Muscle & Fitness


Curated By Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

5 Lightweight Dumbbell Exercises For Big Arms

In general, if you want to build muscle, you need to train with heavy weights. But that’s not always true, especially when training your arms.

The key muscle groups that make up your arm (biceps, triceps, and the brachialis, a muscle that lies under your biceps) aren’t as massive as your pecs or lats. And that means they can be challenged by much lighter loads.

In many cases, working with lighter weights can actually help you focus on those arm muscles too. Going heavy when training arms can lead you to "cheat," using momentum instead of truly focusing on the muscles you’re aiming to work. And that can short-circuit your gains.

The better alternative is to focus on using lighter weights with precision. With these five moves, you can use lighter weights, which will help you build arm size and strength but won’t require you to max out your SMRTFT Nuobells.

1. Half ISO Biceps Curl

Stand holding your adjustable dumbbells, then curl them up until your forearms are parallel with the ground.

This is your starting position, and yes, there’s already tension on your biceps that will build as the set goes on.

Now lower the dumbbell on the left and do a complete curl rep while maintaining the hold on the right arm. Repeat on the other side.

Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps per arm.

2. Mixed-Style Dumbbell Curl

This has grown into one of my favorite curls. You start by doing a parallel pause curl rep, just like we discussed above.

After doing one rep like that, do a standard biceps curl rep. Alternate this pattern until you've done 10-12 total reps. Do 3-4 sets.

The parallel pause curl is locking in good form. You then apply that good form to a standard curl and expect an exceptional biceps squeeze at the top of every rep.

3. Dumbbell Skullcrusher

Meet the triceps builder your arms need. Lie on a bench, holding dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Bending only at the elbow, lower the dumbbells toward your shoulders.

Press back up without letting your elbows rock forward or backward. That’s 1 rep; do 3-4 sets of 10 to 12, and expect to get a great squeeze on your triceps on every rep.

4. Hammer Curl To Pause, Twist, And Supinated Lower

Yes, we need a better name for this curl, but it works on many levels. You'll start by doing a dumbbell curl with your palms facing each other; this will blast your brachialis.

Then lower with control, and when your forearms get parallel with the ground, twist your palms up to the ceiling, stimulating your biceps. Lower slowly to the start from here, blasting your biceps.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.

5. Incline Bench Zottman Curl

Lie on a bench set to a high incline, holding dumbbells at your sides; make sure your elbows are behind your shoulders.

Curl both dumbbells upward, twisting your palms to your torso. At the top of the curl, turn your palms back to the ground, then lower slowly. 

You're blasting biceps with the curl and hammering forearms as you twist and lower with control.

Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes.

His current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga.

Ebenezer has had multiple prestigious positions including serving as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.

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