The 17 Best Arm Exercises for Women
What are the best arm exercises for women? We have them all, plus a plan to have you feeling stronger in a few short weeks.
The workout designed to build strength in your arms
Choose eight arm exercises below to target various muscle groups. Complete 8 to 12 repetitions, and two to three sets. Perform the workout three times per week, and you’ll feel a difference in strength in about two weeks.
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Best Arm Exercises: Lateral Raise (aka Side Raise)
- Stand tall with knees slightly bent. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang by your sides, palms facing in.
- Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you raise your arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with shoulders (make sure your palms are facing the floor).
- Lower your arms; complete 8 to 12 reps.
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Best Arm Exercises: Push-Ups
Works: pectorals, deltoids (shoulders)
- Lie belly down on the floor, with your feet roughly 15-20 centimeters apart. Place your palms flat on the ground and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your body straight and long, come up onto your toes and lift your body off the floor with your arms until they are fully extended. Slowly bend your arms at the elbows and lower your chest towards the floor.
- Stop roughly 10-15 centimeters before touching the ground with your belly. Try to keep your back and legs straight and in a single plane.
- Push back up into the original position. That’s one push-up.
- If this is too hard, do the exercise with your knees on the floor. Or even simpler, do the exercise standing, using a wall. Start with your feet roughly 50 centimeters from the wall.
- Aim for doing three sets of 8-12 reps.
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Best Arm Exercises: Triceps Push-Up
Works: pectorals, deltoids, core
- Get into a push-up position with your arms straight but with knees on the floor and feet in the air. Hands should be under your chest and closer together than in a regular push-up.
- Tighten abs and bend arms, bringing chest toward the floor. Keep upper arms close to your sides and back straight. Elbows should point behind, not out.
- Straighten arms to the starting position; repeat for 8 to 12 reps or as many as you can do.
Best Arm Exercises: Overhead Extension
Works: triceps, shoulders, upper back
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, gripping the dumbbell with both of your hands.
- Reach your arms overhead, holding the dumbbell vertically. Keep wrists straight. Bend your elbows, lowering the dumbbell behind your head. Keep your upper arms close to your head and elbows pointing toward the ceiling.
- Straighten your arms upward; repeat to complete 8 to 12 reps.
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Best Arm Exercises: Biceps Curl
Works: biceps, forearms
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, grasping a dumbbell in your hand.
- With palm facing forward, bend your elbow and pull the weight up towards your shoulders.
- Lower your arm. Complete 8 to 12 reps (and do the same on the other arm).
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Best Arm Exercises: Dumbbell Row
Works: shoulders, upper back
- Hold a dumbbell in your hand and get on one hand and knee on a bench. Keep your back straight; the elbow should be slightly bent and your palm facing inward. (Make sure to align bent knee under hips and hand under the right shoulder.)
- Tighten the abdominal muscles. Squeeze shoulder blades together and lift the weight upwards until the upper arm is parallel to the floor and elbow is slightly behind you.
- Return to start and finish the set. Do 8 to 12 reps, and switch sides.
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Best Arm Exercises: Bench Press
Works: pectorals, shoulders, upper back
- Lie on your back, on a weight-lifting bench, and plant both feet firmly on the floor.
- Reach up and grab the barbell with both hands.
- Pull the barbell down toward your chest, then push it away from you. Do 8 to 12 repetitions using as much weight as you can.
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Best Arm Exercises: Two-Arm Kettlebell Swing
Works: Hamstrings, glutes, abs and shoulders
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms hanging relaxed in front of you, and holding the kettlebell with both hands.
- Bend your knees and lower the kettlebell down between your legs.
- In one quick movement, come out of the squat by straightening legs while swinging arms forward to eye level. The kettlebell should feel weightless at the top of this movement.
- Repeat for one minute. (Instead of a one-minute time, you can also choose to do 8-12 reps of this arm exercise.)
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Best Arm Exercises: Single-Arm Push-Press
Works: Legs, glutes and shoulders
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold kettlebell in your right hand with fist close to chest, elbow bent and tucked into body. (Allow the kettlebell to rest on your forearm throughout this movement.)
