The best arm exercises

December 14, 2020

Improving arm strength and size is a popular goal amongst all types of gymgoers, whether new to fitness or an experienced gym fanatic.

I could not say this loud enough, but good form is the key ingredient to a successful ‘arm day’ in the gym.

It is not uncommon for people to feel that the progress with their arms is slipping behind that of the rest of your body. However, this is an easy fix, with the right training program and approach.

The likelihood is that you are not training correctly. Don’t panic, it happens all the time! A successful arm workout is all about contracting the required muscles to maximum effect. In order to accomplish this, you need proper form.

If you are trying to achieve bigger arms you need to slow down your exercise movements. In doing this you will have banked some key additional seconds. Use this time to strengthen the connection between mind and muscle.

If you make these modifications to your form, and gradually increase your weight as you get stronger, your progress will be hard to miss.

So, let’s have a look at some key arm exercises and the proper form required:


Barbell Bicep Curl

Benefit: Mass building exercise

Equipment: Comfortable weighted barbell

Tips: Contract your abdominals throughout, stay tight with your form – do not swing!

How to / Form:

1. Bend down and grab the bar

2. Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart and palms facing the ceiling

3. Bend at your elbows and bring the bar up so that it is level with your belly button (elbows should be neatly and comfortably tucked at your sides)

4. Curl the bar up and in towards your chest

5. Pause

6. Lower the bar back down to the belly button and repeat

Cable Bicep Curl

Benefit: Provides resistance through movement. Great for tension at the top of the movement

Equipment: Attach a straight bar onto a low pulley

Tips: Lean back slightly and allow elbows to go slightly in front of your hips. Keep your tempo slow and co-ordinated

How to / Form:

1. Hold the bar with both hands

2. Bring it up just below the waist

3. Curl the bar up into the chest

4. Pause

5. Lower back down to waist level and repeat

One Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl

Benefit: A fantastic one-arm isolation exercise

Equipment: A comfortable weighted dumbbell and a preacher bench

Tips: Do not hyperextend your wrist

How to / Form:

1. Sit down, rest your elbows on the pads, arms extended

2. Curl the dumbbell up towards the chest

3. Pause

4. Lower the dumbbell back down and repeat

Barbell Drag Curl

Benefit: Compound movement for biceps and forearms

Equipment: Comfortable weighted barbell

Tips: Squeeze barbell and biceps as hard as you can throughout the movement. Do not use momentum

How to / Form:

1. Stand up straight, barbell in both hands just outside of shoulder width, palms facing the celling (supinated grip)

2. Curl the bar up towards your chest whilst keeping the barbell as close as you can to your body

3. Pause at the top

4. Lower the bar back down bringing your elbows back in line with your torso and repeat


Close Grip Barbell Bench Press

Benefit: Great for building triceps

Equipment: A flat bench under a squat rack with a barbell above the bench set to a comfortable weight

Tips: Keep your feet flat on the floor and back flat on the bench

How to / Form:

1. Lie flat on the bench, feet on the floor, hold the bar with a closed grip and lift off the rack

2. Keep the barbell in line with your chest

3. Inhale, and lower the bar into your chest, but avoid the two touching

4. Pause

5. Raise the bar back up to your starting position and repeat

Triceps Kick Back

Benefit: Great for carving out upper arm definition

Equipment: A comfortable weighted dumbbell and a flat bench

Tips: Maintain a straight line in your spine with a little arch in lower back. Use your grounded foot for support with a slight bend in knee

How to / Form:

1. Rest one knee on the bottom of the bench and the same hand at the top

2. Grasp the dumbbell with the other hand and bring your arm up, so the elbow is bent, your bicep is parallel to the ground at a 90-degree angle and the weight is level with your chest

3. Begin to extend your arm backwards until you can go no further, while keeping a slight bend in the elbow

4. Pause

5. Bring the arm back in towards the chest at your starting position and repeat

Triceps Dips on a Bench

Benefit: Great for building up triceps

Equipment: A flat bench

Tips: Keep your core tight throughout the whole exercise

How to / Form:

1. Place your hands on the edge of the bench, slightly behind your torso and place your legs straight out so you are resting on your heels

2. Lower your body using your arms only until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and parallel to the floor

3. Pause

4. Raise your body back up using your arms only and repeat

Close Grip Pull Down

Benefit: Double benefits for building both lats and triceps

Equipment: A straight bar attached to a high cable attachment

Tips: Keep as close to your body and lean back a little

How to / Form:

1. Stand feet shoulder width apart

2. Hold the bar with both hands, close grip

3. Lean back slightly and slowly pull the bar down until level with your belly button

4. Pause

5. Raise the bar back up to head height and repeat


Wrist Circles

Benefit: Help maintain a healthy range of motion through your wrists

Equipment: None needed

Tips: Do this as part of your warm-up process

How to / Form:

1. Stand up straight with hands by your sides

2. Bring your arms up slightly

3. Move your wrists in circular motions clockwise and anti-clockwise

Barbell Reverse Grip Curl

Benefit: Fantastic mass building exercise for the forearms

Equipment: Comfortable weighted barbell

Tips: Keep elbows tucked at your sides and complete exercise slowly

How to / Form:

1. Hold the bar with a wide overhand grip

2. With elbows at your side raise the bar until forearms are vertical

3. Pause

4. Lower until arms are fully extended and repeat