Best Arm Workout With The GodFather Of Bodybuilding 

October 19, 2020

By Troy Adashun


Today's workout features the best arm exercises athletes and fitness enthusiasts everywhere use to build their biceps and triceps.

Many of the best arm exercises come from my role model Charles Glass, who's still going strong after nearly 40 years of training. One of the most sought-after trainers in bodybuilding, he's trained everyone from The Rock to several Mr. Olympia winners.

Troy training volumes

My biceps are really stubborn to grow and literally the only thing that has worked is the Balloon Method. In 2 years of Balloon Method workouts my arms have blown up.

Biceps and triceps are notoriously stubborn and difficult to grow, but not for lack of working out. You need arm exercises that work all of your muscle groups efficiently without putting undue stress on your biceps and triceps.

If you want the best arm workouts, you're going to need to use a workout template that is intensive enough for strength and growth.

These are high-volume arm exercises, and they're designed to work your biceps and your triceps together in one intense workout session you can do every week. Here's a video breakdown of all the arm exercises you'll do and how many sets and reps you'll complete.

Getting Warmed Up for Your Arm Workout

Research suggests that warming up before exercise has a variety of benefits including improved blood circulation, increased flexibility, and a lower risk of injury. The best warm-ups should include dynamic movements to simulate the movements of the workout.

shirtless muscular african man jumping with skipping rope

A dynamic warm-up is a series of movements that promotes muscle activation and increased blood flow. A static warm-up is seen as a series of stretches or exercises to increase range of motion and mobility. Incorporate both types of warmups to loosen yourself up and keep your injury risk as low as possible.

For example, start with some light jogging and full-body exercises like jumping jacks or jump rope. You can then do a series of deep squats or push-ups to get your body ready for heavier weightlifting.

A common principle is that a good warm-up should last about 10 to 15 minutes. A beginner's workout can last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and the longer a person trains, the more they will need to stretch out.

Best Arm Exercises for Your Biceps

These arm workouts hit your biceps the hardest. As with any of your muscle groups, make sure to balance these arm exercises with your shoulders and other groups to develop and tone your muscles consistently each week. You don't just want big arms—you want even muscle tone throughout your entire body!

Barbell Swoop Curl

Equipment

Barbell Set

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

This is a great exercise to focus on that all-important full range of motion. The "swoop curl" is where you perform a standard barbell curl but with the emphasis on lifting your elbows upward and bringing the bar all the way to your forehead.

Swoop curls are an incredible bicep builder, but as a beginner, you should be focusing on smaller moves for a while until your muscles get used to the heavier ones. In this video, we detail a variation of the barbell bicep curl in which we "scoop" all the way up to the forehead before curling with a fully extended arm. This exercise is a little more difficult than a regular bicep curl, but it's definitely beneficial for both bodybuilder and powerlifter biceps.

Elevated Bicep Curl

Equipment

Bicep Curl Machine

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

The bicep curl machine is an important and versatile tool. It provides an intense contraction of the biceps, and it also helps you keep your elbows up while lifting. Proper use of this machine allows for one to control the speed and intensity of the weight being lifted.

The machine-assisted elevated bicep curl is a great arm exercise to develop the short head of your biceps. It can be challenging to load and perform safely with heavyweights in the early stages of your training. Focus on smooth control with your elbows close to your side and increase your load slowly over several workouts.

Dumbbell Curl and Press

Equipment

Dumbbell Set

Sets

3

Reps

10

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Start with a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Choose a weight that will place you right at muscle failure. To start, keep your elbows tucked tightly against your sides and your upper arm parallel with your torso. Keep your core nice and tight. Then bend your right elbow, and curl the weight towards the ceiling until it is as close to your torso as possible.

Cable Machine Biceps Curl

Equipment

Cable Machine

Sets

3

Reps

10

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

This is an old-school strength-training exercise for the biceps. Although it can be challenging, you'll find that most people have no problem completing the motion. Start by standing in front of a cable machine with your palms facing forward, pushing the handles together. Your arms should be straight and your elbows tight to your sides while squeezing your biceps and bracing your core. Then, squeeze at the top, then lower.

Incline Bicep Curls

Equipment

Dumbbell Set, Incline Bench

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Dumbbell incline curls are important arm exercises in your core workouts. The key is form, making sure to keep your elbows behind your chest the entire time. Doing between 8 and 12 reps will target the long head of the biceps, aka the bicep peak. The main thing you want to avoid during this set is bouncing your upper arm up and down and using momentum from your wrists or elbows to assist with the lift, keeping the motion even throughout all 12 reps.

Lateral Raise

Equipment

Dumbbell Set

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Also called the fly, the lateral raise is an excellent exercise in which the hands and arms move through an arc while the elbow stays fixed in place. This arm exercise helps to strengthen the external rotators of the shoulder and improve muscular strength and endurance.

Stand or sit with dumbbells in each hand, keeping the elbows bent and your upper arm parallel to the floor. Lift weights up to the side until your arms are fully extended. Then slowly lower weights back down to their original position.

