The 30 Best Arm Exercises to Target Your Biceps, Triceps and More

The best arm workouts build stronger, balanced muscles.
Image Credit: Asawin_Klabma/iStock/GettyImages

Strong arms are vital to your daily life — just think about how often you carry, lift, push or pull something. If you're hitting the gym in hopes of strengthening your arm muscles, there are certain arm exercises you need to know to work them evenly for a balanced arm routine.

When it comes to arm workouts, people usually focus on the upper arm — home to four muscle groups, including the biceps and triceps. These muscles help you push and pull, as well as move your arms and shoulders. Your arms even play a role in activities you might not consider arm-centric, such as running.

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While isolation exercises can help you target your biceps or triceps specifically, some of the best arm exercises are compound movements that engage multiple parts of the arm ​and​ other muscles in the upper body, like the lats, deltoids, pecs, traps and rhomboids.

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That's because your arms don't typically work alone. Training them with compound movements that are closer to how they function IRL is a great way to get the most from upper-body day.

That doesn't mean there's not room for isolation exercises in your routine. If done intentionally to build muscle size, they can be really effective. Just make sure you make room for compound arm movements in your routine, too.

Programming Arm Exercises Into Your Workouts

Try splitting your upper-body workouts into "push" and "pull" days, recommends Matt Towers, founder of The Foundation - Personal Training Solutions. "You'll work the upper-body muscles used for pulling movements (biceps) and the muscles used for pushing movements (shoulders and triceps) based on your focus.

No matter the day, you can do compound movements because they work multiple muscle groups. After, isolate the triceps or biceps (depending on whether it's a push or pull day) by adding one or two triceps- or biceps-specific moves at the end.

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During each workout, prioritize three to four exercises for either your your biceps and triceps, doing 8 to 12 reps per set, he says. (A rep is the number of times you do a specific exercise, and a set is the total number of rounds that you repeat those reps.) It should feel challenging to complete your reps, but you should still be able to do so with good form.

Ready to get started building that arm strength? Read on for 30 of the best arms exercises you can do.

Biceps Isolation Exercises

Move 1: Biceps Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Start with your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward.
  2. Keeping your elbows glued to your sides and your chest upright, raise the weights up toward your shoulders.
  3. At the top of the motion, focus on squeezing your biceps.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows extend fully at the bottom without locking.

Move 2: Hammer Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Start standing with your arms at your sides, holding a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing in toward each other.
  2. Keeping your elbows glued to your sides and your chest upright, raise the weights up toward your shoulders holding the weights vertical.
  3. At the top of the motion, focus on squeezing your biceps.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows extend fully at the bottom without locking.

Move 3: Reverse Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Stand tall, hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing your body. Rest the weights in front of your thighs, keeping your back flat and core engaged.
  2. On an inhale, curl the dumbbells up to your shoulder, keeping the overhand grip.
  3. Then, lower the weight back down to your sides with control, keeping your elbows close to your sides.

Tip

"Watch the positioning of your elbows on this one," Kory Flores, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Rumble Boxing in NYC, tells LIVESTRONG.com. You want to keep them glued to your sides, and avoid letting them flare out.

Flores also recommends doing these with a barbell if you can, as it's easier to stabilize compared to dumbbells. "If you plan to use dumbbells, I recommend starting with standard bicep curls, then Zottman curls, then going into these."

Move 4: Zottman Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Position your palms so they face forward.
  2. Keeping your elbows still, raise the weights up to your shoulders.
  3. Once you reach shoulder height, flip the weights so your palms face forward.
  4. With control, slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your thighs.

Tip

This Zottman curl variation combines a traditional biceps curl and a reverse curl, hitting your biceps and forearms. "Keep your shoulders back and your elbows close to your abdomen," Flores says.

Move 5: Lateral Biceps Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Start with your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward. Turn your arms out so that your palms are facing out to either side.
  2. Keeping your elbows glued to your sides and your chest upright, raise the weights up toward your shoulders.
  3. At the top of the motion, focus on squeezing your biceps.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows extend fully at the bottom without locking.

