Arm strength involves many factors and muscle groups, not just your biceps and triceps, but grip and forearm strength as well, together with mobile shoulders.
Strong arms are helpful for stabilising lifts, essential for gymnastics movements, and important for presses, pull ups and throws.
Your arms as a whole should be trained to achieve balance. This is also important for mobility and strength, and to keep your elbows and shoulders healthy after placing big loads of stress in them.
Even though CrossFit is usually based on functional movements instead of bicep curls, these dumbbell arm exercises to build muscle will help you get stronger and perform better in your workouts.
Don’t neglect your accessory work.
INCLINE BICEPS CURL
This exercise maximises the focus on your biceps, especially the long head. The incline press curl prevents athletes from “cheating”, so take a lighter weight than you’d use for standing curls. Sit back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand and, keeping your elbows close to your torso, rotate the palms of your hands until they’re facing forward. Curl the weight towards your shoulder while maintaining the upper arm stationary. Breathe out as you contract the biceps.
Ensure you move only your forearms and continue the movement until the dumbbell is at shoulder level. Hold it there for a second.
An alternative for this exercise is performing plank with bicep curls. Get into a plank position with a dumbbell under each hand. Keeping your body as still as possible, bring one dumbbell toward your shoulder and lower it back down, then repeat on the other side.
The advantage of performing an incline biceps curl, however, is that athletes are forced to keep perfect form and prevented to aid the arm movement by compensating with other parts of their body.
DUMBBELL ARM EXERCISES – KICK BACK
Start with one knee and one hand on a bench, knee under hips and hand under shoulders. Keep your back straight, bend slightly forward at the waist and have your torso almost parallel to the bench. Hold the weight with your free hand, point your forearm at the floor and bring your upper arm in line with your torso, forming so a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and forearm.
Keeping your upper arm stationary, use your triceps to lift the dumbbell towards your hip, extending your arm fully in the movement. Your focus should be on moving only your forearm and keeping your elbow next to your body.
Because this exercise requires you to work with your arms extended at all times, you might feel the burn pretty early on. It also means you’ll be working your shoulders, upper arms and forearms.
Hold a pair of dumbbells on either side of you and bend your elbows slightly. Raise your arms straight to your sides until the dumbbells are at shoulder height, engaging the core and keeping your feet shoulder-with apart. Your body should look like a cross or the letter “t”. Hold the move for a second at the top and then bring the weights down in a controlled manner.
FLOOR DUMBBELL SKULLCRUSHERS
Described on Men’s Heath as “The One Move That Will Make Your Triceps Bigger”, this exercise is a great one to build muscle.
Lie on the floor with the dumbbells resting on the floor behind your head, then raise the weight above your head until your arms are straight. The benefit of doing skullcrushers on the floor over standard (standing) ones is that an athlete can lift heavier weights and truly challenge the triceps.
DUMBBELL ARM EXERCISES – OVERHEAD PRESS
The overhead dumbbell press’ main focus is on the shoulders, yet the exercise will also have an impact on your arms. As done in typical CrossFit workouts, make sure you perform this exercise standing up and keep your core engaged at all times.
Hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders with your arms bent and palms facing each other, knuckles facing up. Raise the weights above your head until your arms are extended and hold the position for a second. Bring the dumbbells back to your shoulders in a controlled motion.
DUMBBELL SEAL ROW
A serious way to build muscle, this exercise is performed lying with your chest on a bench – like a seal.
Be sure to set up somewhere where you can straighten your arms. Lying with your body facing down on a bench, keep your neck packed and lower your arms on either side of the bench. With dumbbells on both hands pull your elbows towards your hips and bring the dumbbells between your belly button and your chest.
The benefit of doing seal rows with dumbbells over barbells is that the first allow for a wider range of motion, working your muscles even further. The weight you’ll lift will be done using your arms, shoulders and back, with no momentum to aid the move.
A progression for this movement would be to do it exactly like a seal and lift the legs off the bench.
DUMBBELL ARM EXERCISES – OVERHEAD TRICEPS EXTENSION
Sitting down, grab the dumbbell and raise it above your head. Grab it on one end with one hand so the dumbbell is vertical and in line with your spine. Making sure your core is engaged, lower the weight behind your head and then press back up to the start. Keep your upper arms stationary.
If this is too much, you can scale this exercise by grabbing the dumbbell with both hands.
Your muscles need enough fuel to grow and recover, have a look at the “Nutrition and Scientific Principles of Strength Training” to know how to build muscle appropriately and effectively.