Everyone wants to have strong arms.
Whether you want to have massive muscles that pop when you flex or just want to have well-defined arms that look toned even when you are relaxed, you need to do arm workouts to meet your physique goals.
But what are the best dumbbell arm exercises? How do you program a dumbbell arm workout for mass and strength?
In this article, we will discuss how to structure an arm workout with dumbbells and provide step-by-step instructions for the following best dumbbell arm exercises:
- Dumbbell Push-Ups
- Dumbbell Spider Curls
- Dumbbell Overhead Extensions
- Dumbbell Arnold Presses
- Dumbbell Hammer Curls
- Dumbbell Skull Crushers
- Dumbbell Alternating Forward and Lateral Raises
- Tate Presses
- Dumbbell Arm Punches
Let’s dive in!
How to Program an Arm Workout With Dumbbells
There are various ways to strengthen your arms. For example, you can use resistance bands, cables, weight machines, barbells, bodyweight exercises, and kettlebells.
However, one of the most common and versatile pieces of strength training equipment for arm workouts is dumbbells.
An arm workout with dumbbells involves dumbbell exercises for arm muscles, including the biceps on the front of the upper arms, the triceps on the back of the upper arms, the deltoids in the shoulders, and the forearm muscles.
How you should structure your arm dumbbell workout in terms of reps, sets, and dumbbell weights depends primarily on your fitness level and primary training goals.
For strength gains, work up to performing 2-6 sets, 3-5 reps per set, and at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the load. The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should aim for with your weights.
If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle growth), strive to perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.Note that you can use adjustable dumbbells to save money and space for home arm dumbbell workouts.
We recommend the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, which are now supported with motion tracking via the JRNY app.
This means that you can check your form to ensure proper technique and execution.
The Ultimate Arm Workout With Dumbbells
Here are some of the best dumbbell exercises for arms:
#1: Dumbbell Push-Ups
Doing push-ups by using hex dumbbells allows you to get a deeper range of motion.
Plus, with this variation, you will also perform alternating single-arm rows to further work your posterior deltoid and upper back muscles.
Here are the steps for how to perform this dumbbell arm exercise:
- Grab onto the handle of a hex dumbbell in each hand with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your palms facing one another.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest to just above the ground so that you’re sinking lower than you would if your hands were flat on the ground.
- Press through your hands to lift your body back up until your elbows are extended but not fully locked out.
- Then, shift your weight into one hand while you lift the other arm off the ground, bending your elbow to row the dumbbell up alongside your torso. Make sure to keep your hips and shoulders square to the floor by engaging your glutes and abs.
- Slowly lower the weight back down and then perform another push-up.
- Alternate arms for the row after each push-up.
#2: Dumbbell Spider Curls
One of the best dumbbell exercises for arms that people often fail to include in their dumbbell arm workouts is the spider curl.
The benefit of performing spider curls over different types of biceps curls is that because you are lying down, you are unable to inadvertently cheat and use momentum or other muscles to help lift the dumbbells.
In this way, the spider curl is a great isolation exercise for your biceps.
Here are the steps to perform this dumbbell arm exercise:
- Set an adjustable bench to an incline of about 45° relative to the floor. The entire bench should be set up at this incline, not just the backrest.
- Lie face down on the bench so that essentially your body is in a plank position tilted 45° relative to the ground.
- Grip a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forwards.
- Bend your elbows, contracting your biceps to bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height until your bicep is fully contracted. Your upper arms and shoulders should remain fixed throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Pause and hold for 1 to 2 seconds.
- Slowly lower the weights all the way back down until your arms are hanging straight before beginning the next rep.
#3: Dumbbell Overhead Extensions
This overhead triceps extension is one of the best dumbbell arm exercises for your triceps.
Here are the steps:
- Stand or kneel with good posture, ensuring that your torso is upright, your glutes and abs are engaged, and your chest is up and proud.
- Grasp the inside of a dumbbell with both hands so that your palms are cupping the inside of the end cap of the dumbbell or pressed up against it flat. The handle and the other side of the dumbbell should hang down below. Straighten your arms all the way overhead.
- Bend your elbows while keeping your upper arms glued to the side of your head by your ears.
- Lower the dumbbell as far as you can by bending just your elbows, allowing them to point out slightly.
- Powerfully press through your hands to extend the dumbbell straight up overhead to the starting position.
#4: Dumbbell Arnold Presses
The Arnold press is an excellent exercise to include in your dumbbell arm workout to work your shoulders.
