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Arm day workouts at the gym, frankly, are kind of like dessert. You’ve spent all week tackling the meats and vegetables — leg day, fat-burning cardio and chest day (the exercises that have clear, demonstrated benefits for your overall health and everyday strength) — and now it’s time to indulge a bit.
Sure, arm strength has its functional benefits. Your arms help you in essentially any action that requires the upper body, from pushing out of bed in the morning to hauling heavy grocery bags into your car. So even if pumping out bicep curls and tricep extensions might feel a little vain at times, any upper body strength is good strength. But, let’s be real: having big, toned arms is as much an aesthetic goal as it is a functional one. And that’s totally fine. After pouring hours of time and sweat into fitness, we’ve all earned the right to show our arms some love, and to show them off to the world, for that matter. It’s a token of all that hard work, and no one should be ashamed of striving for great-looking arms. We’re here to empower that goal, not judge it.
The best arm workouts for men incorporate exercises that strengthen your upper and lower arms, including your biceps, triceps and forearms. To get you ready for the next best arm workout, we’ll briefly cover the anatomy of your arm muscles, share our favorite arm exercises and suggest a few pieces of gear to help you accomplish them.
And remember, don’t let anyone shame you into thinking strong arms aren’t cool anymore. Do you and follow whatever fitness journey suits you best.
Arm Muscle Anatomy
Without getting too deep or technical, you can generally categorize your arm muscles into three categories — your biceps, triceps and forearms, each with their own different muscular components.
1. Biceps brachii — Your bicep muscle contains two heads that run from the shoulder and join at your elbow. The biceps also feature the brachialis, which sits underneath the biceps and aids in flexing the forearm, and the coracobrachialis, positioned by and aiding in the stability of your shoulder.
2. Triceps brachii — The triceps runs along the back of your humerus bone, and extend down to the anconeus, a small, triangular muscle that helps with the extension of your elbow and rotation of your forearm.
3. Forearm — Things get a whole lot more complex as you make your way toward your wrists. The forearms feature a handful of more than 15 interconnected muscle groups on both the inside and outside of your arms, with some visible on the surface of your body and some buried deep under the skin. These forearm muscles work to extend and flex your wrists and each of your fingers.
Arm Workouts for Men
Some folks like to incorporate arm exercises into other workouts. Back and biceps exercises (pulling movements) pair nicely together — as do chest and triceps exercises (pushing movements) — as those muscles work in tandem for similar functions. But if you have an extra day in your workout week, you can easily combine all the arm exercises into one big arm workout. Tackling biceps, triceps and forearms can take time, though, so utilizing supersets — where you essentially do two exercises at once — and circuit training — where you cycle between a few — can help keep things efficient. You can choose to take this approach with the arm exercises below, or simply perform them one at a time. The choice is yours.
As is the case with every workout, pay special attention to your form. Your arms get a pump during any upper body workout, including primary chest, shoulder and back exercises. But with the arm exercises we’ve selected, resist the urge to rely on the momentum or strength of the rest of your body, and try to isolate your arms as much as possible to ensure they’re doing most of the work.
To get started, we recommend warming up with pull-ups and push-ups, which will get the blood flowing and start to engage your biceps and triceps, respectively. You can also add in some pull-ups and push-ups between sets of other arm exercises for an added challenge, or at the end of an arm workout to really tire out your guns.
We’ve chosen exercises for each arm muscle group that make use of three different pieces of equipment — the barbell, dumbbells and cable machine.
1. Barbell Bicep Curl
Any arm workout is incomplete without some kind of bicep curl. As you’ll see, in fact, most of the best bicep workouts feature an array of different curling motions, often with different grips and angles to target different parts of the bicep. The barbell bicep curl is a great foundational movement and is a great arm exercise to start your arm workout with.
Instructions: Grab a standard barbell with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. The narrower the grip, the more you’ll target the outer bicep. The wider the grip, the more you’ll target the inner bicep. A neutral grip helps to target both. Position the bar at your hips, letting it sit a bit in front of your body so your elbows stay bent and your biceps stay engaged throughout the entire movement. Curl the bar up toward your chest, keeping your elbows still. Flex at the top, then slowly return to the start.
2. EZ Bar Skull Crusher
The name of this exercise is a healthy reminder to exercise caution while performing it, as it entails hoisting a ton of weight directly over your head. Grab a spotter if you need to, just to make sure you’re staying safe. Skull crushers are a great tricep exercise to get your arm workout started.
Instructions: Lie on a flat bench and lift a weighted EZ bar directly over your chest with your arms extended and palms facing the ceiling. Your hands should have a relatively narrow grip. Carefully bend your elbows to let the bar move over your head, then push the bar back up to the starting position. Keep your shoulders and elbows as still as possible. You really want to feel this one in the triceps.
3. Forearm Wrist Rollers
This is one of the most effective forearm exercises out there, as it works the muscles on the front and back of the forearms at once. It requires a pretty particular piece of gear, one that many gyms won’t have, that we’ve linked to at the bottom of the article. Seriously, it’s worth investing in one of these things. Your forearms (and the way they look in a t-shirt) will thank you, even if they feel like they’re about to fall off during this exercise.
