5 best exercises for arms

5 best exercises for arms

By Linda Ericson // Personal Trainer and Operations Manager at RCSN Fitness February 2018


1. Standing barbell curl - Straight or EZ bar
This is probably the first exercise we associate with bicep training. It is an effective exercise that in addition to biceps also stimulates parts of the shoulders and forearms. From a technical point of view this is a relatively simple exercise. Once you have loaded the bar with appropriate weight you grab it with a supine grip (palms facing upwards) and fists with shoulder width apart. From this position you slowly raise the bar towards the shoulders until the bicep muscle is properly contracted. It is important that the upper body is held upright without any throwing or swinging movements. Make sure to avoid the elbow going too far backwards as it might lead to unnecessarily activation of the back of your shoulders as well as trapezius. If you notice any of this you should immediately lower the weight.

If you are striving for pure strength 4-5 sets x 6 repetitions is appropriate. With greater focus on hypertrophy and endurance, 10-15 repetitions is preferred.

2. Seated concentration curl
The previous exercise is optimal if your goal is to build mass, and if you are truly serious with your lifting you should complete your routine with this isolating dumbbell exercise that will give your biceps that extra touch. This exercise is performed with one arm at a time, sitting on a bench with your legs spread apart and the soles of your feet on the floor. While holding the dumbbell in one hand you rest the upper arm against the inside of your thigh or knee. In this position the arm is fully extended in the elbow and the dumbbell is held in a supine grip. As you lift the weight, make sure the movement is done exclusively in the elbow area and work with the dumbbell towards the front of the shoulder, fully controlled. Add some rotational movement to really squeeze the muscle. Repeat with the other arm.

Perform 3-4 sets x 8-12 repetitions.

3. Standing rope curl - Awesome for finishing up!
Drain the bicep muscle completely by using a cable machine and a rope. Attach the rope at the lowest hatch and get into position with your feet shoulder-width apart and the front of the body facing the machine. Grab the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and keep the elbows close along the side of the body. Curl the rope upwards without hurrying and be sure to contract the bicep muscle at the top of the movement, before slowly releasing the rope and returning to starting position. Do no involve and activate the shoulders. While holding your elbows locked to the side of the upper body you allow your biceps to work most efficiently at the same time as you lower the risk of injury.

This exercise is preferably performed with high numbers of repetitions with full focus on muscle contact, all the way from point A to point B. For example you can do 4 sets x 15 repetitions.


1. Close grip bench
This exercise is similar to the classic bench press even though it differs from it in two important aspects when performed to train triceps instead of chest. Here you hold the bar with a very tight grip (shoulder width apart or even closer) and your elbows, instead of facing outwards, are kept close to the sides of the upper body throughout the whole movement. You start out by holding the bar with a tight grip on straight arms. Once you have taken a deep breath, you lower the weight down to the midsection of the chest, keeping your elbows to the sides all the way down. This exercise does not only increase the actual strength in your triceps but it also helps to develop your overall ability to perform press movements.

Build both strength and a pair of well-defined triceps by executing 4 sets x 6-8 repetitions.

2. Pull-downs with rope
Attach a rope on the highest hatch level. Get into starting position by holding the rope with a neutral grip keeping the upper body straight (with a small tilt forward) and finding a 45-degree angle in the elbow. This is the angle where your triceps are under the biggest pressure. Stretch out your arms by pushing the rope downwards. Once in the absolute bottom position, squeeze the tricep muscle a bit by pushing the ends of the rope slightly to the sides. When you return to the starting position, take advantage of the negative phase by slowly returning the weight and make sure you use each and every muscle fiber.Keep the  elbows locked throughout the whole movement and avoid tipping over with the upper body.

As in the case with rope curls you perform this exercise with a high number of repetitions with full focus on muscle contact, for example 4 sets x 15 repetitions.

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