The exercise allows you to move through a large range of motion, maximizing the time under tension and working all sections of your deltoids: the anterior deltoid, middle deltoid, and posterior deltoid.
Here are the steps to perform this arm exercise with dumbbells:
- Sit upright on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand held at shoulder height with your palms facing away from your body.
- Press the dumbbells straight up overhead by straightening your elbows. Your elbows should point forwards during the exercise.
- Slowly begin to bend your elbows to return the weights towards your shoulders, externally rotating your arms during the descent so that you bring your elbows in front of your body rather than leaving them out along the sides.
- The end position should mimic that of a boxer with the gloves up in front of his or her face such that the dumbbells are in front of your body with your palms facing your face.
- Rotate your palms away from your body, moving the dumbbells back up to your shoulders to begin the next rep.
#5: Dumbbell Hammer Curls
The neutral grip position of hammer curls better activates your forearm muscles while working your biceps, so it’s a great exercise to add to arm workouts with dumbbells.
Here is how to do hammer curls:
- Stand upright with good posture.
- Hold dumbbells such that your palms are facing one another. Contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, maintaining this neutral wrist position.
- Slowly lower the weights back down with control.
#6: Dumbbell Skull Crushers
Skull crushers is a classic triceps exercise, and you can easily add it to your dumbbell arm workouts with just one dumbbell.
Here are the steps for this dumbbell arm exercise:
- Lie down on a flat bench holding the inside of a single dumbbell with both hands so that your palms are pressed up against the inside of the end cap flat. The dumbbell should be vertical.
- Straighten your arms all the way overhead.
- Extend your arms straight up over your chest like the end position of the bench press.
- Point your elbows so that you can lower the dumbbell backward towards your forehead, only moving your lower arms. Your upper arms should remain completely fixed and perpendicular to the weight bench.
- The bottom of the dumbbell should nearly graze your forehead before you contract your triceps to press it back up and forward to the starting position.
#7: Dumbbell Alternating Forward and Lateral Raises
This is a great dumbbell arm exercise for your deltoids.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture, with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms down by your sides.
- Keeping your core tight, lift your arms straight up to the sides so that your body forms a giant T.
- At the top position, your palms should be facing the floor.
- Slowly lower your arms back down.
- Then, bring your arms in front of your body, lifting them up so that they are again parallel to the floor in the end position but this time in front of your chest rather than out to the sides.
- Slowly lower back down.
- Continue alternating between forward and lateral raises.
#8: Tate Presses
One of the best dumbbell triceps exercises is the Tate Press, created by and thus named after Dave Tate, the founder of EliteFTS.
Tate has a personal best in the bench press of 610 pounds, which is evidence of the fact that this triceps dumbbell exercise is worth adding to your dumbbell arm workouts.
Here are the steps for how to perform this arm exercise with dumbbells:
- Lie back on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and press them straight up so that they are above your chest, as in the end position of the dumbbell chest press. Your palms should be facing away from your body, just as they would with the chest press or bench press. This is the starting position.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells toward the middle of your chest, allowing your elbows to flare out to the sides and your hands to come in towards one another, rotating the dumbbells so that they are vertical, with one pointing towards your chest and one pointing towards your ceiling. At the end position, your palms should be pointing at about a 45° angle away from your body.
- Do not allow the dumbbells to actually touch down on your chest. Maintain tension without resting.
- Hold the bottom position for three seconds.
- Use your triceps to extend your elbows and rotate your arms back to the starting position with your arms straight up over your chest.
#9: Dumbbell Arm Punches
One of the best dumbbell arm exercises to build muscular endurance in your shoulders and upper arms while increasing your heart rate is dumbbell punches.
This is also a great exercise to perform as your warm-up for your dumbbell arm workout.
Particularly if you are doing punches for your warm-up, choose light weights and focus on speed and increasing the mobility in your shoulder girdle rather than on power and strength.
However, you can also include punches in your arm workouts with dumbbells using heavier weights, but make sure that you are warmed up and move at a slower pace, focusing on explosive power rather than speed.
Here are the steps to perform this arm exercise with dumbbells:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your chest level near your sternum.
- Stagger your stance so that one foot is in front of the other and brace your core, engage your glutes, and keep your chest up.
- Punch each dumbbell straight out in front of your body, keeping your arms parallel to the floor. Make sure to fully extend each arm before bringing it back into your chest.
- Alternate arms as you punch.
- Punch quickly and powerfully for 30 to 60 seconds.
While dumbbells are a great way to strengthen your arms, if you don’t have any equipment but want to work your biceps, check out our guide to the best no-equipment biceps workout here.