Skip to Content

Better Arms: 17 Exercises to Build Lean Strength in Your Biceps and Triceps

You can have better arms! You will build lean strength in your biceps and triceps if you exercise them strategically.

Below is a complete arm workout comprised of 17 exercises that can be completed in under an hour.

Do this unique workout once each week and you will begin to see – and feel – positive differences in the shape, conditioning, and texture of your biceps and triceps.

In what way would you prefer to develop your arms – with size mass gains, or, lean strength and definition?

The following exercises can help you build better arms, no matter if you’re a woman who seeks long, shapely, firm muscles, or, a man who wants big, powerful muscles:

  • If definition and sinew are more important to you, lower the resistance of each exercise but increase the number of repetitions.
  • If size is more important to you, increase the resistance for each movement, even if it means you need to do fewer reps.
 
 

No matter what your specific arms goals are, remember that quality of contraction is extremely important if you want to improve your arms:

  • Emphasis is to be on the mind-to-muscle connection.
  • Visualize the muscle group you’re trying to target as you train it.
  • Deeply feel the muscle group you’re working as you work it.
  • Go slowly as you release the rep – the eccentric – instead of “taking the free ride back.”
  • When you reach the hardest part of the rep, exaggerate your peak contraction – really get in there and squeeze that muscle from the inside.
man doing hammer curl exercise

Your biceps and triceps muscles help retract and extend your forearm. They originate at the scapula bone, run down along your upper arm, and then insert into the upper part of your forearm bone, the ulna:

  • Your tricep is the muscle in the back part of your top arm that straightens your arm and forearm and rotates your palm down. It’s a three-headed muscle.
    arm muscles human anatomy
  • Your bicep is the big muscle in the front, top part of your arm that bends your arm and forearm, and rotates your palm up. It’s a two-headed muscle.

Workout for Strong, Sculpted Arms

These 17 exercises will get you started on developing and defining your biceps and triceps.

  • There is a warm-up circuit, followed by three arm workout circuits.
  • Each circuit (including the warm-up) is done twice.
  • There are several (up to six) exercises within each circuit.
  • Do each exercise within the circuit consecutively without rest, then take a 2-minute rest before repeating the circuit again.
  • After you complete your second time through a particular circuit, you move on to the next circuit in the series.
fit, mature woman resting before resuming workout

Warm-Up:

  • Straight-Arm Hanging Knee Lift with Weighted Ball
  • Straight-Arm Hanging Knee Lift at Top-Range
  • Knees Up-and-In
warm-up better arms

Straight Arms Hanging Knee Lift with Weighted Ball

  • With straight arms, grab on to an overhead bar and hang.
  • Hold a weighted ball between your feet.
  • Lift your knees to hip level.
  • Make each rep mean something! Draw your navel in tightly and try to lift your knees using the strength of your abdominals, not just your hip flexors.
  • Do 8 repetitions.
abdominals warm-up arms day
Firm your waistline, strengthen your all-important core muscles, create a tall, flexible spine and excellent posture, and repair DNA from the inside-out. In “Silver and Strong: Getting Fit After Age 50,” I explain exactly how to craft a Fitness Comeback Plan that specifically meets the needs of your unique body and lifestyle. This new course is designed in a specific sequence to help you achieve a next-level of robust health – with high-value nutritional strategies that will have an amazingly positive impact on your physique.

Straight Arms Hanging Knee Lift at Top-Range

  • After your drop the weighted ball, immediately do 8 more reps without it.
  • Only this time, start from hip level and then lift your knees up higher toward your nipples.
  • You’ll be tempted to hold your breath – do not.
better arms warm up knee ups

Knees Up-and-In

  • 40 knee lifts, quickly.
  • It’s like jogging in place, only your knees lift higher and come in toward your body’s midline.
  • Allow your arms to pump rhythmically
  • Put something on the floor – like a box, block, bar, ball, or hurdle –to encourage yourself to lift those knees high enough.

First Circuit:

  1. Hammer Dumbbell Curl with Exaggerated Top Twist
  2. Tricep Dumbbell Kickback with Palms-Up Rotation
  3. Suspension Biceps Curl with Bent Knees
  4. Suspension Overhead Tricep Extension
  5. Bicep Curl with Resistance Band and Elevated Elbows
  6. Resistance Band Overhead Tricep Extension
dumbbell hammer curls better arms

Hammer Dumbbell Curl with Exaggerated Top Twist

  • Elbows stay close to your side.
  • Palms facing in toward one another – like you’re holding a hammer.
  • As you near the top of your bicep curl, rotate the palms up and back in an exaggerated way.
  • Contract the muscle fibers of your biceps deeply at the top of the rep and exhale all the air out of your lungs.
  • 8 reps.