- Lower body into a full squat, keeping abs tight.
- Quickly drive through heels out of the squat while simultaneously pushing the kettlebell up in the air by straightening the arm (at the top, your palm will face forward). Do for 30 seconds, then switch to left hand for 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence once more.
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Best Arm Exercises: Plank to Push-Up
Works: Core, shoulders, arms
- Start in a high plank position (on your hands instead of your elbows) with your arms directly underneath your shoulders and your core muscles engaged.
- Lift one arm up and place your elbow down, followed by the other arm so you are on your elbows (traditional plank).
- Return to starting position by lifting one elbow up at a time and placing your hands back in the original position, until you are back to a high plank position. Do as many as you can in two minutes.
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Best Arm Exercises: Dumbbell Curl and Press
Works: Biceps, shoulders
- Stand holding both dumbbells next to your hips with feet shoulder-width apart.
- With palms facing toward your body, curl arms up to your shoulders.
- Continue to push both arms up toward the ceiling, pausing for a second when your arms are fully extended before returning to starting position.
- Do 8-12 reps.
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Best Arm Exercises: Dumbbell Kickback
- Start by holding dumbbells in both hands; bend forward from your hips, maintaining a straight spine and keeping your chest up. Keep neck aligned with your back so you are gazing at the floor slightly ahead of you. Bend elbows, keeping your upper arms alongside your body.
- Extend your arms one at a time behind you and squeeze your triceps muscle for a moment before returning to starting position.
- Do 8-12 reps on each side.
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Best Arm Exercises: Dumbbell Punch
Works: Entire upper body
- Hold dumbbells while standing with feet shoulder-width apart and knees soft (slightly bent).
- Punch your arms out in front of you one at a time for one minute; as you alternate back and forth, keep dumbbells at shoulder level. Avoid jerking your body, but do allow your hips to move naturally as you punch.
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Best Arm Exercises: Triceps Dips
Works: biceps, triceps, shoulders
- Sit on the edge of a bench, knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet planted on floor.
- Grip the bench, hands on either side of your hips.
- Push glutes off the bench and lower body two or three inches down, bending elbows (keep elbows close together).
- Then raise body back to starting position.
- Do 8-12 reps. (To increase the challenge, hold one weight between knees or extend legs out further.)
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Best Arm Exercises: Tricep Dips with Single Leg Extension
Works: biceps, triceps, shoulders, core, glutes
This arm exercise is a more challenging version of the previous Triceps Dip.
- Sit on the edge of a box with feet planted on the ground.
- Grip the edge of the box, knuckles facing forward, a place hands shoulder width apart.
- Extend one leg and lift off the box. Lower your body in a controlled motion bending your elbows at 90-degrees.
- Keeping hips level and elbow close to your torso, push back up and repeat.
- Do 8-12 reps.
Tip: Instead of a box, do this on a park bench or a set of stairs.
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Best Arm Exercises: Pullovers
Works: Upper back, sides of torso, backs of shoulders, backs of upper arms
- Lie face up, holding one dumbbell securely in both hands, arms reaching toward the ceiling and dumbbell aligned over your chest. Bend your legs, feet on the floor and knees pointing up.
- With abs tight and a firm grip on the dumbbell, slowly extend your arms over your head and behind you, keeping your elbows slightly bent and upper arms close to your ears.
- When your arms are about parallel to the floor, return to starting position. Do eight to 12 repetitions.
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Best Arm Exercises: Back Fly
Works: Back and middle of shoulders, upper and mid-back
- With a medium dumbbell in each hand, step your right foot forward about two feet. (Next time you do this workout, step forward with your left foot.) Bend your front leg into a semi-lunge and hinge forward slightly from the waist. Keep back straight, abs tight and body weight slightly forward. Roll your shoulders back and down.
- Straighten your arms down toward the floor, hands and dumbbells aligned under shoulders. Slowly raise your arms to the sides, palms down and elbows slightly bent, until hands are just under shoulder height (shown).
- Lower arms back to starting position. Do eight to 12 reps.
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