4 Killer Dumbbell Exercises for Stronger Arms

Dumbbells are a versatile, relatively inexpensive addition to any home gym. These dumbbell exercises will help you build muscle and strength in your upper arms and shoulders. In conjunction with an all-around fitness and weight training program and a balanced eating pattern, you can expect to lose fat, as well.

For this workout, do the exercises in the order listed below. If you don't have any dumbbells available, you can use a kettlebell, medicine ball, or another available everyday item.


Dumbbell Arm Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The biceps curl is a classic isolation exercise, which means that it works one muscle or group of muscles at a time. This is the opposite of a compound exercise, like a bench press or squat, which works multiple muscle groups at the same time.

You can use dumbbells, a barbell, a resistance band, a cable, or a kettlebell to perform bicep curls. Keep your core braced and elbow close to your body so that you are lifting the weight in a relatively stable plane.

In addition to targeting the bicep, this exercise also works the brachialis muscles of the upper arm.


Dumbbell Overhead Press

 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The dumbbell overhead press can help you build strong, stable shoulders. Performing the exercise in a seated position will help to stabilize the back, but the standing overhead press will do a lot more to engage your core muscles and improve overall balance, which is important for longevity and injury prevention.

While you may not be able to lift in a completely straight line, you should try to do so. When you do, you'll notice one of the benefits of using dumbbells over barbells. There's no risk of smacking yourself in the chin with the bar as you push overhead.


Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Tricep extension on an exercise ball

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The dumbbell triceps extension is a classic exercise that will help you build the triceps muscle on the back of your upper arm. The triceps is a very important pushing muscle.

Performing this exercise with one arm instead of two is a good way to avoid imbalances in strength and muscle development, but it's important to use a lighter weight if you do so. 

When performed lying down, this exercise is called a "skull crusher." If you try it, you'll know why.


Dumbbell Front Raise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The dumbbell front raise is another great example of an isolation exercise. As you lift the weight in front of you with straight elbows, every part of the shoulder works to keep the movement stable.

This movement is especially good at targeting the anterior deltoid, the part of the shoulder that's most visible from the front. If that's a priority for you, you might want to try an underhand grip. If you just want strong shoulders, add lateral raises, and bent over lateral raises.

Performing a front raise one side at a time will help to minimize any swinging. It may also help to improve your balance. 

It's best to use a relatively light weight and perform one to three sets of 10 to 12 reps. If you start to rock back on your heels in order to complete the lift, you're probably going too heavy.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Thielen S. Build your biceps workout. American Council on Exercise. October 2015.

  2. Ashmore A. The benefits of unilateral training. American Council on Exercise. June 2018.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.