The Best Bodybuilding Arm Workout, Customized to Your Experience Level

Whether you're a day-one athlete or aiming at world-class arms, these workouts have what you need.

The fabled gun run — an entire workout dedicated to crafting the juiciest arms possible. While some may think that big compound exercises are enough (and for certain goals, they may be), there’s just something about the feeling of an all-in arm day. 

Bodybuilding arm workouts normally at home in most bro-splits, and with that can come a bit of pushback on the utility of an arm-specific day. The reality is that a dedicated arm day can be a valuable boost to your progress, regardless of your experience level. Given that bodybuilding is about shaping the most well-balanced, proportional physique, it’s important to leave no muscle group behind. 

man performs dumbbell curl
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For some, knocking out a solid arm day can be as simple as showing up and chasing the pump. But with the huge variety provided by machines, cables, and free weights, there are a few key details to crafting the best bodybuilding arm workout possible. Here’s how to get the absolute most out of your workouts for some stage-ready arms.

Bodybuilding Arm Workouts by Difficulty 

Best Beginner Bodybuilding Arm Workout

Your first foray into direct arm training should involve adding some serious strength to the biceps and triceps, and improving your overall shoulder stability. The added strength will raise your ceiling of training potential across the board as you advance, while improved stability will keep your shoulders happy and allow you to safely overload future exercises.

The Workout

Exercise variations that are relatively stabilized are a great tool to really push your limits early on in your gym career. Machine versions are the perfect fit here. Compliment your all-out effort sets on machines by pairing them with less stable, cable-based options. This way you’ll be able to build valuable stability along the way.

How to Progress

The key to bodybuilding is clean technique, keeping the tension on the muscles of the biceps and triceps as much as possible. For your machine-based exercises, progress the weights you use until you begin to lose pristine form. For your cable-based exercises, add an additional set once they start to feel too easy.

Best Intermediate Bodybuilding Arm Workout

As your experience (and muscle) builds, adding an additional exercise or two per muscle group will help chisel out all the finer details of the arm. You should continue to take advantage of machine-based or cable-based exercises as they will be easier to precisely target your biceps and triceps.

The Workout

The bones of your beginner workouts are absolutely still valuable here. As you’ve gained experience and understand technique a bit more, you can begin to advance through more challenging exercises that involve cables or free weights. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater though, keep what’s working and build on it. 

  • High-Cable Biceps Curl: 3×15
  • Cross-Body Cable Triceps Extension: 3×15
  • Machine Preacher Curl: 3×10
  • Machine Dip: 3×10
  • Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl: 3×12
  • Single-Arm Overhead Cable Triceps Extension: 3×12

How to Progress

With an added exercise per muscle group already thrown in, volume is going to start getting pretty high. Instead of adding more sets, focus on keeping your intensity high on each exercise — progressively increasing the load to guarantee as much mechanical tension as possible. Each set should be within one or two repetitions of failure by the end.

Best Advanced Bodybuilding Arm Workout

Once you’ve got some extended time with the intermediate workout under your belt, you can really push your limits with some intensification techniques. Intensity techniques help bring you to the edge for a few sets per workout — and amplify your results as well. While these techniques help, you can also sprinkle in another exercise to finish the day.

The Workout

Keeping the root of the workout the same, you can add in a dumbbell hammer curl to hit the last nooks and crannies of the biceps and a straight-arm triceps pushdown to completely finish the triceps. Once those have become staples, then it’s time to tap into the drop set to wring every last bit of gains out of your arms.

  • High-Cable Biceps Curl: 3×15
  • Crossbody Cable Triceps Extension: 3×15
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curl: 3×10
  • Straight-Bar Triceps Pushdown: 3×10
  • Machine Preacher Curl: 3×10
  • Machine Dip: 3×10
  • Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl: 3×12
  • Single-Arm Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions: 3×12

Note: Use a drop set for the last set of the day for the biceps and triceps. Once you’ve reached your prescribed repetitions, immediately drop the weight to 50-75% of what you used and rep it out until failure.

How to Progress

After so many months and years in the gym, you can only add so many new sets, exercises, or pile on another weight plate. If your form is on point, one way to continue driving progress is limiting your rest periods. Even shaving off 10 to 15 seconds between sets can snowball into a high-density session that provides plenty of return on your physical investment. 

What Makes A Good Bodybuilding Arm Workout

A good bodybuilding workout has a few telltale signs. There’s going to be some distinct differences in the set, repetition, rest, and loading parameters of a workout designed to build muscle as opposed to strength or power. All of those considerations are also meant to help isolate your muscle groups more efficiently. Contrary to popular belief, performing a well thought out bodybuilding workout can and should account for longevity, helping to stabilize your joints and keep them happy. A good bodybuilding arm workout will also have significant benefits to other muscle groups – especially those that are synergistic with the biceps and triceps.

