our SmartConnect Portable Cable Machine and SlimLine Wall Track are the best ways to work out your biceps without dumbbells and other weights. The cable machine is entirely portable, so you can use it in any room in your home and even while you travel.
Plus, you can follow along with a guided live or on-demand workout specifically for your biceps or your entire body!
Water Bottle Curls
When most folks start exercising, they’re not particularly strong, especially in areas they don’t regularly use. For instance, your legs have to support you as you walk around throughout the day, so you might be surprised at their strength. Now, most folks don’t use their biceps nearly as much, especially if they work a sedentary job.
So, when you first start, water bottle curls are an excellent way to begin building your strength. You can easily regulate the resistance level by removing some water from the bottle. Choose the best water bottle sized based on your strength level.
For example, try using two 16-ounce water bottles, which weigh about a pound. Of course, if the water bottle is made of metal or thick plastic, the bottle will weigh slightly more. If this is too light, grab a gallon bottle of water or milk, which weighs around 8 ½ pounds.
Or, up the ante with a big plastic water dispenser bottle. These bottles come in 2, 4, and 5-gallon bottles, which translates to roughly 17, 33, and 41 pounds in weight, respectively. Of course, their size makes them clunky and somewhat inconvenient to curl, but it’s doable.
To complete bicep curls with water bottles, simply hold the “weight” in each hand in whatever position is comfortable. Keep your elbows pinned to your sides and slowly bring the weight up toward each shoulder. Once you get close to your shoulder, extend your arm back down, so it hangs straight at your sides.
Repeat the movement 10-12 times, then rest for 60 seconds before repeating the exercise. If you feel up to it, complete three sets of work.
You can also mix up the basic bicep curl by incorporating hammer curls (rotate your hands, so your palms face each other), wide curls (keep elbows in, rotate hands to a 45-degree angle to curl), or half curls (bottom curl to the midline before extending back down or top curl from the upward position to the midline before curling back up).
If you don’t have water bottles at home, use a door frame to get in a bit of bicep work. If there isn’t any trim around the door or a spot to grip, doorway curls might not be feasible. However, incorporate a few doorway curls into your routine if there's a place to grip.
Stand facing the doorjamb, then grasp the doorframe. Lean your upper body back, then move your feet toward the base of the doorframe, so they don’t slide. Extend your elbows completely, which will put your body at an angle from the doorframe.
Next, flex your biceps to bring your body toward the doorframe. Once your body touches the frame, slowly lower your body back into the starting position by straightening your arms. Repeat the movement for 20-50 reps through 3 to 5 sets.
While it’s tricky to complete bodyweight bicep exercises, you can use your leg as a form of resistance. Grab a hand towel, then loop it underneath your thigh, just above your knee. Grasp each end of the towel in each hand.
Carefully balance on one leg, keeping the other leg relaxed. This allows you to curl your leg up towards your chest. Don’t shrug your shoulders; keep them down away from your ears and relax. Contract your biceps to raise your leg with the towel, then slowly lower your leg by extending your arms.
Complete 15-30 reps, then repeat the exercise for 3-5 sets. If your standing leg gets tired, you can switch to your opposite leg. Push lightly toward the floor with your leg while curling to add extra resistance.
Pushups are an excellent way to target various upper body parts, including your back, triceps, and chest. However, while it’s tough to challenge your biceps in a pushup, it’s doable. Instead of facing your fingers forward, you’ll rotate your hands, so your fingers face backward.
While this is an excellent bodyweight bicep exercise, it isn’t suitable for everyone. Keep in mind that this movement requires excellent wrist flexibility, so if you don’t have good wrist flexion, this movement might be painful. If you feel pain in your wrists during this move, stop doing it and switch to an alternative exercise.
If your wrists feel comfortable with your fingers pointing backward, try this move. Start in a regular pushup position, then rotate your hands, so your fingers face backward. To relieve pressure on your wrists, flare your hands out to the sides.
Slowly lower your chest to the ground. Once you reach the bottom, push away from the floor to raise your body back up. Repeat the move 8-20 times, then repeat the set 3-5 times. Modify the movement by placing your knees on the floor.
Can You Get Bigger Biceps Without Weight?
