Free weights provide a multitude of ways to strengthen and tone your arms. Arm strength and definition improve women's appearance in tank tops and bathing suits. Strong arms also help women perform daily activities such as carrying groceries and lifting kids. Barbells and dumbbells offer an advantage over weight machines because they require you to use more synergistic and stabilizing muscles, allowing you to achieve a more effective workout, according to fitness expert Anthony Ellis in Iron Magazine. For all of these exercises, begin with one set of 10 to 15 repetitions. After a few weeks, work up to two or three sets. When you perform multiple sets, be sure to rest at least one minute between them.
Overhead Triceps Extension
Perform the overhead triceps extension while standing, sitting on a stability ball or on a workout bench. This exercise works the triceps--the three-part muscle at the back of the upper arm. It also secondarily uses the abdominals, most muscles of the shoulders and the upper back. Grab a dumbbell by the shaft with both hands. Draw your navel to your spine gently and pull your shoulders down your back while standing tall to keep the head, neck and spine aligned. Bring the dumbbell overhead, fully extending your arms with elbows directed to the front of the room. As you inhale, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and lower the dumbbell behind your head. Keep your elbows from bowing out to the sides of the room. Exhale and return to straight arms overhead.
Target the inside of the upper arm--the bicep--with the bicep curl. The American Council on Exercise points out that, when performed from a stand with a barbell, the bicep curl also activates the muscles of the shoulder, the upper back, the spine and the abdominals. Grip your barbell with an underhand position and extend the arms so the weight rests in front of your thighs. As you stiffen your abs and relax your shoulders, draw the weight up toward your shoulders by bending your elbows. Work against gravity as you lower the weight back to the starting position. Try to keep your arms alongside your body throughout the exercise.
The kickback effectively addresses the triceps while also forcing you to engage the upper back and abdominals as stabilizers. Using dumbbells, stand while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward from the hips while engaging your abdomen. Draw the upper arms parallel to the rib cage with elbows bent to 90 degrees. Fully extend your elbow as you exhale, keeping the upper arm against your torso and your back straight. Return the elbow to the 90-degree angle for one repetition. To add variety to the kickback, try performing from a kneeling position or with one arm at a time.