Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Biceps Exercises for Women

The Back-to-Basics Arm Workout

Simplify your workouts, supercharge your results! This fundamental, cut-no-corners routine is a fast-track ticket to better triceps and biceps.

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and more benefits with 25% off.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

25% Off Outside+.
$4.99/month $3.75/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.

  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

Dare we say it, but a workout should be fun, right? At the very least, your precious time in the gym shouldn’t be anxiety-inducing — but that could happen all too easily if you’re attempting to string a workout together on the fly.

That’s because of a little thing psychologists call “analysis paralysis,” whereby we tend to end up more confused and less satisfied by having a ton of options at our disposal. One famous study about the phenomenon focused on jars of jam sold at a grocery store — researchers discovered that people who saw 24 flavors on display were one-tenth as likely to pull the trigger and buy one than others who were presented just six varieties. 

Expand that to the realm of exercises, where potential movements and variations literally number in the thousands, and you can see just where our workouts can slide off track!

For that, Gretchen Zelek, an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor and functional aging specialist, has an easy three-word answer when it comes to biceps and triceps training: simplify, simplify, simplify.

“The most effective biceps and triceps exercises are also the most basic,” Zelek says. “The moves in the following workout were chosen because they directly hit the target, are not difficult to master, and can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells or, in most cases, bands.”

To get the most out of each exercise, you’ll want to choose a weight — or tension level in the case of bands — that leaves you fatigued and makes for a challenging final rep. “Depending on the exercise and your experience, 2, 3 or 5 pounds in each hand is a 

great start; that’s the equivalent of red or green resistance bands,” Zelek explains. “Once you can perform all your reps with little effort, it’s time to increase the weights.”

The Back-to-Basics Arm Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Dual-Arm Kickback 2-3 8-10
Push-Up With Taps 2-3 8-10
Bench Dip 2-3 8-10
Standing Biceps Curl 2-3 8-10
Zottman Curl 2-3 8-10

Dual-Arm Kickback (Shown Alternating)

Alternating Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
(Photo: Cory Sorensen)

Gretchen’s How-To: “Start holding a weight in each hand, your knees slightly bent, bending forward from your hips — look down so your neck is in alignment with your spine.

Bend your elbows 90 degrees, keeping them tucked close to your sides. Without allowing your elbows to move away from your body, extend both arms behind you so they end up straight and parallel to the floor. At that point, squeeze your triceps for a two-count before slowly returning both weights to the elbows-bent position.”

Push-Up With Taps

(Photo: Getty Images)

Gretchen’s How-To: “Start in a plank position, hands placed on the floor about shoulder-width apart and directly under your shoulders, feet hip-width apart and balanced on your toes. Engage your core to align your body in a straight line from head to heel. Bend your arms to slowly lower yourself toward the floor until you reach a point where your elbows are 90 degrees, then reverse to bring yourself back up into a plank. Quickly tap your right hand to your left shoulder and place it back down, then tap your left hand to your right shoulder. That’s one rep.”

Bench Dip 

Triceps Dip
(Photo: Cory Sorensen)

Gretchen’s How-To: “Sit on the floor with your back against a bench, box or step, feet flat on the floor. Reach back to place your hands on the box just outside each hip, fingers forward, elbows bent. Walk your feet out so your legs are straight, glutes elevated off the floor, arms supporting your torso with your weight on your palms. From here, forcefully extend your arms to lift your body upward until your elbows are straight, hold the top for a two-count, then lower yourself, not letting your butt touch down to the floor between reps.”

Standing Biceps Curl 

Gretchen’s How-To: “Stand with your feet set hip-width apart, core engaged and body upright, holding dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand (or holding the ends of a band that runs beneath your feet in its center). Your palms should face forward, elbows at your sides. From here, flex your biceps to bend your arms, bringing the weight up in an arc toward your shoulders without letting your elbows shift away from your sides. Hold for a two-count at the top, then lower down the same path.”

Zottman Curl 

Zottman Curl Demonstration
(Photo: Michael Neveux)

Gretchen’s How-To: “Assume the same starting position as the biceps curl — standing with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged, with a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should face forward and your arms should be straight and down at your sides. Keeping your upper arms locked into place, bend your elbows to curl the weights up in an arc toward your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then rotate your wrists so your palms will face downward and lower them back to the starting position. At the bottom, rotate your wrists back to the facing-forward position and repeat the sequence.”

“The common errors I see when people design their own workouts is doing too many reps, using too heavy weights and not varying their exercises,” Zelek says. “To that last point, variations don’t have to be revolutionary — just simple switch-ups to the basics so you don’t do the exact same movement every time out. Think about changing your grips, start by using lighter weights, and in time, slowly increase reps and weights or change the feel of a move with kettlebells, barbells or bands.”