Add size and strength to your biceps and triceps while also building a bigger and stronger chest with these arm exercises.
Everyone appreciates the aesthetic appeal of strong, shredded arms. Not to mention, having strong muscles is important for overall health.
However, it can be hard to navigate all of the questionable information and unclear exercise guidance found online.
For this reason, we have created the following guide to help you sculpt the arms you’ve always dreamed of.
Best of all, the workout included in this guide takes only 20 minutes to complete. Therefore, it’s easy for anyone to fit this killer workout into a typical, daily routine.
Let’s get into it!
The Best Arm Exercises
Basic Arm Anatomy
To start, it’s important that we review some of the most basic anatomy related to the arms. Having a picture of what’s “under the hood” when it comes to muscle building is critical to success.
Luckily, you don’t have to obtain the depth of knowledge that a surgeon has of the muscular system. Rather, all you need to know is some foundational information regarding the major muscles of the arm.
The deltoid is the large “shoulder pad” muscle that lies on top of many of the other parts of the shoulder. It has three heads and is one of the most noticeable muscles of the arm when it is well-developed.
The two-headed biceps brachii muscle, more commonly known simply as the biceps, sits on the front of the upper arm. The biceps muscle is responsible for pulling movements and generally bending the elbow.
This muscle is one that many young lifters focus on early in their fitness journey. After all, seeing Arnold do a front double bicep is an iconic image that many people want to recreate.
Moving to the back of the arm, we find the large, three-headed triceps brachii muscle. This muscle is crucial for pushing and pressing motions.
Anyone who wants to improve the musculature of their arms should pay special attention to this muscle. In fact, the triceps muscle accounts for most of the mass of the upper arm.
The Best Arm Workouts to Increase Strength and Size
Hypertrophy is the technical term for an increase in muscle size. In order to achieve hypertrophy, one needs to follow a consistent exercise schedule that emphasizes progressive overload.
Additionally, a good diet that is optimized for the lifter’s goals is essential for hypertrophy. However, a discussion of diet is outside the scope of this guide.
Let’s check out the specific exercises!
1. Skull Crushers
This exercise focuses primarily on the triceps muscles. It is an excellent exercise to encourage stability, muscle growth, and strengthening.
- Lie on your back on the bench.
- Hold one dumbbell with both hands, arms straight toward the ceiling.
- Allow the weight to slowly lower down toward or above your head, bending the elbows as this occurs.
- Straighten out your elbows to return to the starting position.
2. EZ Bar Curls
This EZ-bar curl exercise is one of the most effective exercises for your brachioradialis muscle. Brachioradialis is the main muscle in your biceps, and in the preacher bench pad position, they get the optimal activation.
The preacher curl when done right can lead to massive muscle growth more so than the classic bar curl.
How to Do it
- Set the station so that edge of the pad sits under your armpits and supports the arms. Hold the bar with a regular grip with your palms facing up. Let your arms extend down.
- Engage your back and keep it straight, with control, curl the bar up toward your chest. Pause when your hands reach your shoulder height.
- Slowly lower the bar back down to the original position, resisting the drop. Complete 10-12 reps.
3. Hammer Curls
Hammer curls are a variation of the classic bicep curl. This exercise involves multiple elbow flexors such as the brachialis, the brachioradialis, and of course, the biceps.
- In standing, hold dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
- With weights at your sides, lift one of the weights up by bending the elbow.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
4. Lateral Raises
A classic bodybuilding movement: lateral raises are one of the best exercises for isolating and developing the deltoids.
- In standing, hold dumbbells at the sides.
- Simultaneously raise both weights directly out to the side until they are at the height of your shoulders.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position and repeat.
5. Shoulder Press
The shoulder press is a compound movement, involving multiple muscle groups such as the deltoids, traps, and triceps.
- In standing or sitting, hold dumbbells at shoulder height.
- Press the weights toward the ceiling with both hands.
- Slowly lower the weights back down to your shoulders and repeat the movement until the set is complete.
6. Bent-Over Row
The bent-over row is similar to the shoulder press, in that it is a compound movement. This exercise will work multiple different muscles including the rhomboids and the biceps.
- Bending over slightly at the waist, allow the dumbbells to hang down toward the floor.
- Pull the weights up toward your chest.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position, and repeat until the set is complete.
Arm Workout Schedule
Some research indicates that training a muscle group 2-3 times a week is optimal for hypertrophy. However, your schedule may not allow for so much time dedicated to exercise.
It’s important to note that ANY increase in resistance training will lead to SOME degree of hypertrophy.
So, if you can’t stick to the following routine due to your work schedule or life circumstances, don’t be discouraged. Even one day a week is better than nothing!
The following is a suggested three-day training schedule. This information is purely for educational purposes. You should not begin any exercise program before being evaluated by a physician.
- Chest, triceps, biceps.
- Note: many chest exercises will emphasize the triceps and some shoulder muscles as well.
- Note: many back exercises will emphasize the biceps and some shoulder muscles as well.
- Legs, triceps, biceps, shoulders.
- Note: on a leg day, you can emphasize some accessory movements of the shoulders. These exercises may not be appropriate on a chest or back day.
20-Minute Arm Workout
Let’s take a look at a 20-minute arm workout that will leave your arm muscles pumped and exhausted!
Each of these exercises will be performed as part of a circuit. Specifically, you will follow this pattern to complete the workout:
- Complete exercise #1
- Rest for 30 seconds
- Complete exercise #2
- Rest for 30 seconds
Repeating this pattern for exercises 1-5 is considered 1 round. You will perform 3 rounds, meaning that each exercise will be completed 3 times in the pattern indicated above.
- Weights and reps: Select a weight for each exercise that causes you to fatigue/lose form between 10-12 reps
- Workout Focus: This workout will emphasize both muscle hypertrophy and muscle endurance.
- Equipment Needed: Dumbbells, EZ bar, and a bench.
The Bottom Line
Now you’ve got a science-backed, pump-inducing, exhausting workout ready to go for your next gym session. If all of this information seems like too much to handle just remember these simple guidelines:
- Even just a few minutes of exercise is better than nothing;
- Doing a little bit more during each workout will lead to progress;
- If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Good luck and happy lifting!
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