Move 6: Preacher Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Adjust the seat height of the bench, then sit down. If you're doing a barbell preacher curl, sit down with the weight in your hands or have someone hand it to you after you're seated. If you're using a machine, adjust the resistance using the pin in the weight stack.
  2. Lay your upper arms on the pads. Grasp the handles if you're using a machine. If you're using a bar, your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep some tension in the biceps and a slight bend in your elbow to avoid hyperextension. Contract your core muscles and keep your spine erect.
  4. Slowly curl the bar up toward your shoulders.
  5. Squeeze the biceps at the top, then slowly lower the bar back down.
  6. Maintain some tension in your biceps at the bottom of the move before going into your next rep to avoid hyperextension.

Tip

You can do preacher curls with dumbbells, an EZ-bar, resistance band, cables or a machine.

Compound Biceps Exercises

Move 1: Resistance Band Pull-Apart

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Body Part Arms, Chest and Shoulders
  1. Hold a resistance band at each end in front of your chest at arm’s length, palms facing the floor.
  2. Keep your arms extended and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the band apart until your arms are straight out at your sides. Adjust your hand position on the band to increase or decrease resistance (closer together means more resistance; further apart means less resistance).
  3. Bring your hands back together in front of your chest in a slow and controlled movement.

Tip

If you spend most of your day sitting, this is a great exercise to add to your routine. "This exercise will stretch the tight muscles through the chest and front of shoulders as well as strengthen the muscles through the upper back, shoulders and triceps," Kristie Alicea CPT, a certified personal trainer and founder of ABC Fit Collective, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Move 2: Chin-Up

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Region Upper Body
  1. Hang from a bar with an underhand grip (palms facing you), hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your shoulders back and down. Bend your elbows to pull your chin toward the bar.
  3. To engage your back, concentrate on bringing your elbows down to touch your lats instead of thinking about bringing your chin over the bar.
  4. Lower back down to the starting position with control.

Tip

The underhand grip of the chin-up (the opposite of a pull-up grip) puts more of a focus on the biceps and chest, Cameron Countryman, certified personal trainer at Onyx, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Move 3: Pull-Up

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Region Upper Body
  1. Hang from the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), hands about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your shoulders back and down. Bend your elbows to pull yourself toward the bar.
  3. To engage your back, concentrate on bringing your elbows down to touch your lats instead of thinking about bringing your chin over the bar.
  4. Lower back down to the starting position with control.

Tip

The pull-up focuses on the upper back and arms. It's an advanced move that requires a lot of muscles working at once, making it a bucket-list exercise for many. If you can't do one, there are exercises to work toward mastering one.

Move 4: Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

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Body Part Arms and Back
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides, palms facing in toward your body.
  2. Push your hips back and hinge your torso forward, bending your knees slightly. Let the weights hang straight down in front of your knees. Brace your core and keep your back flat. Your torso should be as close to horizontal as you can get it without rounding your back or jerking the weights as you lift.
  3. Row the dumbbells up toward your ribcage by bending your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pause at the top of the movement.
  4. Keep your abs and back stable as you extend your arms and lower the dumbbells so that they hang by your knees.

Tip

It may primarily focus on the arms and back, but the bent-over row really is a full-body movement, Alicea says. "This multi-joint movement helps to strengthen shoulders, arms, lats and upper back muscles while using your legs and core to stabilize."

Move 5: Single-Arm Bent-Over Row

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Body Part Arms and Back
  1. Stand in a staggered stance with one leg a few inches in front of the other. Hold a dumbbell in one hand by your side, palm facing in toward your body.
  2. Push your hips back to hinge your torso forward, bending your knees slightly. Let the weight hang straight down in front of your knee. Brace your core and keep your back flat. Your torso should be as close to horizontal as you can get it without rounding your back or jerking the weights as you lift.
  3. Row the dumbbell up toward your ribcage by bending your elbow. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pause at the top of the movement.
  4. Keep your abs and back stable as you extend your arm and lower the dumbbell so that it hangs by your knee.

