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7 Best Arm Workouts to Forge Strength, Size and Muscle (Scaled and Beginner Options Included)

Functional arm workouts will build muscle and test and improve your biceps, triceps, forearm and grip strength, as well as strengthen your shoulders for CF.

These CrossFit arm workouts will strengthen and improve your upper body. Each workout is designed to test your arm strength, identify your weaknesses and help overcome them, pushing yourself above and beyond your limits.

Stronger arms will have a significant impact on your gymnastic and weightlifting skills, as well as help with improving pull ups and dumbbell work. Each workout comes with tips to help you scale.

You will also find specific isolation arm exercises that will also be useful to add into your training. Try adding these workouts into your next training session.

1. Arm Workouts – Bad Karma

For Time

  • 50-40-30-20-10 reps of Barbell Curls (45/35 lb)
  • 10-20-30-40-50 reps of Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1 pood)

Alternate movements. Start with 50 reps of Barbell Curls, then move to the 10 Kettlebell Swings, then 40 Barbell Curls and 20 Kettlebell Swings, and so on.

Drop the weight of the curls and Kettlebell swings if you need to in order to complete the WOD.

2. Hero WOD DT

5 Rounds For Time

  • 12 Deadlifts (155/105 lb)
  • 9 Hang Power Cleans (155/105 lb)
  • 6 Push Jerks (155/105 lb)

Complete 5 rounds of the work in the order written.

Score is the time it takes you to complete 5 rounds.

Good Times for “DT”
– Beginner: 15-19 minutes
– Intermediate: 10-14 minutes
– Advanced: 6-9 minutes
– Elite: <5 minutes

Movement Standards

Hang Power Clean: This variation of The Clean starts with the barbell in the “hang” position (anywhere above the knee). The landing position is a quarter or a half squat rather than a full-depth, below-parallel squat (like in a Squat Clean). Like any version of The Clean, you must reach full hip/knee extension at the top before you lower the bar back down to the starting position—which in this case is the “hang” position.

Push Jerk: In this variation of The Jerk, you’ll receive the bar in a partial squat. Like any version of The Jerk, you must reach full hip/knee extension at the top before you lower the bar back down to the starting position—which in this case is the “front rack” position.

Sara Sigmundsdottir’s Favourite Moment of Her CrossFit CareerSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.
Push Jerk

Scaling Options

The volume in this workout isn’t supremely high (there are only 135 total repetitions) so the place to scale “DT” is (1) the load, and/or (2) the movement(s). Keep the same number of rounds and reps, but lessen the load of the barbell or lower the skill level of the movement(s) so you can perform these movements with virtuosity.

Beginner A
12 Deadlifts (75/55 lb)
9 Hang Power Cleans (75/55 lb)
6 Push Jerks (75/55 lb)

Beginner B
12 Deadlifts (45/35 lb)
Muscle Cleans (45/35 lb)
Strict Shoulder Presses (45/35 lb)

3. Arm Workouts – The Seven (Adapted)

7 Rounds For Time:

  • 7 Handstand Push-Ups
  • 7 Thrusters (135/95 lb)
  • 7 Knees-to-Elbows
  • 7 Deadlifts (245/165 lb)
  • 7 Bicep Curls
  • 7 Kettlebell Swings (2/1.5 pood)
  • 7 Chin-Ups

Complete 7 rounds of the movements in the order written. Each round is made up of 49 repetitions: 7 Handstand Push-Ups, 7 Thrusters, 7 Knees-to-Elbows, 7 Deadlifts, 7 Bicep Curls, 7 Kettlebell Swings, and 7 Chin-Ups.

Score is the time it takes to complete all 7 rounds.

Good Times for “The Seven” (estimated)
– Beginner: 40-49 minutes
– Intermediate: 33-39 minutes
– Advanced: 25-32 minutes
– Elite: <24 minutes

Arm Workouts – Scaling Options 

This workout is meant to be relatively long—30+ minutes for most athletes. The load should feel moderate—not maximal. Scale the volume, the load, and/or the skill level so you can complete this workout in under an hour.

