10 Exercises for Your Best Arm Workout

10 Exercises for Your Best Arm Workout

They go by many names: pipes, pythons, rocks, guns. Whatever you call them, athletic-looking arms — firehose thick or ropey and lean — are a hallmark of the über-fit, standing out even when you’re fully dressed.

But the benefits of effective arm workouts are more than cosmetic. “Physical strength and power are translated to the outside world through your limbs,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content. “So strong arms aren’t just important for stretching the limits of your shirtsleeves — they’re important for allowing you to more effectively perform the tasks of everyday life, like carrying groceries, lifting furniture, or sealing a deal with a firm handshake.”

Ready to build a pair worth showing off? Beachbody On Demand is the right place.

Biceps and Triceps Basics

The upper arms consist of two major muscle groups: the biceps on the front of the arm, which flex, or close, the elbow joint, and the triceps on the back of the arm, which extend, or open it. Anatomists refer to muscles like these as antagonist pairs — muscles whose actions oppose each other.

Biceps anatomy

Though it appears to be a single, continuous muscle, your biceps actually has two heads (short and long). Both of them attach separately to the scapula, and then fuse together to form the “belly” of the muscle before attaching via a tendon to the upper forearm.

In addition to flexing your elbow, the biceps also help to supinate your hand, turning it from a palm-down to a palm-up position. You can see this function at work when you twist your wrist while flexing your elbow: your biceps will “pop up” as you wrist turns inward.

Triceps anatomy

The triceps is larger than the biceps, making up two thirds of the mass of the upper arm. It’s the extensor muscle of the elbow, and it has three heads. The long head — the one closest to your torso — originates at the scapula (shoulder blade). As a result, you’ll also feel it contract in movements where the backs of your shoulders are active, like bent-over lateral raises.

The lateral and medial heads attach to the humerus (upper arm bone) near the shoulder. The medial head is located beneath the other two, which together form the classic horseshoe shape of the developed muscle. All three fuse together and attach to the elbow via the same tendon.

10 of the Best Exercises to Add to Your Arm Workouts

Below are 10 of the most effective arm exercises we know, all pulled from Beachbody On Demand‘s extensive library of workout programs and targeted arm workouts. Each of them hits your biceps or triceps slightly differently to maximize arm development.

If you aren’t following one of our programs, Thieme recommends working one or two exercises for each upper arm muscle (biceps and triceps) into your workout two or three times a week. “The growth stimulus from a strength training session lasts about 48 hours, so targeting a muscle group more than once a week will help optimize your results.”

That said, he cautions, “it’s also important not to overdo it. A smart training program, like those on Beachbody On Demand, will challenge every muscle group, including your biceps and triceps, often enough to stimulate growth without compromising recovery.”

In and out bicep curl


Appears in: P90X – Shoulders and Arms

Benefits: This move alternately stresses the two heads of each biceps muscle — long and short — with two different grip positions.

  • Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with your elbows at your sides and your palms facing forward. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked, curl the weights as close to your shoulders as you can without letting your elbows leave your sides.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Pull your shoulder blades together and rotate your arms so that the backs of your hands face your sides.
  • Keeping your arms in this externally-rotated position, curl the weights as close to your shoulders as you can without raising your elbows.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Continue alternating grip positions with each rep.

No dumbbells? Hold the handles of a resistance band and step on the center of the tubing.

Full supination concentration curl


Appears in: P90X – Shoulders and Arms

Benefits: This variation on the biceps curl creates a peak contraction of the biceps muscle, helping to create definition.

  • Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with your elbows at your sides and your palms facing in. (As in the previous move, exercise bands are also an option.) This is your starting position.
  • Curl the weight in your right hand toward your shoulder, rotating (supinating) your wrist toward the outside of your shoulder.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and repeat with the weight in your left hand.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

One arm concentration curl

Appears in: P90X – Back and Biceps

Benefits: This exercise works the biceps with the upper arm in a vertical orientation, which maximizes tension on the muscle in the fully-contracted position.

  • Assume a wide, staggered stance with your left leg forward and your left arm supported on your left thigh (as if you were about to attempt to start a lawnmower).
  • Holding a dumbbell at arm’s length with your right hand (palm facing forward), make a fist with your left hand and brace the back of your right elbow against the back of your left wrist.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

Hammer curl

Appears in: Body Beast – Bulk arms

Benefits: Switching from an underhand to a neutral grip (so your palm faces inward), increases the load on the brachialis, a muscle lying to the outside of your biceps that adds shape and definition to your upper arm.

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat, your knees spread wide, and a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Bend forward and brace the back of your right elbow against the inside of your right knee. Your right arm should be vertical, with your right palm facing toward you.
  • Keeping your upper body still, your elbow against your knee, and your palm facing inward, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
  • Pause and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

Bicep curl

Appears in: SHIFT SHOP – Strength: 25

Benefits: This classic exercise allows you to work the biceps directly using the heaviest possible weight.

