When it comes to arms people generally fall into one of two categories. Either they hide their skinny little arms under sweaters, cardigans, and jackets willing them to get toned and strong. If you’re rolling your eyes and saying “I wish” you fall into the second category of flabby or jiggly armed ladies and gents who’d love to work on those biceps and triceps but worry that fat will give you arms like Arnold.
After a long day in the factory, Rosie wasn’t afraid to show off her hard-earned muscles!
If you fall into either of these categories not only have you been going about this the wrong way, but in just a few short minutes you’ll have a slew of arm exercises that you can do to get the arms you want!
Whether you have arm envy of Madonna or 50 Cent, they both have one thing in common: bodacious biceps! That’s right, in addition to being the most widely sought after of the arm muscles (sexy, I know), biceps are the starting point for arms that say, “Why yes, I have been working out.”
Before we get to these arm exercises, let’s get one thing clear (ladies). Big bodybuilder arms would require a huge increase in your food consumption. Simple arm exercises will not lead you down the path to 23-inch biceps. Promise.
Here’s the rule to follow for the best arm exercises to fit your goals: to get bigger arms do about 10 repetitions each but no less than 8. For smaller arms do 15 reps, but no less than 12. Always begin with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent for standing exercises.
Curls help target the biceps, the trick is finding the curl that works for you! Bicep curls are a great arm exercise no matter your body goals.
To Do: Stand with one leg slightly in front of the other so you don’t hurt anything. Use a barbell with weights or hand weights. Don’t be a he-man and start with a ton of weight, start with what you know you can do. Hold the weights so that your fingers curl towards your body when you lift up. Curl your arm up until the weights are just below your chin, lower, and repeat. 8-10 times for bigger arms or 12-15 times for smaller arms.
Don’t forget to breathe!
Hammer curls are a great bicep exercise that also works those triceps. Looking good in a tank top requires targeting all arms muscles.
To Do: Hold the free weights or dumbbells at your side so your palms are facing your thighs. Curl your arms at the elbow in a reverse hammer motion, making sure your palms are always facing the side of your body. Curl back down and repeat.
But my all-time suggestion for strong dense muscle is the chin up, you just can’t beat it.
Chin ups are possibly the best exercise for your arms, although most people find them incredibly difficult. It’s okay to cheat on chin ups until you get your strength up. Just remember that you can target different muscles by changing the position of your hands. Palms facing you will help build your biceps, palms facing away will help strengthen your back and shoulder muscles.
Chin ups equal a win-win for the arms!
As important as biceps are to looking good, triceps are equally as important in the movements of your arms and wrists. The same repetition rule applies; 8-10 for bigger or 12-15 for smaller.
The overhead extension is one of most effective arm exercises, so make sure you choose a weight that will allow you to complete your reps without stopping but one that will also allow you to feel the burn!
To Do: Stand up straight and bend your knees slightly. Lift one arm straight up and slowly drop it behind your head. Use the free hand to place the weight in the hand behind your head. Extend that hand straight up and then bend it back behind your head. Repeat depending on your goals and switch arms.
Dips are a great arm exercise for triceps, and you can do them just about anywhere!
To Do: Grab a sturdy chair, a bench, or coffee table (without glass!). Stand with your back facing your chosen exercise buddy and place your hands on it, palms facing down. Straighten out your legs, taking care to keep your balance because you’ll need balance for this. Once you’re in position, “dip” down by bending your arms and bring yourself up by straightening them almost all the way. Repeat as needed to accomplish your arm goals.
No list of “best arm exercises” is complete without at least a brief mention of the shoulders. An essential part of your upper body strength, your shoulders will not be happy campers if you ignore them while your biceps and triceps start looking like superstars.
Uprights are a quick and fairly easy way to target your shoulders while toning your arms.
To Do: With weights in hand, stand straight up. Hold the weights so that your palms face your thighs. Lift your arm straight up, going no higher than your shoulder and back down. Repeat, alternating each arm as you go.
Sideouts are very similar to uprights, they just focus on a slightly different area of the shoulder.
To Do: Start in the same position as the uprights, weights in hand. Lift your arms straight out to the side, making sure they never go higher than your shoulder, and back. Repeat as needed for your arm goals, alternating arms as you go.
Remember to breathe while you exercise to avoid injury and exhaustion..
Getting the arms you want requires dedication to exercise (and diet), as well as understanding how to target the biceps, triceps, and shoulders effectively. Pick your poison and practice flexing…it’s tank top season somewhere!
See if Craig Ballantyne and his bodyweight moves can get the rest of your body as fit as your arms by reading our review of his Turbulence Training program.