What Exercise Will Work All Parts of the Arm?

With dumbbells and creativity, you can develop the arm muscles in one exercise.
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If you find it difficult to fit in your weight training workouts during the week, you can shorten the amount of time your sessions take by doing exercises that hit multiple muscle groups. Your arms are able to move in a number of different directions, so you can do several different exercises to hit all of the muscles in your arms in one swoop.

Muscles in the Arm

    The major muscle groups in your arm include your biceps, which are at the front of your upper arm, your triceps, located at the back of your upper arm, and your shoulders. Muscles in the forearm help you flex, extend and rotate your wrists, as well as grip things like a barbell. To hit all of these muscle groups in one exercise, grab a pair of dumbbells to combine a couple of common exercises.

Biceps Curl to Overhead Press

    The dumbbell biceps curl to overhead press takes two common free-weight strength training exercises and combines them into one continuous exercise. Stand and hold the dumbbells down in front of your thighs with your palms facing forward. Start with a biceps curl by bending your elbows and lifting up the weights to your shoulders. This hits your biceps and muscles in the forearms. Once the weights are there, rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing forward and push the weights over your head until your arms are fully extended to perform an overhead press. This gets your triceps and shoulder muscles. Lower the weights down to your shoulders and then rotate your wrists and extend your elbows to return the weights to the starting position.

Adding Triceps Extension

    Your triceps are recruited as you perform the overhead press to straighten your elbow joints. However, it’s your shoulder muscles that are doing most of the work as you push the weights over your head. If you’d like to isolate your triceps more, add triceps extensions to the exercise. After you push the weights over your head in the overhead press, rotate your wrists so that they’re facing each other. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells back behind your head and extend them straight again to perform the triceps extension. This isolates your triceps.


    To maximize your muscular strength or size benefits from weightlifting, you must use a weight that overloads and challenges your muscles. The weight has to be heavy enough to stimulate the muscle to adapt. You might find that you can’t find the perfect weight for the combination exercise. For example, you might be able to lift heavier weights when doing a biceps curl than you can while doing the overhead press. If this happens, you’re limiting your strength and size gains in those muscles that aren’t being fully challenged. If this happens at the end of your set add a few repetitions of whatever component is easier. For example, if your shoulders are tired, but your biceps are not, pump out a few additional biceps curls at the end of the set.

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