Top Arm Exercises

STANDING BARBELL CURL

START: Stand erect holding a barbell with an underhand grip, arms extended. Keep your abs tight, chest up and head straight.

ACTION: Contract your biceps to curl the bar toward your chest, keeping your elbows at your sides. Hold and squeeze at the top, then slowly return the bar along the same path.

FORM TIP: This primary mass-builder allows you to stimulate the entire biceps complex with heavier weight loads, so do it first in your workout.

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SUPPORTED EZ-BAR CABLE CURL

START: Lie squarely against an incline bench holding an EZ-bar with an underhand, shoulder-width grip beneath you.

ACTION: Keeping your upper arms perpendicular to the floor, forcefully contract your biceps to lift the weight up toward your chest in a wide arc. Squeeze for a count at the top before slowly lowering the bar back along the same path.

FORM TIP: With your arms in a forward position, the target is on the short head. With your body planted against the bench, you can’t generate much muscle-robbing momentum.

ROPE HAMMER CURL

START: Fix a rope attachment to a low pulley station and grasp the rope with both hands and a neutral grip. Stand erect locking your upper arms by your sides.

ACTION: Contract your biceps and bring your fist straight up toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows back by your sides. Hold and squeeze at the top, then slowly return along the same arc.

FORM TIP: With your hands in the neutral position you target the deep-lying brachialis as well as the brachioradialis, which adds biceps height and a strong transition between your upper- and lower-arm musculature.

TWO-ARM HIGH-CABLE CURL

START: Stand erect midway between the pulleys holding a D-handle in each hand, elevating your arms so that they’re parallel with the floor. Use a split stance for balance.

ACTION: Keeping your elbows high, curl the handles toward the back of your head. Squeeze your biceps hard, then let the weight slowly extend your arms back to the start.

FORM TIP: With your arms elevated and away from your sides the emphasis is on the short head of the biceps.

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INCLINE BENCH EZ-BAR CABLE SKULLCRUSHER

START: Lie face up on an incline bench with your feet flat on the floor. Have a partner hand you an EZ-bar and grasp the bar with an overhand grip at full extension about shoulder width apart. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor, not your body.

ACTION: Slowly lower the bar down toward the top of your head. When you reach a 90-degree angle in your elbows, forcefully extend your arms and press the bar back to the starting position.

FORM TIP: With your elbows angled farther back (vs. the flat-bench version), the meaty long head of the triceps takes on a greater role.

CONCENTRATION CURL

START: Sit at the end of a flat bench. Bend over and grasp a dumbbell with an underhand grip, locking your working arm against your same-side inner thigh.

ACTION: Moving only at your elbow, curl the weight as high as you can. Squeeze your biceps at the top before lowering the dumbbell back to the start.

FORM TIP: Since you can’t use any body english, this short (inner) head biceps move is best done toward the end of your workout.

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SEATED OVERHEAD DUMBBELL EXTENSION

START: Sit erect on a low-back bench, feet flat on the floor. Grasp the inner plate of a dumbbell as you hold it overhead at full-arm extension. Wrap your thumbs around the bar.

ACTION: Without craning your head forward, bend at your elbows and carefully lower the weight behind your head until your arms form 90-degree angles. Smoothly reverse direction and press back up to full-arm extension, squeezing your triceps hard at the top.

FORM TIP: Watch for flaring elbows; keep them pointed up and forward to maintain maximum tension on the long head of the tri’s. Be sure to keep your elbows close to your head the entire time.

TRICEPS PRESSDOWN

START: Stand erect in front of a high pulley and grasp the straight-bar attachment with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. With your knees unlocked, lean forward slightly at the waist and position your elbows close to your sides, as your bring your lower arms parallel to the ground.

ACTION: Locking your elbows in position by your sides, contract your triceps to press the bar down toward the floor until your arms are fully extended. Squeeze your tri’s and hold for a brief count before returning to the start position.

FORM TIP: The overhand grip with your arms by your sides, precision bombs the highly visible outer (lateral) head of your triceps.

ONE-ARM REVERSE-GRIP PRESSDOWN

START: Stand erect in front of a high pulley and grasp the D-handle attachment with an underhand grip. Bring your elbow down to your ribcage, locking your upper arm in place by your side.

ACTION: Flex your triceps to pull the handle down to full-arm extension. Squeeze your triceps and hold for a brief count before returning to the start position. Complete all reps before switching arms.

FORM TIP: Using an underhand grip shifts the focus to the medial head of the triceps, which is typically the most undertrained (and smallest) head of the three.
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DECLINE PUSH-UP

START: Lie facedown on the floor in a push-up position, placing your hands a few inches apart. Raise your body by extending your arms and placing your toes up on a stable bench behind you.

ACTION: With your abs pulled in, lower your body by bending your elbows. Stop the motion just before your forehead taps the floor and press back up to the start. Squeeze your triceps hard at the top of each rep before descending into the next.

FORM TIP: While this move also works the pecs, you’ll get greater triceps activation by using a very close grip. Unlike with regular push-ups, keep your elbows tucked in to your sides as much as possible.

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