If the idea of sweating it out at the gym or waiting in line for a fitness class has you skipping your arm workout, you’re not alone. While exercising outside of the home might be a good fit for some people, others say it’s why they can’t seem to fit resistance training in at all.
Fortunately, you don’t need a gym membership to get an excellent arm workout. By combining dumbbell, kettlebell, exercise band, and bodyweight exercises, you can strengthen and tone your arms while targeting your core muscles — all from the comfort of your own home.
Arm muscles you can work at home
Some of the exercises included in this article not only work your arm muscles but also your core.
Your arms are home to the biceps brachii, brachialis, and coracobrachialis, which are all in the front of your arm.
The back of your arm contains the triceps brachii. And don’t forget your forearm muscles, which include the muscles in your lower arm. These muscles work together to perform flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction (1).
Your core muscles comprise several muscle groups around your midsection, including the internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, iliacus, and psoas major (2Trusted Source).
What you need for this workout
Some of the exercises included below rely on your body weight only, while others use external resistance like a set of dumbbells, resistance bands, or kettlebells.
You can always swap out one piece of equipment for another. For example, if the exercise calls for a kettlebell, use dumbbells if that’s all you have.
To maximize muscle gain, aim to train your arms at least 2 days per week. Hitting each body part at least twice a week promotes better hypertrophic outcomes compared with training only once a week.
This article is broken up into sections or mini-workouts. Each section can serve as one workout, or you can choose a few exercises from each section to create a longer routine.
Dips are a versatile bodyweight exercise. They primarily target the triceps but also recruit the shoulders and chest muscles. You can perform dips while sitting on the floor or using a chair, stair, or bench. If you have shoulder issues, it’s best to avoid this move.
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet firmly touching the floor. Your hands should be palms down and under your shoulders, resting on the edge of the chair next to your hips.
- Tighten your glutes and lift your hips off of the chair until your arms are straight.
- Bend your elbows and lower your body as low as you can until you start to feel your shoulders or back start to round forward.
- Press your hands into the chair and use your triceps muscles to push yourself to the starting position.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.
- Consider the inchworm your one-stop move for maximum total-body benefits. It not only strengthens your arms, shoulders, core, and lower body but also boosts your heart rate. Plus, you get a nice stretch in your hamstring muscles.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on the floor.
- Keeping your spine as neutral as possible with your core tucked in tight, walk your hands forward. Your heels will lift off of the floor, and your legs will stay straight as you walk your hands forward into a high plank position.
- Pause and reverse the movement by beginning to walk your hands back toward your feet.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10 reps.
- Stand up in between sets.
Chaturanga (low plank)
- The Chaturanga is a variation of the standard plank that targets the biceps muscles more than other plank positions.
- Start in a traditional plank pose with your core engaged, hands under your elbows, and your elbows close to your body.
- Roll forward on your toes and bend your elbows until your arms form a 90-degree angle. Your elbows should lightly touch your rib cage, and your body should be in a straight line.
- Hold for 20–30 seconds, then press back up to a high plank position.
- Perform this pose 1–2 times.
Cardio kickboxing moves like punches increase cardiovascular health, boost upper body strength and stamina, and give your core an excellent workout.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Slightly bend your knees and bring your arms in front of your body with your elbows bent and your hands in a fist.
- Your hands should be right below your jawline.
- Engage your core, tighten your fists and biceps, and extend your right arm across your body in a punching motion.
- Once extended, pause and tighten your tricep muscle.
- Pull your arm back toward your body, keeping your bicep muscle engaged, then punch on the other side.
- If you want to fully fatigue one arm at a time, punch with your right arm 15 times before changing to your left arm.
- Do 2–3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
Dumbbell arm workout at home
Standing overhead triceps extension
The tricep extension is an isolation exercise that targets the back of your arm (aka the triceps).
Performing this move while standing also pulls in your core muscles to help promote balance and stability, but if balance is an issue, you can do this exercise while sitting on a bench. Keep the weight light and focus on the number of reps.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Bring both arms up to the ceiling, and then bend your elbows to 90 degrees. The dumbbells will point down, and your elbows will point up.
- Engage your core muscles and squeeze your triceps to press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended.
- Pause at the top.
- Slowly return the weight to behind your head and repeat.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps. To further challenge balance and core stability, do a single-arm extension on your right side before changing to your left side.
The biceps are a big player in arm strength. But targeting the muscles a bit lower — the forearm muscles — can make daily tasks like opening a jar or carrying a heavy suitcase easier by increasing your grip strength.
Doing so also helps boost your lifting power in the gym. This move requires strict form. Avoid going heavy and focus on a higher number of reps.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms at your sides, and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep your elbows close to your body and your palms facing out.
- Curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders.
- Pause and flip your hands so your palms are facing down (overhand grip), and slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position. You will feel this in your forearms.
- Turn your hands back to a palms-out position (underhand grip) and repeat.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.
Bicep curl to overhead press
Combining two moves into one exercise saves time and increases the intensity of your workout. The biceps curl and shoulder press are an excellent combination to add to an upper-body routine.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Hold dumbbells of a light to moderate weight in each hand with your palms facing out.
- Curl the weights toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body. When the dumbbells reach shoulder height, rotate your hands so your palms face out.
- Press the weights overhead, directly over your shoulders.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height and turn your palms toward you. Continue lowering the weights until you reach the starting position.
- Do 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.
- Close-grip dumbbell press
A traditional chest press movement relies on the pectoral (chest) muscles to do most of the work. Yet, when you move your hands to a closer grip, you change the emphasis to the triceps muscle. That said, make sure to choose a lighter weight than you would use for a chest press.