The best upper body arm exercises

Strength training: the 3 best exercises for stronger arms

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Liven up your strength training and get stronger arms with these trainer-approved exercises.

Are you on a quest for stronger arms but bored of your same tired rotation of bicep curls and upright rows? When it comes to upper body strength training, mixing it up will get you the biggest benefits. 

In order to see changes in your arm strength, you should be firing up three key muscle groups: your deltoids (shoulders), biceps (the insides of your upper arms), and triceps (the backs of your upper arms).

We turned to our favourite female trainers to find out their top-notch, upper-body-building advice. Get ready to flex.

Arnold press

The Arnold press – named after Arnold Schwarzenegger – is a great way to increase your upper body strength. And, before you ask, no, you will not suddenly turn into a bodybuilder look alike.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck with this exercise as it strengthens your shoulders, biceps and back,” says Heloise Nangle, head trainer and COO at Core Collective.

“The Arnold press incorporates multiple planes of movement, hitting all three parts of your deltoids, unlike the press up where the focus is in your anterior delt. The increased range of motion also requires more stabiliser muscles to be used to perform the move, which in turn improves your form and safeguards against injuries.”

How to do the Arnold press:

  1. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, with elbows bent and your palms facing your body.
  2. In one motion, bring elbows out wide to the sides while rotating hands so your palms face forward.
  3. Then press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight and your biceps are by your ears.
  4. Pause, then reverse the movement to return to start. 
How to do an arnold press
How to do an arnold press
Strength training: how to do the arnold press.

Zottman Curl

Bored of bicep curls? Try this instead. “It’s a great compound exercise that’s designed to hit the entire muscle group,” says Emma Cooke, instructor at Apex Rides. “So rather than working the biceps alone with a simple bicep curl, the act of rotating the dumbbells causes the secondary muscle groups to be worked equally, so your triceps and also your forearms and wrist extensors

“This move is especially good if you’re typing at a computer all day – it overloads these muscles when you’re training so that they’re ready to take on activities where you might not even realise they’re being hammered.”

How to do the Zottman Curl:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you, palms facing upwards.
  2. Keeping your arms still, slowly curl the weights up toward your shoulders.
  3. Pause at the top of the curl, slowly rotate your wrists inward so your palms face downwards.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. 

Tricep Push-Ups

Sometimes it’s worth making a hard thing even harder. Like push-ups.

“Don’t think that by doing these in full plank you will get better results,” says Hollie Grant, expert pilates instructor and founder of Pilates PT.

“Push-ups done correctly on hands and knees, or in half plank, are much better than push-ups done poorly in a full plank. Aim to keep the elbows tight to the sides of the body as you bend the elbows, press into the little finger on the way back up, try not to slouch or sink into the arms, and maintain good posture elsewhere as you move.”

How to do tricep push-ups:

  1. Start in a plank or half plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core, and pull your belly button in towards your spine.
  3. Pull your arms in close to your sides so your elbows are pointed backwards.
  4. Slowly lower yourself towards the ground, keeping your elbows pointed back.
  5. Lower until your arm, shoulder, and elbow make a 90-degree angle.
  6. Then, push hard into the ground to lift your body back up. 
Strength training: how to do tricep push ups.

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