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Arm Workouts for Women

The 20-Minute Lean-and-Mean Arms Routine

At home, the gym or the park, you can define and improve your biceps and triceps fast with this 20-minute routine.

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“Few things are as immediately noticeable and appealing as toned arms,” says Gretchen Zelek, AFAA-certified group fitness instructor and functional aging specialist.  

In just one or two arm-focused workouts a week, you can make amazing progress toward shapely arms of your own. The following 20-minute arm workout, designed by Zelek, can be done anywhere with just two dumbbells, thoroughly engaging your biceps and triceps in 20 minutes max, while also hitting your shoulders for a complete top-to-bottom makeover.

The Dumbbell-Only 20-Minute Arm Workout

Perform the following exercises circuit style four times through fr a 20-minute arm workout — no need to take a break in between other than to catch your breath if need be. “If you’re new to arm-focused workouts, start with lighter weights to start, maybe 2- to 3-pounders, and progress to heavier ones, 5 to 8 pounds or more, once you feel ready to handle them, whether in the same workout or a few weeks down the road,” Zelek recommends.

To get the most out of each and every training session, Zelek says focusing on your form is paramount. “Don’t generate momentum with your arms by swinging from the shoulder,” she explains. “And if you can’t continue correctly, stop the set.”

In addition, don’t rush just to finish in 20 minutes or less. “You need to feel the resistance in your muscles, and that should take at least two full seconds to raise a weight and two seconds to lower it,” Zelek says.

Exercise Sets Reps
Straight-Arm Lateral Raise to Front Raise 4 12
Triceps Kickback 4 12
Biceps Curl to Overhead Press 4 12
Alternating Push-Up Plank 4 12
Reverse Push-Up 4 12

Straight-Arm Lateral Raise to Front Raise

​​Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart and holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms straight, but do not lock your elbows. Raise your arms out to your sides to shoulder height (without flexing and raising your trapezius). Next, bring your outstretched arms in an arc until they are in front of your shoulders, then lower the weight to the front of your thighs. Now reverse the movement, this time lifting the dumbbells straight out in front of you, then moving your arms out to your sides and lowering them until the dumbbells are back at your sides. Once through this sequence equals one rep.

Triceps Kickback

From a standing position, a dumbbell in each hand, bend slightly forward at the waist, keeping your core tight and back flat. Your elbows should be tight at your sides and bent to 90 degrees. Simultaneously extend your arms to lift the dumbbells straight back, keeping your upper arms locked in place while your forearms move. At the end of each set of 12 reps, finish with “pulse” reps: Hold your arms straight and just lift your entire arm up an inch or so and back down for 12 pulses.

Biceps Curl to Overhead Press

Start with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides, palms facing your body. Bend both elbows simultaneously as you twist your wrists to a faceup position to curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Once they reach that level, turn your wrists to face forward as you transition into a standing dumbbell overhead press. Once your arms reach a fully extended position overhead, lower the dumbbells down the same path, first through the lowering portion of the press and then through the downward motion of the curl.

Alternating Push-Up Plank

Start on all fours, fingers wide, hands placed on the floor wider than your shoulders, feet about hip-width apart, and hands and feet firmly on the floor. First, you’ll lower your right arm down to your forearm, keeping your body in alignment as you do so — do not let your hips sag. Next, lower your left arm down so your forearm is on the floor, and hold that position for a five-count. Return to the original position by putting your right hand and straight arm on the mat, followed by your left hand and arm. Alternate which arm you lead with each rep. At the end of the exercise, bend your arms to get your torso as low to the floor as you are able and perform small “pulse” reps for a count of 20. 

Reverse Push-Up

Sit on the floor with your fingers spread, your thumbs facing forward and your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders. Bend your knees, straighten your arms, raise your hips off the floor and shift your weight back, keeping your hips high. Bend your elbows a few inches up and down while you maintain the high hip position.A more advanced option is to lay an ankle on the opposite leg while doing the push-ups or even keeping one leg straight at a 90-degree angle,” Zelek says.