An iconic symbol of strength and fitness, your arms definitely show the world what you’re made of. It doesn’t matter what your sport is, a blood pumping arm workout routine is always great!

Generally when we speak about the arms we are talking about biceps, triceps, and forearm flexors and extenders. Primarily we target these muscles through exercises that involve flexion, an extension of the elbow.

For example when performing a bicep curl you begin in a fully extended position. As you pull the weight up during concentric phase of the exercise you are then flexing the elbow before returning to starting position in the eccentric phase of the exercise.


Seems like it would be pretty simple to build the muscles of the arm then, right? Is the secret really just doing endless repetitions of bicep curls and tricep extensions?

The secret is not in the exercise itself, but in how you perform it. The muscles of the arm respond well to consistent change within your arm workout routine. It is important to always vary how you are targeting the muscle using things like, resistance, tempo, tension, and planes of motion.

These principles will turn some of the most basic arm exercises into an entirely new and much more effective muscle building movement

Also check out this Shoulder and arm workout

Barbell Curl

4 Sets 6,8,10,12 Reps

This is the most basic of arm exercises. But if done correctly it is the most effective for building a great set of biceps. One of the main functions of the bicep is to rotate the wrist. A lot of people don’t know this and miss a huge potential for muscle growth when it comes to building an arm workout routine. Using the principles of tension, varying resistance, and tempo we can create a whole new exercise.

Begin with a barbell and hands slightly wider then shoulder width.

Pin your elbows into your rib cage and keep them in place. We should not see any movement in the shoulder or upper arm during the exercise. All movement should be at the elbow only.

Now before you lift the bar, apply tension through internal rotation of the hand as if you are trying to literally bend the bar in half. If done correctly you should immediately feel the involvement of the bicep before you have even moved the weight. Maintain this tension throughout the entire movement. As you pull the weight up be sure that your shoulders do not move.

Descend slowly back to starting position.

This is a pyramid set, meaning start with a heavy weight you can only get 6 reps out of. And as your sets go up you add weight. This will get all the muscle fibers to work and maximize muscle hypertrophy.

Tempo should be a 1-4 ratio. This means a 1 second concentric phase (Lifting the weight) and a 4 second eccentric phase (Lowering the weight). By focusing more on the negative of the exercise you will get further fatigue of the muscle fibers and place a higher demand of growth on the muscle.

dumbbell arm workout routine_Ryan2

Dumbbell Curl

4 sets of 15 reps

Dumbbell curls are a vary sagittal plane (Forward and backward) dominant exercise. But every muscle in our body works in 3 planes of motion.

One of the main functions of the bicep is to rotate the wrist. We tend to get so caught up in one plane of motion we end up missing a huge potential for muscle development.

Begin with a pair of dumbbells at your sides palms facing behind you.

Pin your elbows into your rib cage and be sure to not move the shoulder during the exercise. As you curl the weights up rotate your hands through so at the top of the movement your hands are facing up. As you descend reverse the pattern back to starting position.

By rotating as we go through to movement we are adding an aspect of transverse (rotation) plane of motion to a sagittal plane exercise. This is a huge part of building a fully developed and functional bicep.

Barbell Skull crusher

4 sets 6,8,10,12

The triceps primary function is to extend and retract the forearm.

To best target this muscle we will apply the principles of tension and varying resistance.

Begin with gripping a barbell shoulder width apart, laying on a flat bench with your arms fully extended.

It is important to stabilize your shoulder joint in this position to maintain form during the movement. Set your shoulders by pinching your shoulder blades together.

Before you begin the exercise apply tension by externally rotating your hands as if you were trying to bend the bar in half. Maintain this tension through the entire movement.

Begin by bending the elbow and letting the weight drop down towards your forehead. Once you have reached your forehead or just above, extend your arms again back to starting position. By applying tension we are getting max recruitment of muscle fibers which is key for developing the tricep.

Use a pyramid set beginning with the heaviest weight and moving on to lighter weights as we go.

Tempo is 1-4.

Dumbbell Kickback

4 sets of 15 reps

Most tricep exercises are very sagittal plane dominant. Adding a new plane of motion to the exercises changes how the muscle reacts entirely.

Begin kneeling on a flat bench with 1 arm supporting body. Position the upper arm of the working arm so that it is parallel to the floor.

Pin your elbow in this position and be sure your upper arm does not move during the movement.

Begin holding a dumbbell palm facing you and as you lift the weight rotate your wrist so that in the fully extended position your palm is facing up. Then slowly return to starting position.

By Adding the transverse (rotation) plane of motion to this exercise makes it an entirely new exercise targeting the heads of the tricep in multiple planes of motion.

Tempo is 1-4

Barbell Wrist curl

To get Popeye like forearms you need to do more then eat spinach.

Begin with a barbell in your hands shoulder width apart palms facing you.

Keep your arms extended throughout the movement and only move at the wrist.

Pull the weight up towards your body as you flex your wrist. Slowly descend back to starting position.

Tempo is 1-4.

The key to a great arm workout routine is successfully varying principals.

You need to consistently keep your body guessing. Move your body how it is designed to move. Apply these principles and you will feel the difference.

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