dumbbell arms exercises
Fitness

12 Most Effective Dumbbell Arms Exercises

When it comes to working your biceps, there are not a lot of training options. After all, your biceps do one thing only – they curl your hand up to your shoulder. That’s it.

So, to build biceps you gotta’ curl. If your training equipment is limited to dumbbells, your options are even more limited.

In this article, I’ve brought together a dozen of the best dumbbell arms exercises – specifically triceps and forearms – that you’ve never heard of. Make use of them to create your own workout with dumbbells. 

1. 21’s

Muscles worked

Biceps

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with a dumbbell held in each arm by your sides.
  2. Curl both arms one half of the way up and then back down. Do this 7 times.
  3. Now curl from the mid point to full contraction 7 times.
  4. Finally perform 7 full reps, for a total of 21 repetition.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 21 reps. 

Tips 

Use a slow, eccentric descent, taking 2-3 seconds to come down and 1 second on the lifting phase back to the start position. 

2. Dumbbell Supine Biceps Curl

Muscles worked

Biceps

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Lie on a flat exercise bench that has been raised to allow your arms to hang freely without touching the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands. 
  2. From  start position with your arms hanging directly down curl both arms up together to your shoulder height.
  3. Fully contract your biceps in the top position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 6-10 reps, increasing the weight on each set.

Tips 

Do not swing to bring the weight up. Lower the weight with a slow 2-3 second cadence. Be sure to get a full range of motion on every rep.

3. Dumbbell Drag Curl

Muscles worked

Biceps muscles

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart, a weight in each arm at arm’s length.
  2. Start with your arms fully extended and your hands slightly back from your hips.
  3. Drag the dumbbells up the side of your body, keeping your elbows back to full contraction.
  4. Reverse and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
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Tips 

Do not allow your hands to come forward from your body; avoid using momentum to get the weights up. keep your torso upright.

4. Dumbbell Forward Lunge Triceps Extension

Muscles worked

Triceps, quadriceps

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a pair of dumbbells in your hands at your sides.
  2. Take a lunge step forward with your right leg, simultaneously bringing your arms up overhead and bending the elbows down behind your head to fully extend the triceps.
  3. Reverse and repeat on the other side.
  4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.

Tips 

Don’t allow your elbows to flare out as you extend your arms behind your head; lunge until your rear knee almost touches the floor.

5. Dumbbell Hang Curl

Muscles worked

Biceps

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip with and and a dumbbell in your right hand. Bend your knees and lower down into a semi crouch position. Hold the dumbbell at full arm extension in from of your body in a neutral position so that your fingers are perpendicular to your body. Place your left hand on your knee.
  2. Curl the dumbbell up to full arm contraction at shoulder height, contract the biceps forcefully in the top position.
  3. Lower and repeat.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps on each arm.

Tips 

Maintain a neutral spine position throughout the movement to minimize the risk of injury. Perform the exercise slowly, taking 2-3 seconds up and 2 seconds down. Focus on getting a full range of motion. 

6. Dumbbell Zottman Preacher Curl

Muscles worked

forearms, biceps

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart and a pair of dumbbells in your hands, with palms down.
  2. Curl both weights up, twisting your hand position so that they are facing up at the top of the curl.
  3. Reverse and repeat.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Tips 

Keep your elbows in at your sides throughout the movement; squeeze the biceps tightly in the top position.

7. DB Curl w/ Isometric Lunge

Muscles worked

Biceps, Quadriceps

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your feet hip width apart.
  2. From this starting position, take a forward lunge with your left leg.
  3. In the bottom lunge position, curl your arms up to full arm contraction.
  4. Lower your arms back to full extension.
  5. Return back to the start position.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
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Tips 

Maintain an upright torso position as you perform the curl to reduce your risk of injury. Keep your hips stable throughout the exercise. 

8. Palms Up Wrist Curl

Muscles worked

Forearms

Equipment used 

Dumbbells, exercise bench

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit side-on on an exercise bench with a light pair of dumbbells in your hands and your forearms resting on your thighs with palms up and your hands just over your knees.
  2. From this initial position, extend your wrist down to fell extension.
  3. Now contract your wrists back up to full contraction.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Do not use a heavy weight or you will not be able to get a full extension and contraction.

9. Palms Down Wrist Curl

Muscles worked

Forearms

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit side-on on an exercise bench with a light pair of dumbbells in your hands and your forearms resting on your thighs with palms down and your hands just over your knees.
  2. From this starting position, extend your wrist down to fell extension.
  3. Now contract your wrists back up to full contraction.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Tips 

Don’t allow your forearms to come off your thighs. Use a lighter dumbbell to allow for a full range of motion.

10. Dumbbell Front Rotation

Muscles worked

Forearms

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with dumbbells in hand, feet flat on the floor, holding them at the end of the handles so that the base of your palms are  your against the plates.
  2. From a starting position with you arms at your sides at full extension, flex your wrists up to lift the unheld ends of the dumbbells up.
  3. Lower the dumbbells by flexing your wrists down.
  4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. 

Tips 

The only movement should be through the wrists and forearm flexors; keep your elbows in at your sides. Use light dumbbells to allow for a full range of motion. 

11. Dumbbell Wrist Rotation

Muscles worked

Forearm muscles

Equipment used 

Single dumbbell, Exercise bench

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Kneel side on to an exercise bench. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place that forearm on the bench by its bottom end.
  2. Twist from the wrist to drop the dumbbell down to the left side under control. 
  3. Bring the dumbbell back yo an upright position.
  4. Now twist from the wrist to drop the dumbbell down to the right side under control.
  5. Bring the dumbbell back to the start position.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each arm.
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Tips 

Use lighter weights and concentrate on performing the exercise slowly and under control, while getting a full range of motion.

12. Seated Cheat Hammer Curl

Muscles worked

Forearms

Equipment used 

Heavy Dumbbells

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit on an incline bench with the back support set at 30 degrees, holding a dumbbell in each hand in a neutral position.
  2. Curl the right hand side dumbbell up to your chest levels, allowing your elbows to flare out slightly as you come up.
  3. Reverse to bring the weight down to full arm extension. 
  4. Do 3 sets of 8 reps. 

Tips 

This is a mass and strength-building exercise. Use your heaviest weight on this exercise, without worrying too much about proper form.

Conclusion

You now have access to a dozen original, effective exercises for your arms with dumbbells. Create an 8-10 set dumbbell workout routine combining 2 or 3 of these exercises with reps ranging from 30 down to 6 with heavy dumbbells. Train your arms once every 5 days for maximum gains. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you build arm muscle with dumbbells?

Yes, you definitely can build arms with dumbbells. In fact, dumbbells are much better than barbells for training your biceps. That is because they allow for unilateral training where you work each bicep individually. You are able to lift more weight and your stronger side does not take over. When you use dumbbells, you are also able to supinate your wrists, which you cannot do with barbells. 

Should I lift heavy for biceps?

Yes, you should lift heavy for biceps. You should include a range of reps in your training program, from a high of 50 to a low of six. Here is an effective rep scheme over 8 sets:

50/30/15/10/8/8/6/6

On each succeeding set, increase the weight. 

Are dumbbells as good as cables for building biceps?

No, cables are not as good as dumbbells for building biceps. The advantage of cables is that they provide resistance at the start and finish of the exercise, while dumbbells do not. Cables also follow the ideal strength curve, which provides greater resistance at the start of the movement than at the end of it. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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