3 Go-To Dumbbell Arm Exercises for Beginners

pink dumbells on a wooden floor
No complicated equipment required.

When it comes to training your arms, there are a lot of options. There always seem to be new versions of exercises coming from here, there and everywhere.

Having all these options may come in handy when you've been training for years and are getting a little bored with the same old exercises. But if you're brand new to the gym, the classics may be your best bet. Fortunately, you can remove the guesswork and make the most of your time at the gym with these go-to arm exercises for beginners.

Working your arm muscles can make day-to-day activities easier — everything from carrying your baby to hauling out the kitchen garbage. It's important to train the muscles you use for so many of your daily tasks, no matter how large or small.

The best part about these exercises? You won't need to navigate confusing equipment. Just head to the gym, grab a pair of dumbbells you feel comfortable with and get started:

1. Dumbbell Alternating Biceps Curl

This exercise works your biceps, which are the muscles that help you bend the arm at the elbow.

  • Find two dumbbells of the same weight; it's trial and error here, but you should be able to perform 10-15 repetitions on each arm.
  • Stand with soft knees (don't lock your knees) and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand and facing your palms forward, your elbows should stay locked at your side throughout the exercise.
  • Starting with your weaker arm, bend your elbow to bring the dumbbell up toward your shoulder. Pause for one second, then return to start.
  • Repeat on the other arm, then continue in an alternating fashion until you have performed all repetitions on each side.
  • Keep your stomach muscles tight throughout the exercise, and don't forget to breathe out during the upward movement and inhale during the downward movement.

Try about three sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side.

2. Dumbbell Triceps Extension

This exercise works your triceps, which are the muscles that help you straighten your arm.

  • Find a set of dumbbell that you can perform 10-15 repetitions with.
  • Stand with soft knees and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold each dumbbell by the end (not the middle) and take it overhead, so your upper arms are next to your ears.
  • Lower the dumbbell down behind your head — this is your start position.
  • Straighten your arms to bring the dumbbell back overhead. Pause for one second, then return to start.
  • Repeat until all repetitions are complete, then carefully put the weight back down.
  • Keep your stomach muscles tight throughout the exercise to protect your lower back.

Try about three sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side.

3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

This exercise strengthens your shoulders.

  • Find two dumbbells of the same weight that you can perform 10-15 repetitions with.
  • Stand with soft knees and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with palms facing in toward your body.
  • Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise your arms out to the side until the dumbbells are at about chest height, and then lower them back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all repetitions are complete.
  • Remember to keep your stomach muscles tight in order to avoid hurting your lower back or putting stress on your ribs.

Try about three sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Let's Talk Rep Ranges

A repetition range (e.g., 10-15 repetitions) allows for progression. If you can't perform the lower end, the weight you're using is too heavy. If you can easily perform more than the upper end, it may be too light. Stay with the same weight until you can perform the upper end of the range. Then increase the weight; the repetitions will come back down and the cycle will repeat.

Next time you head to the gym, grab a pair of dumbbells and try these arm exercises for beginners.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.