Tip

The one-arm bent-over row variation adds an extra stability challenge and will really engage your obliques, Countryman says.

Move 6: Cable Straight-Arm Lat Pressdown

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Body Part Arms and Back
  1. Attach a rope or loop handle to the high pulley of a cable station and stand in front of the cable station with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Grab onto each end of the rope handle (or loop the handles around your wrists).
  3. Brace your core, bend your knees slightly and draw your shoulder blades back and down.
  4. Keeping your arms straight, press the cable down, bringing your hands toward the front of your quads.
  5. With control, raise your arms back to the top of the cable system.

Tip

This is a great exercise for the lats, lower back and triceps, Countryman says. "It can also be a very sneaky burn for the core." Make sure to breathe during this exercise and keep a slow and controlled tempo, he says.

Move 7: Cable Face Pull

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Body Part Arms, Back and Shoulders
  1. Attach a rope or loop handle to the low pulley of a cable station and stand in front of the cable station with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Grab onto each end with an overhand grip (palms facing down).
  3. Brace your core, bend your knees slightly and draw your shoulder blades back and down.
  4. Pull the cable toward your face, letting your elbows go out to the sides.
  5. Slowly reverse the movement to return the cable.

Tip

You'll feel the face pull exercise in your upper back, shoulders and biceps. "Keep elbows high and drive the handles directly to your eyelids," Countryman says.

You can also position the cable directly in front of your face or several inches above your head to target different stabilizing muscles in your upper body.

Move 8: Arnold Press

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Body Part Arms and Shoulders
  1. Stand or sit with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold two dumbbells in front of you level with your shoulders with your elbows bent and palms facing you.
  3. Bring your elbows out to your sides as you raise the weights and exhale. As you press your arms overhead, rotate your wrists so that they face outward.
  4. Inhale as you slowly return the weights to shoulder level, palms facing in.

Tip

This move hits on many of the major muscles in your arms and shoulders, including the deltoids, traps, biceps and even your forearms, Ali Johnson CPT, certified personal trainer at Rumble Boxing in Los Angeles, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

"This exercise is great for improving shoulder stability and helps draw back the shoulders for a more upright position." She recommends doing it seated so you can focus more on upper-body form rather than how you're standing. "Especially if you have lower back issues, sitting will do you best."

Triceps Isolation Exercises

Move 1: Triceps Kickback

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Body Part Arms
  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge your hips back, maintaining a flat back. Your upper body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  2. Bring your arms to your sides, elbows tight to your ribs. This is the starting position.
  3. Extend your arms straight back with control and squeeze your triceps at the top.
  4. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Tip

You can also do the triceps kickback using a resistance band. Hold one end at your chest, and keep it anchored there as you perform the kickback with the other arm.

Move 2: Overhead Triceps Extension

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Body Part Arms
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand or a single, heavier dumbbell in both hands over your head with a firm grip.
  2. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell(s) behind your head, envisioning your arms bending over an invisible bar connecting your elbows.
  3. Straighten your elbows to press the weight(s) back up overhead.

Move 3: Dumbbell Skull Crusher

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Body Part Arms
  1. Lie on a weight bench with your back flat against it. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, shoulder-width apart, palms facing inward.
  2. Straighten both arms so the weights are at eye level and brace your core.
  3. Keeping your elbows tight, lower both dumbbells toward your head as far as comfortable.
  4. Once you feel a squeeze in your triceps, pause, then extend your elbows to raise the weights back up.

Tip

You can also do the skull crusher with an EZ bar or barbell.

