13 Powerful Dumbbell Arm Exercises

You came to the right place for dumbbell arm exercises because I used these to get bigger arms.

I had naturally skinny arms as a teenager into my 20s. It was all too often that my sleeves flapped in the wind and my grandma would say I’m not eating enough. 

I wanted a change so I started lifting weights! While I don’t have arms like a superhero, I did add size overtime with consistent exercise.

I’m noticeably bigger now that I’ve been lifting for 9 years. I have used the exercises below to get my arms bigger and stronger. 

Keep reading to find out the answers to arm workout basics, including best form, proper sets and reps, and more. 

Fact Checked and Reviewed By

Milena Mitre, CPT

Here’s what’s coming up. 

 

Sets and Reps for Dumbbell Arm Exercises

dumbbell arm exercises

Reps stand for repetitions, the amount of times you repeat an exercise. One group of repetitions is called a set. So how many sets and reps should you do? It depends.

Your training goals, fitness level, and workout plan all play a factor. A low rep range is around 2-6 repetitions of an exercise with a heavy weight. The heavier weight is ideal for building strength.

A moderate rep range for dumbbell arm exercises is 8-12 repetitions with a manageable weight.

A high rep range is 15-20 repetitions with a lighter weight. Both of these rep promote blood flow to the muscle to get a pump and allow for more time under tension. 

One exercise can have 3 to 5 sets or more. More volume is not always better, so start with a moderate rep range for 3 sets.

You can do 3-5 arm exercises as a beginner, but work your way up as you become more experienced.

Another approach is to mix up the rep ranges for each set. Start with the heaviest set first, then do the moderate to lighter weights afterwards.

Keep good form throughout the movement, and go for full range of motion. 

Arm Training Basics 

Your focus with arms should be the volume of exercise you do per week. This study found that the group who did high-volume training saw the best results for gaining muscle.

Having a dedicated arm day can help to increase volume. Keep in mind that arms are used as accessories on push/pull days.

Since your biceps and triceps are used in back and chest movements, you might experience muscle soreness with an extra arm day.

Everybody reacts differently to training splits, so try a variety and decide what works best for you. Arms can be trained bilaterally, meaning both arms at once, or unilaterally, one arm at a time. 

You’ll notice that your dominant arm is stronger in some exercises. That’s normal. You can make an effort to train your non dominant arm with more repetitions to have a balanced physique. 

Muscle building is all about progressive overload, which means adding more stress to your muscles each workout over time.

Do this by increasing the weight, performing more reps or sets, or switching up the intensity (like going faster or slower on each exercise).

An easy way to progressively overload is to increase the number of repetitions at the same weight. 

Add 2-8 more repetitions per set each week. Get more comfortable with the movements and you can add more weight, like 2 to 5 pounds per week.

Take note that jumps in repetitions and weight are gradual. A common mistakes is adding too much weight so that you have awful form. 

Learn the right way to do the movements by building muscle memory through experience.

Bicep Exercises

I won’t get too deep into anatomy here, but it’s still important to understand the muscles of the arm. If you’d like to learn more in depth about arm anatomy, there’s an interesting article from NASM you can find here.

The eye-catching arm muscle is the biceps brachii – also known as your “guns.” The bicep is made of two heads: the long and the short.

The short head is on the inside of your arm and makes up the width of your bicep. The long head is on the outside of your arm and makes the peak of your bicep.  

Underneath and on the side of your arm is the brachialis muscle. Don’t be fooled by its smaller size. This muscle adds width to your arm when you train it. 

Bicep Curl 

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart and arms at your side, holding the dumbbells in a neutral grip position (palms face each other). 
  • Curl with your right arm by lifting the weight, bending and flexing at the elbow, and rotating your wrist. Exhale as you lift. 
  • Your wrist should be in an overhand grip at the top of the movement (palms facing your body).
  • Repeat the exercise with your left arm. 
  • This exercise can be done unilaterally (one arm) or bilaterally (two arms). 
  • Target Muscle: biceps brachii short head for width 

Concentration Curl 

  • Sit down on chair or bench. 
  • Rest your right elbow against your inner thigh and let the dumbbell hang down. Adjust a little if you need to get comfortable. 
  • Curl the weight up and squeeze at the top of the movement. Exhale as you lift. 
  • Repeat with exercise with your left arm. 
  • Target Muscle: biceps brachii long head for peak and brachialis for muscle separation 

Crossbody Curl 

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart, holding dumbbells with palms facing your body. 
  • Curl the weight one arm at a time across your body to chest level. Exhale as you lift.
  • Target Muscle: biceps brachii long head for peak and brachioradialis for size

