If you’re ready to build bigger, stronger arms, that will fill out that t-shirt, then you’ve come to the right place. With the right exercises, training volume, and program, you’ll be able to build bigger arms, and fit into that schmedium shirt in no time. Below we’ve detailed some of the best arm exercises, to help you build bigger, stronger arms.
Arm Anatomy: Biceps & Triceps
Before we get into the best arm exercises, we’re going to discuss and cover a brief overview of bicep and triceps anatomy. It’s important to understand which muscles you’re targeting, to during each exercise, for the best possible performance outcome.
The biceps brachii, or biceps for shorts have two heads and are located on the anterior (front) part of your upper arm between the elbow and the shoulder. Your biceps assist in elbow flexion (bending your arm at the elbow), supination (moving from palm down to palm up), and with shoulder flexion (raising your arm in front of you).
The triceps are located on the posterior (back) part of your upper arm between the elbow and shoulder directly below your bicep. Your triceps contain three different heads (short, medial, and long). Triceps assist in elbow extension (straightening your arm at the elbow) and shoulder extension
The brachioradialis, or more commonly known as your forearm attaches slightly above the elbow to the humorous and near your wrist. Your brachioradialis assists the biceps in elbow flexion, and assists with supination and pronation of your forearm.
The brachialis, is more distal to the bicep, (lies beneath) and assists in flexion of the elbow.
The Best Arm Exercises To Build The Best Arm Workout
1. Dumbbell Preacher Curl
The dumbbell preacher curl can effectively isolate your biceps, inducing more stimulation directly to the muscle tissue, increasing muscle hypertrophy. More isolation, with better contraction and flexion, and full range of motion, will help produce bigger gains.
How To Do A Dumbbell Preacher Curl
- Grab a dumbbell and place your elbow flush on a preacher curl, or incline bench at 55 degrees.
- Slowly lower your arm, and contract your muscles, effectively isolating your bicep.
- Raise back up squeezing your bicep as you curl the dumbbell
2. Incline Dumbbell Curl
Although it’s not the most popular arm exercise, the incline dumbbell curl can be a great addition to your arm day workout split. While performing an incline dumbbell curl, your arms tend to move behind your body, increasing the range of motion and creating a deeper stretch.
How To Do An Incline Dumbbell Curl
- Position the incline bench at 55-65 degrees.
- grab two dumbbells are let your arms hang at your sides, slightly behind your shoulder.
- Using a supinated grip, curl the dumbbells towards the shoulders.
- Once your biceps are contracted, lower the weights back down, and repeat.
3. EZ Bar Curl
The EZ Bar curl is one of the most tried and true arm exercises to build bigger biceps. Electromyographic studies have shown that EZ bar curls generate more activity of the biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing them when compared to other bicep movements such as the straight bar or barbell bicep curl[R].
How To Do An EZ Bar Curl
- Grab an EZ bar at a comfortable weight.
- Start with the EZ bar at your thighs, with your hands positioned on the knurled grip of the bar,
- Standing shoulder width apart, fully contract your arms all the way to your shoulders and curl the EZ bar, and lower down the bar slowly with control, keeping your elbows tucked at your sides.
4. Dumbbell W Curl
Another unconventional but very effective arm exercise is the w curl. The w curl, positions your elbows into your ribs, and turns out your arms, while seated, to effectively target and isolate your biceps.
How To Do A "W" Curl
While seated on a bench, grab two dumbbells, and set your elbows into your sides, and turn your palms away from you.
Curl both dumbbells simultaneously, and slowly lower the weight back to starting position, and repeat for a set of 10-15 reps.
5. Twisting Dumbbell Curl
One of the best and most popular arm exercises, is the twisting dumbbell curl. The twist, activates your forearms, and the head of the bicep.
How To Do A Twisting Dumbbell Curl
- Grab two dumbbells at a comfortable weight.
- Positioned at your sides with your palms faced in, begin to curl one arm towards your shoulder
- Twist the dumbbell, so that your palms face your chest, as you contract your bicep.
- Once you get to the top of the curl, keep twisting slightly to isolate the bicep and contract your muscle for 1-2 seconds
- Release, lower the weight back to your side, and repeat.
6. Triceps Rope Push-down
There’s nothing like a traditional set of ropes to help build the horseshoe. The triceps rope pushdown is extremely effective as it works all three heads of your triceps. While this predominately works the triceps, it also stimulates and recruits the rear deltoids.
