The Ultimate 15-Minute Beginner Arm Workout

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woman picking up dumbell

Being new to the weight room, or to strength training in general, can be intimidating enough, especially for women. Loud grunts, sounds of slamming weights, big muscles, and testosterone-filled weight rooms have scared beginners off for years—but not anymore! We’ve put together this 15-minute workout for both men and women that will get you in the weight room and have you looking like a strength-training pro. Keep reading!

When it comes to exercising and strength training, there’s a lot of false information and video content out there that can be misleading for men and women. But we’re here to tell you in this article that to have a serious upper body day and get strong arm muscles, you don’t need to lift heavy weights, and you don’t need to skip your daily tasks to spend hours doing the Zottman curl or never-ending tricep dip sets (experts agree). To strengthen your arm muscles and burn arm fat, you really only need a couple of things: a pair of dumbbells or a barbell, and 15-20 minutes. Sound doable? We thought so, too.

Before we get too much further, let’s address another panic-point for beginners: picking the right amount of weight. Now, there is no one-size-fits-all answer and there isn’t a magic equation hidden in this article, but we can give you some helpful information to make the best decision. When you’re new to strength training, it’s best to use lighter weights for moves in the beginning since you want to focus on keeping good form (don’t worry, you’ll still be building muscle). Once you feel comfortable, you may begin to slowly increase the weight for each arm exercise. As a rule of thumb, when starting out with a set of dumbbells or a barbell, women typically start at 5-10 pounds and men start at 10-20 pounds.

Okay, so now that we got that out of the way, let’s cut the chit-chat and get to the reason you came to this article: the 15-minute arm workout full of—you guessed it—arm exercises!

15-Minute Beginner Arm Workout

Time: 15-20 minutes (depending on rest)

Equipment: Dumbbells, Barbell, Cable Machine, and Medicine Ball

Difficulty: Beginner

Muscle Group: Upper Body

Muscles Targeted:

  •   Biceps: front part of upper arms between the elbows and the shoulders
  •   Triceps: back part of upper arms between the elbows and the shoulders
  •   Forearms: lower part of the arms that extends from the elbow joint to the hand
  •   Shoulders: large area of upper body that transitions the core, chest and torso into the head and neck area, and also into the upper arms

Warm-Up

Reverse Curls | 3 x 20 (3 sets of 20 reps)

  1. Grab a barbell (or dumbbells) so that your palms are facing the ground. Bring your feet hip-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees for your starting position.
  2. Lock your elbows in at your sides and slowly lower the weight to your thighs and back up to your chest and shoulders. Be sure your elbows don’t leave your sides.
  3. After each set, take 30-90 seconds of rest and repeat.

Superset 1

Barbell/Dumbbell Bicep Curls | 2 x 16 (2 sets of 16 reps)

  1. Use a barbell or a pair of dumbbells for this exercise.
  2. Grip the barbell or each dumbbell so that the top of each hand is facing the floor—you should be looking at your fingernails. Hold dumbbells or barbell evenly with each hand, so that your left hand and right hand are parallel with each other. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees. If it’s more comfortable, you can also keep your feet at hip-width apart.
  3. Slowly lower the weight down to your lower body, without completely straightening your arms. There should be a slight bend in your left and right elbow at all times to prevent injury.
  4. Complete the bicep curl by bringing the weight back up to your chest and shoulders, being sure to engage your core muscles as you lift.
  5. If you notice that you are swinging, leaning back, or letting your shoulders roll forward, your weight might be too heavy—try using lighter weights. You can also complete bicep curls against a wall in the beginning, to ensure you have good form throughout the move.
  6. You can also turn this move into the “Alternating Bicep Curl” if you’re using dumbbells by curling one arm at a time. For instance, curl just your right hand to your right shoulder and back, and then swap to curl just your left arm. Be sure to do 16 reps for each arm. This is one of the most common moves of any dumbbell arm workout!
  7. After each set, take 30-60 seconds of rest and repeat.

Cable Tricep Pushdowns | 2 x 16 (2 sets of 16 reps)

  1. For this exercise, you will need to find your gym’s cable machine. If the attachment is not a rope or upside-down V-shape handle already, be sure to switch it to one. You may need to adjust the cable so that the attachment is in front of your face, right at shoulder height.
  2. Grip the rope or handle so that your knuckles are facing out. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides, shoulders back, and your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Squeeze the rope or handle as you push it down towards the floor, being sure that your elbows stay glued to your sides. With control, bring your hands back up to your chest muscle, or right around shoulder height.
  4. After each set, take 30-90 seconds of rest and repeat.

Superset 2

Preacher Bicep Curls | 2 x 16 (2 sets of 16 reps)

  1. This exercise is similar to the barbell or dumbbell curl you did earlier, instead you will be leaning forward against a slanted pad, known as the “preacher bench.” You can use a curved barbell or a pair of dumbbells for this movement.
  2. Hold the barbell or dumbbells so that your palms of your hands are facing up. Extend your arms over the slanted pad so that your armpits are just touching the edge. Your feet should stay hip-width apart, and your feet should remain flat on the floor.
  3. Curl the weight towards your face, keeping the bottom of your upper arms touching the bench at all times.
  4. After each set, take 30-90 seconds of rest and repeat.

Tricep Extensions | 2 x 16 (2 sets of 16 reps)

  1. Find a flat bench and grab a barbell or pair of dumbbells. Note: you should begin with lighter weight until you feel comfortable performing this exercise.
  2. Lay back on the bench and hold the weight up in front of you, so that palms of your hands are facing away from you. Your grip should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Place your feet flat on the floor, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep your shoulders upper arms stationary as you slowly lower the weight back to your forehead. Take special care to keep your elbows in and pointed forward the whole time; when your right hand is near your right shoulder, you should be able to draw a straight line from your right elbow to your right hand, and the same with your left hand and elbow.
  4. Press the weight back up to the starting position.
  5.   After each set, take 30-90 seconds of rest and repeat.

Finisher

Ball Slams | 3 x 20 (3 sets of 20 reps)

  1. Grab a 12-20lb medicine ball (that won’t bounce) and hold it in your hands, placing your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Stretch upwards, bringing the ball over your head (not just to shoulder height) and your weight onto the balls of your feet.
  3. Throw the ball down on the ground in front of your feet (that are now flat on the floor), bending at your knees and following through the motion with your arms. Don’t forget to exhale as you slam the ball as hard as you can!
  1. Pick up the ball and return to the starting position to repeat.
  2. After each set, take 30-90 seconds of rest and repeat.

 And that’s it!

Well done, you arm machine! 

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