#1 Alternating Crossbody Dumbbell Curl
Let’s start with a bicep exercise that targets a part of your arm that most people don’t train hard enough – the brachialis. The exercise I’m talking about is called the alternating crossbody dumbbell curl.
If you’re not performing any curls with a neutral grip during your arm workouts, you’re not maximizing the development of your brachialis.
This isn’t ideal if you want bigger arms, because building up the brachialis is what gives your arms a wider appearance.
Step 1: To get started with this exercise, grab two dumbbells and hold them in a neutral position at your sides.
Step 2: before beginning, lean slightly forward to help take your shoulder out of the movement and to put more constant tension on the brachialis.
Step 3: curl the dumbbell up, but rather than coming straight up for a regular hammer curl, come across your body aiming to bring the dumbbell up to your opposite pec.
Step 4: slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position. Repeat the same thing on the other side, alternating back and forth for reps.
#2 Single-arm Overhead Tricep Extension
Next is a tricep exercise that requires only one dumbbell – the single-arm overhead tricep extension.
You can perform these standing or seated, and you don’t need a crazy amount of weight for these to be effective.
Step 1: to begin, grab the dumbbell and press it straight up above your head.
Step 2: bend your elbow and lower the dumbbell behind your head, as if you’re going to scratch the back of your neck.
Step 3: As you’re doing this make sure you don’t flare your elbow out to the side and instead do your best to keep your upper arm locked in place, with your elbow pointing upward.
Step 4: extend your elbow until your arm is almost locked out over your head. Then lower back down and repeat for reps.
#3 Two-arm dumbbell kickback
Another very effective tricep exercise that I rarely see people performing is the two-arm dumbbell kickback.
I occasionally see someone doing kickbacks, but very rarely do I see two dumbbells being used at the same time.
Step 1: Begin by grabbing two dumbbells and standing straight up with the dumbbells hanging to your sides.
Step 2: bend your upper body all the way down until your back is parallel to the ground. A lot of people make the mistake of only bending halfway, and that’s going to diminish the tension on your triceps by a lot.
Step 3: once you’re bent all the way down, bend your elbows and pin them back up, along the sides of your ribs.
Step 4: remember to keep your chest out and to maintain the neutral curve in your lower back.
Step 5: now extend your elbows until your arms are almost fully locked out behind you.
Step 6: slowly lower back down until your arms are bent at about a 90-degree angle, and repeat for reps.
If you never do kickbacks with both arms at the same time, give this one a shot because it’s an effective way to change things up.
Now let’s go over a great bicep exercise that you rarely see – the wide dumbbell curl.
Usually, people will only go wide with barbell curls, not realizing that going wide with dumbbells can offer another unique way to target the short head of the bicep.
This is the portion of the biceps that sit on the insides of your arms.
Step 1.a: wide curls begin the same way as regular dumbbell bicep curls.
Step 1.b: grab two dumbbells, stand straight up, and pin your elbows tight against your ribs.
Step 1.c: except now, instead of curling straight up, you’re going to rotate your arms outward first.
Step 2: curl the dumbbells up toward your shoulders, while continuing to keep your elbows in the same position, close to your ribs.
Step 3: once the dumbbells are all the way up almost at your shoulders, slowly lower back down, while still keeping your arms externally rotated.
Step 4: when you reach the starting position, repeat for reps.
Next, we have one of the best exercises for the bicep – the concentration curl.
Even though this exercise is common, it can give you one of the best bicep pumps and help boost your bicep strength dramatically.
Step 1: sit on the edge of a bench with your knees wide apart and a dumbbell on the floor in between your feet.
Step 2: grab the dumbbell with an underhanded grip, and pin that arm against the inside of your thigh.
Step 3.a: make sure your arm isn’t too high up.
Step 3.b: your lower tricep should be against the inside of your thigh, not your elbow. If your elbow is pinned against your thigh, you most likely have to bring your arm a little further down.
Step 3.c: your other hand can rest on your other thigh.
Step 4: curl the dumbbell up towards your upper chest. Squeeze at the top for a second, and then slowly lower back down and repeat for reps.
Definitely put this exercise into your arm workouts, because getting stronger at concentration curls will help build the outer portion of your bicep also known as the long head of the bicep.
Another great bicep exercise, performed on an incline bench, is the dumbbell spider curl.
Step 1: set up a bench at a high inclined angle.
Step 2: grab two dumbbells and lay facing forward, with both dumbbells hanging down at your sides and your hands in a neutral position.
Step 3: curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, while simultaneously turning both hands over into a supinated position, with your palms facing up.
Step 4: squeeze at the top for a second, then lower back down. Repeat for reps.
Remember to do your best to prevent your elbows from flaring out during this exercise.
Also, if you have a problem with using “cheat curls”, this exercise can be especially beneficial.
That’s because by laying face forward on a bench, you prevent yourself from thrusting your hips forward, leaning backwards, and other mistakes where you rely on momentum.
Next, we have the Arnold press. This is a great dumbbell shoulder exercise that hits all three heads of the shoulder – front, middle, and back.
