Step into the average gym and you’ll be surrounded by complicated machines. From cable crossover systems to dip machines that balance your bodyweight to make you more agile, the average gym is packed with machines to help you train your arms.
While machines can be helpful, you can get a far better arm workout using nothing more than your own bodyweight and a pair of dumbbells. With the right exercises, you can actually train your arms without even leaving your own home.
In this blog post, you’ll discover simple arm workouts with dumbbells that you can do in the privacy of your own home. From big biceps to strong forearms, make your shirt sleeves pop open with these eight dumbbell arm exercises.
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There’s nothing better than dumbbell curls for building strong biceps. Select a pair of mid-weight dumbbells and hold them at your sides. Alternate between curling up your left arm and your right arm for sets of eight to 12 reps per arm.
Curls target your biceps – the muscles on the front of your arm that link your elbow with your shoulder joint. Three or four sets of curls every other day will give you an impressive pair of guns that make you look better in short-sleeved shirts.
Tricep extensions target the triceps muscle in the back of your arm. Although it may not be as visible as the biceps, your triceps accounts for more than two thirds of the mass of your upper arm.
Performing the triceps extension is simple. Sit down on a chair or adjustable bench and hold one dumbbell behind your head using both hands. Slowly lower it behind your neck and then lift it up above your head while keeping your elbows still.
You’ll feel this exercise in the upper half of your tricep – the part that connects your upper arm with the back of your shoulder. Stick with eight to 12 reps per set and do two or three sets of this exercise per workout for firmer, stronger arms.
Lots of people train their biceps and triceps extensively while neglecting the most visible part of their arms: their forearms. Wrist curls are an easy dumbbell exercise that strengthens your forearms and improves your grip strength.
Pick up two very light dumbbells and hold them with your hands upright. Rest your arms on your knees and relax your wrist, then lift the weight up. Two sets of eight to 12 wrist curls once a week is more than enough to strengthen your forearms.
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Although pullovers primarily target the chest, they’re one of the best upper body dumbbell exercises for building a great upper body. They’re also nice and easy to perform at home using a pair of dumbbells and a chair or training bench.
Lie down flat on a training bench and hold a single dumbbell in both hands, with your arms fully extended. Keeping your arms straight, carry the dumbbell above your head until it’s lined up with your chin, and then return it slowly.
Make sure you keep your arms straight and your elbows locked to focus on your upper chest throughout this exercises. If you’d like to target your triceps, you can bend your elbows and change this lift into a lying triceps extension.
Add some mass to your shoulders with side raises. Hold one light dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang naturally beside your torso. Lift both arms until they’re parallel with the ground, then slowly bring them back to the starting position.
Side raises (also known as lateral raises) target your deltoids to create a wider and more streamlined shape in your upper body. Stick with a low weight and keep your rep range high (at least 10 reps per set) to get the most out of this exercise.
Train your biceps and your forearms at the same time with reverse curls. This lift is identical to the alternating bicep curl, except your wrist position is reversed so that your knuckles point down towards the floor.
This change in position spreads the weight between your biceps – which pull your arm up from the ground – and your forearms, which need to grip the weight during the movement. Keep the weights light and stick to long sets of 12 or more reps.
Do you want to firm up your triceps? Kickbacks target all three heads of your triceps muscles, giving you firmer and stronger arms. Select a light dumbbell for this lift and make sure you do it after your tricep extensions.
Support your upper body using one arm and hold a light dumbbell in the other. With your upper body parallel to the ground, lift the dumbbell backward until your whole arm is straight and parallel to the ground.
There are hundreds of other ways to work your triceps at home. From push-ups and bodyweight dips to heavy compound lifts like the bench and military press, learn the fundamentals of weight training and muscle growth in our No Bull Fitness Course.
No exercise builds massive biceps like the concentration curl. A favorite of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the concentration curl develops the peak of your bicep – the part that makes your bicep ‘pop’ out from the rest of your arm.
Sit down on a training bench and lean forward. Rest the tricep of one arm on your thigh and lift the dumbbell from a fully extended position until it’s right up next to your shoulder. Lower it gently and repeat for eight to 12 reps, then switch arms.
From concentration curls to tricep extensions, the exercises in this guide will only build big arms when they’re paired with a great nutritional program. Learn how to Gain Weight, Build Muscle and Increase Energy.
Learn more about working out at home
Are you new to fitness? Before you buy a gym membership, start working out at home to build your confidence. To learn more about home-based workouts, read our blog post on the best upper body workout to do at home.