The Best Arm Exercises

The first time you ever picked up a dumbbell you probably did a Bicep curl. Not even knowing what you were doing it just seems natural to curl the weight and feel the squeeze of your bicep muscle. Not surprisingly, the arms are typically the first thing you notice on someone. Big arms are the desire of most women and the envy of all the boys. That’s why you see so many guys endlessly grunting out the biceps curls and tricep pushdowns in the gym.
You may not think about it this way, but strong Triceps and Biceps are crucial to effectively performing exercises such as the Bench Press and the Bent-over Row. The Bi’s and Tri’s are responsible for elbow flexion and extension. Two crucial components to both of exercises. This in turn means strong arms make you better at performing those exercises. Not to mention more proficient at menial everyday tasks such as carrying loads and moving heavy objects. This guide will break down the most popular ways to hit the arms. Master the primary movement before trying any of the modifications.

Arm Exercises:

Biceps

Barbell Curl

Dumbbell Curl

Cable Curl

Triceps

EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension

EZ-Bar Overhead Triceps Extension

Triceps Pressdown


Biceps


Barbell Curl

Target muscles: Biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. To some extent the upper back and rear shoulders are also engaged.

How to perform the Barbell Curl:

Grab a barbell with an underhand grip shoulder width apart. Allow the bar to hang at arm’s length in front of you.

Maintain good posture! Push your shoulders down and pull them back. This will help you stand tall. Also, brace your core to keep your hips from moving.

Keeping your chest up and out bend the elbows and bring the bar all the way up to your sternum. Your upper arms should not move forward or back.

Pause for one second then slowly lower the bar to the starting position.

Pro Tip:

Good posture is key to this movement. Don’t sacrifice your form to lift more weight.

Don’t half “cock it”. When lowering the weight bring the bar all the way down to get the full range of motion.

At no point should you ever thrust your hips to get a few more reps in. To understand more read How Much Weight Should I Lift.

Modifications:

  • EZ-Bar Curl
  • Close-Grip EZ-Bar Curl
  • Wide-grip EZ-Bar Curl
  • Stability Ball Preacher Curl: Kneeling place your elbows on a stability ball

Do it at home:

To perform this exercise and it’s modifications you will need the following:

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Dumbbell Curl

Target muscles: Biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. To some extent the upper back and rear shoulders are also engaged.

How to perform the Standing Dumbbell Curl:

Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length palms facing out.

Same as with the barbell curl, maintain good posture! Push your shoulders down and pull them back. This will help you stand tall. Also, brace your core to keep your hips from moving.

Keeping your chest up and out bend the elbows and bring the dumbbells up as close to your shoulders as possible. Your upper arms should not move forward or back.

Pause for one second then slowly lower the bar to the starting position.

Pro Tip:

When you return to the starting position be sure to bring your arms all the way back down. Don’t go heavier than you can handle. If you do this exercise correctly and maintain good form you will get the most benefit! Don’t sacrifice form over weight. Any of the modifications below can utilize alternating dumbbell curls. This is where you raise one arm at a time. You can also try lowering one as you raise the other. You can also modify it with any of the grips listed below.

  • Standard Underhand Grip: (palms facing out centered on the grip)
  • Hammer Grip: (palms facing each other) – emphasizes the brachialis
  • Reverse Grip: (palms facing behind you) – emphasizes the brachioradialis
  • Off-Set Thumb: (thumb touching the head of the dumbbell) – emphasizes the biceps brachii
  • Off-Set Pinky: (pinky touching head of the dumbbell) – evenly distributes the weight for the most variety

Modifications:

  • Twisting Dumbbell Curl: Hands start with a hammer grip and rotate to an underhand grip.
  • Seated Dumbbell Curl
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl: Seated on an incline bench
  • Decline Dumbbell Curl: Chest pressed up against and incline bench
  • Zottman Curl: Standard curl up then rotate at the top for a reverse curl down
  • Incline Bench Preacher Curl: Elbow resting on the back of an incline bench

Do it at home:

A set of Adjustable Dumbbells or Traditional Dumbbells and a Bench are all you need for this exercise and all the modifications.