Tricep Dumbbell Arms Kickback with Palms-Up Rotation

  • Lean forward.
  • Keep abdominal muscles active to protect your lower back.
  • Again, the palms face toward one another – hammer-style.
  • As you near the top of your tricep extension, rotate the palms up toward the ceiling and exhale (see video).
  • 8 reps.
trx suspension bicep curls

Suspension Biceps Curl with Bent Knees

  • Bend knees, and lean back while holding your suspension straps – such as TRX.
  • The more you lean back, the harder it is.
  • Try to isolate and engage the bicep muscles as you curl the fists toward your shoulders.
  • 10 reps.

Suspension Overhead Tricep Arms Extension

  • After doing your suspended biceps curls, simply turn around and face the other direction to begin suspended tricep extensions.
  • Position yourself in a way that feels best to your elbows. I like to try to keep my elbows facing in.
  • The more you lean forward, the more challenging the exercise becomes.
  • See the video accompanying this article to see this particular exercise in action.
  • 10 reps.
resistance band curls better arms

Bicep Curl with Resistance Band and Elevated Elbows

  • Secure a resistance band, then use it to do curls.
  • This exercise is effective because as you approach peak contraction, the resistance of the band increases.
  • During the eccentric part of the movement, return with straightened arms slowly – this will increase your results.
  • 8 reps.
resistance band overhead tricep extensions arms day

Resistance Band Overhead Tricep Extension

  • After doing banded curls, simply turn and face the other direction to begin your banded tricep extensions.
  • 8 reps.

Second Circuit – for Triceps:

  1. Tricep Pushdown with V-Bar
  2. Tricep Bench Dip
  3. SkullCrusher with Rest at Bottom
  4. Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown (Two Parts: Elbows Low-and-Close – Elbows High-and-Wide)
  5. Close-Grip Dumbbell Press
Mature man doing cable triceps pushdown exercise

Tricep Pushdown with V-Bar

  • This particular exercise is a staple among bodybuilders on Arms Day.
  • Be explosive while pushing down, and slow on the way back up.
  • 10 reps.

Tricep Bench Dip

  • The trick to an effective bench dip is to keep your hips very close to the bench.
  • If it feels okay on your elbows, point your elbows back and together – instead of allowing them to flare out.
tricep dips fitness over 50
  • Only the backs of your heels touch the floor.
  • Keep your glutes and abdominals activated during the movement – this will help take further pressure off of your elbow joints.
  • Inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up (for some reason, this is one of those exercises in which people are inclined to hold their breath).
  • 10 reps.
skullcrushers arms day

SkullCrusher with Pause at Bottom

  • At the bottom of each repetition, rest the dumbbells on the floor a second, before resuming.
  • Anchor your lower back into the floor the entire time.
  • 10 reps.
reverse grip tricep pushdown

Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown (Two Parts: Elbows Low-and-Close – Elbows High-and-Wide)

  • This exercise has two parts.
  • First, do six “pushdowns” (even though your grip is reversed and it might feel more like a “pulldown”) with your elbows attached to your side.
  • Straighten your arms low, toward your legs.
  • Then, do six more reps, but this time let your elbows leave your side. Your arms come up and flare out as they straighten.
  • See the video accompanying this article to see this particular exercise in action.
close-grip dumbbell press triceps

Close-Grip Dumbbell Press

  • The sides of the dumbbells brace against one another.
  • Push your arms up and down over your chest.
  • Keep your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Pull your waistline in, and push your lower back into the ground.
  • Explosive on the way, slowly on the way back down.
  • 10 reps.

