The 5 Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises for Beginners

Keep your elbow tight against your sides as you curl.
Image Credit: LaylaBird/E+/GettyImages

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

1. Overhead Press
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Bring your bellybutton toward your spine to keep your core tight.
  3. Bring the weights up to your shoulders.
  4. Keeping the shoulders down, press the weights overhead, 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. Eccentric Hammer Curl

2. Eccentric Hammer Curl
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
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. Pause for one second here.
  5. Then, slowly lower the weights down for a 4-second count.

3. 45-Degree Lateral Raise

3. 45-Degree Lateral Raise
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, bellybutton pulled toward the 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

4. Bent-Over Triceps Kickback
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
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

5. High Pull
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
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 the shoulders down and away from the ears, Whitney says. To make this exercise easier, take out the isometric hold.

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