27 Best Arm Exercises & Workouts For All Levels & Equipment

best arm exercises and workouts

Developing stronger, bigger, more defined arms is a common goal for most people who lift weights. 

Below, I’ll share 27 of the best arm exercises you can do with various types of equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, machines, cables, and resistance bands. 

Furthermore, I will share several arm workouts no matter your level of experience.

If you want to jump right into working out though, download the Fitbod app.  

On average, a new Fitbod user who trains 3 times a week for about 45 minutes will see a 34% strength increase after 3 months. Try Fitbod for free.

How To Effectively Train Your Arms for Strength and Size

To train the arms for strength and size, you need to train them at least twice a week with a variety of rep ranges.  If you’re more advanced, you can even increase this frequency to three times per week.

You will want to train them in the 5-15 rep range, making sure to always use good form. 

The lower rep ranges should involve compound exercises such as bench presses, dips, pull-ups, and rows.  

The higher rep ranges should involve isolation exercises such as preacher curls, single-arm tricep extensions, hammer curls, and diamond push-ups. 

Regardless of the weight you use for the specific rep range, by the end of the set, you should be close to failure, only leaving between 1-2 reps left in the tank.

Related Article: 12 Killer Arm Exercises and Workouts


Need a workout program? Try Fitbod for Free.


Best Arm Exercises

This list is split into different exercises based on the type of equipment you have available:  

  • Best Barbell Arm Exercises
  • Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises
  • Arm Exercises With Machines and Cables
  • Best Arm Exercises With Resistance Bands

Best Barbell Arm Exercises

1. Barbell Bicep Curl

How To

Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width grip. Your palms should be up. 

While standing, the bar should be in front of your thighs with the elbows fully straightened.  Lift the barbell up to chest level by bending the elbows, making sure they do not move backward. 

Pause at the top, and then lower slowly.

Benefits

  • Can train the biceps with a high amount of loading as the barbell requires less coordination.
  • Can use a variety of grip widths to target the biceps (wide grip hits inner bicep, narrow grip hits outer bicep).

Cons

  • Most people use too much weight and turn this into a full-body exercise.
  • Can be uncomfortable if you have wrist issues.

Pro Tip

Try to keep your elbows in line with your wrists when you curl (forearms parallel to one another).

Related Article: How Many Exercises Make An Effective Arm Workout?

2. Barbell Biceps Drag Curl

How To

Grab a barbell like you would a barbell bicep curl, however when you perform the curl, keep the elbows back behind you so that the bar drags up the body. 

You only need to drag it to about the lower chest, pause, then slowly lower the weight.

Benefits

Cons

  • Some lifters can not keep their shoulders pulled back as they lift the weight.

Pro Tip

Keep your chest up, and curl to about the lower chest, then pause. Hold this pause to maximize the biceps contraction.

3. Reverse Barbell Curl

How To

You will perform a standard barbell bicep curl, with the only exception being that your palms will be facing down (not up). This will target more of the forearms and outer bicep.

It is important that you try to keep your elbows into the body as you do this, so that they are in line with the wrists.

Benefits

  • Trains the top of the forearms and can increase arm size.
  • Trains grip muscles that can carry over to other lifts (rows, deadlifts)

Cons

  • Some people may find this uncomfortable on their wrists (since the barbell is not curved).

Pro Tip

You do not need to train this very heavy. Focus on using the forearm to bend the elbows and always control the lowering phase.

4. Reverse Grip Close Grip Bench Press

How To

You perform a reverse grip close bench press just like you would a close grip bench press (see below), however, you will take a reverse grip. 

When taking a reverse grip, you want to make sure that you are wrapping your thumb around the bar.

Lower the weight to the lower chest, and push upwards, making sure your elbows stay into the body. Always do this exercise with safety racks in case the bar slips out of your hands.

Benefits

  • Trains the inner and middle parts of the triceps.
  • Can be a good alternative if people feel their shoulders on the close-grip bench press.

Cons

  • Can be risky if you do not have a strong grip on the bar to ensure the bar does not slip out.

Pro Tip

Lower the weight slowly to the chest (or a few inches off the chest). and always do this with a safety rack set up in case you drop the bar.