It’s worth noting that moving too quickly in this exercise is counterproductive since it forces you to strain as you push the weight out while letting gravity assist you as you pull the weight back in. Move the weight slowly and evenly throughout all 12 reps for best results.

EZ Bar Curls

Equipment

Free-weight EZ Bar

Sets

5

Reps

12-14

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Another classic! Instead of a barbell and dumbbells, use a free-weight EZ Bar (or one with a cable machine if that's all you've got) to do some curls.

Your ideal EZ bar curl should start with a weight that is around a few dozen pounds lighter than your bench press. Grab the bar with both hands (palms facing up) and curl your arms until the bar reaches your chest. Keep your elbows tucked in as close to your chest as you can.

Best Arm Exercises for Your Triceps

These are the best arm exercises for your triceps. We recommend working these arm exercises in tandem with the arm exercises for your biceps listed above to build your biceps, triceps, and full upper body in unison.

Tricep Pressdown

Equipment

Cable Machine

Sets

5

Reps

12-15

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

The tricep pressdown is an efficient and effective way to work the outer head of the tricep. But most people don't do it correctly.

Watch the video above carefully, and pay close attention to my hands. Notice how I'm keeping my hands straight?

Make sure you keep your hands and wrist straight at the bottom of the lift. Doing so will allow you to isolate the triceps properly for these workouts to build the right part of the muscle.

Tricep Dips

Equipment

Bench, Stairs, or Couch

Sets

5-8

Reps

10-20

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Sit on the edge of a box, feet shoulder-width apart and planted firmly so you don't slip. Grip the edge of the box with your hands also shoulder-width apart, knuckles facing forward. Extend your left leg and lift off the box. While keeping your hips level, return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Tricep Pushups

Equipment

none

Sets

1-3, timed

Reps

As many as possible

Another variation on the standard pushup, the triceps pushup works your arms and shoulders. To do it, lay on the floor in the plank position with hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your elbows slightly bent and back straight, push up until your chest touches the floor and then start to lower. Lower yourself down until your elbows are slightly bent and your chest is almost touching the ground. Then push back up.

Incline Skull Crushers

Equipment

Straight Bar Set or EZ Bar, Incline Bench

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

There are myriad exercises to build the long head of the triceps, but the incline skull crusher is one of the best. It's a fantastic exercise that will give your arms a lot of mass and strength.

The incline skull crusher is one of the best exercises you can do to build the long head of the triceps and get thicker arms, but it’s also a great exercise to improve the flexibility of the neck. The incline skull crusher is performed by lying down on an incline bench with your head facing down.

Incline Bench Press

Equipment

Straight Bar Weight Set, Incline Bench

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Lie on an incline. Choose a bench that is fully adjustable, and set the angle to between 15 and 30 degrees for an optimal arm-building workout. A higher angle will work your shoulders more than your triceps.

Grip the bar with your palms facing away from you. Using a shoulder-width grip, lift the bar up from the rack, hold it straight out in front of your shoulders, and then break at the top.

Cable-Rope Tricep Extension

Equipment

Cable Machine

Sets

3

Reps

11-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Attach a rope to a cable stack's high cable column and stand on the floor. Grab the rope with both hands, palms facing out, and press your elbows forward slightly.

Extend the arms back, keeping your elbows are parallel to the floor. Slowly return while maintaining control—don't let gravity do the work for you.

Best Arm Exercises for Your Shoulders

Don't make the crucial mistake of doing isolated arm workouts without building your shoulders and upper back. These are the best arm exercises for increasing your shoulder strength naturally while your biceps and triceps get bigger.

Single-Arm Push Press

Equipment

Dumbbell Set

Sets

3-4

Reps

10

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

The one-arm press is a compound movement that requires a lot of balance, coordination, and core strength. By using one arm you develop balanced shoulder and core strength that can help protect your shoulders from injuries like rotator cuffs. It allows for a greater range of motion and is safer for shoulder health.

Get a dumbbell in one hand and look up at it as you get it into position over your head. Then slowly lower your hips into a half-squat until your elbows are past your knees. Push up from the knees and use your momentum from this motion to drive the weight overhead while keeping your head upright. Slowly return to the starting position and maintain tension as you finish the set.

Dumbbell Row

Equipment

Dumbbell Set, Flat Weight Bench

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Set up a sturdy bench and place a dumbbell on the floor to one side. Grab the far side of the bench with your left hand, then bend over so you're parallel with the ground. Grab the dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip, then hold it out in front of you with an extended arm. Keep your back straight as you keep your arm extended and your elbow bent.

Overhead Extension

Equipment

Dumbbell Set

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in front of you. Raise the weight above your head, stretching your arms straight out in front of you. Slowly lower the weight back behind your head, making sure to not hyperextend your elbows. Once your arms are parallel to the floor, use a controlled motion to bring the weight back up to the starting position.

Best Arm Exercises for Your Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps Together

Now let's hit the best arm exercises for your entire upper body. Don't worry, your back and chest are going to get plenty of attention from these arm exercises, too.

Plank Pushups

Equipment

None

Sets

1-3, timed

Reps

As many as possible

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Lie on the floor in a high plank. Start with your palms facing forward, hands shoulder-width apart, legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged. Keeping your arms extended to the front at a 90-degree angle, lower your chest to the floor then push through the palms of your hands to extend your arms and rise back up.

