How to Get Buff by Just Working Out the Arms

Getting a good workout in with just your arms requires creativity.

Getting a good workout in with just your arms requires creativity.

Weight lifting, like any exercise, can be a tough nut to crack. Bench presses, leg curls and ab crunches are not much fun to slog through. Ask most weight lifters what their favorite exercises are, and most honest ones will reply with a workout that targets the arms. While it's hard to get buff by just working out the arms, there are a few routines that will hit many other muscle groups.


Grab the pullup bar with an underhand grip, keeping your arms wider than your shoulders. Begin the first repetition with your arms completely outstretched. Lift yourself up completely, so that your chin clears the bar. Hold yourself at the top of the motion for a moment, then slowly lower yourself. Don’t let yourself drop, control the motion downward. Perform three sets of 10 reps to start, then work your way up in both sets and reps as you acclimate.

Hold the pullup bar and use an overhand grip, using the same motion as the previous pullups. This will work the antibrachialis in the forearms, and concentrate more stress on the upper back muscles. Control the entire motion throughout the exercise. Perform three sets of 10 reps, and work upward from there.

Grip the pullup bar with an underhand grip, but this time bring your arms in close to your body. This will focus the stress of the motion on your trapezius and back muscles, while also working your biceps. Perform three sets of 10 reps, and increase each with time.


Hold the extending handles of the dip rack, lock your arms straight and hold your body’s weight with your arms, letting your feet dangle free beneath you. Bend slowly at the elbows and lower yourself to the point where your hands are at the level of your chest. Stop for a second and inhale. Lift yourself up to the starting position and exhale as you go. Do two sets of 15 reps, then build from there by increasing first the reps, then the sets.

Wear a weight belt around your waist, or put on ankle weights. Grab the extending handles of the dip rack just like you did for the previous workout and do the same exercise. With the added weight, substitute one set of 15 reps from the previous exercise for one set of this exercise.

Place a flat workout bench in front of the dip rack. With your back to the dip rack, grip the handles and place your heels on the top of the bench. Your body will form an L shape from the dip rack to the bench. Pin your arms to your body. Slowly lower yourself as far as you can, and hold the motion for a beat. Raise yourself back to starting position and do two sets of 10 reps to start.

Dumbbell Work

Sit on an inflatable stability ball with your back straight and your chin up. Hold two dumbbells with an overhand grip at the level of your shoulders. In a controlled, even motion, lift both dumbbells straight up above your head. Slowly return them to starting position. Do 10 reps per set for three sets. Balancing on the ball will activate your upper abs, your obliques and your hamstrings to provide stabilization.

Lie on your stomach on top of the stability ball. Keep your legs straight and locked, and place your toes on the floor for stability. Rest the dumbbells on the floor, so that they are even with your chest. Keep your arms close to your sides. Lift both dumbbells up so that they are even with your obliques. Lower the weights back to the floor, then complete the first set of 10 reps. Do two more sets of 10. This will work in the quads and hamstrings as stabilizer muscles.

Switch to a flat bench. Lie with your back flat on the bench and hold the dumbbells over your head pointing toward the floor. Your elbows should be pointing directly at the ceiling. Keep your elbows fixed, and raise the dumbbells over your head until they are above your chest in front of you. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width and place the dumbbells on the floor next to you. Bend at the waist and grab the weights. Keeping your back straight, lift the weights until you're in a standing position with the weights at your thighs. Perform a standard curl, hold at the top of the motion for a moment, then return the weights to your thighs. Hold for another moment, then bend at the waist and return the dumbbells to the floor. Do two sets of 10 reps. This is a compound lift, mixing the deadlift with the bicep curl. It works your back, glutes, legs, abs and obliques.

Items you will need

  • Pullup bar
  • Dip rack
  • Weight belt or ankle weights
  • Dumbbells
  • Stability ball
  • Flat-back workout bench


  • Modify your diet to help burn fat, drop pounds, and let you see the chiseled definition you’re working hard to achieve. Eat a balanced diet where 40 percent of your calories come from lean protein, 30 percent from complex carbs such as vegetables and fruit, and 30 percent from unsaturated, healthy fats. Omega 3 fish oil supplements are a great supplement for healthy fats.


  • Don’t overtrain, and take regular rest days. Leave at least one rest day between lifting sessions, but two is often better for growing stronger muscles and preventing injury. Consult your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine.

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About the Author

Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.

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