What are the best arm exercises?
Everyone loves big arms. But what’s the best way to achieve them?
This guide to the best arm exercises will help you determine which arm exercises to include in your arm workouts that will deliver the best results.
There is a wide range of arm exercises available to choose from, so we’ve selected the 10 best arm exercises that will help boost your arm development, leaving no stone unturned.
We’ll also look at some often overlooked exercises that develop the wrists and forearms, giving your arms a holistic workout.
Read on to discover the best arm exercises for maximum results.
The Best Arm Exercises
Our exercise routines are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being.
Here’s our list of the 10 best arm exercises:
10. Barbell Wrist Curls
Barbell wrist curls are among the most overlooked arm exercises you can perform.
But this isolation movement is excellent for developing the forearms, which has added benefits when performing a range of other motions.
How to do it:
To do the barbell wrist curls:
- Sit on a bench leaning forwards
- Hold the barbell with palms facing up, resting your forearms on your thighs
- Using your wrists, curl the weight upwards, then slowly lower back to the starting position
Strengthening the wrist flexor muscles in the forearm is more than simply getting some additional gains in this region.
It can also help to improve circulation in the carpal tunnel, provided you don’t overdo it and stress your tendons.
You only need to perform a few sets with relatively low reps to get the benefits from the barbell wrist curls, and once a week should suffice.
9. Tate Press
The Tate press is geared towards tricep growth, but it also has the advantage of improving your overall ability to bench press better by developing the upper arm and giving you extra power.
How to do it:
You’ll need a bench and a pair of dumbbells to perform the Tate press. Grab these, then:
- Lie on the bench with a slight arch in your back
- Pull your shoulder blades down, engaging your core and positioning yourself firmly with your feet
- Position the dumbbells over your shoulders as if doing a normal dumbbell chest press
- Bend the dumbbells down into your chest, so your elbows point out to the sides, and the weights come together pointing upwards from your chest
- Raise the weights back to the starting position
This unusual exercise targets the triceps in ways other tricep exercises don’t, leading to a more rounded and ultimately impressive muscle structure and tone.
This is a great exercise to introduce to your overall arm days in the gym since it helps to diversify how you approach working on upper body limbs and developing all-round bigger arms.
8. EZ Bar Skullcrushers
This variation on the standard skullcrusher is another awesome exercise designed to really work the triceps and promote muscle growth.
Do these regularly for improved lockout strength and overall bigger arms.
How to do it:
Load up the EZ bar with the weights of your choice, then set up a bench to perform this bicep exercise:
- Lie back on the bench with the bar close to your chest
- Move the weights to your head, so it’s just over your forehead
- Once it’s parallel with the bench, raise the elbows while flexing your triceps to bring the bar back to the starting position
The EX bar skullcrusher is a favorite arm workout of powerlifters and strength athletes, which not only gives you bigger triceps but also improves shoulder stability and healthier elbow joints.
The general recommendation for EZ bar skullcrushers is to perform them 2-3 times per week or include them in your regular arms-focused sessions.
Aim to perform 3-5 sets each time you do these, and make sure you’re performing other triceps exercises as well.
7. Close-Grip Bench Press
Continuing with the exercises, which are great for tricep development, we’re moving on to the close-grip bench press.
In addition to being effective for building this muscle, this exercise also activates the upper chest and the anterior deltoid muscles on the front of your shoulders.
How to do it:
Set up a bench with a barbell on the rack as if performing a standard bench press, then:
- Grip the barbell with hands approximately shoulder-width apart
- Brace your core to stabilize your body
- Lower the bar slowly — it will be close to your sternum once it reaches the bottom, with your elbows at your side to emphasize the triceps
- Return the bar to the apex position
The close-grip bench press aids muscle development in a variety of ways and is one of the best upper arm exercises.
It’s easy to set up and improves your bench press lockout while also helping to reduce elbow flaring.
Make sure you have a spotter if you’re performing this move with heavy weights.
You’ll be looking to include the close-grip bench press on those days when you’re working primarily on your arms and as part of a range of arm-based exercises.
Consider mixing up your approach with modifications to tempo and pauses for extra muscle development.
6. Reverse-Grip EZ Bar Curls
The reverse-grip EZ bar curl not only builds on several muscles in your arms it’s also an effective method of building grip strength, which can assist with better performance in other areas.
How to do it:
Load up the EZ bar with the plates of your choosing, then:
- Hold the bar in front of your thighs with an overhand grip at shoulder width
- Curl the bar upwards until your hands are up at your shoulders
- Squeeze your biceps to engage the muscles fully, then lower slowly back to the starting position
By facing your forearms downwards as you perform this exercise, you place a higher load on your wrist joints.
So, provided you don’t overload the bar, it’ll develop these and work towards a bigger overall arm structure.
This isn’t an exercise you’ll be looking to perform regularly since you may run the risk of damaging your wrists.
However, as part of an overall arm routine, it’s an oft-overlooked exercise that will help bring dynamic shape to your arms.
5. Tricep Pushdowns
The tricep pushdown is a cable-based exercise that engages your back and shoulders while also working your core.
As such, it’s a versatile arm exercise that works towards building overall strength and core stability.
How to do it:
Stack the weights of your choice on a cable machine, then:
- Face the cable machine with your feet close together, bracing your abs and tucking your shoulders into your sides
- Take the grip and push down, so your elbows are fully extended with your knees slightly bent. Avoid bending forwards
- Return to the start position in a slow-motion, so the weights don’t crash back down
Increased upper body arm size with a strong emphasis on triceps isn’t the limitation of the tricep pushdown.
It’ll also give your glutes, lats, traps, pecs, and abs a workout too, making it ideal for full-body workout sessions.
