We all have to begin somewhere, and whether that be with 5, 15, or 25 pound dumbbells, whether you have just begun to weight train or are a little more advanced, the following few exercises are great for building the biceps and triceps because they are simple, yet effective. Keep in mind that there are countless exercises and workout routines out there for your arms (especially because that’s what men tend to focus on the most), so while the few that I recommend are a great place to start, you definitely do not have to stick to them! Once you start to feel more comfortable in the gym, it’s fun to experiment with new ways to work each muscle so that you find what works best for you and don’t get bored with doing the same thing every week.
Hammer Curl: Start with your feet shoulders-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in. Curl the dumbbell forward and contract until it is at shoulder level, but make sure to only move your forearm. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to starting position. You can do both arms at the same time, or separately.
Cable Curl: On the cable machine, use the rope attachment and set the pulley at the lowest level. Hold an end of the rope in each hand at shoulder width and bring your elbows close to your sides. Contract the bicep and pull the rope upward towards the shoulders while keeping your forearms still. Squeeze at the top and slowly release back for the starting position for one repetition.
Barbell Curl: Stand with feet shoulders-width apart and hold the barbell with palms facing upward at shoulders-width. Contract the bicep and curl the bar upwards until it is at shoulder level. Hold, then slowly release back to starting position. (You could also try a different variation by holding the barbell with a close grip rather than shoulder-width apart).
21’s: Grab a barbell with an underhand grip and stand shoulders-width apart (the same starting position as #3). Curl the bar until it forms a 90-degree angle at the elbow, hold, then return to starting position. Do this 7 times. Next, start from the 90-degree position and curl the bar to shoulder-height, hold, then return to the 90-degree position. Do this 7 times. Finally, do a full extension barbell curl (as in #3) 7 times to complete 1 set.
Cable Tricep Pushdown: On the cable machine, use the rope attachment and set the pulley at the highest level. Grab the ends of the rope with your palms facing in. While keeping a slight bend in your torso, pull down the rope on each side towards your knees until the arms are fully extended. Do not move the upper part of the arm, but focus on squeezing the triceps. Hold, then slowly bring it back to the starting position. It is very important that you do not move anything but your forearm in this exercise, otherwise it will not be effective for building the triceps.
Overhead Dumbbell Extension: Start shoulder-width apart with one dumbbell held by both hands. Lift the dumbbell over your head until both arms are fully extended. Once again, while keeping the upper part of your arms completely still, lower the dumbbell behind your head until the forearm touches the bicep. Make sure to keep your elbows in and perpendicular to the floor. Use your triceps to pull the dumbbell back to the starting position.
Tricep Dumbbell Kickback: The best way to do this exercise is with a bench that is set parallel to the floor. Focus on one arm at a time and use a very light weight. (This exercise is not meant to build muscle, but to tone it). Put one knee on the bench while keeping the other foot on the floor and bend forward until your back is completely straight and parallel to the floor. Hold the dumbbell so that you form a 90-degree angle with your elbow and forearm. Use your tricep to extend the weight backwards until the arm is completely straight. Hold, squeeze, then return to the 90-degree position. Do not move anything but the forearm during this exercise.
Alternate Incline Dumbbell Curl: On an incline bench set to around 45-degrees, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended and palms facing in. Alternating each arm, one at a time, curl the dumbbell forward and rotate the weight so your palm is facing up. Contract until it is at shoulder level, squeeze, then bring back to the starting position. Do the other arm. (These can also be done standing up, but the incline of the bench adds extra resistance).
Tricep Push-Ups: Start in a regular push-up position, but bring your arms in closer than shoulders-width. Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor, then use your triceps to push yourself back to the starting position. Pause, then repeat. Make sure when doing this exercise that your elbows are going back and that you keep your arms close to your sides. If you have never done this exercise, it may be good to start on your knees in order to build up strength and get the right form.
Tricep Dips: Using a bench (or any sturdy elevated surface), face away from the bench and position your hands shoulders-width apart with your fingers pointing towards your body. Extend your legs and arms, slowly dip your body down by bending at the elbows, then use your triceps to lift your body back to the starting position. Your legs do not move in this exercise, only but focus on using your body weight to add tension to the back of your arms.
Make sure to focus on form when working any part of your body so as to avoid injury and get the most out of each workout. I have found when it comes to my arms that doing exercises with negatives increases the intensity of each exercise and will eventually lead to better results. A negative is when you are quick on the first part of the motion, but slow on the release, and these work especially well with any time of curl.
As I mentioned in my post about motivation, music is a great way to distract yourself and keep your energy up during a workout. If you’re looking for good earphones, I suggest these because they are water/sweat resistant and don’t easily fall out while you’re working out.
Also, check out this video for a full arm workout!