Move 4: Cable Triceps Pressdown

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Body Part Arms
  1. Attach a rope or loop handle to the high pulley of a cable station and stand in front of the cable station with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Grab onto each end of the handle and keep your elbows bent and tight at your sides, slightly behind your body.
  3. Brace your core, bend your knees slightly and draw your shoulder blades back and down. Straighten your elbows by pressing the cable down toward the floor.
  4. After your elbows are fully extended, bend your elbows again to raise the cable back to the top.

Tip

The triceps are the main focus here, but you'll also be hitting your abdominals, Countryman says. "Try not to let the cable return to its starting position too quickly. Control and full extension are the keys here."

Move 5: Dumbbell Pullover

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Body Part Arms
  1. Lie on a weight bench with your back flat against it. You can also lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell at both ends, palms facing in, arms extended towards the ceiling.
  2. Keeping your core engaged and your arms straight, slowly bring the weight back towards the floor behind your head.
  3. Extend the weight as far as you can without feeling your core come off the ground.
  4. Slowly bring the weight back to the starting position.

Tip

This is another one with some sneaky core work baked in: While the focus is on the triceps, upper back and chest, the dumbbell pullover also strengthens your core and helps improve posture, Alicea says.

Compound Triceps Exercises

Move 1: Push-Up

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  1. From a high plank, bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your body to the floor.
  2. Make sure to keep the body in one straight line from the neck through the spine to the hips and down to the heels.
  3. Press into your palms and push the floor away from you to come back up to a high plank, keeping your body in one straight line.

Tip

"The push-up is one of the best body-weight total-arm exercises you can do," says Sam Castro, CPT, trainer at Reload PT in NYC. "Besides being a challenge for the upper body, it also works your core and glutes because it is essentially a moving plank."

Move 2: Bench Press

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Body Part Arms and Chest
  1. Grab two dumbbells and lie flat on a bench. You can also lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Start with an overhand grip, palms facing toward your feet.
  3. Exhale as you press the dumbbells upward and inward until your arms are almost fully extended and the dumbbells nearly touch.
  4. Inhale as you slowly bend your elbows again, lowering your arms gently back down.

Tip

The bench press works the chest and shoulders, in addition to the triceps, Castro says. "I like to perform the dumbbell bench press with the elbows at a 45-degree angle at the bottom of the movement," she says.

"A tip on how to tell if your elbows are in a good place: You should look like an up arrow from the tips of the elbows to the top of the head."

Move 3: Shoulder Press

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Body Part Arms, Shoulders and Back
  1. Sit or stand with a flat back, feet rooted to the ground.
  2. Holding a pair of dumbbells, bend the elbows at 90 degrees, holding the weights above your shoulders.
  3. On an exhale, brace your core and press both dumbbells overhead.
  4. Lower the weight back to your shoulders with control.

Tip

It may be called a shoulder press, but the move also works the chest, triceps, and upper back.

Quick form tip: Engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you press the dumbbells overhead, Castro says. This will help keep your pelvis stable so that you don't arch and strain your lower back.

Move 4: Plank Up-Down

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  1. Start in a high plank (top of a push-up) so that you support yourself on your hands and toes, body forming a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Lower one elbow/forearm to the ground.
  3. Then move the other arm down so that both forearms are flat on the ground. You'll be in a forearm plank.
  4. Pause, then take the arm that went down first and plant that hand on the mat. Push yourself up on that side.
  5. Then take the other arm, plant your hand and push yourself back up to the top position of a push-up.
  6. On the next rep, switch the arm that goes down first.

Tip

"The plank up-down works both muscular endurance and strength in the shoulders, triceps, core and glutes," Castro says.

Resist rushing through the movement. "The goal is to keep the hips from rocking side to side when moving from your forearms to your hands," Castro says. To test that hip stability, she suggests placing a yoga block or other light object on your lower back and focusing on making sure it doesn't fall off.