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Cable Curl

Target muscles: Biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. To some extent the upper back and rear shoulders are also engaged.

How to perform the Cable Curl:

At a cable station hold a straight bar with an underhand grip at shoulders width.

Same as with the barbell curl, maintain good posture! Push your shoulders down and pull them back. This will help you stand tall. Also, brace your core to keep your hips from moving.

Keeping your chest up and out bend the elbows and bring the bar up to your sternum. Your upper arms should not move forward or back.

Pause for one second then slowly lower the bar to the starting position.

Pro Tip:

When you return to the starting position be sure to bring your arms all the way back down. Don’t go heavier than you can handle. If you do this exercise correctly and maintain form you will get the most benefit! Don’t sacrifice form over weight. You can modify this exercise with a multitude of different hand positions and grips available.

Modifications:

  • Overhand-Grip
  • Hammer-Grip: Using a rope attachment

Do it at home:

Cable Station and a few attachments are all you need to perform this exercise and all the modifications.

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Triceps


EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension

Target muscles: Triceps brachii. To some extent the upper back and rear shoulders.

How to perform the EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension:

Lie on a flat bench holding an EZ-Bar with arm out straight and slightly back. Hands should be a little closer than shoulder-width.

Maintaining the position of your upper arms bend the elbows until your forearms are just past parallel to the floor.

Pause for one second and then straighten the elbows to return to the starting position.

Pro Tip:

Keep your feet planted to lift the most weight possible. You can also perform this exercises with a barbell. Although, it will be easier on the elbows and wrists with a EZ-Bar. Also, don’t use an open grip on this one. Keep your thumb wrapped around the bar as a safety precaution.

Modifications:

  • Incline EZ-Bar Tricep Extension: use an incline bench
  • Stability Ball EZ-Bar Tricep Extension
  • Dumbbell Lying Tricep Extension

Do it at home:

To perform this exercise and it’s modifications you will need the following:

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EZ-Bar Overhead Tricep Extension

Target muscles: Triceps brachii. To some extent the upper back and rear shoulders. You will also engage your core to maintain your upright position.

How to perform the EZ-Bar Overhead Tricep Extension:

Grab an EZ-Bar with an overhand grip at shoulder width. Raise the bar overhead at arm’s length. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Keeping your upper arms static bend the elbows till your forearms are parallel to the floor.

Pause for one second and then return to the starting position.

Pro Tip:

Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your core. Hold that position for the entire movement. Start with a lighter weight to ensure your shoulders can handle the weight.

Modifications:

  • Seated EZ-Bar Overhead Tricep Extension
  • Stability Ball Overhead Tricep Extension

Do it at home:

To perform this exercise and all the modifications at home you will need the following:

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Triceps Pressdown

Target muscles: Triceps brachii. To some extent the upper back and rear shoulders. You will also engage your core to maintain your upright position.

How to perform the Tricep Pressdown:

At a cable machine with the pulley set to the high position grab a straight bar with an overhand grip. Your arms should be at an angle less than 90 degrees at the starting position.

Stand tall with your shoulders pushed down and back. Brace your core and keep your body still.

Keep your upper arms still and extend your elbows. Ensure you are going through a full extension. Pause at the bottom and return to the starting position.

Pro Tip:

If you are rounding your back or leaning forward you are suing too much weight. keep your elbows tucked in at your side and maintain good posture.

Modifications:

  • Underhand-Grip Tricep Pressdown
  • Rope Tricep Pressdown
  • Single-Arm Grip Tricep Pressdown

Do it at home:

Cable Station and a few attachments are all you need to perform this exercise and all the modifications.

Back to list


This is one part of the fitprofree.com’s The Best Exercise Series. To check out the other exercises in the series go to The Best Exercises main page.


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