Great Arm Exercises for Strength and Conditioning

Man doing a dumbbell concentration curl.
Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

In concert with our legs, our arms sustain our movement and daily activity. From lifting, pushing, balancing and supporting, our arms need strength and endurance for maximum performance. Getting big arms is not the ultimate goal, but they need to be strong and conditioned to elicit power during sports and other high levels of physical and athletic endeavor.

Here are great arm strengthening exercises.

1. Biceps Curl (Barbell, Dumbbell, Machine, Pulley)

The classic biceps curl is perhaps the most popular weight training exercise available. Young men want the big arms, often at the expense of a more balanced shaping. Even so, it is a useful exercise for building and strengthening the biceps and brachialis. Many forms are available, and it's wise not to lock into barbell or locked-path machine curls exclusively. Dumbbells and pulleys, with their varied paths, allow greater activation of synergist muscles and probably provide a better all-around result.

2. Machine Triceps Pushdown (and Reverse)

The triceps muscles at the back of the upper arm are actually bigger muscles than the biceps at the front, mainly because there are three heads and not two. It doesn't show in most people because we don't use them enough in day-to-day activity. Work on them and they can get big.

The triceps pushdown on a gym machine provides an excellent workout, but you have to practice good form. A reverse grip (more a pull than a push) hits a few different muscles as well.

3. Triceps Extensions (Skullcrusher)

Triceps extensions involve extending the arm under load so that the triceps muscles work hard. Extensions can be to the rear of the body (kickbacks) or overhead. One form of extension has you prone on a bench, grasping a dumbbell with two hands and lowering it towards the skull. This is the skullcrusher, but other similar extensions are equally effective.

4. Dumbbell Concentration Curl

This is a variation on the arm curl. Sitting on a bench, you support the back of the arm on the inner thigh while raising the dumbbell. This works the biceps and the brachialis hard and gives you a great arm workout.

5. Bench Dips

Dips require you to push up from a bench or static workstation with your arms behind your body. You can use a workout bench or an assisted dip machine that even provides mechanical assistance to get you started. You can modify the difficulty of bench dips by straightening for bending the legs at the knees. Dips hit the triceps muscles hard.

6. Barbell Reverse Curls

Instead of grabbing the barbell with an underhand grip, use an overhand grip. The reverse curl works the extensor muscles of the lower arm as well as the upper arm muscles.

7. Preacher Curls

Preacher curls require a preacher bench. It's another method (like concentration curls) of supporting the back of the arms to place full emphasis on the biceps. Do preacher curls with a barbell.

8. Wrist Curls (and reverse)

Wrist curls isolate the lower arm muscles, which often get neglected. Support your lower arm on the end of a bench with the back of the arm flat, and do barbell curls with both under and overhand grips. A light barbell is suggested.

9. Dumbbell Hammer Curls

Hold the dumbbell like a hammer, vertically, instead of horizontally. This gives a nice spread of activation across the biceps and the lower brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.

10. High-Pulley Curls

Include these curls for variety and a unique activation of the biceps and brachialis muscles. Stand in a pulley frame with cables adjusted at each end so that the attachment point is above your head. With arms outstretched, pull towards you as you flex at the elbows.

Was this page helpful?