5. Close Grip Bench Press

How To

Lie down on a bench and grab the barbell with an overhead grip (palms facing away from you). Your hands can be anywhere from a few inches apart to shoulder width, as the key is to perform this exercise with your elbows under the wrists.

Lower the bar to the chest, and press upwards with the triceps, making sure to not let the elbows flare outwards.

Benefits

  • Targets the long and lateral head of the triceps, great for size and strength gains.
  • Can improve your bench press strength.

Cons

  • Some people may find it aggravates the wrists and elbow joints (if this happens, try different grip widths).

Pro Tip

Try to keep the elbows under the wrists as you lower the weight.

6. Skullcrusher

How To

Lie down on a bench with a barbell above you (overhead grip). 

With your elbows pushed inwards, lower the barbell to your forehead, making sure to keep the elbows in. Your wrists should be at a comfortable width that allows you to lower the weight and keep the elbows in. 

Touch or pause just above the forehead, and then push the weight back up, making sure to keep it over your eyes/forehead at the tip.

Benefits

  • A great exercise to target the long head of the triceps (add size).

Cons

  • Takes coordination not to drop the weight on your skull.

Pro Tip

Slowly lower the weight to the forehead, making sure to not lose tension on the triceps, and don’t lower the barbell behind your head.

Related Article: How Often Should You Train Arms? (5 Things To Know)

Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises

7. Incline Dumbbell Curl

How To

Sit down on an adjustable bench, with the seat back set to a 45-degree angle. 

With dumbbells in each hand, lie back on the bench and let your arms hang down to the ground. 

Perform a biceps curl, bringing the dumbbells to chest level (not any higher), and pause at the top, feeling all the tension on the biceps. Slowly lower, and repeat.

Benefits

  • Helps target the upper biceps.
  • A good exercise to limit shoulder involvement in the curl.

Cons

  • Can be tricky to find the right angle for our body. The key is to keep the shoulders back as you curl.

Pro Tip

Curl to chest level, and pause. Hold this position for a second or two, then lower fully back down.

8. Dumbbell Bicep Curl

How To

You can do this standing or seated, as long as you are in a vertical upright position. 

With dumbbells to your sides (palms forward), perform a bicep curl, just like you would with the barbell.

Benefits

  • Trains both arms equally
  • Can help to address any muscle imbalances or weaknesses (one arm bigger or stronger than the other).

Cons

  • Requires more coordination to not let your wrist rotate.

Pro Tip

Do not let the thumbs rotate inwards at the top.

9. Dumbbell Hammer Curl

How To

You will perform this exercise just like the dumbbell bicep curl, however, your palms will be facing you the entire time. 

This exercise will help target the outer biceps and forearms.

Benefits

  • Targets the outer biceps and forearms.
  • Can help to increase grip strength

Cons

  • Some lifters may find this challenging on the smaller forearms muscles, so be sure to warm up properly before training with heavier loads.

Pro Tip

Keep the thumb turned up at all times during this exercise.

10. Zottman Dumbbell Curl

How To

This is a hybrid dumbbell biceps and forearm exercise that combines the hammer curl, reverse dumbbell curl, and dumbbell curl all into one movement. 

Start by having the arms down by your sides with palms facing down. 

As you curl up, keep the palms down until you get to the top of the movement (then rotate them upwards). 

Slowly lower the weights with the palms up until your arms are straight. From here, perform curl palms now up). 

Once you get to the top, rotate the palms down and return to the start position. That is one rep.

Benefits

  • Train the biceps and forearms every rep
  • A great exercise to train the forearms and grip.

Cons

  • Can be heavy when your palms are down, so use moderate loading and push for higher reps.

Pro Tip

Train this with moderate to light weights, and high reps to get a massive arm pump.

11. Incline Dumbbell Skull Crusher

How To

You will do this similar to the barbell skull crusher, with the only exceptions being that the bench will be on a slight incline and your wrist position will be more angled (palms turned towards one another).

You want to keep the elbows up in the air and bend them so that the ends of the dumbbells touch the tops of your shoulders.

Benefits

  • A good way to work around any wrist of elbow discomfort when using a barbell for this movement.
  • Can train each arm individually, addressing any weaknesses or strength imbalances between arms.

