Arm exercises are designed to target your muscles through resistance, and the best arm exercises will achieve the desired effect efficiently. Although your goals will dictate the definition of "best," you still want the exercises to focus on all areas of your biceps and triceps -- and you'll need to challenge your muscles to improve strength and endurance.
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This exercise yields high amounts of activation from the long and lateral head of the triceps, or the upraised bottom and side sections of the muscle. Support your body on a shoulder-width dip bar, gripping it with both hands. Your palms should be facing your body, and your hands should be below your shoulders. Start with your arms fully extended, and lower your body so that your arms form 90-degree angles. Keep your core tight, and your hips and back straight, and drive upward using your triceps. Repeat for desired reps.
This exercise also effectively focuses on the long and lateral head of your triceps. With your palm facing in, hold a dumbbell in your right hand, and rest your left hand and left knee on a weight bench. Keep your core tight and look forward. Bring the dumbbell up beside your body, stopping when your arm forms a 90-degree angle, or when your forearm is perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your upper arm stationary, hinge on your elbow and extend the weight back until your arm is straight, or parallel to the ground. Still hinging on your elbow, reverse the motion and repeat for desired reps.
Standard pushups utilize the chest along with the shoulders and triceps, but the narrow hand positioning in this version helps isolate the triceps. Start in the top of a pushup position. Move your hands together so that your thumb and index finger are touching or close to touching. Lower your body toward the floor, keeping your arms angled back and your core tight. Do not arch your back or sag your shoulders. Push up and repeat for desired repetitions.
One-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension
Similar to the triceps kickback, this exercise isolates the long and lateral head of the triceps. Focus on bracing the rest of your body and keeping it stationary so that you don't use more than your triceps to help accomplish the lift. Sitting on a chair or a weight bench, hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Bring the dumbbell over and behind your head, lowering it to your neck. Push the weight back up above your head and keep your upper arm in place, hinging at your elbow. Repeat for desired repetitions.
Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension
Like the previous arm-extension exercises, this also activates both the long and lateral head. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie on a bench. Your palms should be facing together. Fully extend your arms above your chest. Keeping your upper arm in place, hinge at your elbows and lower the weight to beside your head. Return to the starting position and repeat for desired reps.
Though this is often classified as a back exercise, the amount of force necessary to lift the body demands that the biceps assist, and often you will feel the pressure in your biceps brachi, brachialis and brachioradialis -- the main, side and lower portion of the biceps respectively. Grab a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip and have your palms facing your body. Use your biceps and back to lift off the ground. Keep your core tight. When your chin is near or above the bar, reverse direction and repeat for desired repetitions.
Dumbbell Preacher Curl
This exercise allows you to isolate the main parts of the biceps, and the pad prevents your other muscles from helping. Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, stand behind a secure, diagonal pad. Place your triceps and elbow against the pad, and hold the weight in front of your shoulder. Your palm should be facing your body. Lower the weight so that the dumbbell is a few centimeters above the lower part of the pad, or so that your arm is fully extended in front. Using just your biceps, return the weight to in front of your shoulder. Note: there are preacher curl stations specifically designed for this exercise, but the steps will be the same.
Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl
The reversed hand positioning with this exercise allows you to target the brachioradialis, but it still works the biceps brachii and brachialis. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold a barbell shoulder-width apart with your palms facing back or down. Bracing your core, raise the weight toward your shoulder. Lower and repeat for desired repetitions.
The zottman curl allows you to focus on all three portions of the biceps, combining a standard curl with a reverse-grip curl. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start with your palms facing up. Brace your core and raise the weight to your shoulders. At your shoulders, rotate the weight over so that your palms are facing down. Lower the weight. At the starting position, flip the weight again so that your palms are facing up. Repeat for desired repetitions.
This exercise also works on all three portions of the biceps, and is most effective if you don't wrench your shoulder or lean to create better leverage. Sit on the edge of a weight bench with your legs spread and a dumbbell in your right hand. Let the weight hang between your legs with your elbow pressed against your inner thigh and your left hand on your knee. With your palm facing in, raise the weight toward your shoulder. Lower the weight to the starting position and repeat.
Tips and Safety
Constantly observe proper form. If you can’t complete all your reps with the starting form, reduce the weight. Inhale on the easier part, and exhale on the harder part of the exercises. If your goal is to add endurance to your muscles, perform 12 to 15 reps and rest for 30 seconds between sets. If you want to improve strength, perform six to 10 reps and rest for 90 to 180 seconds.