Move 5: Halo

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Body Part Arms and Shoulders
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell near your chest by both ends. You can also use a kettlebell.
  2. Slide the weight up and to the right, as if you were passing it over your shoulder to someone behind you.
  3. Continue moving the weight around your head to the right, raising your left arm enough that your arm passes over your head.
  4. Keep rotating the weight around your head in the same direction, until you can bring your right arm forward over your head. This allows you to slide the weight back in front of you, completing the motion.

Tip

The halo is a great exercise for shoulder mobility and core stability — and it also works the triceps. "Keep your abs engaged as you move your weight around your head and try not to let your rib cage move away from your hips," Flores says.

Forearm Exercises

Move 1: Farmer's Carry

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  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Choose a weight that's heavy enough to challenge you yet light enough that you can maintain good posture while walking.
  2. Engage your core, pull your shoulder blades back and down and stand tall. Don't let the weights touch your thighs.
  3. Take a step forward and begin walking. Walk quickly while keeping your spine tall, shoulders back and head up.
  4. Continue walking for a specified time, distance or number of steps.

Tip

One of the most functional exercises you can do, the farmer's carry challenges your back and arm muscles and is great for improving core strength and posture, Alicea says.

Move 2: Plate Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Stand tall with elbows at your sides, back flat and core engaged.
  2. Hold a weight plate with both hands, palms facing in toward each other.
  3. Bend your elbows to curl the plate up toward your chest.
  4. Then, lower the weight back down with control, maintaining your elbows close to your sides.

Tip

"These are a great way to boost grip strength," says Flores, crediting the shape of the plate and how you have to hold onto it. If you’re new to plate curls, she suggests starting with something you can carry comfortably, then progress to thicker and heavier plates.

Move 3: Wrist Curl

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Body Part Arms
  1. Kneel next to a workout bench or chair with a dumbbell in one hand. You can also do this sitting down.
  2. Place your elbow and forearm on the bench or your quad (if you're sitting) with your forearm and palm facing up. Let your wrist relax and fall away from your forearm with the dumbbell hanging toward the ground.
  3. Keeping your arm in place, bend your wrist toward your forearm as far as comfortable.
  4. Pause, then slowly reverse the motion with control.

Tip

Wrist curls are an easy way to train the oft-neglected forearms, Johnson says. The move also helps strengthen the wrists. "Strengthening the forearms and wrists in turn strengthens our grip, which helps our overall lifting strength."

Move 4: Pull-Up Bar Hang

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Region Upper Body
  1. Hang from the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your shoulders back and down and your core engaged.
  3. Hang for 30 to 60 seconds.

Tip

"Get ready to feel the burn in the forearms," Countryman says. He suggests trying this move, often called the dead hang, toward the end of your workout to get a strong pump through your forearms and hands that won't interfere with your ability to finish the rest of your workout.

Total-Arm Exercises

Move 1: Curl to Press

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Body Part Arms and Shoulders
  1. Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing out.
  2. Curl the weights up to your chest.
  3. Flip your palms to face outward at shoulder-height.
  4. Press the weights up overhead, keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  5. Lower the weights back down to your shoulders.
  6. Flip your palms to face your body, then lower your weights all the way back down to the start.

Tip

"The curl to press is a great combination total-arm exercise that works the biceps, shoulders and triceps all in one," Castro says. As you do them, focus on moving slowly and with control, engage the core throughout the movement and avoid swinging your arms, she says.

Move 2: Muscle-Up

Image Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.com
Region Full Body
  1. Hold onto a set of rings, arms extended overhead and palms facing inward.
  2. Swing your body back to gain momentum and thrust your hips into the air while pulling with all your upper body strength (similar to a pull-up) to pull your body upward.
  3. Keep the rings as close to your body as possible to have the most control and strength.
  4. Once at ring height, push up to raise your body higher (similar to a push-up movement) so that your hips are at ring height and your arms are straight.
  5. Reverse the movement to return back to hanging.

Tip

Performing a muscle-up on a pull-up bar — while still a challenge — is easier than doing one on rings. Grab the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) and follow the steps above.

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