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7 Dumbbell Arm Exercises (25-Minute Workout)

Build strength, definition and muscle tone in the upper body with this dumbbell workout routine: the 7 best dumbbell arm exercises. We love this strict-set format for pushing each muscle group to fatigue, resulting in muscle growth. This is a complete upper body workout, targeting the biceps, triceps, back, chest and shoulders in under 30 minutes.

If I want to guarantee I’ll feel sore the day after my workout, I program strict sets.

Strict sets (repeating an exercise back-to-back before moving on to a new exercise) are particularly helpful if your goal is muscular hypertrophy, or muscle growth. I like this method of structuring workouts because although it’s simple, it is extremely effective.

Some of our most popular muscle-building isolation workouts (such as our chest workout and shoulder workout) utilize strict sets. Today’s workout applies this format to the entire upper body, with a dumbbell arm exercise dedicated to each major upper body muscle group.

This is one of my personal favorite formats because I find it encourages progressive overload, or increasing weights over time.

two women performing skull crushers as example of best dumbbell arm exercises

25-Minute Dumbbell Arm Workout

Build upper body strength and definition with these dumbbell arm exercises.

A complete arm workout targeting every muscle group in the upper body: the biceps, triceps, back, shoulders, chest and core.

Add dumbbell arm workouts like this one to your home strength training program 1-2 times per week to build and maintain strength.

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Upper Body Dumbbell Workout Routine on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 7 Dumbbell Arm Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (30 seconds work per exercise, followed by 15 seconds rest)
  • Strict Sets (repeat each arm exercise x2 sets, back-to-back)

Workout Equipment:

Medium Pair of Dumbbells. I recommend between 5-25 lbs depending on your fitness level. We used 15 and 20 lb dumbbells in today’s workout.

two women performing a v-sit shoulder press

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Arm Workout

Workout Outline

  1. Around the World Shoulder Raise
  2. Hammer Bicep Curl to Wide Bicep Curl
  3. Reverse Grip Back Row and Narrow Grip Back Row
  4. Standard Chest Press and Narrow Chest Press
  5. Skull Crusher
  6. V-Sit Crunch, Bicep Curl and Shoulder Press
  7. Push Up and Plank Row

7 Dumbbell Arm Exercises

Around the World Shoulder Raise

Targets: Shoulders (deltoids), rotator cuff muscles and core.

two women performing lateral shoulder raises as example of best dumbbell arm exercises

How To Do Around the World Shoulder Raises

  1. Start with feet under hips, core engaged. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing outward (underhand grip or supine curl).
  2. Keeping your arms as straight as possible, lift both dumbbells in wide arcs out to the side, slowly raising your arms until the dumbbells are straight overhead. Imagine you are drawing a large circle with your dumbbells.
  3. Slowly and with control, reverse the motion, lowering your dumbbells to return to the starting position.

Modification: Reduce range of motion, raising the dumbbells only as high as feels comfortable. Alternatively, sub a lateral raise.

Hammer Bicep Curl to Wide Bicep Curl

Targets: The long head of the bicep as well as the brachialis (another muscle in the upper arm located at the elbow joint) and the brachioradialis (a forearm muscles).

two women performing combination of wide bicep curls and hammer bicep curls as example of best dumbbell exercises

How To Do Hammer Bicep Curls to Wide Bicep Curls

  1. Start standing, feet hip width apart, core engaged. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in towards each other (hammer curl grip, or neutral grip).
  2. Squeeze your bicep muscle to curl the weights up to shoulder height, keeping the elbows locked into your sides as you curl the dumbbells up.
  3. Then, keeping elbows bent, open through the chest as you slightly rotate the dumbbells out towards the corners of the room, each palm about 45 degrees away from your body.
  4. Hold this external rotation as you slowly lower the dumbbells to your hips, before squeezing the front of your arm to curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height (performing a wide bicep curl).
  5. At the top of your bicep curl, rotate your palms in towards each other, finding a neutral grip.
  6. Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbells to your hips, returning to the starting position.

Reverse Grip Back Row and Narrow Grip Back Row

Targets: Latissimus dorsi (or lats; the largest back muscle known for its large, flat “V” shape).

two women performing combination of reverse grip back rows and narrow grip back rows

How To Do Reverse Grip Back Rows and Narrow Grip Back Rows

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing in towards each other (narrow grip).
  2. Hinge forward at the hips until your body is in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, flat back, and belly button pulled back towards your spine. 
  3. As you pull the weights back towards your hips in a rowing movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Stop when your elbows are in line with your hips.
  4. With control, slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Think up on a one-count, down slow and controlled on a two-count. Repeat three times.
  5. Then, rotate the dumbbells so your palms are facing away from your body (reverse grip).
  6. Perform three more back rows, pulling the weights back towards your hips before lowering slowly and with control.

