Best Dumbbell Exercises for Arms

11 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Arms (For Strength & Size)

If you’re looking to add strength and size to your arms, dumbbells are a versatile and effective tool to help you achieve your goals.

So, even if you don’t have access to a barbell or fancy machines, don’t worry! Some of the best exercises for arms are done with dumbbells and there is also plenty of variety to choose from.

In this article, I’ll highlight some of the most effective dumbbell exercises for building strong and jacked arms, along with tips on proper form and technique to help you get the most out of your workout. So grab your dumbbells and let’s get started!


Dumbbell Hammer Curls


Hammer Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Instructions

  • Start standing with feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
  • Start with palms facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palms should finish still facing one another. Do not rotate the palm up.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Hammer Curls is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the rep. Lower the weights down under control and do not swing them at the bottom.

The other mistake I see usually comes when an athlete is trying to use too much weight. Instead of keeping the elbow in place at their side, they allow the elbow to drift back behind the torso which turns the movement into more of a row than a curl.


Dumbbell Skull Crushers


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (Preferrable but they can be done on the floor as in the video above)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Using dumbells, lie flat on a bench with your head down, and chin up. If you don’t have a bench, you can simply lie on the floor.
  • Press dumbbells to arm’s length above the shoulder.
  • Lower dumbbells to just beside ears, bending arms at elbows, keeping upper arm vertical and elbows in.
  • Return to starting position and repeat.

Coaching Points

Keep the elbows high throughout. When Dumbbell Skull Crushers start to become difficult, the natural tendency of the lifter is to drop the elbows. Keep the elbows high and tight (try not to let them flare out to the side either).


Concentration Curls


DB Concentration Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Flat Bench (although almost any kind of chair or box that you can sit on will work)
  • Dumbbells

Instructions

  • Start in a seated position on the edge of a bench, knees bent with feet flat on the ground slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the right hand, lean slightly forward and rest the right elbow on the inside of the right thigh.
  • Now, curl the dumbbell up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palm should finish up, facing the shoulder.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch to the other side.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Concentration Curls is bad technique stemming from trying to use too much weight. If you need to swing the dumbbells or contort and twist your body to curl the weight up – it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.


Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extension


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbell
  • Bench

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Sit on the edge of a bench with a single dumbbell.
  • Raise the dumbbell straight up overhead with both hands.
  • Keep the elbows high, bend the arms and bring the dumbbell behind the head.
  • Now drive the arms back to the overhead starting position.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extensions can technically be done seated or standing with no real difference in the functionality of the movement. It’s more of a matter of personal preference.

Make sure to keep the core braced so you avoid overarching the back.


Incline Dumbbell Curls


Incline Dumbbell Curl

Equipment Needed

  • Adjustable Bench
  • Dumbbells

Instructions

  • Set up an adjustable bench to roughly 45 degrees.
  • Start in a seated position, knees bent with feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and lay back on the bench, lowering the arms down to the sides.
  • You can start with palms facing forward or facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps hard. Palms should finish up, facing the shoulder.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Incline Dumbbell Curls is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the rep. Lower the weights down under control and do not swing them at the bottom.


Tate Press


Equipment Needed

  • Bench Press*
  • Dumbbells

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Lie on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  • Raise the dumbbells over your chest with your arms fully extended.
  • Start with the inner edge of the dumbbells roughly 2 to 3 inches apart.
  • Bend your elbows out to the side to lower the dumbbells toward your chest, keeping the dumbbells the same distance apart.
  • Lightly touch the dumbbells to your chest, then extend your arms back to the starting position.
  • Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps.

Coaching Points

*Having a bench is ideal (and certainly more convenient), but Tate Presses can also be done on the floor if need be.

Focus on keeping the dumbbells about two or three inches apart as you lower and raise them. They should keep that same consistent distance throughout the movement, not swing in and away from each other.


Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls


Seated Dumbbell Curl
Turn a Hammer Curl into a Regular Curl by simply turning the palm up as you curl.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (a chair or sturdy box can also work)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Sit at the end of a bench with good posture, feet and knees close together in front of you.
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and start with them hanging straight down at your sides, palms facing you.
  • One at a time, flex the biceps and curl the dumbbell up toward the shoulder
  • As the dumbbell rises, rotate the arm so the palm is facing up at the top
  • Follow the same path to return the dumbbell to the starting position
  • Repeat on the opposite arm and alternate back and forth until all reps are complete.

Coaching Points

By far, the biggest mistake I see with Seated Dumbbell Curls is lifters swinging the weight up and down. Stay under control of the weight throughout the entire movement, both going up and coming down.

Staying under control doesn’t just apply to your arms either, keep your torso still as well. Do not rock back and forth in an effort to lift more weight.

Basically, if you have to cheat – rocking, swinging, using momentum – to curl the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and go back to using proper form.


Zottman Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Muscles Worked

  • Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
  • Forearms (Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus & Brevis, Extensor Digitorum, Extensor Digiti Minimi, Extensor Carpi Ulnaris)

How To

  • Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Curl both dumbbells up to shoulder height with palms up.
  • Now, rotate the forearms so that palms face down and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  • Rotate the forearms again, back to palms up, and curl up again.
  • Continue this pattern until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Zottman Curls are an excellent curl variation that heavily incorporates the forearms. Curling the concentric portion with palms up allows for more weight to be able to be used to then overly stress the forearms on the eccentric.

Focus on the eccentric portion of the lift. The tempo of Zottman Curls should include at least a 3-second eccentric (on the way down).


4 x 4s Bicep Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab two dumbbells and stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Curl the left dumbbell halfway up, freezing it in place when the forearm becomes parallel to the ground.
  • Hold the left arm there while you do 4 regular dumbbell curls with the right arm.
  • Now, bring the left arm down and curl the right dumbbell up halfway and freeze it in place.
  • Hold the right arm there while you do 4 regular dumbbell curls with the left arm.
  • Now lower the right arm back down to the start.
  • Finally, do 4 regular dumbbell curls with both arms at the same time.

Coaching Points

It may take a set or two to figure out the proper weight to use for 4 x 4s. Start light and then gradually increase in weight until you find a good weight range for you.

Don’t rush through the movement! Part of the beauty of 4 x 4s is the isometric contraction of the arm being held in place halfway. If you simply try to get through the exercise as fast as possible you’re missing out on the intention of the exercise.

Keep the elbow at the side and don’t let it drift behind the torso. You can make the dumbbell much easier to hold up if you slide your elbow behind your torso. Don’t do that. Keep the elbow at your side and the dumbbell held out in front of you.


Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab two dumbbells and sit down on a bench.
  • Lay your forearms on the bench (or on your thighs) with your wrists hanging just off the front edge.
  • Allow the wrists to bend forward, dropping the hands and dumbbells toward the ground.
  • Now, flex the wrist extensors and raise the hands as high as possible while keeping the forearms connected to the bench.
  • Slowly lower the hands back to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Some beginners may find that even a 45-pound barbell with no weight on it is too heavy to be able to do Reverse Wrist Curls. If that is the case, use dumbbells or resistance bands to strengthen the wrists and forearms until you’re able to progress to a barbell.


Dumbbell Forearm Twists


Dumbbell Forearm Twist

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

How To

  • Grab dumbbells in each hand and stand with feet shoulder-width apart*.
  • Curl the dumbbells up until the elbows are at 90 degrees (forearms should be parallel to the ground).
  • Now, begin rotating the forearms – alternating between palms up and palms down positions.
  • Count each rep when palms turn up.

Coaching Points

*Forearm Twists can also be done seated with forearms resting on the thighs. Or, forearms resting on a bench. I prefer standing because it keeps the biceps more engaged during the movement.

Don’t rush through. Time under tension is important for Dumbbell Forearm Twist. Stay under control of each rep.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it through the whole list, it should be obvious at this point that dumbbells are all you really need to get in great arm workouts. Whether you’re focusing on biceps, triceps or forearms there is plenty of quality exercises to choose from.

Finally, arms aren’t the only body part that can be effectively trained with dumbbells. Make sure to check out the best dumbbell exercises for your traps here.

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