Five exercises to tone your arms for kung fu

Strengthening your arms

I have learned a lot in the last several months since I’ve joined kung fu. The first thing is that training is hard and no matter how badly I want to give up, quitting is not the answer. The second thing I’ve learned is that in order to keep up with my kung fu brothers and sisters, I need to do some serious strength conditioning, especially in my arms.

A little while ago, I watched myself in a mirror as I was going through some of the forms and for some reason, what stuck out to me the most was my the way my arms jiggled while going through the movements. I am not ashamed to admit that I have flabby arms. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. I have a healthy percentage of fat. But what concerns me about this is the lack of strength in my arms. I don’t usually do any sort of lifting and my arms are weak.

Let’s be real, in any kind of martial arts, you need to have arm strength in order to block attacks and throw effective punches. I’m still a newbie in my kung fu group and it’s easy for my kung fu brothers and sisters who have been training for years to accidentally leave bruises on my arms. But, I want to be able to keep up with them in terms of fitness and strength, and I would rather be able to do so sooner.

So within the last week or so, I decided that I need to do some serious arm workouts to tone my muscles and increase the strength of my arms.

Most martial arts have some form of arm strengthening drills where they condition the arms to hit different hard objects, like a block of wood or a tree. However, at my level, I’m just going to take it slow and start off with something gentler.

1. Arm circles


We all know what arm circles are. Most have us had to experience doing arm circles at the beginning of PE or a sports event. Arm circles are mostly used as a warm-up before starting their exercise routine. This type of exercise targets your shoulders, triceps, biceps and back. This exercise will increase the circulation of blood to your arms and can reduce shoulder pain. Even if you aren’t interested in working out much, this is one exercise I recommend for everyone. Since a lot of us have jobs where we are hunched over a desk, we need to find a way to release the tension in our arms. Arm circles are great for undoing knots and loosening shoulder muscles.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart and extend your arms out to the sides. Keep your arms straight as you slowly make small circles.
  • Make small circles with your arms going forwards 10 times then backwards 10 times.
  • Continue making circles, but increase the size of the circles for a larger radius.

2. Forearm plank


The forearm plank uses your own body weight to work your core muscles as well as your back, shoulders and deltoids. Basically, when doing this workout, your body is being held up and supported by your arms, strengthening their muscles.

How to do it:

  • Place forearms flat on the ground with your elbows aligned with your shoulders.
  • Keep your feet together and balance on your toes and forearms.
  • Hold the position with your body straight for several 20 second intervals.

3. Plank taps


Increase the difficulty of the plank with adding taps to your shoulders. Plank taps not only work the core, but give your arms, wrists and shoulders a good workout as well. This exercise will help to reduce lower back pain while improving posture and toning muscles.

How to do it:

  • Start in a typical plank position with your feet hip length apart and your wrists aligned beneath your shoulders.
  • Tap your right hand to your left shoulder and return to the plank position.
  • Then tap your left hand to your right shoulder, again returning to the plank position.
  • Continue to tapping your shoulders alternating sides until your set is complete.
  • Try to keep your body straight and to not move your hips as you do this exercise.

4. Push ups


I don’t know why, but for some reason I love doing push ups. Somehow, they make me feel powerful. This is another exercise that works more than just your arms. It also targets your back, shoulders and chest.

How to do it:

  • Go into the plank position with your hands flat on the floor and your feet together.
  • Try to keep your back and legs as straight as possible as you lower yourself as far done as you can go above the floor.
  • Push your body back up and repeat for 10 reps.

5. Triceps dips


Your triceps are the muscles that are on the back of your upper arm. Toning them doesn’t require much equipment. All that is necessary is a bench or a flat surface that can support your weight that stands a few feet above the ground. I often use the step to my front door to help me with this workout.

How to do it:

  • Sit down on the flat surface and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the flat surface.
  • Slide your back-end off the surface and extend your legs in front of you with only your heels on the ground.
  • Push your body up to straighten your arms.
  • Then slowly lower your body, bending your elbows until you are hovering just above the ground.
  • Push yourself back up and repeat this motion for 15 reps.


Don’t forget to do the proper breathing with your exercises. Always exhale during exertion of the exercise.

One thought on “Five exercises to tone your arms for kung fu

  1. Muscle tensioning the forearms and the upper arms is another way to strengthen the arms. Doing the Sam Chien and Tien Te Lin Chien are the best forms in Five Ancestors that helps in this, not only does it strengthen the arms it also develop alertness, reaction and awareness.


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