Building strong, toned arms is an essential part of every workout plan.
Women often shy away from lifting weights to build their arm muscles due to the fear of getting “bulky”.
But the truth is, strength training the arms is just as important in women as it is in men.
Since women do not produce as much testosterone as men they cannot achieve the same muscle bulk as men doing the same exercises.
However, weight training is still just as crucial for women.
Should Women Build Strong Arms?
Strong arms allow you to push, pull, and carry objects and perform everyday activities.
Having strength in the arms also completes your overall physique and will have you looking great and feeling confident about your body.
So when we think about arms, the big muscles that comes to mind are the biceps.
We see countless fitness pictures with men and women flexing their biceps to show their strength.
And this is for a good reason.
Strengthening the biceps muscles is important for many reasons.
For one, these muscles are used in all sorts of everyday activities.
Picking up items, carrying heavy objects, or lifting all require strong biceps muscles.
By strengthening these muscles you will reduce your risk of injury when performing these tasks.
Increasing muscle mass in the biceps will add to your lean body mass as well and make you more efficient at burning calories by increasing your metabolic rate.
Also, defining the biceps will add to your overall appearance and physique.
What Muscles Make Great Arms?
In addition to the biceps, the brachialis and brachioradialis are two muscles that work with the biceps to produce similar movements.
The brachialis sits under your biceps and the brachioradialis runs from deep inside the middle of your upper arm to the center of your forearm.
Along with the biceps, these two muscles work together to flex the arm at the elbow.
The brachioradialis and biceps muscles also work to turn the forearm.
Therefore, when performing biceps exercises, it is also important to target these lesser known muscles to obtain strong, toned arms and balanced strength.
Bicep Exercises for Women
Here are some great biceps and arm exercises to start adding to your workout routine.
To maximize strength gains, you should try to train the arms at least twice per week, and even up to three times weekly as your strength improves.
You do not need to do every exercise in one session, but should choose three for each day that you work out the arms.
Hold a curl bar down in front of you, palms facing forward, and keep your back straight and chest up.
You can add weight to the bar or just curl the bar alone depending on your level of training.
Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the bar toward your shoulders.
Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, straightening your arms completely.
Complete three sets of 8-12 reps.
Alternating Supinating Dumbbell Curls
It is important to include forearm supination in one of your curling exercises in order to achieve complete stimulation of your biceps and the best possible strength gains.
For this exercise you will hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing inward toward your body.
Curl the weight up with your right arm while twisting your forearm at the same time, so that at the top of the movement your palm is facing the ceiling.
Lower the weight following the same path, and twist your forearm downward so that your hands are in a neutral position again at the bottom.
If you find that your elbows are flaring out this means you need to lower the amount of weight you are using.
Then repeat on the left side.
Complete three sets of 8-12 reps on each side.
This exercise is important to include in your biceps workout routine, as it will also target the brachialis and brachioradialis.
Grip a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing your body and hold the weights at your sides.
Without moving your torso, flex at the elbow to raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders while maintaining the same inward grip.
Stop just short of the dumbbell touching your shoulder.
Pause at the top of the position for a second and then slowly return to the starting position.
Complete three sets of 8-12 reps.
Wide Biceps Curls
Hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand.
Bring your elbows right up to your sides, but hold your forearms out at a 45-degree angle away from your body.
Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the weights toward your shoulders.
Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position, straightening your arms completely.
Try to keep your upper arms glued to your sides during the entire movement.
Aim for three sets of 8-12 reps.
Dumbbell Preacher Curls
Grab a dumbbell with each arm and position your upper arms on top of a preacher bench.
You can also use an incline bench if a preacher bench is not available.
Your arms should be bent with the dumbbells at shoulder height.
This will be your starting position.
Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells until your upper arm is extended and the biceps are fully stretched.
Exhale and contract your biceps to curl the weights up until the dumbbells are back at shoulder height.
Squeeze the biceps hard for a second at the contracted position.
Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Isometric Biceps Hold
This bicep burner is a great way to end your workout.
Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forward, and keep your back straight and chest up.
Bend your elbows and curl the weights until your arms form a 90-degree angle.
Hold here for 30 seconds, then lower back down.
Repeat this three times.
While the biceps are often the main focus when doing arm workouts, having strong triceps and shoulders are essential in building great arms and an impressive overall physique.
Working all of these muscle groups is necessary to build strong arms.
If you choose specific days in the week to solely focus on arms, then it is important to incorporate tricep and shoulder exercises as well.
Also, compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups in the same movement are excellent ways to efficiently strengthen the arm muscles.
As with the above exercises, try to aim for three sets of 8-12 reps for these movements.
