The best arm exercises of all time

Training your biceps and triceps will do more than make you look great in a t-shirt. Muscular arms create a complete physique. Don't be without these 18 best arm exercises of all time.

1 Standing dumbbell curl

Stand with feet hip width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Start light. Let your arms hang down, palms facing forward and outwards, knuckles against your hips. Curl the dumbbells up (both at the same time) and pin your elbows into your sides to make sure the work stays in your biceps. Hold and squeeze at the top, then lower slowly.

2 Seated incline dumbbell curl

Set up a bench with the back rest on a slight incline. Perform dumbbell biceps curls whilst seated on the bench, lying back at an incline. Let your arms open up fully at the bottom of the exercise, the extra angle will create more work.

3 Fixed bar 21s

Use a fixed bar, or a very light load on a regular bar. Stand as if doing dumbbell curls. Here's how to do 21s: you do 7 reps from the bottom of the move to the halfway point, then immediately do 7 reps from the top of the move to the half way point. The final 7 reps are full movement reps. No rest until you've done all 21!

4 Barbell curls with active rest

Here's a great way to pump blood into the muscle to gain more size. Perform regular barbell biceps curls - go for sets of 10-12 - but instead of setting the bar down between sets, hold on to it and let it hang at the very end of your grip, so your inner arms are stretched out long. Feel the burn as you go to start the next set!

5 Reverse-grip EZ bar curls

Doing reverse grip work will ensure complete development of your biceps and will work your forearms, too. Use a light EZ bar and use an overhand grip, performing a biceps curl movement as usual.

6 Cable preacher curl

Set up a bench, with the back on an incline, inside the cable machine, and have the cable set low to the ground with a D-stirrup attachment. Stand behind the bench and lay one arm in front of you, down the length of the inclined back rest. From here, perform single armed preacher curls with the cable attachment.

7 Seated concentration curls

This one will really help you focus in on the squeeze to build an impressive biceps peak. Sit on the edge of a bench with a dumbbell in one hand. Lean forward slightly, and support the arm you're working by wedging the elbow into the inner thigh on the same side. Let the arm hang down to start, the slowly curl the weight up whilst pressing the elbow into the leg to prevent movement. Squeeze at the top, lower slowly.

8 Under hand pull ups

To finish off your biceps work, do as many underhand grip pull ups as you can. Using this grip (rather than overhand) ensures most of the work stays in your biceps, not your back muscles.

9 Close-grip bench press

This is a great one to kick off your triceps workout. It's like a bench press for chest, but with a narrower grip and elbows tucked tight. Use a light load on the bar, lay back on a flat bench, and set your hands on the bar about shoulder width apart. Bring the bar to your chest and keep your elbows close to the sides of your ribs. Think about using your triceps to push the bar back up.

10 EZ bar skull crusher

Lie on the floor or on a flat bench, with a loaded EZ bar behind your head (you could get a spotter to pass it to you). Press the bar overhead so it is over your eye line. From here, keep your upper arms still, bend at the elbows, and bring the bar towards your forehead (now you know why it's called a skull crusher!) Bring the bar back to the start by contracting your triceps.

11 Dumbbell French press

Similar to the skull crusher movement, you're going to use dumbbells this time and a slightly different grip. Lie flat, with a dumbbell in each hand. Arms straight over head, with the dumbbells in front of your eye line. Keep your upper arms still as you bend at the elbows and bring the dumbbells towards either side of your head. Keep your palms facing in towards each other. Think about using a slight flicking motion as you bring the weights back to the start position.

12 Hammer grip cable push down

Attach a V-shaped handle to the cables and set them just higher than your eyeline. Keep your upper arms close to your sides, grasp the handle, and press down keeping all the work in the back of the arms. Don't let your upper arms move away from your sides until you've finished the set.

13 Underhand grip cable push down

This will really develop the upper part of the triceps, where it attaches. Perform a push down with the cables, but this time use a short straight bar attachment, and grasp it with an underhand grip. You'll really notice the difference.

14 Rope or multigrip push down

Grab a flexible rope - or a multigym attachment if your gym has one - and attach it to the cables. Perform a push down as before but this time your grip will naturally be a hammer grip - with palms facing each other - and you'll really be able to extend the movement fully at the bottom due to the flexible nature of the attachment.

15 Triceps press up

You're going to perform a press up, but with your hands in closer than usual. So place your hands beneath your shoulders, and do a press up, but focus on sending your elbows directly back and brushing your upper arms against your ribs. Keep your body straight, your hips solid and your core engaged. Press up from the bottom but don't let those upper arms leave your sides. Feel it in the backs of your arms?

16 Diamond press ups

This tough push up variation will work the core and the arms. Place the hands together beneath your chest with fingers together to form a diamond shape on the floor. Do a press up, sending the elbows out (they'll naturally want to go there as your chest lowers). Keep the work in the arms as you press back up.

17 Dips

Got access to a dipping bar? Then use it, to build great functional strength, shape and size in your arms. Lift yourself on to the bars, one hand on each side, with arms straight. From here, lean slightly forward as you dip your body downwards, and elbows go straight back. Go as low as you can, then press back up. If it feels tough, that's because you're working with gravity and your own body weight!

18 Sprints

OK, not strictly an arm exercise, but if you want your arms to look great you need to work on fitness and body composition, too. So put some short sprints into your workout schedule 2-3 times a week to blast body fat and reveal your muscular, shapely arms from all angles!

MUST READ: Perfecting the press up.


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