Perform this exercise on days when you really want to drive effort to the triceps while getting a good all-round workout in a range of other muscles.
You can include this in your workout routines 2-3 times per week.
4. Tricep Dips
Tricep dips are among the easiest arm workouts to learn, and you can do these at home.
All you need is a bench or chairs to hold onto, and you’ll give your triceps a fantastic workout.
How to do it:
Grab a chair or weight bench, then:
- Grip the edge with your fingers pointing to your feet, with your hands next to your hips
- With your legs extended resting on your heels, slide forwards, so you’re clear of the bench/chair
- Lower yourself down until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees in a controlled motion
- Push back up slowly until your arms are almost straight
As well as working your triceps, tricep dips also help to stabilize your shoulder joints.
Some training professionals recommend tricep dips as among the best routines you can use to develop this muscle.
Provided you ensure you have plenty of time for recovery, you can perform tricep dips every two or three days to get great results and see some real gains in your tricep definition.
3. Incline Bicep Curls
Moving onto the bicep with the incline bicep curl, a bicep workout that gives this muscle an extra level of effort compared to a standard bicep curl.
The incline position targets the whole muscle, making it one of the most effective bicep exercises.
How to do it:
Grab a bench and set it into an inclined position, then:
- Hold the dumbbells in each hand at arm’s length
- Curl the dumbbells upwards, focusing the movement on the biceps until they reach your shoulder
- Lower the dumbbells back down to your sides, then repeat
The bicep brachii is used the most in the incline bicep curl.
This is the biggest muscle in this region of your arm which is engaged and tightened when performing this routine for maximum potential growth.
Aim for 2-3 sessions per week when you include this exercise, making sure you don’t overwork the muscles and allow for time between sessions for the muscles to recover and repair.
2. Hammer Curls
A variation on the traditional bicep curl, hammer curls help you increase your bicep’s strength and definition while also contributing to greater wrist stability and overall muscle endurance.
It’s one of the best bicep exercises you can perform.
How to do it:
To perform hammer curls, pick out the dumbbells of your desired weight, then:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend to your knees
- Hold the dumbbells to your side with palms facing inwards
- Lift the dumbbells until they reach your shoulders
- Slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position
Primarily targeting the brachii muscles in your biceps, the hammer curl is an effective way to switch up the basic curl for an arm workout with some additional gains in your upper arms.
Hammer curls are a great inclusion to any arm-focused workout session, targeting the biceps to improve strength and conditioning as well as promoting muscle growth.
1. Barbell Bicep Curls
If you’re looking to increase the weights you lift when working your biceps, switching from dumbbells to barbells is a great way to go.
You’ll be able to work on building much bigger biceps if you incorporate the barbell bicep curl into your routine.
How to do it:
Perform this exercise correctly to avoid undue strain on the wrists and elbows. Here’s how:
- Stand with your chest out and core brace, with your feet at shoulder width
- Hold the barbell with your hands outside your hips in an underhand grip
- Raise your hands slightly and engage your biceps, then curl the bar up to your shoulders
- Squeeze your biceps at the top of this movement before slowly returning the bar down to the starting position
Performing barbell bicep curls targets the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis muscles.
This means it’ll give those muscles a thorough workout compared to other biceps exercises, delivering the best arm workout for the muscle gains you’re looking for.
Try doing barbell bicep curls 2-3 times per week, and as you increase the weights over time, you’ll begin to see vast improvements to your performance, as well as see great results in the size of your arms.
FAQs About Arm Exercises
If you’re still not sure why you should include arm exercises in your workouts, check out our answers to these frequently asked questions.
Q: Why are arm exercises important?
Working on developing strong and toned arms can have a range of additional benefits beyond just building upper body strength.
Many arm exercises also help develop your core through the engagement of the abdominal muscles.
Q: Do arm exercises actually work?
Provided you perform each arm exercise correctly, it will definitely deliver in terms of gains and strength.
As long as you make sure to include the appropriate rest days to allow the torn muscles to repair, arm exercises will lead to bigger muscles and greater strength over time.
Q: Can I train my arms every day?
The short answer to this question is no. As with any other muscle in the body, you need to make sure you allow for time for recovery.
When you stress muscles through exercise – especially when you use heavier weights placing additional strain on the muscles – they need time to heal.
Training without the appropriate rests between sessions is ultimately detrimental to a healthy training schedule and will lead to negative consequences over time.
There are plenty of scientific studies which support the necessity for including rest days in your weekly schedule.
Rest days help ensure you maintain good overall health and fitness, so make sure you factor these in when working out your weekly training schedule.
Q: What is the best exercise for arms?
As we’ve outlined in this guide, there is a wide range of great arm workouts you can choose from to build up your biceps, triceps, forearms, and wrists.
It’s sound advice to mix things up each time you hit the gym and focus on your arms since this variety will mean your arm muscles are worked in a range of different ways.
This will lead to a more balanced set of muscles that is aesthetically pleasing and give you more versatility in the range of moves your arms can perform.
Big arms are guaranteed to impress, and working all the muscles in your arms will help you build some impressive guns.
These exercises should set you well on your way to developing both your triceps and biceps while also improving wrist strength and maintaining healthy joints.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best arm exercises:
- Barbell Bicep Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Incline Bicep Curls
- Tricep Dips
- Tricep Pushdowns
- Reverse-Grip EZ Bar Curls
- Close-Grip Bench Press
- EZ bar Skullcrushers
- Tate Press
- Barbell Wrist Curls
If you enjoyed this article, check out our other exercise lists:
- The 10 Best Back Exercises
- The 10 Best Chest Exercises
- The 10 Best Shoulder Exercises
- The 10 Best Ab Exercises
- The 10 Best Leg Exercises