Personal Trainers Share Their 9 Favorite Dumbbell Exercises For Stronger Arms

POPSUGAR Photography | ChaunteĢ Vaughn
POPSUGAR Photography | ChaunteĢ Vaughn

If you're looking to get stronger in your upper body, dumbbell arm workouts are the way to go . You don't need access to tons of equipment and gym machines; with a pair of dumbbells, a solid selection of dumbbell arm exercises, and a consistent routine (trainers recommend at least two strength training sessions per week), you'll be able to build muscle in your shoulders, triceps, and biceps. So what are some effective weighted arm exercises you should consider adding to your next workout? We asked the experts ā€” aka certified personal trainers ā€” and they answered, sharing nine of the best dumbbell exercises to strengthen your arms.

Please note: we don't recommend doing all these moves in one workout (your arms will not thank you for that). Instead, sprinkle a few throughout your weekly strength-training routine to really work your upper body. If you want to do a dedicated arm workout, start with an upper-body warmup and then pick four or five of these moves to do.

In terms of equipment, you'll just need two dumbbells. Feel free to pick up whatever weight feels appropriately challenging for you. If you're a beginner, you may want to start with three- or five-pounders and work your way up. (Here's a guide for choosing the right weight.) Got your equipment? Keep reading for the best dumbbell arm exercises that'll be sure to get your muscles shaking.

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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Bicep Curl to Overhead Press
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Bicep Curl to Overhead Press

This efficient move works both your biceps and shoulders, and is a combo of two classic and effective arm exercises you probably already know. It gives you "the most bang for your buck," says Roger Montenegro, NSCA-CSCS.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing out. Let the dumbbells rest by your sides.
  2. Keep your core engaged as you bend your elbows, bringing the weights to your shoulders. Make sure your elbows stayed glued to your sides ā€” don't let them slide backward or forward.
  3. Rotate your wrists so your palms face in, then straighten your arms to press the dumbbells overhead. Do your best to lift the weights straight up, so they come to a stop directly above your shoulders, and try not to arch your back.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower the weights back to the front of your shoulders, turning them so your palms face your body again, then lower your hands to return to the starting position.
  5. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 12-12 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Plank Dumbbell Row
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Plank Dumbbell Row

This exercise targets the triceps, but it can also help you build mid- and upper-back strength and stability, says Khaleah London, certified Pilates instructor and lead instructor for Equinox. "While the exercise targets the triceps, you get the added benefit of working and strengthening almost every other major muscle group in your body," she tells POPSUGAR.

  1. Start on your hands and knees, shoulders directly over wrists and hips over knees, holding a dumbbell against the ground in each hand. Brace your core and extend your legs behind you, tucking your toes under to lift your knees off the ground and spreading your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you lift the right dumbbell off the ground, pulling it toward your right hip. Make sure your right elbow is pointing up and your hips stay square to the floor.
  3. Lower the weight to the ground with control, bracing your core and glutes. Try not to rock your shoulders or hips from side to side. Repeat on the other side.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Overhead Triceps Extension
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Overhead Triceps Extension

"This is an excellent dumbbell exercise to isolate the triceps," the muscles on the back of your upper arm, says Crawford. Overhead triceps extensions (seated or standing), she said, "allow for a solid range of motion which really challenges the totality of your triceps."

  1. Sit or stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the center of one dumbbell in both hands behind your head, with your elbows bent and pointing toward the ceiling.
  2. Engage your core so your back doesn't arch, and lift the dumbbell straight up toward the ceiling, bringing over your head.
  3. Hold for one second, then slowly bend your arms to lower the weight behind your head.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Lateral Arm Raise
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Lateral Arm Raise

This dumbbell arm exercise doesn't work a ton of muscles but targets one that's often ignored. Lateral arm raises work your lateral deltoid (the muscle on the side of your shoulder), says Sherika Holmes, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Sherika Fitness.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand so your palms face in toward the sides of your body.
  2. With control, keep your arms straight (but not locked at the elbow) and raise both hands up and out to the sides. Keep your palms facing down stop when your arms are parallel to the floor. (Pro tip: Place your hands so they're not directly out to the sides, but slightly forward, so you'll be able to see them in your peripheral vision.) Keep your core engaged and back flat.
  3. Slowly lower the weights to return to the starting position.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Dumbbell Bench Press
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Dumbbell Bench Press

"Not only is this exercise good for building up your chest, but it also recruits the muscles of your arms and shoulders," says Caley Crawford, NASM-certified personal trainer and director of education for Row House. She described the bench press as a dynamic move that works your muscles together, helping you build strength and coordination throughout your upper body.

  1. Sit on a flat workout bench with one leg on either side. With one dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs, lie back onto the bench. (If you don't have a bench, use a stability ball, as show, or lie flat on the ground with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.)
  2. Hold the dumbbells above your chest, shoulder-width apart, creating a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and forearm. Your palms should be facing forward. Press your back against the bench and engage your core.
  3. Exhale as you push the dumbbells up, fully extending your arms so the weights come to a stop above your shoulders. Hold for one second.
  4. Inhale and lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest with control.
  5. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Triceps Kickback
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Triceps Kickback

"This is one of my favorite movements for isolating the triceps," says ACE-certified personal trainer Tami Smith, who owns Fit Healthy Momma. "I recommend these often because the triceps play an integral role in so many of our movements, both in daily life and our workouts."

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge at the hips about 45 degrees, keeping your knees slightly bent and core engaged. Bent your elbows so they form a 90-degree angle, with your palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  2. Straighten your arms behind you with your palms facing in. Initiate the movement from your elbows, keeping your upper arms as still as possible and tight to your sides. Stop when your arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Squeeze your triceps, then bend your elbows to return to the starting position.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Single-Arm Overhead Shoulder Press
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Single-Arm Overhead Shoulder Press

The overhead shoulder press "works all three parts of the shoulder: the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid," says ACE-certified trainer Lacey Stone. Similar to the traditional overhead shoulder press, this one-arm variation lets you focus on one side at a time. Holmes loves it "because it's multifunctional," she says. "Not only does it increase strength in your shoulders, but it also increases core strength," especially your anterior core and your obliques along your sides.

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, racked above your shoulders, palms facing in. This is your starting position.
  2. Straighten your right arm to press the weight directly up, keeping your left hand in place. Keep a slight bend in your elbows at the top, ensuring that the weight is directly over your shoulder, and keep your core engaged.
  3. Bend your right elbow to lower the dumbbell and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Single-Arm Row
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Single-Arm Row

This move, recommended by Montenegro, is a great one for your upper body and the muscles that help stabilize your back.

  1. Stand with your feet staggered, right foot in front, bent into a lunge. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand, and rest your right hand or elbow on your right thigh. Extend your left arm so the dumbbell hangs directly below your left shoulder. This is your starting position.
  2. Keeping your core engaged and shoulders relaxed, row the dumbbell up to your left rib, keeping your arm in close to your torso.
  3. Hold for a second, then lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position. Try not to rotate your shoulders during any part of the movement.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Hammer Curls
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Dumbbell Arm Exercises: Hammer Curls

"Hammer curls are a super simple, yet effective move to work your outer, inner, and lower biceps" thanks to the unique positioning of your wrists, says John Fawkes, NSCA-Certified personal trainer.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting by your sides, with your palms facing each other.
  2. Keeping your core engaged, bend both arms at the elbow to lift the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Keep your wrists straight throughout the movement with your palms facing in. Only the lower portion of your arm should move, keeping the upper arm stationary and close to your sides.
  3. Slowly lower the weights to return to the starting position.
  4. That's one rep. Try 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.