Sets and Reps

Sets, repetitions, and weight per exercise are all connected. The higher the weight, usually the fewer repetitions you can complete. In order to keep the challenge high and be as time-efficient as possible, a bodybuilding workout will normally emphasize moderate sets and repetitions and a modest rest period. Most bodybuilding workouts will likely follow a quicker pace than a strength or power workout where rest periods are a lot longer. 


While the aim is usually to train as heavily as possible, sometimes a particular exercise or muscle group is poorly suited for heavy lifting. The amount of physical bracing or synergistic muscles that are required in order to complete a repetition are a huge factor in the effectiveness of your workout.

With the express purpose of bodybuilding workouts being to build as much muscle as possible, the ability to isolate single muscles is essential. Keep things technically sound and isolated as much as possible in order to make the most effective progress.

Joint Health

While there may be some benefit to building up your arms in general, certain exercises on your arm day will also train stability of the shoulder. Exercises like the high-cable biceps curl and single-arm overhead cable triceps extension place the shoulder in a less-stable position. By accumulating strength and muscle mass on the arms through these exercises, you can simultaneously improve shoulder health and stability by virtue of training an overhead arm position more often.

Carryover to Other Exercises

You can successfully train the arms to be bigger and stronger without major compound exercises. Conversely, a bigger and stronger arm can assist with your compound lifts. Rows, pulldowns, pressing, and numerous other larger exercises draw upon your arms as synergistic muscle groups. Training your arms in isolation can help create some extra strength and boost performance on your compound lifts as well. 

Anatomy of The Arms

In order to build the best arms, it’s helpful to know a bit about the muscles they’re composed of. Here’s how the biceps and triceps break down into their individual parts.

Long Head of Biceps

The biceps brachii are made up of two major muscle heads. The long head of biceps is one of these muscle heads which spans from the supraglenoid tubercle of the shoulder to the radial tuberosity and bicipital aponeurosis (or the crook of the elbow).

arm anatomy
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The slightly different origin of the long and short heads of biceps means that subtle grip adjustments might help fatigue one a bit more by making it work through a longer range of motion.

Short Head of Biceps

The short head of the biceps is the second major muscle head of the biceps brachii. It originates on the coracoid process of the scapula and inserts on the radial tuberosity and bicipital aponeurosis (or the crook of the elbow). Exercises that bend the arm are the best way to target both the long and short head of biceps.


The brachialis is a smaller muscle group of the arm, embedded between the long and short head of the biceps. It can be found on the anterior surface of the humerus (arm bone) and attaches to the coronoid process and the ulnar tuberosity. Since it lies between the two main heads of the biceps, targeting this muscle group helps to add overall volume to the size of the arm. Exercises such as the hammer curl help to grow the brachialis.


The brachioradialis is a muscle group that helps contribute to the overall size of the forearm. Originating on the lateral ridge of the humerus and inserting on the styloid process of the wrist, the brachioradialis is best targeted by elbow-flexing exercises with a neutral or pronated wrist, such as the hammer or reverse curl

Long Head Of Triceps

The long head of the triceps spans two joints, originating from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and inserting on the olecranon process of the ulna (the point of the elbow). Since it spans two joints, it is best emphasized by placing the arm in an overhead position — this will help lengthen the long head of triceps to the greatest degree per repetition.

Medial Head Of Triceps

The medial head of the triceps originates just below the radial groove and inserts on the olecranon process of the ulna (the point of the elbow). Pushdowns and extensions are great tools to target the medial head as it is involved in nearly every triceps exercise.

Lateral Head Of Triceps

The lateral head of the triceps originates just above the radial groove and inserts on the olecranon process of the ulna (the point of the elbow). The lateral head sees engagement in nearly every triceps exercise you perform in the gym. 

How To Warm Up For A Bodybuilding Workout

Warming up for a bodybuilding arm workout requires you take a few different actions. Stretching and mobilizing the shoulders are always a good option to make sure you’re able to perform a full range of motion on every exercise. Another great tool is a high repetition warm-up set on your first exercise for each muscle group.

woman stretching her shoulder
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A lightweight set of as many as 30 repetitions with a strong contraction should help get a light pump going before the real working sets start. That way, you’ll have a better mind-muscle connection and a great specific warm-up for the small muscle groups of the arm. A light weight set can also help you calibrate your first working set weight for the day, ensuring a much more accurate set, repetition, and loading scheme to optimize your arm gains.

Wrapping Up

Although it may catch a bit of a bad rap sometimes, a specific bodybuilding arm workout comes with plenty of pros and very few cons. It’s hard to be upset about having bigger guns, and the auxiliary benefits you’ll get to your other lifts, your joint health and stability, and the overall convenience of isolation training are hard to ignore.

Slotting an arm workout into your training program might just be the boost you need in the gym — and cranking out a sleeve-stretching workout is motivating in and of itself. Show your arms some love and knock out one of these workouts in your next training session

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