6 TOP ARM EXERCISES FOR BIGGER BICEPS AND TRICEPS
While it is true that a large chunk of your upper arm growth will simply come as an automatic result of heavy chest and back training, direct arm isolation work is still important when it comes to fully maximizing your results.
In today’s post I’ll be going over 6 of my top arm exercises for building bigger biceps and triceps as effectively as possible.
I have discussed each of these movements separately in the past, but I wanted to organize all of them into one post here and quickly go over the benefits and proper form for each one.
You don’t necessarily need to include all 6 of these arm exercises as part of your bicep and tricep workouts, but give them all a try and see which ones you prefer.
Here they are in no particular order…
Top Arm Exercise #1: Standing Single Arm Cable Curl (Biceps)
While basic free weight curls will always be a highly effective means of training your biceps for hypertrophy, the one slight disadvantage is the inconsistent tension curve they provide.
This is because curling movements are performed in a circular motion while the force of gravity is always pulling the resistance in a straight line toward the floor.
As a result, the biceps are placed under a high amount of stress in the middle and top end of the curl, but increasingly lose tension as the weight is lowered down past halfway.
The standing single arm cable curl corrects this by keeping the biceps fully activated throughout the entire range of motion since the resistance will be pulling your arm not only downward but also backward at the same time.
To perform this bicep exercise, place a single-hand attachment at the bottom of a cable machine and grab onto it while standing facing in the opposite direction.
Take a small step forward so that you can feel the cable tugging back on your arm slightly, and then curl it upward until you feel a strong contraction in your biceps.
In order to maximize the stress on your biceps while minimizing the involvement of your shoulders and forearms, make sure to:
- Keep your elbow as stationary as possible by tucking it in toward your side and not allowing it to drift forward excessively as you curl the handle up.
- Keep your wrist aligned in a neutral or slightly extended position.
- Flex your triceps at the bottom of each rep in order to utilize the greatest range of motion possible.
(These 3 tips apply to all of the bicep exercises outlined in this article)
When it comes to building bigger biceps, this is definitely one of my absolute favorite movements to perform.
Add this one to your arm workouts and you’ll definitely feel your biceps firing in a way that you haven’t felt on the other curling exercises you’ve been doing.
Top Arm Exercise #2: Twisting Rope Pushdown (Triceps)
When most lifters perform their tricep pushdowns, they’ll typically use a straight bar or rope attachment and then simply press the weight in a straight up and down motion.
While this is totally fine to get an overall contraction in the triceps, it’s not ideal if you really want to target the outer lateral head for that pronounced “horseshoe” look.
This is an area that can be tough to effectively target, but using a rope attachment and adding a “twist” into the movement is a great way to get it firing more intensely.
So, instead of just pressing the rope straight downward as is normally done on the pushdown exercise, you’ll also want to focus on forcefully pulling the rope apart and driving your arms away from eachother at the bottom of each rep.
In doing so you should feel a stronger contraction in the lateral head of your triceps with decreased involvement of the other two heads.
The twisting rope pushdown does take a bit of practice and a good “mind-muscle connection” to get used to, but play around with it using some moderate weight during your next tricep workout and you’ll get the hang of it.
Top Arm Exercise #3: Supinating Dumbbell Curl (Biceps)
Elbow flexion is the basic function of the biceps that most people are familiar with. In other words, curling your forearm up toward your upper arm.
However, the biceps also perform a second function as well known as “forearm supination”, which means to twist your forearm until your palm is facing upward.
To get the very most out of your bicep workouts and target this specific function, you’ll ideally want to include a supinating dumbbell curl somewhere in the mix.
This is particularly important when you consider the little-known fact that the brachialis (an upper arm muscle that sits beneath the biceps) is just as, if not more active than the biceps are during pure elbow flexion movements when the palms are facing up.
To perform a supinating dumbbell curl, simply grab onto a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with your palms facing inward.
Next, curl the weight up while twisting your forearm at the same time, so that at the top of the rep your palm is facing the ceiling. Lower the weight down following the same path.
These can be done either seated or standing and by curling both dumbbells at the same time or in an alternating fashion. Test it out and see which variation you prefer.
One other quick tip you can apply here is to “choke up” a bit on the dumbbell and grip it closer to the top of the handle.
By having the dumbbell off-center, you’ll force your biceps to work even harder through that supinating function.
Top Arm Exercise #4: One-Arm Overhead Cable Extension (Triceps)
The long head of the triceps is an area that tends to be slightly under-trained if it isn’t directly isolated, and the one-arm overhead cable extension is my favorite way to specifically target it for optimal tricep gains.
Although this tricep exercise can also be performed using a dumbbell, the cable provides more consistent tension from top to bottom and is easier on the elbow joint as well.
In order to execute these with proper form, attach a cable to the bottom of the stand and grab onto it without using any attachments.
Stand facing away from the machine and then simply extend the cable upward with your elbow until your triceps are fully contracted, lowering it back down until you feel a good comfortable stretch.
You don’t have to keep your elbow completely tucked in, but don’t allow it to flare out excessively either.
In order to protect your elbow joints (which are very susceptible to injury during tricep extension exercises if you aren’t careful), perform your overhead extensions using a smooth rep cadence and focus on control rather than trying to heave around a huge amount of weight.
If you really want to build bigger triceps then the long head shouldn’t be ignored, and this is a fantastic movement to help you target that specific area for improved upper arm gains.
Top Arm Exercise #5: Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl (Biceps)
Last on the list of bicep exercises is the seated incline dumbbell curl.
This is an awesome choice for your bicep workouts as the position of the exercise provides a really deep stretch in the bottom position that you won’t get from most other curling movements.
Execute these with proper form and you’ll really feel your biceps being heavily worked on those last few reps.
To perform this exercise, simply adjust an incline bench at roughly a 45 degree angle and sit down with a pair of dumbbells held at your sides, palms facing up.
From there, curl the dumbbells up until you feel a full contraction in your biceps, pause briefly at the top, and then lower them back down to the starting position under control until you feel a good stretch in the bottom.
Top Arm Exercise #6: Cable Pressback (Triceps)
Most lifters know that the primary function of the triceps is to extend the elbow, but another lesser-known function that they also perform is shoulder extension.
By using the cable pressback, you’ll be combining both elbow extension and shoulder extension together to really hammer your triceps in a unique way.
Give this one a try by setting a cable pulley as high up on the machine as you can and grabbing onto the end of it without using any attachments.
Take 4-5 steps back and hold the cable with your elbow pinned at your side, and then extend your shoulder joint by moving your shoulder and upper arm a few inches back behind your body.
From this position, press the weight down and behind your body until your elbow is fully locked out. Squeeze your triceps at the end of the rep and return under control back to the starting position.
You’ll probably have to experiment a bit with the positioning on this one, but you’ll know when you’ve nailed it because you’ll feel a very strong contraction in your triceps, almost as if they’re cramping up.
Give these 6 arm exercises a try as part of your bicep and tricep workouts and feel the difference for yourself.
There are many different ways to effectively isolate your arms for overall mass gains, but these are some of my absolute favorite movements that I’d highly suggest experimenting with.
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