Shoulder Exercises to Build Amazing Arms
Your shoulders give shape to the entire body, especially when the're are paired some great looking arms.
Use theses shoulder exercises to complete your upper body and compliment the list of bicep exercises for women.
Seated Dumbbell Press
Sit on a bench that has a back support with two dumbbells by your sides.
Bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height at each side.
Rotate the wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing forward.
Exhale and push the dumbbells up until they touch at the top.
Pause and then slowly come down back to the starting position to complete one rep.
Stand with two dumbbells with your palms facing in and your arms straight down at your sides.
Raise the dumbbells out to your sides, keeping your arms straight until they are parallel to the floor.
Pause for a second at the top and then lower the dumbbells back down slowly to the starting position to complete one rep.
Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Row
Begin in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand.
With the knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips to lean forward.
Keep your back straight throughout the movement.
Allow your arms to hang down to the floor, with your elbows pointed to your sides.
Flex your elbows and row the dumbbells toward your torso.
Your shoulders should stay retracted, squeezing your shoulder blades together throughout the movement.
The upper arms should be perpendicular to your torso.
Continue the row until the elbows are inside of 90 degrees, contracting your shoulders as you pause at the top.
Extend the elbows back down to lower the weights to complete one rep.
Tricep Exercises for the Finishing Touches
As I've already stated, there are more to great arms than just biceps.
Working your biceps is great for rounding out the show portion of your arms, but it's also important you don't neglect the rest of the arms.
Standing Triceps Extensions
Stand with a dumbbell held by both hands.
Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart from each other.
Slowly use both hands to grab the dumbbell and lift it over your head until both arms are fully extended.
The palm of the hands should be facing up towards the ceiling.
Keep your upper arms close to your head with your elbows in.
Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your forearms touch your biceps.
The upper arms should remain stationary and only the forearms should move.
Contract your triceps to raise the dumbbell back up for one rep.
Position your hands shoulder-width apart on a bench or chair.
Slide your butt off the front of the bench with your legs extended out in front of you.
Straighten your arms, keeping a little bend in your elbows to maintain tension on your triceps and off your elbow joints.
Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle while keeping your back close to the bench.
Then press down into the bench to contract your triceps and straighten your elbows to return to the starting position for one rep.
Start with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing your torso.
Keep your back straight with a slight bend in the knees and bend forward at the waist.
Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor.
Keep your upper arms close to your torso and parallel to the floor.
Your forearms should be directed towards the floor as you hold the weights, with a 90-degree angle between your forearm and upper arm.
This is your starting position.
Keep your upper arm stationary and contract your triceps to extend the weights behind you until your arms are fully extended.
Focus on moving the forearms and try not to swing the upper arms.
After a brief pause at the top slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position to complete one rep.
Compound Exercises for the Arms
Compound exercises are great in that you can work multiple muscle groups with one move.
Dumbbell Curl to Shoulder Press
This is an efficient move that will work both the biceps and shoulders to get you some seriously toned arms.
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart.
Your arms should be hanging at your sides with your palms facing forward.
Flex your elbows to curl the dumbbells up in a controlled movement.
At the top of the curl, rotate your shoulders and turn your wrists so that your palms are facing forward again.
Press your arms up above your head.
Pause at the top of the motion then slowly lower the dumbbells to your shoulders.
Turn your palms so that they are facing you again, as they were in the top of the curl.
Then lower the dumbbells to the starting position for one rep.
Bent-Over Fly to Tricep Kickback
This will effectively work the posterior part of your shoulder and back along with your triceps.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with the knees slightly bent.
Keep your back flat and hinge forward at your hips.
Exhale and lift both arms to the side, maintaining a slight bend in the elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Slowly lower the dumbbells back toward the ground.
From here bring your upper arms up again in a rowing motion so that they are close to your torso and parallel to the floor.
Your forearms should be pointed towards the floor as you hold the weights, with a 90-degree angle between your forearms and upper arms.
Contract your triceps to extend the weights behind you until the arms are fully extended.
After a brief pause at the top slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. This is one rep.
Add an Upper Body Workout to Your Routine
As you can see, there are numerous workouts available to build sculpted, strong arms.
The biceps are often at the forefront of arm workouts, however it is important to target the other muscles in the arm as well to gain balanced strength in the upper body and a truly toned physique.
Building strength in the arms in women is just as important as any other body part in strength training.
Today is the day to start on the road to toned, strong arms and an overall healthy lifestyle.
Writer, The Fit Mother Project
Holly Smith is a board certified physician specializing in internal medicine and nephrology with a bachelor's degree in dietetics.
A strong interest and passion for health and wellness, Holly is also a NASM certified personal trainer with a performance enhancement specialization.
Holly enjoys long distance running, competing in Ironman triathlons.