The Only 5 Exercises You Need for Strong, Sculpted Arms

Getting chiseled biceps and defined triceps is about way more than boasting pretty muscles. A strong upper body can actually reveal a lot about your overall health. It's true: Your grip strength and ability to do push-ups may even predict how long you live.

You can sculpt strong arm muscles with these five movements.
Credit: Cecilie_Arcurs/E+/GettyImages

So what better reason to start shaping up those arms? Here, Emily McLaughlin, certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist at 8fit, shares the only exercises you'll ever need to get those strong, gorgeous guns.

Bonus: These exercise require zero equipment, so you can do them whenever (or wherever) arm inspiration strikes. Or, put them all together into a circuit (and repeat three times through) for a killer six-minute arm workout designed by McLaughlin.

Read more: 8 Exercises to Tone Your Triceps

1. Push-Up With Taps

Though this exercise will definitely build arm and shoulder muscles, it's also a great compound movement that can help you gain total-body strength, especially in your chest and core, McLaughlin says.

  1. Start in high plank position with your palms on the floor next to your shoulders.
  2. Tense every muscle to form a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Lower your chest to the floor with your elbows tight to your torso.
  4. Extend your arms to push back to starting position.
  5. Tap your right hand to your left shoulder, then your left hand to your right shoulder. That's one rep.
  6. Repeat 5 times.

Tip

To modify, perform this push-up variation against a wall or a sturdy elevated surface like a workout bench.

2. Tricep Extension

"Never underestimate the power of using body weight to build strength," McLaughlin says. This move — which only requires you and a wall — targets the triceps and is guaranteed to set the back of your arms on fire. Control is key, so don't rush here.

  1. Stand facing a wall.
  2. Place your hands on the wall at chin-height, shoulder-width apart.
  3. Engage your core and bend your elbows until your forearms touch the wall.
  4. Keep your fingers pointing up, elbows pointing down and shoulders back and down as you press into your palms to straighten your arms back to starting position.
  5. Complete 8 reps.

Tip

Want an even greater challenge? Position your hands closer or take the move to the ground where you’ll need to work harder against gravity.

3. Arm Pulse

"This exercise looks easy until you do it for one minute straight," McLaughlin says. That's because keeping your arms lifted requires multiple muscles, and the small movements are especially taxing for your shoulders.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
  3. Keeping your arm muscles and hands engaged, pulse your arms up and down quickly.
  4. Complete 10 pulses with your palms facing down, then 10 with your palms facing up.
  5. Continue alternating for 60 seconds.

4. Tricep Dip

Dips are another muscle-trembling move to train your tris. Elevate your legs on a workout bench to make them even more challenging, McLaughlin says.

  1. Place your hands on top of a surface at knee-height with your arms straight and shoulders directly above your wrists.
  2. Extend your legs straight in front of you with your heels on the floor.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower your hips to the floor.
  4. Straighten your arms to press your body back up to starting position.
  5. Do 8 reps.

Tip

For the ultimate tricep burn, try using a dip bar at the gym and let your legs hang freely. This way you’ll have to hoist your whole body with every dip.

Read more: The Best Arm-Toning Pilates Exercises

5. Dive Bombers

"This full-body movement requires core, leg and back strength but relies mostly on the arms for support," McLaughlin says.

  1. Come to Downward-Facing Dog with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your elbows, guiding your chest down toward the ground.
  3. When your chest is almost touching the ground, lower your hips and snake forward to Upward-Facing Dog.
  4. Use your core to lift your body up and back to starting position.
  5. Complete 5 reps.

Tip

To modify, stop after step two, pressing back to Downward-Facing Dog. Still too difficult? Try placing your hands onto a stable surface at hip-height.

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The only five exercises you need to build stronger, more sculpted arms.
Credit: Graphic: LIVESTRONG.com Creative
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