Biceps curls. Triceps dips. You’d be forgiven if you think you’ve heard it all when it comes to flexing these two central muscles in any arms workout. But actually, getting bigger arms, and stronger, more defined biceps and triceps is all in the details. Don’t get us wrong: The bulk comes from consistent lifting. But that chiseled, sculpted Ryan Reynolds upper body comes from working each muscle group from multiple angles — something we’ve done for you in the moves below.
This workout involves using barbells, dumbbells, and your own body weight to push each muscle to the max. To figure out how much weight to use, choose a set that allows you to perform 8-10 reps before exhaustion.
The beauty of doing these two muscle groups together is that one muscle’s flex is the other’s extension, meaning neither group totally rests for the duration of this workout. Switching back and forth between biceps and triceps moves allows you to keep your heart rate up while also providing active rest, for a more complete weights session.
(Photo by John Arano)
1. Bicep exercise: Barbell curl
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Using an underhand grip, place hands hip-width apart on a barbell and hold it with arms straight in front of your thighs. Bend elbows and raise the bar to your chest. Lower. 10 reps, 2 sets.
2. Tricep exercise: Dips
Sit on a bench, knees bent, feet about a foot from the bench. Place hands at either side of your hips at the edge of the bench seat. Straighten arms and raise your butt off the bench, sliding hips forward so that your butt is now clear of the seat. Bend elbows and drop your butt toward the floor. Straighten arms and raise yourself back up again. 8 reps, 3 sets.
3. Bicep and tricep exercise: Front and side dumbbell curls
This move works both heads of your biceps by subtly shifting the angle of lift. Start with a dumbbell in each hand palms facing forward, arms by your sides. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows and raise weights to your chest. Release. Keeping arms straight, pull shoulders back and rotate arms so that your palms face out to the side. From this position, bend elbows and raise weights to chest height. Release. Rotate palms forward again. 10 reps, 2 sets.
(Photo by Scott Webb)
4. Tricep exercise: Overhead extension
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie back on a bench, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Raise weight directly above your chest, arms straight, palms facing in. Bend elbows and lower weights back and over your head. Straighten arms and raise them above your chest again. 8-10 reps, 3 sets.
5. Bicep and tricep exercise: Hammer curls
This move works your biceps as well as the brachialis, a muscle that sits next to your biceps and adds definition and shape to your arm. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand orienting the weight north/south so that your hands are in a neutral position, palms facing in toward each other. Bend elbows and raise weights to your chest. Release. 10 reps, 2 sets.
6. Tricep exercise: Dumbbells kickback
Stand with feet hip-width apart, knee bent slightly. Hinge forward at the waist 45 degrees, keeping your back straight. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend elbows and bring the weight to your chest, palms facing in. Keeping elbows close to your sides, straighten arms and extend the weights behind you. Bend elbows to return to start position. 10 reps, 2 sets.
(Photo by Jelmer Assink)
7. Tricep and bicep exercise: Cable curls
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, about three feet away from the cable machine, pulley set to chest height. Hold the handle in your right hand, palm facing up, right arm extended in front of you. Bend your right elbow and perform a curl, keeping your upper arm steady and parallel to the floor while your lower arms moves the cable handle close to your chest. Release and straighten arm. 8 reps on each side, 2 sets.
8. Tricep exercise: Close hands pushup
You’ll give your pecs, shoulders, and abs a workout with this move, but the real winners here are your triceps, which get double the burn with a simple hand adjustment. Get into an extended pushups position, and place your hands below your chest, close enough so that your thumbs touch. Bend elbows, keeping them back and close by your sides as you lower your chest to the ground. Straighten arms back to start position. 20 reps, 2 sets.
9. Bicep exercise: Chin-up
This move might be best known for building stronger pecs, back, and core (and you’ll do that, too), but the underhand (palms facing you) chin-up is also great way to build power in your biceps. Start by hanging from the bar, hands shoulder-width apart (tip: close hands = greater biceps load; wider hands = more back muscle). Bend elbows and raise chin above the bar. Return to hanging. 6-8 reps, 3 sets.
10. Tricep exercise: Elbows-out extension
Sit back on an incline bench at about 30 degrees, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise weights above your chest, arms straight, palms facing away from you. Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend elbows and lower weights to your chest. Raise them again, 10 reps, 3 sets.
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