Reverse Fly

Equipment

Dumbbell Set

Sets

3-5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Stand erect with your feet at shoulder- width and hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length. With your torso straight, hinge forward over the weights until you're almost parallel to the ground. The weight should hang straight down, arms at the sides. Holding your posture, lift the weights above your head until they're outstretched at arm's length.

Alternate sets by reversing the exercise, stepping forward with your left foot instead.

Hammer Curls

Equipment

Dumbbell Set

Sets

4-5

Reps

12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

One of the best arm exercises for building bicep and tricep muscle mass is the dumbbell hammer curl. The hammer curl can target additional muscles in the upper and lower arm for greater definition and increased strength. It also helps build wrist stability and improves grip strength.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. This will help to get a perfect form and also strengthen your core muscles. Grip a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing towards you, elbows close to your body. Slowly curl the weights up, squeezing at the top of the movement. Pause at the top and hold for a second. Slowly lower the weights back down.

Pullovers

Equipment

Dumbbell Set, Flat Weight Bench

Sets

5

Reps

8-12

Rest Time

60-75 seconds

Grab a dumbbell with both hands, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep the elbows slightly bent and soft. Keep a strong back and core while you inhale and raise the weight. Extend the weight back and over your head, and hold at the top position for 3–4 seconds.

Cooling Down After Doing Your Arms Workout

Any fitness fanatic knows that it's important to stretch the muscle groups that you work out. To reduce the risk of injury and lower your risk of repetitive strain injuries (like tendonitis), it's necessary to stretch your upper body muscle groups properly after your workout.

The best arm exercises are the most intense, so to cool off, here are some great stretches for the upper body that you can do after every workout day.

Overhead Arm Stretch

After a workout, you feel muscle soreness. You need to stretch those triceps! Bring your right arm overhead, then drop your forearm behind you so your right hand lands between your shoulder blades. Place your left hand on your bent elbow and put pressure on your right arm until you feel a stretch.

Seated Bicep Stretch

After a hard workout, it's beneficial to focus on your biceps and forearms. To stretch each muscle, place your hands behind you with your fingers pointing away from your body. Inch forward so that the muscles in your arms feel a nice stretch. Hold for 30 seconds or as needed.

Simple Chest Stretch

When you use your chest muscles for an extended period of time, they might get a little tight. To keep these important muscles working well, do this easy chest stretch after every workout.

Stand tall with your fingers locked behind your back. Slowly start to push your arms away from your body and up as your chest widens and stretches. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds keeping your lower back nice and straight.

Common Mistakes and Pitfalls To Avoid

Poor technique is the most common issue that impedes progress with even the best arm exercises out there. Improper form and shoddy technique are the biggest culprits of muscle-related injury and excess muscle stress. Don't cheat yourself out of bigger gains and better health by cutting corners with your technique.

Curls

Troy doing dumbbell drag curls at the gym

The most common mistakes people make when performing a dumbbell curl are relying too much on the use of momentum, and not activating their muscles. It's crucial to maintain smooth and consistent control of the bar all the way through the exercise to get the most benefit out of the motion.

Improper dumbbell curl form places excess strain on your wrists and elbows which will drain your stamina in the gym much faster and eventually lead to joint injuries. If you're feeling more tension in your joints than your biceps when you do a dumbbell curl, stop immediately and check your form again.

Overhead Press

Overhead Tricep Press

One common mistake when performing a press is to press too far away from the shoulder. Pushing away from the shoulder can damage the rotator cuff muscles. To avoid this, you want to keep your lower back straight to help keep your shoulders aligned throughout each rep.

Another rookie mistake is to not finish with a full extension of their arm. Doing so can lead to strain in your elbow and can cause injury. Extend your arm fully through the end of every repetition. Just be careful not to hyperextend your elbows.

Either of these mistakes can lead to you twisting your spine while pressing overhead. This will disengage your abs and cause them not to brace correctly for stability and control of movements or weight.

To avoid this, check the position of your back and make sure your arms are straight before you start your first rep. Build good habits by training your muscle memory slowly and constantly monitoring your form all throughout your workouts.

Bench Press

Troy lowering the weights during a dumbbell bench press

There are three big problems beginners have at the bench.

First, if you want to reach your best weight, don't flare out your elbows.

Elbow flare can get in the way of your full range of motion, especially if you use your triceps to help with the movement. This could lead to shoulder pain and muscle injuries such as biceps tendonitis or rotator cuff issues.

Another common mistake? Pressing with your hands too close together or too far apart. This can lead to a lack of shoulder stability and cause you to lose the pressing strength you need to put up big numbers.

Relaxed wrists are a problem, too. When your wrist isn't properly braced, it will cause dissipation of all power exerted in the press, which can lead to little to no gains.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that lazy wrists can lead to injury. Floppy wrists are a quick way to turn the best arm exercises into the worst arm injuries. Keeping your wrists straight during lifting will help you experience a greater range of motion with less fatigue.

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