Hammer Curl 

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart, holding dumbbells with palms facing each other. 
  • Curl the weight one arm at a time or with both arms, keeping facing each other. Exhale as you lift.
  • Target Muscle: biceps brachii long head for peak, brachialis for muscle separation, and brachioradialis for size 

Wide Curl

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart, holding dumbbells with palms facing out. 
  • Curl the weight with both arms, keeping palms facing out and elbows press to your body. Exhale as you lift.
  • Target Muscle: biceps brachii short head for width 

Zottman Curl 

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart and hold the dumbbells in front of your body with hands resting on your thighs. Palms face away from your body. 
  • Curl with both arms. Bring the weights to shoulder level.
  • Rotate your wrists at the top of the movement and bring the weights down. Your palms will face your body now. Exhale as you lift.
  • Repeat the exercise by first having your palms face away from your body.
  • Target Muscle: biceps brachii short head for width and brachioradialis. 

Tricep Exercises

The back of your arm is the triceps brachii and it looks like a muscular horseshoe when developed. It’s made of three heads: the long, medial and short head.

The long and medial heads are on the inside and back of your arm. They make up the width of your arm for that sleeve hugging effect. 

The short head is on the outside and the back of your arm. It adds a nice 3D aspect to your arm when developed. Don’t neglect the triceps because it’s not as visible from the front.

The triceps muscles is actually 2/3 of the arm, so exercising it properly will make your arm look bigger faster. 

One Arm Tricep Extension 

  • This exercise can be done standing or seated. 
  • Hold a dumbbell in your right hand behind your head with elbow bent and pointed up. Be careful to use a lighter weight to not hurt your elbow or shoulder. 
  • Extend the weight so that your arm is straight and the dumbbell is above you. You’ll feel a nice stretch in your tricep. Exhale as you straighten your arm. 
  • Lower the weight and repeat with you left arm. 
  • Target Muscle: Long head of the tricep brachii for size and muscle separation. This exercise is also great to reduce “flappy” underside of the arm. 

Tate Press

  • This exercise is done lying on the floor or a bench. 
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells above your shoulders with palms facing your feet. Be careful to start a manageable weight to not hurt your elbow. 
  • Bring the weights to your chest by bending your elbow and keeping your palms facing outward. 
  • Exhale as your bring the dumbbells back to the starting position . 
  • Target Muscle: Long head of the tricep brachii for size and muscle separation. 

Tricep Kickback 

  • This exercise is done in a bent over position and can be done one arm or both arms at a time. 
  • Use a lighter weight here to get full range of motion. Hinge forward at your hips and bend your arms back making sure to lock your elbows to your sides. Elbows slightly bent. 
  • Extend your arms behind you and straighten them, flexing at your elbows. Hold at the top for 1 second and repeat. Exhale as you straighten your arms. 
  • Target Muscle: Overall tricep exercise for all three heads. Medial triceps are especially important for stabilization.

Neutral Grip Tricep Extension 

  • This exercise is done lying on the floor or a bench.
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells in a neutral grip with palms facing each other. Be careful to start a manageable weight to not hurt your elbow. 
  • Bend your elbow to lower the weight to your face. You can also lower to your forehead or behind you head for a great stretch in your triceps. 
  • Exhale as your bring the dumbbells back to the starting position . 
  • Target Muscle: Long head of the tricep brachii for size and muscle separation. 

Forearm Exercises

Lastly, don’t forget the forearms! The largest muscle in the forearm is the brachioradialis, besides other muscles called flexors and extensors. Forearms are fully exposed in a short sleeve shirt, so working them out will undoubtedly make you look bigger. 

Behind the Back Dumbbell Wrist Curl 

  • This exercise is done standing. 
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells behind your back with palms facing away from your body. 
  • Curl the weight by bending your wrists upward and repeat the exercise. Exhale as you curl. 
  • Target Muscle: Flexors. These are the forearm muscles on the same side of your palms. 

Seated Wrist Curl 

  • Sit down on chair or bench.
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells and rest your forearms and elbows on your thighs. 
  • Your wrists will hang off with palms facing away from you.  
  • Curl the weights by lifting your palm up towards your biceps. Exhale as you curl. 
  • Target Muscle: Extensors for forearm size. 

Reverse Curl

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart and arms at your side, holding the dumbbells with palm facing your body. 
  • Curl with both arms by lifting the weight, bending and flexing at the elbow, with palms facing your body the whole time. Exhale as you lift. 
  • Lower the weights and repeat the exercise. 
  • Target Muscle: Extensors. These are the forearm muscles on the opposite side of your palms. 

Bottom Line 

Working out your arms can be a huge confidence booster. Workout properly with moderate weight, repetitions and sets to start.

Muscles in your arms are smaller in comparison to the rest of your body. So hit them hard and watch them grow! 

For more on exercises, check out 15 Essential Daily Exercises.

AUTHOR

Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!