5 Upper-Body Exercises for Leaner, Stronger Arms

Sculpt strong arms by adding these upper-body moves to your exercise routine

Building upper-body strength comes with a handful of useful benefits, like the ability to carry all of your grocery bags inside with just one trip or the capacity to beat any of your friends in an arm wrestling challenge.

Oh yeah, and if you stick with a balanced and complete exercise routine for long enough, you eventually may even be able to show off the lean, slender muscles you’ve sculpted with all of your hard work.

Tickets to the gun show, anyone?

Just remember, you can’t “spot-reduce” fat. Exercises that specifically target your arm muscles will not reduce the amount of fat in that area. These exercises will help you to build lean muscle tissue in your upper body.

To show off these muscles, you’ll need to reduce your overall body fat percentage with a combination of strength training, cardio exercise, and healthy eating.

But whether your goal is simply to build strength or you’re after a svelte aesthetic that you can show off once spring and summer arrive, these five upper-body exercises are part of the building blocks that can help you get there.

1. Chaturanga  Push-Up

This yoga-inspired push-up variation specifically targets the triceps while also engaging your chest muscles. Begin in high-plank, push-up position and while keeping your core tight and maintaining a neutral spine, slowly lower your chest towards the floor while keeping your elbows as close to your sides as possible. 

2. Concentration Curls

This bicep curl alternative can help you to more effectively strengthen your biceps. By propping your arm against your inner thigh, you’ll place more emphasis on the bicep to raise the weight, compared to a traditional dumbbell curl where it’s common for people to unintentionally engage other muscles when moving the weight. 

3. Dumbbell Skull Crushers

This dumbbell exercise directly targets your triceps. Lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms straight up and then bend your elbows releasing the dumbbells back towards your head, stopping when they reach the spot right next to your ears on each side of your head. Be sure to keep your elbows tight—don’t let them fall out and away from your body. With control, re-extend your elbows to return to the starting position, squeezing your triceps at the top of the movement.

4. Plank Walk-Up

This plank variation targets many of the major upper body muscles as well as the core. Starting in a high-plank position, lower down onto your right forearm and then your left. Pause for a beat before lifting up with your left arm and then your right to return to high-plank position (this counts as one repetition). 

5. Reverse Grip Lat Pull-Down

By reversing your grip for this classic upper-body exercise you target your bicep muscles while also exercising the lat muscles in your back. Hold the bar with your palms facing toward you and your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your core tight and maintain a neutral spine as you draw the bar down and towards your chest. With control, slowly return to the starting position.