An Expert Trainer Says You Only Need These Five Moves To Build Stronger, More Muscular Arms At Home

Man performs biceps curl with a dumbbell at home
(Image credit: DGLimages / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

A couple of dumbbells and 20 minutes. That’s all you need to tackle this arm-strengthening session from Technogym ambassador James Stirling, better known to his 818,000 Instagram followers as the London Fitness Guy

“Dumbbells are your best friend for building stronger arms,” says Stirling. “The beauty of dumbbells is that they are incredibly versatile, allowing you to do a wide range of exercises and really isolate the biceps and triceps.”

Read on for the workout, form guides and Stirling’s advice for getting the most out of this and other arms workouts

Workout Overview

Complete three rounds of the following:

  1. Cross-body curl x 12-15
  2. Triceps extension x 12-15
  3. Biceps curl to hammer curl x 12-15
  4. Triceps dip x 12-15
  5. Close-grip push-up x 12-15

Form Guides

1 Cross-body curl

Reps 12-15 each side

Hold dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing. Curl one dumbbell to the opposite shoulder. Pause, then lower under control. Repeat on the other side, alternating sides for each rep.

2 Lying triceps extension

Reps 12-15

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, or lie on a weights bench if you have one. Hold dumbbells, or a single dumbbell held in both hands, above your head with your arms extended and palms facing. Keeping your upper arms still, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells behind your head. Use your triceps to extend your arms and lift the dumbbells back to the start.  

3 Biceps curl to hammer curl

Reps 12-15

Stand holding dumbbells in by your thighs with your palms facing forward. Keeping your upper arms pinned to your torso, bend your elbows to raise the dumbells to your shoulders. Pause, then rotate the dumbbells so your palms are facing. Lower the dumbbells under control to your thighs. Rotate the dumbbells so your palms face forward.

4 Triceps dip

Reps 12-15

Find a sturdy platform like a chair, step or weight bench if you have one, and sit on the edge with your hands on the surface by your sides, and your legs extended and heels on the floor. Keeping your arms extended, move your bum off the chair. Bend your elbows to 90° to lower your body. Extend your arms to push back up to the start. Make this easier by bending your knees and bringing your feet closer to you.

5 Close-grip push-up

Reps 12-15

Begin on your hands and toes, with your hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core and keeping your body in a straight line throughout, bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor. When your chest is just above the floor, push powerfully through your hands to return to the start.

Workout Tips

1. Use The Right Weight 

“A question I often receive is, ‘What dumbbell weight should I use?’,” says Stirling. “As everyone has their own strength level, I always suggest using a weight that challenges you for the rep range prescribed. The last two or three reps of each set should feel tough. If they don’t, then you can probably use a heavier weight. We need to work heavy to stimulate muscle hypertrophy, or growth.”

2. Think Of Your Elbow Like A Hinge

If you want to get the most out of arm exercises, you should “think about your elbow acting like a hinge,” says Stirling. This is because the primary functions of the biceps and triceps are bending and straightening the arm at the elbow, respectively.

For this reason, he recommends keeping your upper arms tight to your sides during biceps curls, allowing the elbow to act as the hinge point.

This will help you avoid swinging your torso to generate momentum to help lift the dumbbell, focusing instead on using the target muscle (in this case, the biceps) to move the weight.

3. Take It Slow

As your muscles fatigue, it may be tempting to rush through repetitions and get the reps done as quickly as possible, but Stirling advises you to take your time. 

“The key to getting the most out of your arm workouts is to utilize time under tension, which means slowing down the eccentric or lowering part of the movement.”

For example, the eccentric portion of a biceps curl is when you're controlling the dumbbell down from the top of the rep back to the starting position. 

“As a general rule of thumb, try to take two or three seconds on the lowering part of the exercise,” says Stirling. 

For help deciding on the right set for you, read our guide to the best dumbbells.

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.