The 5 Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises for Beginners

All you need is a pair of dumbbells to build arm strength — do these exercises in the comfort of your own home.
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An at-home cardio workout can be pretty simple to DIY. Start with jogging in place, move to mountain climbers, blaze through a few jumping jacks and you'll be sweating (and finished) in no time.

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Arm workouts are another story, especially if you're a beginner or have previously relied on machines at your gym. But really, all you need is a pair of dumbbells for an arm workout from the comfort of your living room.

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These five exercises help you build foundational strength and get used to the form of some of the most common upper-body exercises, courtesy of certified personal trainer April Whitney, CPT. Plus, she offers tips to make some of these exercises a bit simpler to start with.

1. Overhead Press

Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Bring your bellybutton toward your spine to keep your core tight.
  3. Lift the weights up to your shoulders. Your palms should be facing in toward each other.
  4. Keeping your shoulders down, press the weights overhead, rotating your palms so they face away from your body. End with your biceps along your ears.
  5. Lower the weights back down to the starting position, elbows in line with your shoulders.

Tip

No dumbbells? No problem! There are plenty of dumbbell alternatives you can find at home. Grab a pair of water bottles or soup cans and get your arms burning.

2. Hammer Curl

Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Arms
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, core braced.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, holding the weights with a neutral grip, palms facing your body.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, curl your hands up to shoulder height.
  4. Lower the weights back down to the starting position.

Tip

To make this exercise harder, try an eccentric hammer curl where you pause for 1 second at the top of the movement and slowly lower the weights back down for a 4-second count.

3. 45-Degree Lateral Raise

Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at your sides, bellybutton pulled toward your spine and shoulders down and back.
  2. Raise your arms out to the side at a 45-degree angle, keeping your shoulders down and away from the ears.
  3. Hold for the weights raised for a few moments, then slowly lower the weights back down to your sides.

Tip

"Don't let your shoulders 'shrug' up your your ears," Whitney says. "You don't want your traps to do the work here. To make it easier, don't pause at the top range of motion."

4. Bent-Over Triceps Kickback

Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Arms
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hinge at the hips, knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Keep your core tight and row your elbows up, pinning them to your sides. Keep the elbows locked here throughout the exercise.
  3. From here, extend your arms straight back, leading with the weights pinky-side up.
  4. Squeeze your triceps at the top, pausing for a moment.
  5. Then lower the weights back down toward your torso.

5. High Pull

Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the weight with an overhand grip, your fingers facing your body.
  2. Leading with the elbows, pull the weights up toward your chin.
  3. Pause here for a few moments.
  4. Then, lower the weights slowly to the starting position.

Tip

As you perform this move, keep your shoulders down and away from your ears, Whitney says.

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