The Arm Workout That Targets Both Biceps and Triceps

Build bigger arms with this trainer-recommended workout

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For better or worse, your arms are on display more than most other body parts and many people work toward toning and building strength in their arms. While our inclination toward wanting stronger arms is entirely natural, many of us go about achieving them ineffectively. By repeating the same exercises each week, not increasing volume and intensity as we progress, and not targeting multiple areas of our arms, we do not get the results we want.

For example, your biceps consist of a large, thick muscle that runs along your upper arm's underside. It comprises two heads, a short head (caput breve) and a long head (caput longum). Conversely, your triceps is a robust muscle running along your upper arm's back part with three heads (long, lateral, and medial).

Each muscle head in your upper arms can be targeted and worked separately with different exercises. That’s why training your biceps and triceps in tandem while targeting multiple heads to build stronger arms is essential.

“Training biceps and triceps together is a good strategy because they’re complementary muscles, meaning while one works, the other rests,” says Kate Meier, CPT, certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews,When you do a bicep curl, you flex the biceps while the triceps let loose and relax to allow your biceps to pull the weight. Conversely, during an overhead triceps extension, your biceps lengthen while your triceps contract and shorten to work those muscles.”

Regardless of your preferred form of exercise, it’s essential to add variety to your fitness by crafting or seeking out new workouts, switching up your routine, and targeting specific muscle groups with each workout for optimal muscle growth. So whether you’re looking to get toned or add size to your arms, keep reading for a simple arm workout designed by personal trainers to target multiple areas of your biceps and triceps for you to get the most out of the workout.

What You’ll Need

Before diving in and working your upper arms, you will need to make sure you have a few essential pieces of equipment on hand and ready for use. Here is what you will need.

  • Light to medium dumbbells that you can perform 8 to 12 reps of with moderate difficulty
  • A sturdy, secure bench or chair that can safely support your body weight
  • An EZ curl bar

Simple Bicep & Tricep Workout

This simple arm workout was created by personal trainers and is designed to target both your biceps and triceps. It also is better suited for experienced exercisers and may not be suitable for a beginner. Here is what you need to know about each move.

Dumbbell Bicep Curls

The first exercise is the iconic dumbbell bicep curl. This exercise targets the muscles at the front of your upper arms—the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. Here's how Meier suggests doing a dumbbell bicep curl.

  1. Start standing in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent, holding either dumbbells or a barbell with your palms facing forward.
  2. Contract your biceps to bend your elbows and lift the weight upward and in toward your chest.
  3. Keep the tops of your arms straight against your sides and try not to swing the weight up.
  4. Take a few seconds to channel the biceps and pause at the top before lowering the weight with control.
  5. Aim for four sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Bodyweight Bench Dips

Next, you’ll target the triceps with bodyweight bench dips. Feel free to use a sturdy, stable chair (or even your couch) if you don’t have access to a bench. Dips are an effective exercise because they also work the biceps and your anterior deltoids (shoulders) while strengthening all three heads of the triceps brachii. Here's how Meier suggests doing bodyweight bench dips.

  1. Sit on the edge of a bench or a sturdy chair, couch, or table.
  2. Step your feet forward and hold onto the edge of the bench, hovering your body just in front of the edge with your arms straight.
  3. Bend at the arms, using your triceps to slowly lower yourself down until your elbows are at 90 degrees. You feel the movement in your triceps.
  4. Push back up, and repeat for four sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Alternating Dumbbell Hammer Curls

For the third exercise, we’ll return to hitting the biceps with alternating dumbbell hammer curls. Besides adding strength to the outside of your upper arm, hammer curls also strengthen your brachioradialis (forearm), increasing wrist stability and grip strength.

  1. Start standing in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your outer thighs. The dumbbells should be slightly to the outsides of your hips to start.
  3. Keep your upper arms still as you bend one of your elbows.
  4. Pull the weight up toward the same shoulder in an arc motion.
  5. Lower the weight slowly back down, then switch sides.
  6. Do 8 to 12 reps per side and repeat for four sets.

Diamond Push-ups

Another bodyweight exercise, this push-up variation will make your triceps burn. It also works other muscles across your body, including your pectoralis major (chest), anterior deltoids (shoulders), and quadriceps (upper legs), while improving your core strength and stability. Here are the steps to diamond push-ups according to Meier.

  1. Set up as you would for a typical push-up, getting on all fours with your shoulders and wrists in line.
  2. Move your hands together until the index fingers and thumbs of each hand touch, forming a diamond shape in the space between your hands.
  3. Step your feet back, or rest on your knees if that is too difficult.
  4. Lower yourself down, keeping your arms close to your sides and your back straight.
  5. Push back up to the start position, then repeat.
  6. Do as many reps as possible for four sets in order to achieve a solid tricep burn.

EZ Bar Biceps Curls

This classic upper body exercise is recommended by Nick Sandoval, NASM, CPT, a certified personal trainer with Life Time and the creator of the 6-Week Shred Program. EZ bars are shorter than a straight barbell and allow for an angled grip.

  1. Stand holding the EZ bar with an underhand grip and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your back straight and maintain a neutral head and neck position.
  3. Bend your elbows while lifting the weight until your lower arms touch your upper arms without moving your upper arms or leaning backward.
  4. Pause for one to two seconds at the top while squeezing your biceps.
  5. Lower the bar back down slowly to the start position keeping your elbows locked.
  6. Repeat for four sets of 8 to 12 reps.

EZ Bar Triceps Curls

Another recommendation from Sandoval, EZ bar tricep curls will activate all three heads of your triceps brachii while reducing strain on your wrists. Here's how he suggests doing this move.

  1. Lie flat on a bench while holding the EZ bar above your chest with an overhand grip and arms fully extended shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your elbows locked and lower the bar until it is about an inch or two above your forehead.
  3. Hold for one to two seconds.
  4. Squeeze your triceps to return the bar to the starting position.
  5. Do four sets of 8 to 12 reps to maximize gains in strength and size.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you prefer training your arms in a dedicated arm session or including them in other workouts, it’s essential to perform various exercises that target each muscle head in your biceps and triceps. When training your arms, alternate between bicep and tricep workouts to balance out the movements performed by your elbow joints.

The above workout is a strenuous workout ideal for advanced exercisers that can be done at the gym or in the comfort of your home. Feel free to use it as a guide and incorporate other biceps and triceps exercises to avoid plateaus. And remember, always talk to a healthcare provider before starting up a new workout routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it good to work out biceps and triceps together?

    Combining exercises that work the biceps and triceps is beneficial because it provides balance for movement around the elbow joint. For example, bicep exercises are “pull” movements (elbow flexion), while tricep exercises are “push” movements (elbow extension). If you train only in one direction, you increase your risk of injury and muscle imbalance.

  • Is lifting 5 days a week too much?

    Like any other muscles, the biceps and triceps require rest periods to recover, repair, and grow from workouts. Rest and recovery are when muscles grow and gain strength. Therefore, five days a week of training your biceps and triceps is overdoing it and will increase your chances of burnout, fatigue, and overuse injury. It’s better to train specific muscle groups twice a week with at least four sets per muscle group and two days of rest between workouts.

  • Do high reps build muscle?

    Significant muscular hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs when you perform most of your training sets with moderate to high loads and leave three or four reps left in the tank. For example, aim for 8 to 12 reps with each set without reaching failure (meaning you’re still able to pump out a few more reps). Interestingly, doing higher reps in the range of 15 to 20 can also build muscle. Evidence shows that a high number of repetitions of a given exercise increasing muscle mass but not strength.

11 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.
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