How To Do a Triceps Rope Pushdown
- Grab a set of ropes and connect it to the cable machine
- Set the cable to the highest height.
- Hold onto the rope near the knotted ends and begin with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Pull the ropes down, with a slight bend at the waist, and knees also slightly bent.
- Pull down the rope and push each side away from each other, turning the ends out slightly to activate your triceps.
- Raise back up slightly above your forearms parallel to the floor and repeat.
If you don’t have access to a gym, or cable machine, you can use resistance bands. Attach it to the top of a doorway and tie a loose knot in the band halfway down.
7. Straight Bar Triceps Push-down
The triceps extension mimics the same movement pattern as the rope pushdown, however the handle is exchanged with a straight bar. You can grip the bar shoulder width apart, palms faced down, or you can also grip the outside of the bar for a wider extension.
How To Do a Straight Bar Triceps Push Down
- Using the cable machine, attached the short bar to the cable
- With your hips hinged and knees slightly bent, hold onto the bar with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
- Keeping your elbows stationary, push the bar down contracting your triceps and extending all the way through the movement, pushing the weight towards your body.
- Bring the bar back to chest level without moving your elbows and repeat.
8. Diamond/Narrow Push Up
Diamond pushup is a more advanced variation of the traditional pushup, which isolates your triceps, by placing your hands together, in the shape of a triangle or diamond. Your base is less stable, when your hands are in a narrow position, which targets your triceps to do most of the work.
A study published in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning, compared three different pushup variations using electromyographic EMG to investigate muscle stimulation and activity of the chest and triceps. Of the three variations (wide, shoulder width, and narrow) EMG activity was greater in both muscle groups from the narrow pushup [R].
How To Do Diamond Push-up
- Position your hands directly under your chest making a diamond or triangle shape with your hands.
- Straighten the legs into a plank position.
- Make sure your back is flat and your core is engaged
- Descend your chest until your chin or chest touches the ground. If you can't go that low, go as low as you can—then work to build enough strength to lower all the way down over time.
- Your elbows should stay in close proximity to your sides.
- Press back to start, keeping your core activated and repeat.
9. Triceps Dips
Triceps dips are an extremely effective arm exercise, which targets all three heads of the triceps, as well as the lower chest. More advanced than other exercises, triceps dips are performed with bodyweight and can be done without any equipment. All you really need is a sturdy chair, bench, or plyo-box.
How To Do a Triceps Dip
- Sit on a chair or bench with your hands just outside of the hips and the knees bent or the legs extended straight out in front of you.
- Lift up onto the palms, keeping the hips and trunk very close to the chair or bench, bend the elbows, lowering down until they're at about 90 degrees.
- Keep the elbows pointing behind you, the shoulders down and the abs engaged.
- Push back to start and repeat.
10. Triceps Kickbacks
In a study published by The American Council on Exercise (ACE) several different triceps exercises variations were evaluated to determine the efficacy of each movement. Triceps kickbacks were ranked second narrowly beating out triceps dips, amongst a total of eight different variations, with significant activation of all three heads [R].
Triceps kickbacks are best performed with dumbbells. Making sure you have proper form, is paramount to ensure effectiveness, activation, and engagement of the muscles.
How To Do a Triceps Kickback
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing toward each other.
- With your knees bent slightly, bring your torso near parallel to the floor and hinge at the hips.
- Engage your core, and bring your forearms to 90 degrees, then extend your arm(s) behind you, while keeping your elbow stationary near your side and contract your triceps.
- Lower the forearm down to about 90 degrees and repeat
Best Arm Workout: Takeaway
Studies have shown that these are some of the best arm workouts to build muscle, helping you get bigger, stronger, and more defined arms. Adding these exercises to your arm day workout split, or workout routine, will help build a balanced physique, more functional strength, and finally help you fill out that shirt.
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Marcolin G, Panizzolo FA, Petrone N, Moro T, Grigoletto D, Piccolo D, Paoli A. Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. 2018 Jul 13;6:e5165. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5165. PMID: 30013836; PMCID: PMC604750
Cogley RM, Archambault TA, Fibeger JF, Koverman MM, Youdas JW, Hollman JH. Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Aug;19(3):628-33. doi: 10.1519/15094.1. PMID: 16095413.