Third Circuit – for Biceps:

  1. Preacher Dumbbell Curl
  2. Leaning Dumbbell One-Arm Hammer Curl
  3. Standing Wide-Grip Barbell Curl
  4. Cable Hammer Curl
  5. Close-Grip Barbell Curl with Elevated Elbows
  6. Reverse Barbell Curl
preacher curls

Preacher Dumbbell Arms Curl

  • Commons mistake during the preacher curl is to have the seat either too far up or too far down.
  • Another common mistake is to allow the shoulders to round forward too far.
  • If you can glance in a mirror and get a side-view, it will be easier to make corrections to your form. Or, have a buddy snap a phone pic.
  • 10 reps.
eaning dumbbell hammer curl bicep

Leaning Dumbbell One-Arm Hammer Curl

  • Lean over to one side, while pulling your belly button in tightly.
  • Palm facing in, hammer-style.
  • Experiment with tempo, and depth of muscular contraction. Concentrate, for maximum results!
  • 8 reps, each side.
man doing barbell curls

Standing Wide-Grip Barbell Curl

  • Another bodybuilding staple. Remember to keep your knees slightly soft. No locked knees!
  • 10 reps.
Man does cable bicep exercise

Cable Hammer Arms Curl

  • Palms face in.
  • Try to keep your elbows bolted to your sides, if you can.
  • 8 reps.
close grip barbell curl better arms

Close-Grip Barbell Curl with Elevated Elbows

  • Unlike those Standing Barbell Curls you did earlier, this time your elbows are lifted up in the air, and your grip is much closer.
  • 8 reps only, but make each one worthy.
reverse grip bicep barbell curl

Reverse Barbell Arms Curl

  • Your hands are farther apart on this one, and your palms face down.
  • 8 reps.
better arms biceps triceps lean strength

Better Arms

Get sculpted arms! This complete arm workout is comprised of 3 warm-up movements followed by 17 bicep or tricep exercises. The purpose is to improve your arm strength while increasing definition and improving shape. Workout takes under 1 hour.

Tools

  • weighted ball
  • small hurdle
  • dumbbells
  • TRX straps
  • resistance band
  • cable machine with V-bar, stir-up, and rope attachments
  • regular bench
  • preacher bench
  • barbell
  • curl bar

Instructions

Do this unique workout once each week and you will begin to see – and feel – positive differences in the shape, conditioning, and texture of your biceps and triceps:

  1. Straight-Arm Hanging Knee Lift with Weighted Ball (WARM-UP)
  2. Straight-Arm Hanging Knee Lift at Top-Range (WARM-UP)
  3. Knees Up-and-In (WARM-UP)
  4. Hammer Dumbbell Curl with Exaggerated Top Twist
  5. Tricep Dumbbell Kickback with Palms-Up Rotation
  6. Suspension Biceps Curl with Bent Knees
  7. Suspension Overhead Tricep Extension
  8. Bicep Curl with Resistance Band and Elevated Elbows
  9. Resistance Band Overhead Tricep Extension
  10. Tricep Pushdown with V-Bar
  11. Tricep Bench Dip
  12. SkullCrusher with Rest at Bottom
  13. Reverse Grip Tricep Pushdown (Two Parts: Elbows Low-and-Close – Elbows High-and-Wide)
  14. Close-Grip Dumbbell Press
  15. Preacher Dumbbell Curl
  16. Leaning Dumbbell One-Arm Hammer Curl
  17. Standing Wide-Grip Barbell Curl
  18. Cable Hammer Curl
  19. Close-Grip Barbell Curl with Elevated Elbows
  20. Reverse Barbell Curl

Notes

FOR WOMEN: If definition and sinew are more important to you, lower the resistance of each exercise but increase the number of repetitions.

FOR MEN: If size is more important to you, increase the resistance for each movement, even if it means you need to do fewer reps.

Executed properly with good form, the above arm exercises can help to give you strong, chiseled arm muscles and improve your overall physical conditioning.

The entire workout can be done in under 1 hour.

As always, ask your medical doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

If you’re reading this and you happen to be over the age of 50, be mindful of your joints when beginning a new workout.

 

Pin this article to look at again later:

senior athlete has better arms

Sometimes the knees, shoulders, or hips can act up and that means exercises must be modified.

If a particular exercise causes pain in a joint, don’t do that exercise – do a gentle mobility drill instead.

Keep in mind that many people have found switching to an advanced anti-inflammatory diet has helped them to dramatically reduce discomfort in their joints.

Special thanks to Ákos Farkas and Jonathan Morales for their help with this article.
 

older man with healthy metabolism exercising
← Previous
8 Ways to Turn Your Metabolism into a Fat-Burning Furnace
fit man on pilates reformer
Next →
Pilates Is Uniquely Effective Workout for Mature Men
Comments are closed.
Skip to Instructions