Sculpt your biceps, triceps, and more with these unique moves.
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Looking to tone your upper body and sculpt toned arms? Not only do arm workouts for women help strengthen basic muscle groups like the triceps and biceps, they also work other important areas like your core and back muscles.
We’ve chatted with the top fitness experts and professional athletes to round up the best arm workouts for women both with and without weights. You can do all of these exercises at the gym or at home if you have a set of dumbbells.
In order to get the most out of these movements, Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, personal trainers and co-founders of Tone It Up, emphasize focusing on the mind-muscle connection to maximize workout results at home. “Right before you begin the concentric phase of the movement, actively think about engaging the muscle. It sounds so simple, but it really works,” says Scott. Before you start any exercise regimen, be sure to consult your physician or healthcare practitioner.
15 Minute Arms Workout Routine:
- Pick four moves from the list below.
- Perform the first movement for 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for a total of three times. Then, rest one minute before progressing to the next move.
- Perform the second movement for 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for a total of three times. Then, rest one minute before progressing to the next move.
- Follow the same format for moves three and four of your circuit selection.
1 Bicep 21s
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Add a little spice to your workout with this bicep variation that is a favorite for Scott and frequently used in her Tone It Up Strength program.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. For the first 7 reps, perform half of a bicep curl where you go from the bottom of the movement to the halfway point where your arms stop at a 90 degree angle. For the second set of 7 reps, start at that halfway point where your arm is bent at a 90 degree angle and then finish the rep all the way up to your shoulder. For the third set of 7 reps, complete a full bicep curl by starting at the bottom of the movement and completing the full range of motion from top to bottom. You’ll complete 21 reps in total.
2 Hammer Curl and Press
Dannah Bollig, a certified personal trainer, former division one athlete and the creator of The DE Method loves this move that is a fantastic bicep and tricep workout for females.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other. Perform a curl with the dumbbell and then press overhead, ensuring that the palms face towards each other for the entire time.
3 Tricep Overhead Extension with Dumbbells
Looking for a tricep burner? Bollig loves this classic move that can be done with one or two dumbbells.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and rotate a single dumbbell horizontally to grip both sides. Alternatively, you can also select two dumbbells and hold them so they are glued together. Raise the weight up so that your biceps are by your ears and bend elbows at a 90-degree angle. From there, engage your triceps and lift the dumbbell until your arms are straight. Bend elbows again to lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
4 Front Raise and Iso Hold
Looking for a few moves to add to a beginner arm workout? Bollig loves this particular exercise for newbies and gives options for making it harder as you get stronger.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your hips with your palms facing down. Raise both arms directly in front of you until your hands are parallel to your shoulders. Hold at the top for a 2 second count, then lower back down slowly. To make things more challenging, hold the dumbbells at the top for a slow 10 second count down.
5 Dumbbell Thruster
This full-body exercise gets your heart-rate up while toning the arms, legs, and glutes.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with elbows bent so the weights are at shoulder height. Engage your core and push the booty back while keeping your chest lifted to lower down into a squat. Then, use your hips to propel your body back up and simultaneously press the weights straight overhead up to the ceiling so that your arms are fully extended. Then, lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position and repeat.
6 Plank Up Downs
No dumbbells, no problem! Ashley Joi, trainer on Chris Hemsworth’s health and fitness app Centr, says that this plank variation is not only great for core work, but also strengthens the arms (as well as glutes, shoulders, and wrists). This is one of our favorite arm exercises without weights.
How to: Start in a high plank position, and keep your core engaged. Lower one arm at a time into a forearm plank and then, one arm at a time, return to a high plank position.
7 The Perfect Push Up
“If there is one movement, I have seen a lot of women skip, it is a push up. We have just as much to gain as men do from push-ups. Lat activation, core stability, triceps definition, are just a few of the great benefits,” says certified personal trainer and Gold’s AMP coach Ally McKinney.
How to: Start in a plank position with hands stacked under your shoulders, abs squeezed tight, and glutes engaged. Lower your chest and quads to the ground, making sure that your elbows are tracking behind you and not flaring out wide to engage the lats and protect the shoulders from injury. Once your chest and quads touch the ground, push back up into a plank position. Modify by lowering your knees to the ground and performing a knee push up, just be sure that your hips are staying flat and still ensuring that your chest and quads touch the ground.
