Am I the only person who dreams of sculpted and toned arms but is a total baby when it comes to lifting weights? Just me? For some reason, arm workouts are so much harder for me than my usual indoor cycling routine. Arms and abs, oof they get me good all the time. Lately, though, I've been tacking on a 10-minute arm routine to my cycling sessions and I've noticed some progress (and have dealt with some very sore arms). I love that it's so easy to do arm workouts at home—you don't need a ton of space and equipment (if anything) is minimal.
But since I've been doing these workouts for a couple of months now, I've been wondering if there's more I could be doing to amp up my arm routine. Like, should I be using heavier weights? Should I be working out my arms for more than 10 minutes? Am I doing the right moves? So I turned to two trainers for some workout ideas and tips. The first thing I learned? You don't need a ton of time to get things done. "Get out of the mindset that you need a long sweat sesh and a bunch of equipment to receive an effective workout," Onyx instructor Katie Call says. "If I have learned anything this past year through the pandemic, it is to get creative and adapt to your surroundings. One of my favorite workouts is just five minutes long and requires no equipment—yes, you read that right! Short and sweet and to the point!"
The trainers shared four arm workout ideas and moves you can do in just a few minutes, perfect if you're working with a busy schedule.
At-Home Arm Workouts to Try
2. Dips: Seki says dips are a super effective bodyweight workout that targets your triceps and shoulders. All you need for this is a sturdy chair or bench.
3. Dumbbell routine: "When it comes to dumbbells, I like to recommend combo exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. Two good basic examples are a bicep curl to shoulder press, or a dumbbell row to tricep kickback," Seki recommends.
4. Five-minute arm routine: Call shared a five-minute routine that will really strengthen your upper body. "Be mindful to keep your center core engaged and your ribcage zipped and stitched together," she says. "Remember energy is pulling out of your fingertips the entire five minutes, lengthening your limbs."
Start by standing up feet hip-distance apart with a soft bend in your knees (You can honestly do this sitting as well... so now you have no excuses). From there, stretch your arms out into a "T." You should feel like a starfish, energy is pulling out of your fingertips and the crown of your head, and push down into the floor with your feet.
Start by raising your arms above your head like you are holding a beach ball or a ballet fifth position then with palms facing down to the floor, push your arms down with tension like you are moving through a pool of water back to the starting "T" position. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Next, hold the starting "T" position and start to pulse your arms down like you are taping or splashing the surface of water. You want to make this fast with a quick rebound or bounce! Repeat for 30 seconds.
Keeping your arms in the "T" position, start to make small circles with your arms forwards for 30 seconds (think that your circles are small like the size of a donut), and then reverse the circles backward for 30 seconds.
Next, flip your palms to face one another and start to squeeze your pecks together push your arms together. Once your palms meet in front of your body, flip your palms away from one another and push your arms apart, squeezing your shoulder blades behind you as your arms push back. You want to feel like you are moving a big body of water with your upper body. There should be a constant pushing sensation for this arm exercise. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Finish off with your palms facing backward arms in a "T" position and start to pulse back. You want to activate the triceps by thinking your upper arms/triceps are trying to connect behind your back. Keep squeezing your shoulder blades together and opening up your chest as you finish with these strong pulses. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Tips for At-Home Arm Workouts
Now that you have some arm exercise options to try, both Call and Seki also shared some general tips to keep in mind to ensure your workouts are effective. Because if you're not doing the moves correctly, then you're not doing yourself any favors. You might injure yourself and you probably won't see the results you were hoping for, so you could be wasting your physical energy and exertion. After hearing about these tips, I have to say my at-home arm workout game has gotten a lot better and I've been more deliberate and careful with my moves and form.
1. Don't forget your back: "Remember that your arms are an extension of your back," Call says. "Instead of thinking your arms start at your shoulders, imagine your shoulder blades on your back are like wings. You want to expand your wings/arms from your spine. This is not only going to engage more muscles as you work out, but it will create long, lean, toned arms. The mind-body connection is key to getting fully sculpted arms."
2. Make your arm routine well-balanced: Seki says that many people often focus on one muscle group and overwork it. He suggests including exercises for all of your arm's muscle groups, including the shoulders, biceps, and triceps. "It's important to have a well-balanced arm program that incorporates multiple exercises in multiple planes of motion, to get the best results!" he adds.
3. Choose weights wisely: One of the most common mistakes people make is starting with weights that are too heavy, Call says. "Remember as we fatigue our form begins to compromise," she explains. "When that happens we have a tendency to pull from our back, instead of our arms. You can always add weight, but if you start too heavy you are at risk of hurting yourself or not isolating the work in the right place."
Seki suggests starting with lighter weights first and increasing if you feel it's not challenging enough. "Make sure the weight is at an amount that feels challenging, allows you to complete the set, and still allows you to maintain proper form the whole time," he says.
4. Don't slack off: "It's also common for many people to 'cheat' their reps and not do their exercises through their full range of motion," Seki says. "Make sure you're moving from the top to the bottom of the exercise while staying in control the whole time and not using momentum."
5. Be consistent: If you do one arm workout every now and then, you're probably not going to see the results you want. Both Call and Seki generally recommend doing arm workouts two to four times a week. Of course, this depends on the other types of exercise you're doing and their intensity. Definitely leave some time for your arms to rest and rebuild muscle tissue with some rest days.
Photo:Cavan Images/Getty Images
6. Challenge yourself: This one really spoke to me because I feel like I've been pretty comfortable with doing the same types of arm workouts for the past couple of months and have been hesitant to level up. Seki said we should make sure the workouts we're doing allow us to push our limits and work our arms.
7. Don't forget about diet and nutrition: "They are important when it comes to any fitness goal," Seki says. "You can work your arms all you want, but if you're not eating correctly for your goal then you might not see the results you're hoping for."
8. Be patient: Enough said. Seki says change takes time.
Workout Gear to Shop
I've been wearing these on walks around my neighborhood and sometimes when I'm doing other workouts to really take it to the next level.
It's great that this set comes with three different sizes so you can change it up based on how much you want to challenge yourself that day.
You're going to need a trusted pair of leggings for any exercise routine. You can't go wrong with Outdoor Voices. These high-impact leggings have two phone pockets and are made of sweat-wicking fabric.
There's so much to love about Girlfriend Collective's sports bras. One, they're super soft and supportive. And two, they're made with 79% recycled water bottles.
Resistance bands are a great option for strength training. These also come with a door anchor so you can do a variety of moves.
If you're doing push-ups, you might feel more comfortable with a cushioned mat.
This 10-pound ring can be used for a variety of workouts, like presses, holds, swings, and squats.
Zella's soft and supportive leggings come with side pockets so it's easy to stash your keys and credit card.
I love that this low-impact bra has a strappy back (aka it's super breathable for those extra sweaty workouts).
You can work so many muscle groups with a kettlebell, like your biceps, shoulders, and legs.
This easy breezy tank is perfect for medium- to high-impact workouts. The fabric is sweat-wicking and has UPF 30+ protection.
With five different resistance levels, this band set will work if you're just starting your arm workout game, or you're a seasoned pro.