Cons

  • Can be tricky to train with very heavy weight, as it requires a strong grip.

Pro Tip

Touch the dumbbells to the shoulders every rep while keeping the elbows up.

12. Dumbbell Overhead Extension (one dumbbell)

How To

You can do this with one or two dumbbells, however when training with one (holding it with both hands) you can train heavier and attack more with the strength of the triceps.

Lift a dumbbell overhead with both hands, having your hands holding one end of the dumbbell (not the handle, but the round end of the weight). 

With your palms facing upwards,  lower the weight slowly behind the head by bending at the elbows. 

Once you get a deep strength with the weight behind the head, push the weight back up and repeat.

Benefits

  • Great way to train the triceps for strength with dumbbells.

Cons

  • Stronger lifters may find it challenging to get very heavy loads overhead, however it can be done by taking the weight to the shoulder first, and then pressing it up overhead.

Pro Tip

Keep the elbows from pointing out too much to target the triceps more.

6 Arm Exercises With Machines and Cables

13. Machine Preacher Curl

How To

Sit down on a machine preacher curl, with the top of the pad in your armpit. Fully straighten your elbows, grab the bar, and perform a curl without lifting the elbows off the pad.

Pause when the bar gets to the top, and then slowly lower the weight all the way down.

Benefits

  • Great way to isolate the biceps and not allow other muscles to get involved.
  • Great for all levels because it does not require a ton of coordination (making it perfect to train to failure for muscle growth).

Cons

  • It can take a while to find the right seat height so that the top of the pad is in your armpit.

Pro Tip

Lower the weight slowly, and go all the way down every rep.

14. Behind the Back Double Biceps Cable Curl

How To

Set two cables to the lowest setting, and stand in the middle of them (holding one handle in each hand). Step forward so that your arms are now behind your torso. 

Perform a bicep curl, keeping the elbows back behind the body as you curl upwards (you will only be able to curl to chest level at best).

Pause, and then slowly lower the hands back down and repeat.

Benefits

  • Great exercise to train the biceps without shoulder involvement.
  • Can increase the peak of the biceps.

Cons

  • Tricky to get set up at first as you must be able to keep your elbows back and chest up as you curl.

Pro Tip

Keep your chest up and elbows back as you curl.

15. Cable Bicep Curl

How To

Stand in front of a low cable. Grab whatever bicep curl attachment you prefer (straight bar, curl bar, rope), and step back one step. 

With your palms up (if you are doing the rope, have your palms facing one another), lift the handle to your chest level without leaning backward. Lower the weight back down, and repeat.

Benefits

  • Offers a variety of attachments to train the biceps with.

Cons

  • Requires you to control your body and torso as you perform the curls, which some people may not be coordinated or disciplined enough.

Pro Tip

Stand tall, and do not let your torso lean forwards or backward (think as if you are standing in front of a wall).

Related Article: 12 Best Curl Bar Exercises & Workouts (That Actually Work)

16. Cable Pushdown 

How To

Set a cable to the highest position, and grab the attachment with a palms-down grip. 

Pull the handle down to the chest, making sure that your chest is up, shoulders are back, and your biceps are touching your forearms (bent elbows). 

From here, push the handle down and straighten your elbows, all while not allowing your chest or shoulders to collapse forward.

Slowly bring the hands back to the chest and fully bend the elbows, and repeat.

Benefits

  • Isolate the long and lateral head of the triceps without stress on the shoulders.
  • Can be trained with a variety of attachments to better isolate the triceps.

Cons

  • Extremely easy to use momentum on this exercise and not isolate the triceps.

Pro Tip

At the bottom of the pushdown, the handle should not be touching your thighs, but rather 2-3 inches in front of them. At the top of the movement, however, the handle should be touching your chest or sternum.

17. Cable Pushdown (underhand)

How To

You will perform this the same way as the standard cable pushdown, with the only exception being that your palms are facing upwards. 

Benefits

  • By training this with your palms up, you can target the inner head of the triceps (instead of the lateral head).

Cons

  • Will need to try different attachments to see what feels best on the triceps as well as the wrists.

