The Ultimate Arm Workouts: Build Strength And Muscle At All Levels 

Effective leg-day workouts tend to get a lot of love in terms of the effort and thought put into creating them. While strong legs are absolutely important, it is also important to do good arm workouts.

There is a single “best arm workout“ or “arm day workout“ for all athletes of all levels and training goals.

With that said, the best arm workouts should target all of the major muscles of your arms through a variety of compound and isolation exercises.

But which exercises should you include in the best arm workouts? How should you structure an arm workout routine for strength and muscle growth?

In this article, we will discuss how to put together good arm workouts based on your fitness level and training goal and then provide different examples of arm day workouts or arm workout routines for athletes of different levels and goals.

We will cover the following: 

  • What Are the Best Arm Workouts?
  • Best Arm Workout for Beginners
  • Advanced Arm Day Workout for Strength
  • Advanced Arm Day Workout for Mass

Let’s dive in! 

Push up.

What Are the Best Arm Workouts?

Before we go into specific examples of some good arm workouts for athletes of different levels and goals, it is helpful to briefly discuss the specific arm muscles you should be targeting in a full arm workout.

Knowing the goals of your arm workout will help you choose the best arm exercises and ensure that you are indeed getting a great full arm workout.

The best arm workout should focus not only on the triceps and biceps, which are the large muscles on the back and front of the upper arm, respectively but also on the muscles of the:

  • Shoulder (deltoids and rotator cuff muscles)
  • Lateral and deeper front of the upper arm (brachialis)
  • Forearm, including the brachioradialis and wrist flexors, and extensor 

Well-rounded arm workouts will also strengthen muscles of the hands and fingers to improve grip strength, either directly through grip strength exercises or indirectly with forearm exercises and other arm exercises with weights that require maintaining a tight grip.

Selecting the best exercises for arms to include in your arm workout routine will primarily depend on your fitness level, experience level, training goals, and the equipment that you have available to you.

A push-up exercise in arm workouts.

For example, the best beginner arm day workout will likely look quite different than an arm day workout for a bodybuilder or competitive weightlifter who has had a lot of experience training.

Beginners are often best suited for focusing on basic, foundational arm exercises and movement patterns such as standard biceps curls, triceps extensions, push-ups, overhead presses, and forward and lateral raises.

Advanced weightlifters should take on more difficult progressions and might include more unilateral arm exercises or exercises for arms that are more technical or require greater strength and core activation to properly perform.

Similarly, you can put together good arm workouts with different pieces of strength training equipment. 

For example, a dumbbell arm workout might include some of the same exercises as a resistance band arm workout, as well as some unique exercises. 

Bodyweight arm workouts, kettlebell arm workouts, cable machine arm workouts, barbell arm workouts, and arm workouts that utilize a mix of different strength training equipment are all also possibilities and will naturally affect the arm exercises you can perform.

A dead hand exercise.

Regardless of the specific strength training equipment or weightlifting tools that you are using, there will still likely be a lot of crossover in these exercises and movement patterns you perform in a full-arm workout routine. 

For instance, you can perform biceps curls with almost any type of strength training equipment. The movement pattern will be similar, but the training implements and modifications to the movement may potentially vary.

Exercises for the biceps usually involve some type of curl, while exercises for the triceps usually include some type of press or extension. 

When working the shoulders, you should train all three heads of the deltoid muscle. This involves modifying the angle of the press as well as the direction. 

The shoulders are the most mobile joints in the body and are capable of forward flexion, backward extension, horizontal abduction to the front of your body, and lateral abduction out to the side as well as internal and external rotation.

You will want to include exercises in your arm day workouts that incorporate all of these movement patterns.

The muscles of the forearm are typically worked with the biceps and triceps, though it is also helpful to include specific grip strength exercises or wrist flexion and extension exercises to further improve forearm and grip strength.

An overhead press.

Best Arm Workout for Beginners

The best beginner arm workouts are approachable and include exercises that help establish the foundational movement patterns utilized in arm exercises.

Beginners should start with two sets of each exercise, striving for a rep range of about 10 to 12 reps per exercise.

As you get stronger, include a third set of each exercise.

Once you can perform three sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise in this beginner arms workout routine, you should increase the weight that you are using for each exercise.

Then, progress to some of the other arm day workout routines for strength or hypertrophy.

Here is a sample beginner arms workout:

Warm-up: Begin with some arm and shoulder mobility exercises, such as 60 seconds of forward and reverse arm circles and 60 seconds of overhead air punches.

Tricep dips.

Then, complete 2 to 3 rounds of the following exercises:

  1. Push-ups (on your knees or with your hands elevated on a weight bench if you are not yet strong enough to perform them on your feet): 2 to 3 sets of 10-12 reps with 2 minutes of rest
  2. Seated dumbbell overhead press: 2 to 3 sets of 10-12 reps with 90 seconds of rest
  3. EZ bar biceps curls: 2 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps with 90 seconds of rest
  4. Triceps pushdowns with the rope attachment on a cable machine: 2 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps with 90 seconds of rest
  5. Alternating forward and lateral shoulder raises with dumbbells: 2 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps (forward and side is one rep) with 60 seconds of rest
  6. Seated wrist curls and extensions with light dumbbells: 2 to 3 sets of 12-15 reps with 30 seconds of rest
  7. Dead hangs: 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds per set and build up to 60 seconds; 90 seconds of rest
A bench press.

Advanced Arm Day Workout for Strength

If your primary training goal is increasing strength, your arm workout routine should include both compound and isolation exercises for the arm muscles. 

Perhaps even more important than the specific arm exercises you choose to include in your arm workout is the way in which you program the training volume itself.

When your primary goal is increasing strength, build up to performing 2-6 sets of each exercise and 3-5 reps per set. 

Use 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.

Here is a sample arms workout for strength gains:

Warm-up: Push-up walkouts (inch worms) and arm windmills for 60 seconds each.

Then, complete 4-6 sets of the following exercises:

  1. Close-grip incline barbell bench press: 4-6 sets of 2-6 reps with 2 minutes rest
  2. Barbell curls: 4-6 sets of 4-6 reps with 2 minutes rest
  3. Push press: 4-6 sets of 4-6 reps with 2 minutes rest
  4. Svend press:  4-6 sets of 6-8 reps with 90 seconds rest
  5. Spider curls: 4-6 sets of 4-6 reps with 2 minutes rest
  6. Barbell skull crushers: 4-6 sets of 3-6 reps with 90 seconds rest
A bicep curl.

Advanced Arm Day Workout for Mass

As when performing arm workouts to increase strength, arm workouts for mass or hypertrophy should be precisely programmed to help best induce muscle growth.

The general guidelines for strength training for hypertrophy (muscle growth) are to strive to perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.

In general, compound exercises are best for hypertrophy, but isolation exercises can also be helpful.

Here is a sample arms workout for mass:

Warm-up: Push-up walkouts (inch worms) and arm circles for 60 seconds each.

Then, complete 3 rounds of the following exercises:

  1. Close-grip barbell bench press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 90 seconds rest
  2. Negative single-arm biceps cable curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 90 seconds rest
  3. Military press: 3 sets of 6-10 reps with 90 seconds rest
  4. Dips with a weighted vest: 3 sets of 6-12 reps with 60 seconds of rest
  5. Svend press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 90 seconds rest

For more arm workouts, check out our triceps workout here.

A bicep curl.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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