  • Stand upright holding two dumbbells at arm’s length in front of your thighs, palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your back straight and your elbows locked at your sides, slowly curl the weights as close to your shoulders as possible.
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat.

EZ bar preacher curl


Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Bis and Tris

Benefits: This move targets both heads of the biceps in a mechanically weak position, allowing you to work harder using less weight, fewer reps, or both.

  • Position yourself on a preacher curl bench with your elbows bent and an EZ bar held in both hands with an underhand grip.
  • Lower the bar, stopping just before your elbows lock out.
  • Curl the bar back up to the starting position, and repeat.

Side leaning tricep extension

Appears in: P90X – Chest, Shoulder, Triceps

Benefits: This exercise both isolates the triceps and works it from a fully extended position, increasing the tension on this key upper arm muscle.

  • Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, sit sideways in an armless chair with the backrest under your left armpit.
  • Leaning against the backrest for support, press the weight in your right hand directly overhead with your palm facing forward. This is your starting position.
  • Without moving your upper arm (keep it vertical), slowly bend your elbow and lower the weight behind your head toward your left shoulder.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.

Flip grip twist kickbacks

Appears in: P90X – Shoulders and Arms

Benefits: Few other exercises trigger as much activity in all three heads of the triceps as the kickback, according to a study by the American Council on Exercise. This alternating-grip variation boosts the benefits by making it even more challenging.

  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, assume a staggered stance with your left foot forward.
  • Lower your torso until it’s 45 degrees to the floor, and then curl the dumbbells to shoulder height with your palms facing down. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and your elbows tucked, extend your arms fully behind you.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and then flip your grip, so that your palms are now facing up.
  • Extend your arms fully behind you, and then reverse the movement to bring the weights back to shoulder height.
  • Continue alternating grips with each rep.

Rope push down


Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Chest and Tris

Benefits: This machine-based move forces the triceps to work hard when your arms are fully locked out, emphasizing the long head of the muscle.

  • Attach a two-handled rope to a cable machine and set the pulley to about shoulder height.
  • Holding the handles with a neutral (palms in) grip, move backward a foot or two (feet together) to create tension on the cable, and then hinge forward with your torso about 30 degrees.
  • Without moving your upper arms, extend your arms fully toward the floor.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and repeat.

Tower Dip


Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Bis and Tris

Benefits: This challenging bodyweight move works the triceps in conjunction with the chest and shoulders.

  • Grab the handles of a dipping station and jump or step up to the starting position: feet off the floor, arms straight, ankles crossed.
  • Keeping your forearms vertical and elbows in (not flared), allow your torso to lean forward as you lower your body until your elbows form about a 90-degree angle.
  • Reverse the movement, returning to the starting position. Repeat for as many reps as possible.

Too tough? Perform the move with your hands on a sturdy chair or bench behind you and your feet on the floor.

Skull crusher press


Appears in: Insanity: The Asylum Vol. 1 – Strength

Benefits: This exercise emphasizes the long head of the triceps by working the muscle in the fully extended position.

Stand holding a single dumbbell horizontally in both hands at shoulder height, palms on the weighted ends, with your elbows tucked. This is your starting position.

  • Press the weight straight overhead.
  • Without moving your upper arms, lower the weight behind your head.
  • Reverse the movements to return to the starting position, and repeat.

Each of the above exercises is streaming right now along with their complete arm workouts at Beachbody On Demand. Sign up for a free trial and start working out at home via your TV set-top box or mobile device.

Nutrition for Arm Development

Essential to building the muscles of your upper arms — and anywhere else — is eating properly. Muscles don’t grow unless you feed them. So if building impressive guns is your objective, a balanced diet of good carbs, healthy fats, and (especially) sufficient protein is essential.

Supplementation can also assist in your arm-amplifying efforts. A shake containing approximately 20 grams of protein consumed shortly after your workout — when your muscles are most receptive — delivers the maximum dose that the average person can synthesize in a sitting. Not coincidentally, that’s the amount contained in a serving of Beachbody Performance Recover, which also contains pomegranate extract to help reduce muscle soreness.

Often overlooked when trying to maximize protein synthesis (a.k.a. muscle growth) is how much of it takes place (or at least can) while sleeping. Beachbody Performance Recharge takes advantage of those overnight hours with 20 grams of casein, a slow-digesting protein that makes steadily available the protein that’s typically in short supply during sleep.

Creatine, another supplement, has been shown to help boost muscle growth and strength, as well as recovery between sets, allowing you to do more work per workout. Beachbody Performance Creatine helps you tap into additional strength with five grams of creatine monohydrate — the purest, safest, and most effective form of the supplement — per serving.