Pro Tip

When you push the bar down, make sure you do not collapse your shoulders forward/in.

18. Cable Overhead Triceps Extension

How To

Stand in front of a low cable and grab the attachment. Turn your body as you lift the hands overhead so that the hands are overhead and you are facing away from the cable stack.

Push the hands overhead, and then lower them behind your head, like you would a dumbbell overhead triceps extension.

You may need to slightly lean forward so that the cable itself does not hit you in the head/upper back.

Benefits

  • Can train the overhead triceps extension pattern from a variety of angles and grips.

Cons

  • Can be tricky to get into the initial start position (need to turn your body as you lift the arms overhead).

Pro Tip

The lower the cable is set, the more upright your torso should be.

Related Article: The Best Bulking Arm Workouts: 13 Must-Do Exercises

Best Arm Exercises With Resistance Bands

19. Loop Band Hammer Curl

How To

Grab a loop resistance band on each end, and stand in the middle of the band. 

With both feet on the band as an anchor, you should be able to perform a biceps curl (just like you would dumbbell curls). 

The key is to NOT let the band slip or roll out from under your feet.

Benefits

  • A good alternative if you do not have access to weights
  • Harder at the top of the movement and easier at the bottom, making it good if you have issues with regular curls.

Cons

  • Not a ton of ability to adjust the resistance on a band, unless you have multiple bands with different thicknesses.

Pro Tip

Stand in the middle of the band, and DO NOT let the band slip out from under your feet as you are doing this exercise.

20. Handle Band Bicep Curl

How To

This is done the same way as the loop band curl, with the only difference being that you are using a resistance band that has handles on the ends.

Benefits

  • Handles make it more comfortable to perform the curls

Cons

  • Same as loop band curls.

Pro Tip

Keep the palms up as you curl, just like you would if holding dumbbells or a barbell.

21. Band Pushdown

How To

Loop a resistance band around a pull-up bar or beam, making sure it is set to a height above your head. 

Grab the band with both hands and perform a push-down like you would with the cables. The more band there is between your hands and the top loop, the less resistance you will feel.

Benefits

  • A good alternative if you do not have access to weights
  • Harder at the bottom of the movement and easier at the top, making it good to strengthen the triceps without extra stress to the elbows

Cons

  • Can be difficult to control the hands at the bottom if not coordinated.

Pro Tip

Same form as the cable pushdown.

22. Band Overhead Triceps Extension

How To

Grab a loop resistance band on each end, and stand in the middle of the band. 

With both feet on the band as an anchor, you should be able to perform a biceps curl (just like you would dumbbell curls). The key is to NOT let the band slip or roll out from under your feet.

Benefits

  • Good alternative if you do not have access to weights
  • Harder at the top of the movement and easier at the bottom, making it good if you have issues with regular curls.

Cons

  • Not a ton of ability to adjust the resistance on a band, unless you have multiple bands with different thicknesses.

Pro Tip

Stand in the middle of the band, and DO NOT let the band slip out from under your feet as you are doing this exercise.

Best Bodyweight Arm Exercises

23. Chin Up

How To

The chin-up trains both the biceps and the muscles

To do this, hang from a pull-up bar with the palms facing you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then lower yourself down.

Benefits

  • Good bodyweight option to train primarily the biceps.

Cons

  • Can be challenging for beginners.
  • Requires high amounts of upper body strength.
  • Hard to truly isolate the biceps.
  • Difficult to train in high volumes.

Pro Tip

Make sure to go all the way down every rep.

24. Underhand Inverted Row

How To

Set a barbell in a rack position that is about hip height. 

Sit on the ground under the bar, and grab the barbell with an underhand grip. 

Perform a row, and make sure to keep your elbow into your body.

Benefits

  • Trains the back and biceps.

Cons

  • Not a true biceps exercise, but it will train it to some degree.

Pro Tip

To best target the biceps, try to pull yourself into the bar with your biceps.

25. Dip

How To

Place your hands on the dip handlebars, and fully straighten the elbows at the top. 

Lower yourself down into the dip position by bending at the elbows. The more upright you are, the more triceps you will get (angle your body slightly forward). 

