A Simple Beginner Arm Day Workout

Biceps Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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It can be challenging to know where to start when beginning strength training, especially when it comes to an arm day workout. Finding exercises that work for you can be a challenge with so many exercises to choose from.

The term “arm day” may be intimidating to some, especially women who have heard for years that lifting weights will make you bulky. However, working out your upper body is vital for everyone's fitness journey. It is bound to help you meet your overall fitness goals and aid in making everyday tasks more manageable.

Choosing exercises that work for you may seem daunting, but a few basic movements can help you gain strength and muscle. Below are the best arm exercises for a beginner arm day workout.

Arm Day Basics

When people think of building arm muscles, they often think of their biceps. And while training your biceps is a part of building your arms, they are not actually the largest muscle in your arms. There are more than 20 muscles in your arms, some of which you can see when flexing or moving your arm, and others that sit deep inside the arm so you can’t see them on the surface.

When training arms, you will primarily be targeting your biceps—the front part of your upper arm between your elbow and shoulder, and your triceps, located on the backside of your upper arm between your elbow and shoulder. Additionally, working the forearms is also a component of any well-structured arm day session.

The forearm consists of the brachioradialis located above the elbow on your upper arm bone and near your wrist. The brachialis attaches slightly above the elbow on your upper arm bone and slightly below your elbow on one of your elbows, your two forearm bones. 

If you are brand new to training, aim for two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. The last three repetitions should feel very challenging.

Beginner Arm Day Workout

Everyone can benefit from strengthening their upper body. A strong upper body can not only help you be stronger in the gym but provide the support you need for everyday tasks as well as help prevent injuries as you age. Try these bicep, tricep, and forearm exercises to build your arm strength, muscle definition, and power. 

Dumbbell Biceps Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The bicep curl is a tried and true way to build muscle in your biceps. This is a simple way for anyone from beginner to pro to gain strength in their upper arm. One of the best parts about this movement is there are many variations. You can use both dumbbells and barbells as well as EZ bars. 

  1. Start by standing straight with a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging at your side. 
  2. Keep your elbows close to the side of your torso, rotating the palms of your hands until they are facing forward. 
  3. Keep the upper arms stationary and curl the weights while contracting your biceps. 
  4. Continue to raise the weights until your biceps are fully contracted, and the dumbbells sit at shoulder level. 
  5. Begin to lower the dumbbells slowly back down to your hips.
  6. Make sure you aren’t arching your back and are keeping the spine neutral; the only part of your body that should be moving is your lower arm when it’s curling.
  7. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

woman doing hammer curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Hammer curls are one of the many variations of the standard bicep curl. Unlike traditional bicep curls that predominantly activate the shorter head of the bicep, hammer curls activate the long head.

  1. Begin by placing your feet shoulder-width apart with your feet facing forward.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your hands at each of your sides with your palm facing one another.
  3. Hold your upper arm still and curl the weight up while contracting your biceps until the dumbbells are at shoulder height.
  4. Make sure your thumbs face up to your shoulders the whole time.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back down to your sides.
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Cable Rope Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

While cable rope bicep curls may be a similar movement pattern, it can sometimes be more challenging to control the weight because you are using a cable system. Start light until you get the hang of the cable's resistance that a dumbbell doesn’t offer.

  1. Grab the cable curl bar and stand facing the cable machine with your torso upright.
  2. Hold your upper arms stationary with your hands facing up and your elbows next to your torso.
  3. Curl the weight while you contract the bicep until the bar is at your shoulders.
  4. Bring the curl bar back to the starting position in a slow and controlled movement.
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

Bench Bodyweight Triceps Dips

woman doing tricep dip

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Dips are one of the best ways to build your tricep muscles. If you are a beginner, using a bench and your body weight to perform a dip movement is a great place to start. You may begin to use the weight dip machine or even do bodyweight dips on a dip bar as you progress.

  1. Start by sitting on the bench and then sliding off with your hands on it keeping your butt tight to the bench the whole time. Make sure it is stable and won’t slide while performing the exercise.
  2. Hold on to the edge with your arms fully extended, shoulder-width apart behind you, with the bench behind you. 
  3. Place your feet face down out in front of you.
  4. Keep your elbow close to your body and slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until they are at an angle a little smaller than 90 degrees.
  5. Use your triceps to bring your torso back up.
  6. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Dumbbell Skull Crusher

woman doing skull crusher

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Dumbbell skull crushers are a great way to hit the triceps in a way you might not otherwise be able to. During this exercise, it's essential to keep your back pressed down on the bench and not rounded. 

