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The Best Arm Workouts and Exercises For Building Strength

Dream of building a stronger upper body? We've gathered together some of our the best arm workouts to help you address those biceps, triceps and forearms, as well as your back and chest, both at home and in the gym.

Read on for all workouts, or click below to jump straight to each section:

Beginners arm workouts

Not sure where to start when it comes to working on your arms? We have the perfect arm workout for beginners. You'll need dumbbells if possible, but you can also try all of these movements using tins from the kitchen cupboard.

This beginners arm workout includes: 

  • Push ups
  • Bent over row
  • Bicep curl
  • Lying chest press
  • Rear delt fly

No equipment arm workouts

If you're keen to work your arm muscles but don't have (or just don't want to use) any equipment, then a boxing-style arm workout is a great option. Try the movements below, aiming for 60 seconds of high energy movement, followed by a 10 second rest. Cycle through five exercises, give yourself a 60 second rest and then repeat twice more.

  • Upper cuts - great for working your biceps and shoulders (as well as your abs, quads and glutes). Stand with your feet hip distance apart and soft knees. Clench your fists and hold them around chin height in front of you, facing your body. Lower into a small squat and simultaneously twist your torso and lower your right hand to around chest height, so you can quickly punch it back up to starting position. Alternate hands in fast, strong, sharp movements. 
  • Straight punches - these work your shoulders, triceps, wrist flexors and upper chest. Stand with feet hip width apart, but staggered so one is just in front of you and the other just behind. Keeping your knees soft and your elbows bent, hold your fists up to around chin height in front of you. You want to act like you're 'protecting' your chin with your fists. Punch your front fist straight in front of you, before pulling back and throwing the back fist, while rotating your hip slightly forward. Alternate hands with strong, powerful punches. On the next set, place the other foot in front. 
  • Alternating hooks - perfect for targeting the shoulder areas. Stand with your feet hip width apart, place your dominant foot forward and slightly bend your knees. Form fists around chin height and, while keeping your elbows bent, swing your right elbow in a circle and up to shoulder height, until your arm is parallel with the ground. Rotate your shoulder and hips, so you pull and punch towards the left. Repeat with the left arm and keep alternating. 
  • Jab cross - not just for working out your arms, this brings your abs into the movement too. A jab cross is effectively a straight punch followed by a single-sided hook. With feet staggered - one a step forward, the other a step back - at hip distance apart, and fists up just in front of your face, throw a sharp, strong, straight punch with your front hand, and, as your hand returns to starting position, hook your back hand to throw a punch from the side, twisting your torso, leaning slightly forward and shifting your shoulder so your fist ends up 'hitting' around the same area as your straight punch. Alternate between the two movements. On the next set, place the other foot in front. 

For a full body boxing workout (which includes many of the exercises featured here) give this 30 Minute Combat Class with Dave Cross a try.

Arm workouts with dumbbells

Whether you're at the gym or have your own set at home, dumbbells are an excellent way to add an extra challenge to your arm workouts. Simply find a weight that works for you - don't aim too heavy straight away, you want to find a weight that's achievable, but your muscles should feel tired by the final rep. For a fantastic weighted workout, you should try our Dumbbell Upper Body Workout below. 

Follow the video for some fantastic arm workouts with dumbbells, with exercises including: 

  • Bicep curls
  • Bent over row
  • Push press
  • Lying tricep extension

Bodyweight arm workouts

If you're keen to integrate an additional challenge to your arm workout but don't have any equipment, why not use your own bodyweight? Here are some of our favourite bodyweight arm workouts: 

  • Plank - an excellent all-rounder that doesn't just target your arms, but also your abs, glutes, back, chest... we could go on! Check out our How to Plank guide for details on how to do this workout fave. 
  • Side plank - upping the stakes a little, a side plank is like a plank, but with an extra challenge on your obliques, and with more focus on each arm. Learn how to do a side plank (and a whole range of other plank options) on our 10 Plank Variations page
  • Push ups - perfect for tackling triceps, biceps, shoulders, chest and core, push ups are a strength-building powerhouse move. Our How to do a Push Up guide will show you more. 
  • Tricep dips - these target very similar muscle groups to push ups, but require a chair or support to complete. Check out the video below to see how to do a bodyweight tricep dip.

Head over to our Using Your Own Bodyweight to Workout guide for more ideas.

5 minute arm workouts

Tight on time but keen to work on your arms? The great thing about most arm workouts is that you can pick a good range of exercises to suit your timings. Any of the workouts we've described above could work perfectly in five minutes, just pick a few and give them a try. You could even fit one round in while you're waiting for your cup of tea to brew or during an ad break on TV, and repeat throughout the day. For example, you could try one minute of each of the following movements, with 10 seconds rest in between each: 

  • 60 seconds of straight punches
  • 60 seconds of push ups
  • 60 seconds of bent over rows
  • 60 seconds of bicep curls
  • 60 seconds of tricep dips

Best at home arm workouts

You can take your pick from any of the arm workouts we've mentioned in this guide and work on them at home, particularly if you have some dumbbells. No worries if you don't - grab some tins from the cupboard (or even a couple of wine bottles) to add a bit of weight, or consider investing in a resistance band. These large stretchy, elastic bands are great for adding an additional challenge to your arm workout without the need for bulky, expensive weights equipment in your home. Learn more with our Home Workout guide. 

Chest and tricep workout

You may want to work your arms as part of a wider chest or back workout, rather than targeting them on their own. This intermediate chest and tricep workout is a great way to build strength and size in both your triceps (the back of your arms) and chest. Need more chest day inspiration? Check out our chest exercises page. Or you can find some of our favourite tricep exercises here.

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Dumbbell incline chest press
  • Cable chest fly
  • Lateral press ups 
  • Skull crushers 
  • Cable tricep pressdown

Back and bicep workout

Pulling exercises are great at building size and strength in your biceps. This back and bicep workout will see serious upper arm and back gains. We've also shared 9 amazing back exercises here.

Do 3-4 sets of each exercise with 45-69 second rests between each set. 

  • Bent over row - 8 reps
  • Pull ups - 8 reps
  • Cable rows - 10-12 reps
  • Hammer curls - 8 reps
  • Cable bicep curls - 10-12 reps

We have plenty more fun workout ideas over on our arms and shoulders workouts hub. If you'd like some support on the best arm exercises to do, consider booking in a session with one of our Personal Trainers - they're experts in the best workouts and nutrition to help you meet your goals, and can work with you to build an effective exercise plan. Find a gym near you and get started today!

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