4 Exercises for Sculpted Arms — No Push-Ups Required

closeup of a black middle-aged woman wearing purple doing zottman curls with purple 10 pound dumbbells
The Zottman curl is a great arm exercise
Image Credit: kali9/E+/GettyImages

There's a reason why push-ups are considered a pillar of upper-body workouts: They're an extremely effective way to strengthen and tone your arms and shoulders (not to mention your chest and core).


But push-ups aren't for everybody. "Pain in the joints or weakness in the wrists and shoulders can make this move extra challenging," says Kemma Cunningham, CPT, a group fitness instructor and personal trainer at Life Time Bridgewater.

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What's more, these physical issues can prevent you from nailing proper push-up technique, leading to poor form and a greater risk of injury.

Fortunately, push-ups aren't your only option. There's an abundance of arm exercises that build upper-body strength and produce pretty, sculpted muscles.

Case in point: The following four arm exercises, courtesy of Cunningham, provide all the same arm-stengthening perks as push-ups minus the possible pitfalls. Add them to your weekly workouts and reap the rock-hard muscle benefits.


Move 1: Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl targets the biceps and the forearms and is great for improving functional grip strength, Cunningham says.

Activity Dumbbell Workout
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Position your palms so they face forward.
  2. Keeping your elbow 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 sides.

Move 2: Overhead Triceps Extension

"This exercise activates all three heads of the triceps," Cunningham says. This is especially beneficial as many people focus on the front of their arms (i.e., building their biceps) while neglecting their triceps muscles.


Activity Dumbbell Workout
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding one dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Keeping your abs engaged and shoulders relaxed, slowly raise the dumbbell above your head.
  3. Extend your arms fully (without locking them out) so your hands face the ceiling.
  4. Flex your elbows and lower your forearms behind your head until they touch your biceps.
  5. Exhale and straighten your arms, bringing the dumbbell back to the starting position.

Move 3: Hammer Curl to Overhead Press

This arm exercise is a three-in-one: "It increases biceps strength, improves wrist stability and stabilizes the core muscles," Cunningham says.

Activity Dumbbell Workout
  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms relaxed and palms facing each other.
  2. Curl the weights to your shoulders.
  3. With your palms still facing in, press the weights overhead, keeping the weights directly over your shoulders.
  4. Reverse the motion to bring your arms back down to the starting position.

Move 4: Lateral Shoulder Raise

If you want that strong-shoulder look, lateral raises are for you. The exercise builds shoulder strength, increases your range of motion and doesn't require a lot of weight to give you great results, Cunningham says.

Activity Dumbbell Workout
  1. Standing tall with your knees slightly bent, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your sides.
  2. Maintaining a slight bend at your elbows, raise your arms up and out to the sides until they are level with your shoulders, keeping your palms facing downward.
  3. Pause at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your sides.



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