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, 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 weight. There are even home objects you can use for exercise.


The Dumbbell Arm Curl

Bicep curls with dumbbells

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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

The biceps curl can be performed with dumbbells, a barbell, a resistance band, a cable, or a kettlebell. The trick is to keep your core braced and the elbow close to your body so that the weight can be lifted in a relatively stable plane. In addition to targeting the bicep, this exercise also works the brachialis muscles of the upper arm.


The Dumbbell Overhead Press

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 so, 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.


The 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 (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.


The Dumbbell Front Raise

Shoulder Front Raise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The dumbbell front raise is another great example of an isolation exercise. As the weight is lifted in front of you and the elbows are kept straight, 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, but if you just want strong shoulders, do plenty of front raises, 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 ten to twelve reps. If you start to rock back on your heels in order to complete the lift, you're probably going too heavy.

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Article Sources
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  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.