The rest in this WOD is during the transitions—when you move, for instance, from the thrusters to the knees-to-elbows. If you have to break up the sets of 7 reps into smaller bits, then either the load is too heavy and/or the skill level is too high.

Arm Workouts – Intermediate

5 Rounds 
7 Push-Ups
7 Thrusters (95/65lb)
7 Knees-to-Elbows
7 Deadlifts (155/105 lb)
7 Bicep Curls
7 Kettlebell Swings (53/35lb)
7 Chin-Ups

Arm Workouts – Beginner 

5 Rounds 
Box/Bench Push-Ups
7 Thrusters (45/35lb) 
Hanging Knee Raises
7 Deadlifts (95/65lb) 
7 Bicep Curls
7 Kettlebell Swings (35/26lb) 
Ring Rows

4. Devil Of Ramadi V2 Partner WOD

4 Rounds (with a Partner) for Time

  • 8 Man Makers (2×50/35 lb) / Plank Hold
  • 20 Deadlifts (275/205 lb) / Wall Sit
  • 24 One-Arm Dumbbell Thrusters (50/30 lb) / Scissor Kicks

Cash out:

  • 500 Double-Unders / Row

With a running clock Partner A starts the man makers while Partner B holds plank. Partner A may not start a rep until partner B is working. Partition the work as needed, but both partners must work at the same time.

Partners may switch positions at will. Once the man makers are complete, either partner may start the deadlifts, and so on. There is no minimum work requirement (eg: meters or calories) on the final row, but the rowing parter must be rowing in order for any of the other partner’s Double-Unders to count.

One man maker consists of a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

5. Arm Workouts – JT

21-15-9 Reps For Time

  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Ring Dips
  • Push-Ups

Scaling

Your scaling should be aimed to preserve the geometry of the pushes while being able to handle the volume of reps at a fair pace. This is an excellent opportunity to practice experiencing muscle fatigue in gymnastic movements. The key: don’t go to failure, break early and often from the beginning.

Intermediate
12-9-6-3 reps of:
Handstand Push-Ups
Ring Dips
Push-Ups

Beginner (A)
15-12-9 reps of:
Box Handstand Push-Ups
Banded Ring Dips
Rack Push-Ups

Beginner (B)
21-15-9 reps of:
Banded Pike Push-Ups
Banded Ring Dips
Ring Push-Ups

6. Chuck

10 Rounds for Time

  • Push-Ups (3-6-9-12-15-18-21-24-27-30 reps)
  • Pull-Ups (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 reps)
  • Dips (2-4-6-8-10-12-14-16-18-20 reps)
  • Chin-Ups (10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps)
  • Pistols (5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5 reps)

In the first round complete 3 push-ups, 1 pull-up, 2 dips, 10 chin-ups and 5 pistols.

In the next round complete 6, 2, 7, 10 and 5 of each movement, and so on for 10 rounds.

The difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is the hand position on the pull-up bar (hands should face inward for pull-ups, outward for chin-ups).

Source: CrossFit Inc
Pull Ups

Scaling

Perform the chin ups and pull ups with bands.

  • Swap pistols for air squats.

7. Arm Workouts – Legless

For Time

  • 27 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 4 Legless Rope Climbs (15 ft)
  • 21 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 3 Legless Rope Climbs (15 ft)
  • 15 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 2 Legless Rope Climbs (15 ft)
  • 9 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
  • 1 Legless Rope Climb (15 ft)

The above arm workouts all target the arms within a wider functional context, as part of other movements. If you want to specifically improve arm strength through singular exercises, add the following into your training.

Isolation Exercises to Improve Size And Strength

These exercises will help you to grow stronger and more muscular arms. This will help with the workouts above as well.

If you haven’t been training biceps directly, then no direct biceps work is needed to keep your gains, so long as you’re doing plenty of pulling work. But if you’re used to training biceps directly, 4-6 direct sets per week are recommended to keep the size on.

Most intermediate-advanced lifters need at least 8 sets of direct biceps work per week to make gains. However, you might be able to gain bicep size on even lower set numbers if your program has lots of pulling work for the back.

Most people respond best to between 14 and 20 weekly sets on average.

