11 Compound Exercises For Arms (Plus, Sample Workout)


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Compound exercises for arms are a great way to build your muscle and develop your strength as it activates more than one muscle group at a time. With compound arm movements, you can do more over a shorter period of time, optimizing your workout efficiency and hence, your upper body results.

The 11 best compound exercise for arms are:

  • Pull Ups

  • Close-Grip Bench Press

  • Close-Grip Chin Ups

  • Barbell Overhead Press

  • Standing Arnold Press

  • Diamond Push Up

  • Ring Dip

  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

  • Inverted Ring Row

  • Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk

  • Barbell Thruster

To maximize your results from these compound movements, we are going to give you step by step instructions on how to perform them correctly with the right technique, as well as a sample workout that puts some of these exercises together.


Need a workout program? Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now.


Quick Overview of Compound Movements


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Compound movements are multi-joint movements, meaning they work more than one muscle group at a time. While isolated movements do have a place in your workout, compound ones are  great because they give you more bang for your buck, essentially cutting down on time you need to spend in the gym. Just think overhead press (compound exercise) compared to bicep curl (isolated or single-joint movement).

Related Article: How Many Exercises Do You Need For An Arm Workout?

11 Compound Exercises For Arms

Try adding these 11 best compound exercises for your arms so that you can increase your workout efficiency and arm strength while simultaneously working other muscle groups. It’s a win-win!

1. PULL UP

Muscles worked: lats, chest, shoulders

  1. Hold onto a bar in an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width distance. Hang from the bar with your legs extended straight down. An alternative is to bend your knees if you prefer to do so.

  2. Retract your scapular (pull your shoulders back and downwards) and engage your core. Bend at the elbows and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar or as high as you can go.

  3. Once you’ve reached the top position, slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Remember to keep the tension in your body.

  4. Pull up again for your next rep. Repeat.

Notes: If a bodyweight pull up is not accessible to you at the moment, then there are assisted pull up machines at the gym that are a good option.

2. CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS

Muscles worked: triceps, chest, shoulders

  1. Lie flat on a bench on your back, facing the ceiling. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground with the barbell racked above you.

  2. Hold onto the bar in a close-grip. What a close-grip is is relative to everyone, as it depends on your normal bench grip. However, for most, this will be around shoulder-width apart.

  3. Unrack the bar, holding it steady above you.

  4. Brace into your stomach and slowly bring the bar down to your chest. Ensure that your elbows remain close to your body as you do so.

  5. Once you’ve lowered the bar, push up until your arms are locked out.

  6. Repeat.

3. CLOSE-GRIP CHIN UPS

Muscles worked: biceps, back, triceps

  1. Hang onto a bar in an undergrip position so that your palms are facing towards you. Again, what will constitute as close-grip will depend on your normal chin up preference so place your palms closer than usual.

  2. Squeeze your core, keep your legs extended or knees bent, and pull up.

  3. Keep lifting yourself up until your chin is above the bar or as high as you can go.

  4. Lower yourself back to the starting position.

  5. Repeat.

Notes: If you’re currently unable to perform a bodyweight close-grip chin up, try using the assisted pull up/chin up machine and you’ll still get all the great benefits of this compound movements, while improving your chin up strength.

4. BARBELL OVERHEAD PRESS

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, arms, upper back

  1. Stand upright with the barbell sitting across the front of your shoulders. Hold the bar with your palms facing away from you, in a grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width.

  2. Take a deep breath in, engage your core and press the barbell overhead until your arms are extended. Remember to move your head slightly back as you do so while keeping your pelvis tucked in. Squeezing your core, glutes and legs will help you to do so.

  3. Once you’ve reached the top position, slowly lower the barbell back down.

  4. That’s one rep. Now, repeat until you’ve completed your set.

Related Article: Outer Bicep Workouts: 5 Exercise Examples

5. STANDING ARNOLD PRESS

Muscles worked: delts, back, shoulders, core

  1. Hold a dumbbell of equal weight in each hand. Hold them like you’re the top position of a dumbbell bicep curl so your elbows are bent and your palms are facing towards you. Keep your core tight and your pelvis tucked in.

  2. Brace and press the dumbbells overhead. Here’s the part that makes it different to an overhead press—As you press the dumbbell up, rotate the dumbbells so that your palms go from facing you to facing away from you. When you’re in the top position with your arms extended overhead, your palms should be away from you.

  3. Keep your biceps close to your ears and hold the top position for a moment.

  4. Bring them back down to the starting position, twisting your hands in the opposite direction to bring them back to an underhand grip.

  5. Repeat.

Related Article: Leg and Arm Workout: How To Structure On The Same Day

6. DIAMOND PUSH UP

Muscles worked: tricep, chest, shoulders

  1. Begin this exercise in a high plank position so that you’re on your hands and toes. Bring your hands together with your index fingers touching as well as your thumbs. The space in between your fingers and thumbs should form a diamond shape.