8 Row to Tricep Kickback
McKinney swears by compound movements like this one that target multiple muscle groups and especially helps to tone triceps. Remember to move with control and avoid any swinging of your arm or shrugging of your shoulders.
How to: Start in a supported position by placing your knee and hand of one side of your body on a bench. Place your weight in your free hand, pull your shoulders back and down, and engage your core. Drive your elbow back and keep it close to your body. When your elbow is just past your back, that is the top position of this movement. Hold it there and now extend your elbow and squeeze the back side of your arm and let it fully extend. Re-bend your elbow and extend your arm back to the ground.
9 Weighted I, Y, T
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“Building scapular control and stability removes the traps from the equation and helps us to engage muscles we never even knew we had. This exercise does not require a lot of weight but will do wonders to build up strength in your rotator cuff as well as your back,” says McKinney.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a very light dumbbell in each hand. Engage your core, and pull your shoulders back and down. Push your hips back until your chest is at a 45-degree angle from your hips, and maintain this fixed position for the entirety of the movement. Your arms should be fully extended and hanging underneath you with your weights in hand, and you’ll draw these three different letters using your arms. Complete rounds of 5-6 reps through each letter.
For I’s, pull your arms up until they are framing your face in an overhead position then lower them back down.
For Y’s, pull your arms out at a 45-degree angle until your shoulder has full opened, then lower your arms back down.
For T’s, same idea here but pull your arms out completely wide to make a T with your body.
10 90 Degree Lateral Raise
Build sculpted and strong shoulders with this simple but effective lateral raise variation.
How to: Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows to create a 90 degree angle and palms are facing towards the body. Keeping the 90 degree angle, raise your arms up so your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Be sure to keep your core engaged, lats activated, and shoulders down and relaxed. Lower down to starting position and repeat.
11 Resistance Band Bicep Tempo Curl
Dawn says that the resistance band is the perfect training tool to amp up your at-home arm workouts. In the Tone It Up app, she and Scott give a 10-minute “Flex Fire” resistance band workout that is all about burning out the biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
How to: Stand with feet hip distance part on top of the resistance band. Grab the handles and hold them long next to your sides with your palms facing forward. Curl your hands up to your shoulders and keep your elbows in by your sides. Use a one count on the way up, and slowly lower back down to a 4 count, squeezing the biceps and engaging your muscles.
12 Shoulder Blade Squeezes
We tend to focus on major muscles like the biceps and triceps, but the shoulder joint is extremely important as it operates and assists in all arm movements. This movement is a favorite for Olympian and Team USA track and field athlete Colleen Quigley.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Without letting your shoulders rise up to your ears, squeeze your shoulder blades together as your arms drift back, bringing the weights close together behind you. Pause for a couple seconds, then release your arms and bring them back to your sides.
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Quigley says to focus on only moving your arms in this move, and keeping your core engaged and hips still to really get the most out of the exercise.
How to: Grab a medium weight with both hands (a dumbbell or a kettlebell works). Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart and a small bend in the knees. Bring the weight up to eye level, arms bent. Carry the weight around your head, staying eye level the whole time. Take it 10x each direction. If it’s too easy, grab a heavier weight.
14 Arnold Press
Change up the standard shoulder press with this move that adds rotation and hits all angles of the deltoids.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Start with your arm bent and palm facing towards your shoulder, like you would at the top of a bicep curl. Press your arms up overhead but twist them on the way up so that your palms are facing away from you. Make sure to reach full extension where your biceps are touching your ears, then lower back down and repeat.
15 Serve the Platter
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This is one of our favorite moves for toning the biceps, shoulders, and even chest. It mimics serving a platter of food and requires a ton of activation and stability.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and a light dumbbell in each hand. Bend arms in a 90 degree angle by your sides with palms facing upward. Slowly extend your arms out and up on a diagonal until arms are fully extended. Lower back down with control to starting position and repeat.