The Best Exercises for Stronger Arm Muscles (2024)

If you’re aiming to boost your upper body strength, don’t neglect your arms! Strengthening the arm muscles can go a long way when it comes to making it easier to tote around luggage, throw a football, or swing a tennis racket, as well as promoting long-term bone health.

Read on to learn more about your arms — and the best exercises to get them in shape.

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Which Muscles Make Up the Arms?

There are three main sections of the arms, namely the anterior (front), posterior (back), and shoulders, and you want to make sure you’re training all three sections, saysMecayla Froerer, an executive at the fitness technology company iFIT and a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)–certified personal trainer who is based in North Salt Lake, Utah.

In the front, you’ll find the biceps brachii (also known as the biceps), the brachialis muscle, and the coracobrachialis muscle, per StatPearls. The back of the arm contains the triceps brachii (or triceps).The deltoid muscle sits at the top of the shoulder. And the backside of the shoulder is where you’ll find the rotator cuff, which consists of four small muscles: the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the teres minor, and the subscapularis.

Each of these muscles plays its own unique and important role to help our arms move in all the various ways we use them throughout the day.

Any pushing, pulling, reaching, or swinging movement of the arms requires a different set of muscles, and training those muscles can help you do everything from carrying a bag of groceries and picking up your dog to holding a plank pose in yoga and opening a heavy door.

“By training all muscle groups of the upper body, you’ll find increased range of motion, which will aid in injury prevention,” Froerer says.

The muscles in your arm also help support your wrists and elbows. “Stronger arms help avoid increased stress and pressure put on the joints by daily tasks like scrolling on your cellphone or chopping vegetables,” saysSamantha Parker, an integrative health specialist for the U.S. Air Force and an AFAA-certified personal trainer based in Pointville, New Jersey.

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How to Make the Most of Your Arm Strength Training

Guidelines from theAmerican College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend at least two to three nonconsecutive days a week of strength training for the entire body, which includes the arms.

You’ll also need to determine how many sets and reps to do. For general muscle strength, no matter what part of your body you’re training, the ACSM recommends 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per training session, but Parker notes that you can hone it further, depending on your goals.

For instance, using lighter weights and doing more reps and sets will help build muscular endurance — essentially how long you can work a muscle without fatiguing. On the flip side, if you want to build muscle strength, you’ll want to increase the weight and decrease the reps, she says.

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Here are some other points to keep in mind any time you do upper body exercises:

Avoid locking your elbows. Locking your elbows creates a chain reaction in your body, forcing other joints (namely the wrists and shoulders) to be locked too. “You could strain the surrounding ligament, tendons, and possibly even the cartilage in the joint,” Parker says. For any arm exercise, you want to use the fullest range of motion to work muscles to their fullest potential, she adds.

Check your posture. When you get tired, your posture can start to suffer. Slumping forward causes the shoulders to internally rotate, which could lead to rotator cuff issues. If you try to lift weights in that position, you could exacerbate those issues, Parker says.

Don’t be afraid to choose a lower weight. Don’t add too much weight too quickly, Parker says. One general rule of thumb when selecting a weight? “Choose a weight you can lift while maintaining proper form but [that’s] slightly heavy enough to challenge you,” Froerer says. (A good gauge: The last two repetitions should be difficult to complete with proper form.) If you’re arching your back to finish a curl, holding your breath, or having to inch up onto your tiptoes to complete the exercise, try switching to a lighter weight.

Don’t forget to breathe. Proper breathing is an important part of any workout, so for arm exercises, be sure to exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

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The Best Exercises for Strengthening the Arms

Ready to get those arms in shape? Here are nine exercises from Froerer, plus a sample workout that incorporates all of them.

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Understanding Arm Muscles and Strength Training

When it comes to boosting upper body strength, it's essential to focus on arm muscles. Strengthening the arms not only makes daily activities easier but also promotes long-term bone health. The arm comprises three main sections: the anterior (front), posterior (back), and shoulders. Each section contains specific muscles that play unique and important roles in facilitating various arm movements. These movements include pushing, pulling, reaching, or swinging, all of which require different sets of muscles. Training these muscles can enhance range of motion and aid in injury prevention. Additionally, strong arms help support the wrists and elbows, reducing stress and pressure on the joints during daily tasks.

Guidelines for Arm Strength Training

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), it is recommended to engage in strength training for the entire body, including the arms, at least two to three nonconsecutive days a week. The ACSM suggests 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per training session for general muscle strength. However, the number of sets and reps can be adjusted based on individual goals. For instance, using lighter weights and doing more reps and sets can help build muscular endurance, while increasing the weight and decreasing the reps can help build muscle strength.

Tips for Effective Arm Exercises

When performing upper body exercises, it's important to keep certain points in mind to maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of injury. These include:

  • Avoid locking your elbows to prevent strain on surrounding ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
  • Maintain proper posture to avoid issues such as shoulder internal rotation and rotator cuff problems.
  • Choose an appropriate weight that challenges you without compromising proper form.
  • Focus on proper breathing during arm exercises, exhaling as you lift the weight and inhaling as you lower it.

Best Exercises for Strengthening the Arms

To strengthen the arms, there are various effective exercises recommended by fitness experts. These exercises target different arm muscles and can be incorporated into a comprehensive workout routine. Some of the recommended exercises include bicep curls, tricep dips, shoulder presses, and more. These exercises, when combined, provide a well-rounded approach to arm strength training.

By following these guidelines and incorporating the recommended exercises into your workout routine, you can effectively strengthen your arms and improve overall upper body strength.

The Best Exercises for Stronger Arm Muscles (2024)

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