  2. Ensure that the rest of your body is in a straight line, keeping your core tight.

  3. Bend at the elbows making sure that they don’t flare out to the sides, and lower your chest to the ground.

  4. Once you’ve reached your full range of motion, stopping just above the ground, push yourself back up keeping that straight line in your body.

  5. Repeat.

Notes: For a beginner-friendly version of this push up, do these on your knees until you can perform them on your toes.

7. RING DIP

Muscles worked: triceps, delts, pecs, core

  1. Mount the rings, supporting yourself with one ring for each hand. Keep your arms straight, your core tight and feet off the ground. If your feet are touching the floor, adjust the height of the rings or bend your knees, tucking your feet behind you.

  2. Bend at the elbows and slowly lower yourself into a dip. Lean your torso slightly forward and your hands and shoulders close to your body.

  3. Once you’ve reached depth, push yourself back up to the starting position.

  4. Repeat.

Notes: Ring dips are an advanced technique as the instability of the rings adds an extra necessity of core work. Alternatives to ring dips that are still compound movements for the arms, are performing tricep dips on a dip bar or using the assisted pull up machine.

8. SINGLE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW

Muscles worked: lats, back, shoulders, arms

  1. Place your left knee and left hand on a bench. Hinge at the hips so that your back is straight. Keep your right foot on the ground.

  2. Pick up the dumbbell with your right hand, keeping your arm straight. Ensure your hand is directly below your shoulder.

  3. Pull your shoulders back and down. Bend your right elbow and pull the dumbbell up and slightly back at the top position. Be careful to ensure that your body doesn’t twist to the side as you do so. If you need to rotate your body to get the dumbbell up, then lower the weight.

  4. Hold the top position for a moment.

  5. Lower the weight back down to the starting position.

  6. That’s one rep. Repeat.

9. INVERTED RING ROW

Muscles worked: biceps, forearms, back, grip

  1. Adjust the rings so that they are at waist height. Lie on the floor under the rings and grab one ring in each hand in an overhand grip so that your palms are facing each other.

  2. Lift yourself off the ground so that your upper body is off the floor with your arms completely extended but your feet are still on the ground. Ensure that your body is in a straight line.

  3. Pull your chest towards the rings, bending at the elbows. Keep them close to your body as you pull up as high as you can go.

  4. Once you’ve reached the top position, slowly descend back until your arms are fully extended again.

  5. Repeat.

Notes: The instability of the rings will make this exercise difficult. For an easier version, try using a racked barbell instead of the rings as it’ll provide more support.

10. KETTLEBELL FARMER’S WALK

Muscles worked: biceps, triceps, shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, grip

  1. Hold a kettlebell of equal weight in each hand in an overhand grip. Keep them by your side so that your palms are facing your body.

  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and torso upright.

  3. Engage your core and holding the two kettlebells, walk the length of the floor. As you do so, ensure that you maintain an upright position with your core engaged the entire time. Keep looking straight ahead.

  4. When you’ve reached the end of the walkway, stop and come back.

  5. That’s one rep. Now, repeat until your set is complete.

Notes: If you don’t have kettlebells, then you can also use dumbbells for this exercise or, for those who are more advanced, a barbell or a trap bar.

11. BARBELL THRUSTER

Muscles worked: shoulders, triceps, back, quads, hamstrings, glutes

  1. Unrack the barbell, keeping it resting across the front side of your shoulders and your fingers under the bar, palms facing the ceiling. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width. Keep your elbows up and your core contracted, feet in your usual squat stance.

  2. Brace into your belly and perform the eccentric part of the squat, i.e. the downwards motion of the squat. Make sure that you keep your knees out, your hips back and your chest up.

  3. Once you’ve reached the bottom of the squat, grip the bar tightly and in a smooth, explosive movement, drive through your heels and stand back up. As you do so, simultaneously press the barbell overhead until your arms are completely extended. Make sure that your core is engaged.

  4. Bring the bar back down to your shoulders, dropping back into a front squat at the same time.

  5. That’s one rep. Repeat.


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 3 free workouts on Fitbod.


Sample Compound Arm Workout


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The FitBod app has many compound exercises for arms so you can reap the benefits of getting bigger and stronger in less time. Just choose which muscle groups you’d like to focus on, the equipment you have available and it’ll generate a customized training program for you.

In the meantime, here’s a sample workout consisting of the compound movements in this article (sets x reps). Perform these exercises as instructed, using a weight that you can execute with good technique while still ensuring you’re challenging yourself.

Compound Arm Workout #1:

  • Barbell Thruster: 4×12

  • Pull ups: 3×10

  • Ring Dip: 3×10

  • Single-arm dumbbell row: 3×8

  • Diamond push up: 3 sets to fatigue

  • Kettlebell farmer’s carry: 3×30 meters

Final Notes

Compound movements are an effective way to grow and strengthen your arms for those with an on-the-go lifestyle or who would like to spend less time in the gym but still have an effective workout. Being able to hit more than one muscle group at the same time means that you can get optimal results in less time such as developing your arm strength and growing muscle.


About The Author


Emily Trinh

Emily Trinh

As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.