While the biceps are involved in shoulder flexion (and can thus get pretty sore from chest flys, for example), and can be taxed significantly through close grip pulling during back training, their direct work is based on a large variety of curls of different kinds.

As a rough rule, arms are split in 2/3 triceps and 1/3 biceps. Both need to be trained to achieve balanced and strong arms that are effective for performance. Check these 7 exercises out:

Arm Workouts – Overhead Cable Curl

Two arm overhead cable curls are an excellent isolation exercise for adding definition to your biceps. Cables have the advantage of providing constant tension during the movement and they provide resistance to help build strength in the upper arms. This exercise targets the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), brachialis (middle of the arm in between the biceps and triceps) and the brachioradialis muscles (forearms).

This is a great exercise to get a full stretch in the biceps on the “negative” which is the eccentric portion of the movement when the muscle elongates or lengthens.

  • Fix up one cable station on either side of your shoulders, at a height slightly higher than your shoulders. Attach a stirrup type handle to each pulley.
  • Select a weight that is comfortable to you, and make sure you attach the same weight on both sides of the machine.
  • With your feet at a distance of shoulder’s width apart, stand between the two machines.
  • Stretch your arms to their respective sides and gab the handles with an underhand grip of your hands.
  • Keep your arms and shoulders in a straight line.
  • Curl your arms towards your shoulders by flexing your biceps. Exhale as you do so.
  • Curl until your forearms touch your biceps. Hold there for a count of one.

Incline Bicep Curl

Concentration curls prevent you from cheating and force you to perform each rep with perfect form. Although that maximizes the focus on the biceps — especially the long head — it can limit the amount of weight you can curl. So leave concentration curls for later in the workout — after you’ve gone hard and heavy with barbell and other dumbbell curls.

  • Take a lighter weight as you would use for standing curls.
  • Sit back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand held at arms length. Keep your elbows close to your torso and rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward.
  • This will be your starting position.
  • While holding the upper arm stationary, curl the weights forward while contracting the biceps as you breathe out.
  • Only the forearms should move.
  • Continue the movement until your biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbells are at shoulder level.
  • Hold the contracted position for a second.

Concentration Curl

  • Hinge forward and position your elbow near the base of your knee.
  • Place your free hand on the other knee to stabilize yourself.
  • Using a supinated (palms facing up) grip, take a deep breath and curl the dumbbell towards your shoulder.
  • Once the bicep is fully shortened, slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.

Arm Workouts – Close Grip Barbell Bench Press

close grip barbell bench pressSource: Weight Training
  • Bring the barbell to your lower-pec/upper-ab region while keeping your elbows in tight to the torso.
  • Hit the close-grip bench press early in your triceps routine when your muscles are freshest.
  • Doing so will allow your triceps to endure as much stress as possible, safely.
  • If you don’t have a spotter, try this in a Smith machine or power rack.

Skullcrusher

  • Using a close grip, lift the EZ bar and hold it with your elbows in as you lie on the bench. Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor.
  • Don’t hold your hands too close, this will only affect your wrists.
  • If your spread thumbs touch it will be your starting position. Keeping the upper arms stationary, lower the bar by allowing the elbows to flex.
  • Pause once the bar is directly above the forehead.
  • Lift the bar back to the starting position by extending the elbow.

Bar Dip

  • Grab the bars and jump up.
  • Balance yourself with locked elbows.
    Lower your body by bending your arms.
  • Lean your torso slightly forward.
  • Go down until your shoulders are below your elbows at the bottom.
  • Lift your body back up to the starting position by straightening your arms.
  • Balance yourself with your shoulders over your hands. Lock your elbows.

Arm Workout – Kick Back

  • Start with your palms facing your torso.
  • Keep your back straight with a slight bend in the knees and bend forward at the waist. Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor. 
  • Your upper arms should be close to your torso and parallel to the floor.
  • Your forearms should be pointed towards the floor as you hold the weights. There should be a 90-degree angle formed between your forearm and upper arm.
  • This is your starting position.
  • Now, while keeping your upper arms stationary use your triceps to lift the weights until the arm is fully extended.
  • Focus on moving the forearm and let the elbow tight to your Body.

Read More: Build Huge Triceps with These Vital Dumbbell Exercises

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