That’s because it puts you through a longer range of motion than almost all other overhead pressing movements.
We’re going to do these seated, although they can be done standing. This allows you to generate more power and press a heavier weight.
Step 1: start seated with both dumbbells resting on your knees.
Step 2: kick one dumbbell up into a fully curled position with your knuckle facing away from you. Then do the same with the other.
Step 3: start pressing the dumbbells up over your head. As you do that, rotate the dumbbells inward and turn your hands all the way over as you complete the press.
Step 4: slowly lower back down and, as you’re lowering down, turn the dumbbells outward, rotating your hands back to the starting position.
Step 5: keep lowering until the dumbbells are under your chin. Then repeat for reps.
Remember to keep your elbows relatively tight together, don’t let them flare out every time you turn the dumbbells out.
#8 Bent Arm Lateral Raise
Another excellent shoulder exercise that you can go heavy with is the bent arm lateral raise.
You can effectively target your shoulders and get the same benefits that you would from upright barbell rows except without all the risk of shoulder impingement that upright rows carry.
Step 1: lean slightly forward, with your arms bent while holding two dumbbells resting in front of your hips.
Step 2.a: while keeping the elbows bent at about 90 degrees, raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level.
Step 2.b: unlike the upright row, you’re going to keep your hands a whole forearms length in front of your body, rather than sliding the barbell up along your body like you would with upright rows.
This will prevent the excessive internal rotation that causes impingement.
Step 2.c: make sure, at the top position, that your elbows are either parallel with your wrists or slightly above your wrists.
Step 3: lower the dumbbells back down to that original starting position in front of your hips and repeat for reps.
Make sure you use heavier weights for this exercise than what you would normally use for regular lateral raises.
Since your elbows are bent rather than extended, you create a shorter lever length, giving you more leverage and allowing you to lift heavier weights.
#9 Dumbbell Skull Crushers
Now I want to move back to triceps because we left out one of the best tricep exercises that you can do with dumbbells – dumbbell Skull Crushers.
Step 1: grab two dumbbells and take a seat on a flat bench.
Step 2: lay back and bring the dumbbells up a little over the line of your shoulders so that they’re about in line with your eyes.
Step 3: keep your hands in a neutral position and lower the dumbbells by bending your elbows until the dumbbells pass around your ears.
Step 4: extend your elbows until the dumbbells are back to their original starting position. Repeat for reps.
While performing reps, avoid flaring your elbows out and don’t cheat by swinging the weight up and down.
To ensure that you have good form, do your best to lock your upper arms and elbows in one position. Then do your best to only move your forearms and hands up and down.
Our last exercise is a compound exercise that primarily targets the triceps, but also hits the shoulders and chest – the hex press.
This exercise allows you to lift much heavier weight, and really develop your tricep strength, which will benefit your performance with all other tricep exercises.
Since you will be using heavy weight for this one, try to position it towards the beginning of your tricep workout.
Step 1: just like with a regular dumbbell press, begin by sitting down on a bench and then kick the dumbbells off your knees and bring them over your chest, with the dumbbells touching together in a neutral position.
When trying to target the triceps with this exercise, it’s not as important to squeeze the dumbbells together.
This is what you would do if you wanted to focus more on the chest. Instead, just make sure that they stay touching.
Step 2: once you’re in the starting position, you want to press the dumbbells straight up and stop right before locking out your elbows.
This ensures you keep all that tension on the muscles that are working.
Step 3: lower the dumbbells back down until your hands come back to the starting position at around your upper abs. Then press back up and repeat for reps.
Workout set up
So those are 10 of the best exercises you can do, using only dumbbells, to put mass on your arms.
To set this up as a workout, if you’re a beginner I would just select 5 of the exercises and start either with Arnold press or hex press.
Then do 3 sets of 10 reps of the 5 exercises you select.
If you’re more advanced, set it up like this: start with 3 sets of Arnold Presses, super-setted with bent arm lateral raises.
Then select 3-4 of each of the bicep and tricep exercises.
Super set those by performing the tricep exercise first, immediately followed by the bicep exercise.
Then take a 2-3 minute break and repeat these supersets for 3 sets.
Again, you’ll be doing that for each of the 3 or 4 bicep and tricep exercises that you choose to superset.
After that kind of a workout, I promise, even for those of you that are advanced, your arms will be toast.
That about wraps it up. Keep in mind that in order to maximize the results you get from the time you spend breaking down your arms at the gym, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating the right muscle-building foods in the right amounts.
You also want to make sure that you don’t eat in a way that makes you gain body fat.
All too often people will work out without focusing on nutrition, or they’ll just eat as much as they can. Both of these routes will lead to subpar results.
So if you’re looking for a done-for-you approach that’ll help you pack muscle on your arms as well as your chest, back and legs, you should try my coaching program.
It includes a step by step diet plan, so you can build muscle without getting fatter, as well as a full 12-week workout plan that’s designed to get you to grow, regardless of how much of a hard gainer you might think you are.
Also, there will always be a coach to guide you through the whole process.
Click the link below to learn more.