While the arms are not an area of the body many of us neglect in the gym – who doesn’t want bigger arms? – all too often people’s repertoire of arm exercises doesn’t extend far beyond biceps curls.
That’s an issue if you want to add strength or size to your arms, if only because the triceps actually make up the bulk of the upper arm. To fill out your arm exercise playbook, we enlisted Mila Lazar, head of HIIT at boutique gym Another_Space, for advice.
“Working your arms doesn’t have to involve a ton of equipment, or be a laborious task,” says Lazar. “Not only will the moves below give you more defined arms, but they also work various other muscle groups at the same time.”
Here, Lazar details her picks of the best arm exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced gym-goers.
Beginner Arm Exercises
Dumbbell overhead triceps extension
This is a simple move that really isolates your triceps muscles. Hold a dumbbell in both hands and lift it above your head until your arms are fully extended. Lower the dumbbell behind your head by bending your elbows, and then return back to the fully extended position.
Standing biceps curl
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, keeping your elbows in line with your torso. Curl the weights up towards your shoulders, then back down towards your hips.
Dumbbell overhead press
I always include the overhead press in my training because it strengthens joints as well as improving your upper-body strength. Hold two dumbbells at head height with your elbows bent at a 90° angle. Press the dumbbells above your head, fully extending your arms.
Intermediate Arm Exercises
With your hands placed shoulder-width apart on a bench or chair behind you and your arms extended, lower your body until your arms are bent at a 90° angle. Then straighten them out again to raise your body back to the start.
The press-up might seem like a boring move, but it’s a great one for working multiple muscle groups at the same time, and it also builds core strength. Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and arms extended, and legs straight supporting your weight on your toes. Lower your chest to the ground, then push back up.
Front raise to lateral raise
Hold two dumbbells at your sides, palms facing you, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells to shoulder height in front of you and lower them again. Then raise them to shoulder height out to your sides. Continue to alternate between front and side (lateral) raises.
Advanced Arm Exercises
Close-grip triceps press-up
I love the triceps press-up because it really challenges your arms to work a bit harder, while also engaging your core. Get into a press-up position but place your hands closer than shoulder-width apart under your chest. Lower yourself until your chest just touches the ground, then push back up.
The handstand press-up is another move that really pushes your arms a bit further than the traditional press-up, and it is also great for increasing stability and balance – plus it’s fun to do! Kick your feet up so you are in a handstand position against a wall and bend your arms to lower yourself as far as possible, then push back up.
Barbell front raise
Holding a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart, allow your arms to hang straight down to mid-thigh height. Raise the bar straight out in front of you with your arms extended until it reaches shoulder height, then slowly lower it back to the starting position.