If you're healing from an injury or illness, or are just starting to get active, you may find yourself using 2 lb. dumbbells for an arm workout. But don't get too used to those weights: As your strength builds, you'll need heavier weights to keep challenging your body.
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If you are recovering from injury or illness, consult a physical therapist or doctor to determine which exercises — and weights — are appropriate for you.
You May Need More Weight
As explained by the American Council on Exercise, to build muscle you must either work out hard enough to cause mild structural damage (i.e., "microtears") to your muscle fibers, or work your muscles to the point of metabolic fatigue.
That means that some people will need to hopscotch right past 2 lb. dumbbells to challenge their muscles. But for others, 2-pound weights for arms are a good place to start, and anybody can use this type of light weight to practice your form on new arm exercises.
Once you're confident in your form, aim for weights that make it challenging to complete the one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As you get stronger, you'll be able to complete those repetitions with increasingly heavier weights.
Taking up the challenge of resistance training might even help you stay alive longer. In a meta-analysis published in the May 2019 issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers noted that resistance training is associated with a 21 percent reduction in all-cause mortality on its own, and a 40 percent reduction when combined with aerobic exercise.
Read more: The Best 10-Minute Sundress Arm Workout
The HHS recommends working every major muscle group at least twice a week. That means that in addition to working your arms, you should also work your chest, back, shoulders, core, hips, hamstrings, quads and calves.
Your 5-Minute Arm Workout
Working your arms doesn't have to mean spending hours at the gym. If you're efficient with your time, you can use the following exercises to get a thorough arm workout in five to 10 minutes. Aim for the HHS's recommended eight to 12 repetitions per exercise, and alternate between exercises until you've completed one to three sets of each.
Move 1: Dumbbell Concentration Curl
- Sit down on a weight bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Lean forward from the hips, just enough to tuck your right elbow inside your right thigh. You can rest your left hand on your left leg for support.
- Bend your right arm, curling the weight up toward your chest. Take care not to "help out" by pressing your leg inward; your arm should do all the work.
- Complete the repetition by lowering the weight back down to the starting position.
- Once you've completed a full set, repeat using the left arm.
In a small EMG (electromyography) study published by the American Council on Exercise, this exercise was shown to be the most effective for working your biceps, the pulling muscle in the front of your arms.
Move 2: Triceps Kickback
- Stand on the right side of a weight bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Prop your left knee on the weight bench. Then, hinge forward from the hips and use your left arm on the weight bench to support your upper body. Your goal is to get your back more or less flat and parallel to the floor.
- Imagine that your right elbow is pinned to the side of your ribs; let your right hand hang down from the elbow, still holding the weight.
- Keep your elbow "pinned" to your side as you lift the weight by straightening your arm.
- Lower the weight back to the starting position.
- Once you've completed a full set, shift to the other side of the bench and work your other arm.
According to another EMG study from the American Council on Exercise, this is one of the top three exercises for working your triceps — the meaty muscle on the back of your arms.
Read more: The Ultimate Workout for Sexy, Sculpted Arms
Some group fitness instructors will encourage you to hold 2-lb. dumbbells straight in front of you or out to the side, then move your arms in small circles. Although you're moving your arms, the smaller muscles in your shoulders are doing most of the work — so this is a rare instance where 1- to 3-pound dumbbells are often appropriate. Using heavy weights for these "arm circles," and similar exercises, can easily lead to injury.
- American Council on Exercise: "7 Techniques for Promoting Muscle Growth"
- DHHS: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition"
- American Council on Exercise: "ACE Study Reveals Best Biceps Exercises"
- American Council on Exercise: "Terrific Triceps"
- European Journal of Preventive Cardiology: "The Association of Resistance Training With Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- American Council on Exercise: Arm Exercises