Standard Dumbbell Chest Press and Narrow Chest Press

Targets: Chest, shoulders, triceps, upper back, mid-back, abs and core muscles.

two women performing dumbbell chest press exercise as example of dumbbell arm exercises

How To Do Standard Dumbbell Chest Presses and Narrow Dumbbell Chest Presses

  1. Lay flat on your back (on the ground, on a bench, incline bench, or on a stability ball) with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold one dumbbell in each hand (palms facing knees), elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Exhale as you push both dumbbells overhead at the same time; dumbbells stacked over shoulders at the top of the press. Make sure your wrists are strong and in line with your shoulders.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back towards your chest with control. Repeat three times, performing three standard dumbbell chest presses.
  4. At the top of your third standard chest press, rotate your palms in to face each other, finding a narrow grip.
  5. Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbells down towards your chest. Repeat three times, performing three narrow chest presses.

Skull Crusher

Targets: All three heads of the tricep muscle (lateral head, medial head, and long head).

two women performing pause skull crushers to target back of arms

How To Do Skull Crushers

  1. Lie flat on the ground or on a bench or stability ball; legs bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms, dumbbells stacked over shoulders.
  3. Bending at the elbows, slowly lower the dumbbells towards your head (just bending at the elbows, lowering the dumbbells towards your temples).
  4. Pause at the bottom, then squeeze through the back of your arms to straighten your elbows, press the dumbbells back overhead and returning to the starting position.

V-Sit Crunch, Bicep Curl and Shoulder Press

Targets: Shoulders, biceps, hips and core.

two women performing a v-sit with a bicep curl and shoulder press

How To Do V-Sit Crunches, Bicep Curls and Shoulder Presses

  1. Start sitting flat on your mat, sending the legs straight out in front of you, forming a “V” shape with your legs. Place a pair of dumbbells on the ground between your legs within easy reach.
  2. Engaging your core, slowly roll down the length on your spine, lowering until you are laying flat on the ground. For an extra challenge, keep your arms extended in front of you.
  3. Squeeze through your abs to perform a sit up, pulling your torso up until you are seated upright, back straight.
  4. Then, grab a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in towards each other (neutral grip) and curl the weights up towards your shoulders, performing a bicep curl.
  5. At the top of the bicep curl, press the weights straight overhead, performing a neutral shoulder press.
  6. Slowly and with control, return the dumbbells to your shoulders before reversing the curl, lowering the dumbbells to the floor between your legs and returning to starting position.

Modification: Omit the crunch, performing alternating seated bicep curls and shoulder presses instead.

Push Up and Plank Row

Targets: Latissimus dorsi (or lats), upper back, chest, shoulders, arms and core.

two women performing a push up, plank and dumbbell row as example of best dumbbell exercises

How To Do Push Ups and Plank Back Rows (Renegade Rows)

  1. Start in a high plank position, both hands on your dumbbells, shoulders stacked over wrists, core engaged.
  2. Slowly lower your chest down towards the ground as your elbows fall back towards your hips (keep elbows tight to the body).
  3. Once at the bottom of your push up, exhale as you push back up into high plank position (top of your push up position).
  4. Then, hold a high plank position as you pull your right elbow towards your right hip, squeezing your back muscles to lift the dumbbell in your right hand, performing a plank and row.
  5. Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbell to the ground. Repeat, performing two renegade rows.
  6. Continue this pattern, alternating one push up with two renegade rows.

Modification: Drop to your knees, performing a modified push up and plank.

Dumbbell Arm Exercises FAQs

What Is The Best Dumbbell Arm Workout?

The most effective upper body workouts focus on compound exercises that engage multiple muscles in the upper body at once. This increases muscle engagement and saves time. You can also add isolation exercises to address muscle imbalances or weaknesses. Isolation exercises focus on a specific muscle group and may include bicep exercisesshoulder exercisesback exercisestricep exercises and chest exercises.

Can You Build Arms With Just Dumbbells?

Dumbbell exercises are effective at building strength in every muscle in the upper body. If your goal is to improve definition in your arms, reach for heavy weights. You’ll know you chose the right weight if the last 2-3 reps in a set are challenging to complete with proper form (The American Council on Exercise).

How Long Does It Take To Get Toned Arms?

This depends on how often you are training arms and at what intensity. If you are lifting challenging weights and following a well-rounded strength training program, you can expect to feel a change after 4-8 weeks of consistent lifting.

Pin This Workout: 7 Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises

woman performing standing dumbbell arm exercise

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