Lower yourself until your triceps are parallel to the floor, then push yourself back up.

Benefits

  • Great for adding triceps strength and size.
  • Can train this exercise heavier and also develop the chest at the same time.

Cons

  • Can be troublesome on some lifters’ shoulders.

Pro Tip

Lower yourself slowly until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Pause, and then push yourself back up.

26. Bench Dip

How To

Sit on the edge of a bench (feet perpendicular to the bench). 

Prop your feet up on another bench that is 2-3 feet away from you, and let your hips come off the side of the bench (so you are supporting yourself on your hands). 

With the hips still in contact with the side of the bench, bend the elbows and let your hips drop towards the floor until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Push yourself back up, and repeat.

Benefits

  • Good if you struggle with regular dips (or if you find those aggravate the shoulders or wrists)

Cons

  • Can be tricky to add a heavy weight to this exercise (you can, you just need to stack plates on your thighs).

Pro Tip

Make sure the hip stays under you as you lower yourself (they should be close to the bench as possible).

27. Close Grip Push Up

How To

Perform a push up with your hands closer than shoulder width. The key here is to have the wrist be in line with your lower chest at the bottom of the movement. 

Benefits

  • Great way to build triceps and pressing strength.
  • Can improve your push up and bench press.

Cons

  • May aggravate some people’s wrists and shoulders (if this is the case, take your hands as narrow as you can until you have discomfort).

Pro Tip

Bend at the elbows on the way down, as this is the best way to isolate the triceps.

Related Article: How To Get Rid of Skinny Arms (Complete Guide)


Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.


Sample Arm Workout Routines

sample arm workout routines

Below are seven different workout routines for all levels. 

Note for Fitbod users: While the below workouts are not found exactly as they are written in the Fitbod app, you can use these as templates to create your own workouts.

Beginner-Friendly At-Home Arm Workout

This workout requires a resistance band and body weight.

  • Close Grip Push Up: 4 sets of 10-15 reps (do kneeling if needed), rest 60 seconds between sets
  • Bench Dip: 4 sets of 10-15 reps
    • Superset with Loop Band Pushdown: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets
  • Loop Band Bicep Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets
  • Loop Band Zottman Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets

Advanced Level At-Home Arm Workout

This workout requires a resistance band and body weight.

  • Close Grip Push Up: 4 sets to failure
    • Superset with Close Grip Kneeling Push Up: 4 sets to failure
    • Superset with Bench Dip: 4 sets to failure
    • Rest 60 seconds
  • Band Triceps Pushdown: 100 total reps, choose a level of resistance where you can only get 20-30 reps the first set. Minimal rest between sets.
  • Chin Up: 4 sets to failure
    • Loop Band Bicep Curl: 4 sets to failure (make the band resistance difficult, in that you cannot get more than 30 reps)
    • Rest 60 seconds 

Commercial Gym Arm Workout

This workout requires a barbell, dumbbells, machines, and cables.

  • Machine Preacher Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets
  • Cable Behind the Back Bicep Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Zottman Curl: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets
  • Dip (can use machine assist or extra weight if needed): 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Skullcrusher: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets
  • Underhand Cable Pushdown: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets

Bigger, Stronger Biceps

This workout requires a chin-up bar, dumbbells, and cables.

  • Chin Up: 5 sets of 5 reps, rest 120 seconds between sets
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets
  • Behind the Back Cable Curl: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets

Build Thicker Triceps 

This workout requires a barbell, dumbbells, and cables.

  • Close Grip Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps, rest 120 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Skullcrusher: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets
  • Bench Dip: 4 sets of 10-15 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets

Beginner Friendly Arm Day

This workout requires dumbbells, barbells, and machines/cables.

  • Machine Preacher Curl: 5 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets
  • Cable Bicep Curl: 5 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl: 5 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets
  • Close Grip Bench Press: 5 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets
  • Bench Dip: 5 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets
  • Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension: 5 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets

Dumbbell Only Arm Day

This workout requires dumbbells only (a wide selection of loads).

  • Dumbbell Skullcrusher: 5 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extensions: 5 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl: 5 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curl: 5 sets of 12-15 reps

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.