  1. Lay face up on a flat bench.
  2. Place your body so your lower legs are in front of the bench and your head is at the end of the top of the bench.
  3. Put your feet flat on the floor and have your arms extended above your chest with your elbow shoulder-width apart.
  4. Flex your elbows with dumbbells in hand and lower the weight down toward your head, keeping your upper arms perpendicular to your body. Thumbs face down and the elbows stay narrow the whole time.
  5. Continue to lower the weight behind the head until the bottom of the dumbbell is in line with the top of the bench or a little higher. 
  6. Reverse this movement until the weight is back above your chest. 
  7. Repeat.

Cable Triceps Pushdown

woman doing cable tricep pushdown

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The cable tricep pushdown is a popular exercise that is simple to learn and easy to perform. This makes it a favorite for gym-goers of all levels.

  1. Attach a rope to the pulley and grab the rope's end with your palms facing each other. 
  2. Stand upright with your torso straight, leaning slightly forward.
  3. Place your upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor. Your forearms should be facing one another and point up toward the pulley.
  4. Use only your triceps and bring the rope down until it is at your thighs and your arms are fully extended.
  5. Bring the rope slowly—and with control—back to the starting point. 
  6. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Zottman Curls

Zottman Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The zottman curl is a great exercise to work the biceps branchii, consisting of short and long heads. While learning may seem challenging, it is straightforward once you get the movement pattern down.

  1. Stand with your torso upright and place a dumbbell in each hand with the palms facing each other and hold them at arm's length.
  2. Hold the upper arm still and curl the weight as you contract the bicep.
  3. Rotate your wrists while you contract the bicep until your palms face up.
  4. Continue the movement until the dumbbells are at shoulder height. 
  5. Rotate your wrist until your palms face down during the contracted position, with the thumb at a higher position than the pinky.
  6. Begin to bring the dumbbells slowly back down using the pronated grip.
  7. Rotate the wrist to go back to your palms facing your body as the dumbbells get closer to your thighs.
  8. Repeat.

Standing Dumbbell Tricep Extension

Triceps Extension

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Dumbbell triceps extensions are an excellent exercise for beginners. If you have difficulty keeping your back straight and core tight or want to progress and add more weight, sitting on a seated utility bench can be beneficial. 

  1. Start by standing shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab a dumbbell and lift it directly over your head, with both arms fully extended. The flat side of the top of the dumbbell should be resting on the palms of your hands with your thumbs wrapped around the center part of the dumbbell.  
  3. Keep your upper arms close to your head with your elbows in, and lower the dumbbell behind your head until your forearms are close to touching your biceps. 
  4. Use your triceps to raise the dumbbell back over your head. 
  5. Repeat. 

Dead Hang

Dead Hang

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Dead hangs are an isometric exercise used to improve grip strength which is vital, especially in strength training and overall health. Building grip strength also can help build strength and muscular endurance in all of the muscles of your arms.

  1. Use a secure overhead bar such as a pull-up bar.
  2. Grip the bar shoulder-width apart with your palms facing away from you.
  3. Relax your body with your head between your arms and your arms straight.
  4. Hang for 10 seconds or more, depending on how long you can tolerate it.
  5. Repeat if you desire. 

A Word From Verywell

Whether your goal is to build muscle mass, improve strength, or increase your lifespan, building overall muscle mass is vital for your overall health. Plus, strengthening your upper body is crucial if you want to stop asking for help to open a pickle jar or just want to feel stronger and be more fit.

If you are struggling to find exercises that work for you or are having difficulty performing specific upper body exercises, consider working with a certified personal trainer in your area. You also should check with a healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regimen especially if you have any chronic health issues or have experienced injuries in the past that could be impacted by resistance training.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should a beginner train arms?

    A beginner can start by training arms one to two times per week. If you hope to gain muscle mass, twice weekly is ideal.

  • What weight should I start with for arms?

    Your starting weight for an arm workout depends on several factors. Choose a weight that challenges you to the point you struggle to lift the weight by the last three or so repetitions. Try avoid selecting a weight that is too heavy and instead gradually work up to heavier weights.

  • Can I train biceps every day? 

    You should not train biceps every day. For progress in strength or muscle size, muscles need time to repair. If you train them when they are not fully recovered, you will interfere with the healing and growth process for the muscles.

4 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. Moore, KL, Dalley, AF, Agur, AMR. Chapter 7 Upper Limb. In Moore, KL, ed. Clinically Oriented Anatomy 7th ed. Lippincott Williams & Watkins; 2014:362-406.

  2. National Library of Medicine. Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, arm structure and function. PMID:29939618

  3. Vikberg S, Sörlén N, Brandén L, et al. Effects of resistance training on functional strength and muscle mass in 70-year-old individuals with pre-sarcopenia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2019;20(1):28-34. doi:10.1016/j.jamda.2018.09.011

  4. Bohannon RW. Grip Strength: An Indispensable Biomarker For Older Adults. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1681-1691. doi:10.2147/CIA.S194543

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.