I am looking for exercises to build the upper-body, in particular chest and triceps that I can do basically anywhere (when I don't have equipment/weights available). I have done a lot of variations on push-ups for this purpose before, but I have problems with my wrists and the push-ups put too much pressure on them. I'm looking for alternatives that do not put load on my wrists.

Note, it's primarily pressure along the axis of the hand-arm causing me troubles. Force in the perpendicular direction is generally okay. I don't need zero load on the wrists, anything with reduced load would be appreciated.

  • It sounds like the problem occurs when you have a bent-backward wrist, with a load on top of it?
    – Alec
    Jul 18, 2015 at 10:25
  • That's the worst position, but straight wrists with load are also a problem (that is, doing push-ups with fists is only slightly better). Jul 18, 2015 at 12:00
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    Well, it's hard for us to know if the problem is an injury, or if it is a weakness. If the latter, then you can probably train your way out of it.
    – Alec
    Jul 18, 2015 at 14:39
  • @speedyGonzales, those hit the back and biceps. OP is looking for chest and triceps Jul 20, 2015 at 19:01
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    @edA-qamort-ora-y Have you tried doing chest/tricep dips, floor tiger bend push ups, bodyweight tricep extension on a bar?
    – Aizul
    Jul 21, 2015 at 3:09

4 Answers 4


Use Your Body (or someone else's)

This is where a buddy is great. Have them provide the resistance by grabbing your forearms. It may take some finagling, but you'll get a good position. You can do this for just about any free-weight exercise. Curls? Done. Bench press? Done. Flys? Done, done, done. The great thing is, with a little bit of adjustment, your partner can turn it into an exercise for themselves too, especially if they're a little weaker than you.

But Jim, I'm too sexy for my shirt, much less friends

I know, I understand. If your friends are all intimidated by your dead-sexy Apolline physique, you could use an exercise strap around your thigh instead. Or around a fence post, lamp post, huge freaking rock, whatever's not going to break on you.

You mentioned Gravity, I loved that movie!

Great, I can work with that! If you're stuck alone, you could also use this movie as inspiration for a workout: Try just working against gravity. For example, for triceps: Lift your arms over your head, like doing a triceps stretch... But instead of stretch, do hammer curls--I'm using the term loosely, but Ryan points out in the comments this is called "Dumbbell Tricep Extension". Cool! This obviously does not work your chest all that much.

For chest, you can lay on your back, reach your arms out wide, and lift them up an inch off the ground. And then... well, you could just hold them there. I'm not even kidding, just hold them up to where every inch of flesh on your arms is one inch off the ground. Turn on Gravity. When you can watch the whole movie without lifting or dropping, you will have... ... well, probably really weird looking pecs, if we're honest. You might try working just a narrow range of motion. Such as--

I like Michael Bay instead

--Cool, wow, that's an apropos interjection. Let's adapt that Gravity pec workout: Lift your arms one inch off the ground, and move them through, say, 30 degrees of motion; the arc is the same as if you were going to bring both palms together in front of your chest, just like doing fly's... but only do 30 degrees (or 16 degrees, or 6 inches, or whatever inspires you). Once you get the hang of that, move your arms up against gravity with explosive speed--but when you bring them back down, bring them down slowly. We're talking, say, 10 seconds to drop back down through those 30 degrees (or 16 degrees, or 6 inches, or whatever). DO NOT let your arms touch the ground.

This stuff's awesome, but I got inspired to work out watching Road Warrior

If you want a post-apocalyptic theme to your workout, jump right in! Do high reps with your rifle (unloaded, properly cleared, etc) as a load for, say, bench press, or reverse curls, or I don't care, again anything you'd use free weights for. A rifle's going to be somewhere between 5-10 pounds. Or, if you're stuck in California, accept my apologies and use your day pack instead (or just your medical pouch, depending on how you pack). Or just a gallon of water, around 8.34 pounds. Here's the PDF of Army FM 21-20, Physical Fitness Training. There's a lot of good stuff in here, I like Rifle Drills, found on page 8-11. Perusing this also reminded me that exercise in just water provides some pretty good resistance too.

What about laywers?

Do you mean the ones who will sue? OK, here's an obligatory: I'm no physical fitness instructor, I've just led military PT for injured people. With no training. I was assigned the duty because I was also injured and recovering, and had the common sense God gave a brick... not because I'm trained. So stop if something hurts. Talk to a real trainer before starting this stuff. etc etc. If you don't, then you're taking your health into your own hands. Obviously.

OR do you mean the lawyers in the gym who say you can only exercise in lycra, with steel bars, using machines with pulleys and plates, and only in the ways people have decided are normal? 'cause screw those guys. You came to a website for advice, so you're probably ready to consider the unorthodox.

  • Apolline physique? Rifle as load? And hammer curls for chest? What? This makes no sense
    – Ryan
    Jul 22, 2015 at 1:24
  • Apolline - relating to Apollo. I've heard this used for decades to refer to an excellent physique. Might have just been a local colloquialism, but I seem to recall it in a classic movie of some sort. Rifle as a load, yes, not everyone lives in California, but I'll add an edit for them, good suggestion! Hammer curls are not for chest, they regard the triceps portion of the question, try the suggestion and you'll feel it in your triceps.
    – Nanban Jim
    Jul 22, 2015 at 1:36
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    No they don't, at all. They work biceps. There is absolutely nothing about a hammer curl that works the triceps or chest.
    – Ryan
    Jul 22, 2015 at 2:03
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    Based on your description I think you mean Dumbbell Tricep Extension. Which is nothing like a Hammer Curl. And I'd then instead mention it requires a weight to be effective.
    – Ryan
    Jul 22, 2015 at 2:05
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    Ingenious stuff, I've started to call this chest exercise "gravity claps"
    – Cel
    Dec 4, 2016 at 8:49

May I suggest the plank hold? It works your entire chest, back, abs, and delts. This allows pressure more on elbows than wrists. Also when in plank position, I suppose you could lower yourself up and down as a substitute for regular push up?

  • ..No it doesn't
    – Ryan
    Jul 22, 2015 at 1:23
  • Works mine, good call!
    – Nanban Jim
    Dec 4, 2016 at 14:50

You can do push ups on handles and see if it's OK with your wrist.

Besides that you can try dips body weight at the beginning and then try adding some weight.

Also for triceps you can do skull crushers search it on YouTube if you don't know the exercise.

I assume you don't want me to recommend you exercises which include weight lifting so those three are my tips.


I know you said no equipment, but a resistance band is so cheap I think it could constitute virtually no equipment.

With that you could perform many tricep exercises such as pulldowns and pushaways.

For chest, you could do a rotational chest press, or with two bands, a regular cable crossover. Plate squeezes could be done as well if you have a small weight plate or something 5-10 lbs. you could sandwich together with both hands.

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