Upper Arm Exercises

Tamsen Butler
Contributor Christy Rakoczy
Upper Arm

The biceps and triceps are the two main muscles that can provide you with extra tone and definition in the upper arms - strengthening the deltoid and trapezius muscles can give your upper arm even more impressive definition. Working these muscles can help you get stronger arms, or simply get rid of upper arm flab so you can look and feel better about yourself.

Stronger Upper Arms

While exercises like biceps curls may be the first image that comes to mind for upper arm work, there are plenty of other moves you can do - some of which don't require equipment at all.

Arm Circles

Here's the epitome of the easy, at-home exercise, with no equipment required. Arm circles help strengthen the delts, the traps, and the rhomboids.

  1. Sit in a stool or another chair without a back - you can also do this exercise standing for additional stability work.
  2. Stretch both arms out laterally and perfectly straight - don't bend your elbows.
  3. With your palms facing the ground, begin making circles by moving them forward. Increase the size of the circles as you do this exercise.
  4. When you get tired or your arms begin to sag, start moving them in the opposite direction.
  5. Do it as long as you can, aiming for around 45-60 seconds each direction.
  6. If it gets too easy, hold a light hand weight or a full soup can.

Shoulder Tap Plank

This challenging body weight exercise works the triceps in addition to the delts and, of course, the core (as planks are known for).

  1. Assume a high plank position (on hands and toes, not elbows or knees).
  2. Tap your shoulder with the hand from the opposite side.
  3. Repeat with the other shoulder and hand.
  4. Hold your core tight and don't allow your hips to sway in this movement.
  5. Aim for 15-20 controlled taps per side, but just doing a few correctly is a great start for a beginner.

Drag Curl

A barbell is needed for this biceps exercise. It's important to do this move in a controlled manner if you want optimum results.

  1. Stand upright, holding the barbell in front of you with an underhand grip.
  2. Keeping the bar close to your body, drag the bar upward while tracking your elbows back.
  3. Don't raise your shoulders - keep them relaxed.
  4. Pull the bar up above your chest, keeping it close to your body. New exercisers can pull the bar up to just below the chest.
  5. Lower the bar by allowing your arms to extend downward fully. Keep the bar close to your body as you lower - this should be a slow, resisted movement and not just a drop.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Aim for around 2-3 sets of 8-10 drag curls, but stop if you notice you can no longer control your form.

Barbell Clean

This advanced exercise requires a barbell and works the triceps, biceps, and an assortment of other muscles. It's a full-body exercise.

woman doing barbell clean . with spotter
  1. Stand behind the barbell with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Hinging at the hips - and with a slight bend to your knees - keep your spine in a neutral position while you reach down and grasp the bar with an overhand grip.
  3. Return to a standing position with the bar in your hands.
  4. In an explosive yet controlled movement, allow the power in your legs to aid you as you heave the bar upward.
  5. The bar should stay close to your body as you pull it upward.
  6. Catch the bar above the chest, closer to the shoulders.
  7. Your grip should have your hands with palms up at this point, balancing the bar.

Visual Progress

The biceps grow quickly in comparison to other muscles, so doing upper arm exercises usually yield quick results. If you have a great deal of body fat, you might want to add some cardio and make some changes to your diet to reduce your caloric intake for the best results. This will help reduce the fat on your arms and make your muscle gains more pronounced. Stronger arms will help you with functional movements throughout the day; don't neglect the other areas of your body but instead aim for full-body exercises.

Upper Arm Exercises