Instructions: Load a wrist rolling device with a light weight (don’t get too cocky yet). With your elbows locked and your forearms parallel to the ground, grab each side of the device and roll your wrists until the rope is completely wrapped and the weight reaches the top. Then, switch directions to unravel the rope and let the weight fall.
4. Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Another staple of any arm workout, the hammer curl helps to strengthen the biceps by adding a slight variation to the standard bicep curl. It’s one of the best dumbbell arm workouts you’ll find and is worth incorporating whenever you’re training arms. You can perform dumbbell hammer curls standing or seated.
Instructions: Grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them at your sides with your palms facing toward your body. Like with the barbell bicep curl, it helps to keep the weight in front of your hips throughout the movement to keep your biceps engaged the entire time. Curl the dumbbells up, flexing just past 90 degrees, then slowly return to the start. Keep your elbows and shoulders still throughout the exercise.
5. Overhead Tricep Extension
Another great dumbbell arm workout, the overhead tricep extension is a great way to build tricep strength and size with only one dumbbell. Proceed with caution and begin with a lighter weight as you learn this exercise, as it can be a little dangerous holding so much weight above your head.
Instructions: Sitting on a bench, grab a moderate-weight dumbbell by creating a triangle between your palms to support one head of the dumbbell. Lift the dumbbell over your head and keep your arms relatively close to the sides of your head. Let the weight fall backward behind your head, then push with your triceps to return to the start. As usual, you should aim to keep your upper arms as still as possible while performing this arm exercise.
6. Forearm Dumbbell Curl
Given the complex, multi-muscular nature of the forearms, you’ll need to implement different angles and tactics to engage them all. The forearm dumbbell curl is a great addition to any arm workout, as it helps to strengthen the muscles on the inside of the forearm. Start with a lighter weight to get the form down, and make sure you opt for slow, controlled movements
Instructions: Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in one hand and your forearm resting on your knee, with your dumbbell hand extending just past it. Maintaining a strong grip, curl the dumbbell toward your body, pausing at peak contraction, then slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position. Don’t let the weight fall too far into your fingertips, as this will pause the activation of your forearm.
7. Single Arm Cable Curl
Now that we’ve made great use of barbells and dumbbells, it’s time to transition over to the cable machines, which use constant resistance to really engage your muscles throughout any movement. You can perform this exercise two-handed with a flat bar attachment, but throwing on that single-arm handle helps to concentrate on one arm at a time.
Instructions: Attach a single-arm handle to a cable machine. Face away from the machine with your body weight leaning forward, over your knee. This position helps create additional space in the plane for your hand to travel, and with the constant resistance of that cable, keeps the biceps engaged even longer. Curl the cable handle up until your bicep is fully contracted, then slowly return to the start.
8. Triceps Rope Pulldown
This is the staple of any good tricep workout. Once again utilizing the cable machine, rig up the rope attachment, which also doubles as a great grip strength builder.
Instructions: Face a cable machine with the rope attachment positioned at a high height. Grab the rope with both hands and keep your arms at a 90-degree angle with your elbows locked in against your sides. Push the rope down until your elbows lock, then return to the start.
The Best Gear for Maximizing Your Arm Workouts
1. Nike Dri-FIT Miler Running Tank Top
BEST ARM WORKOUT SHIRT
You’re putting in all this hard work to get bigger arms. You might as well show them off. This tank top from Nike comes in nine colors, though we love the one pictured below, as there’s that exudes confidence more than training arms while wearing pink. It’s made from recycled polyester that moves with you and wicks away moisture.
2. Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
BEST ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS
There’s not much to say about these awesome adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex that we haven’t said already. They combine 15 sets of dumbbells into one convenient mechanism, allowing you to easily switch between weights to get a great arm workout in while saving space in your home gym. Any dumbbell arm workout is incomplete without a great pair of dumbbells, and these certainly fit the bill.
3. Yes4All Wrist & Forearm Roller
BEST FOR FOREARMS
You’ll hate this handy device while using it, but love the results. Seriously, this thing will absolutely torch your forearms in a way that other forearm exercises don’t quite achieve. It works both the inner and outer components of your forearms, making it one of the most effective training tools you can own. It doesn’t include weighted plates, however, so we recommend buying some lighter, 5- or 10-pound plates to use with this.
4. Goplus EZ Curl Bar
BEST EZ BAR
A good bar can get you pretty far in an arm workout. Unlike a standard barbell, the EZ bar is shorter, lighter, and features a jagged bar shape, offering different angles for your hands that end up working different parts of your arm muscles than a standard flat bar would. Made from high-quality steel, this is a 48-inch bar that weights 19 pounds and knurled handles for better grip. Load up a few plates and start knocking out bicep curls or skull crushers.
5. WF Athletic Supply Cast Iron Plates (10-pound Pair)
BEST WEIGHTED PLATES
These weighted plates from WF Athletic Supply are great for loading onto that EZ bar or wrist roller during an arm workout. They’re available at virtually every weight — though we think the 10-pound option is a great place to start for arms — and as either single plates or a pair.