While it is possible to grow your biceps without weight, you will likely outgrow this type of training with time. In the beginning, you’ll probably notice more strength as you train consistently, but you might outgrow these exercises as you build your strength.
Biceps are tough to train without weights, so there’s only so much you can do before you need external resistance. Of course, you can always stimulate muscle growth by adding more volume in a progressive overload, but this might eventually become too easy.
You usually use your biceps for pulling movements, so training them without weight is tricky. Of course, you can get creative and use homemade weights, but investing in a set of dumbbells might be advisable as you progress your strength.
Or, if you’re uninterested in buying a complete set of dumbbells (they take up quite a bit of space), you could buy a set of adjustable dumbbells or a cable system (which allows you to train more than just your biceps), like the portable cable machine from MaxPro.
How About Some ‘Homemade’ Weight Exercise?
Buying a complete set of dumbbells is expensive and will consume quite a bit of space in your exercise space, so it isn’t feasible for some people. So, to combat these issues, consider using ‘homemade’ weights for exercising.
You can use various things throughout your home, including the following:
As mentioned, water bottles are a perfect substitute for dumbbells in various exercises. Adjust the amount of water in each bottle to increase or decrease resistance, or choose a large bottle to up the resistance. You can use plastic, disposable water bottles, regular reusable bottles, or large dispenser-sized bottles.
If you have a vacuum cleaner, consider using that for extra resistance in your biceps exercises. Stick vacuums typically weigh around 4 to 7 pounds, whereas upright vacuums can weigh anywhere from 14 to 18 pounds. Hold the vacuum in both hands, or hold it in one hand for added resistance.
If you have a few paint cans ready for your next home renovation project, use those as temporary dumbbell substitutes. Once you empty them, they won’t be as effective (although you could fill them with something else, like rocks or sand). Hold onto the handle and use the can as extra resistance in specific exercises.
On average, a gallon of paint weighs about 10 pounds, and a quarter of paint is about 2 ½ pounds.
Books can also be the perfect substitute for dumbbells, but they might be harder to hold onto (which is excellent for forearm and grip strength). Choose a set of heavy books for your bicep curls, adjusting how many you hold based on how heavy you want to go.
If you want to increase the weight, consider stacking a few hardback books together and binding them with tape (be careful not to tape paperback books, as it might ruin the cover), leaving one book offset from the rest for an easy place to grip.
You can also use canned food from your kitchen. Canned food comes in ranging sizes, from a few ounces to around 30 ounces. The weight varies based on the type of canned food you’re working with, but they can be a great way to add a touch of resistance to your biceps exercises.
How Frequently Should You Work The Biceps?
While training your biceps frequently is a great way to grow muscle, you shouldn’t overdo it. You need to give the muscles adequate time to repair and replenish themselves, so working the same muscle every day is counter-productive and increases the chances of injury.
So, as a general rule of thumb, incorporate two biceps sessions into your exercise routine, but avoid placing the routines right after the other.
You Need To Ensure Proper Nutrition
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t outwork a bad diet.” Unfortunately, this rings true, especially if trying to achieve a specific physique. So, make sure you stick with a balanced, healthy diet that will provide the energy you need to complete your training routine.
Incorporate plenty of protein, as it’s essential for muscle growth. Balance it with veggies, healthy fats, and carbs to ensure your body gets the energy needed to build muscle.
Remember, fitness isn’t a destination – it’s all about the journey. You can always better yourself in certain areas, so remember to keep challenging your body to progress. In some scenarios, progress may be slow, especially as you advance in fitness. However, stay consistent and continue using a progressive overload to challenge your muscles to improve.
In addition, don’t forget to work on muscles throughout your entire body. While many people want a killer upper body with cut abdominal muscles, popping biceps, and a shredded back, don’t forget about your lower body. Remember to equally train the muscles throughout your upper and lower body, never failing to train specific muscle groups.
All in all, exercising at home is entirely doable without weights. Although resistance training with your biceps is challenging, all it takes is a bit of creativity to up the ante with your bicep training routine.
Pick something around your home with a bit of weight and use it to gain muscle! Remember to stay consistent, dial in your nutrition, and focus on each muscle group in your body! Ready to up the ante with a portable cable machine to work out your biceps anywhere? Visit us at MaxPro today!