So, you're on the hunt for arm workouts for women with weights. You might have read our guide to the best arm workouts for women but want to progress your workouts to include dumbbells and kettlebells, too.
Well, you're in the right place. Building strong arms is a core tenant of overall health and wellbeing, yet tricep exercises and bicep exercises are often skipped in favour of endorphin-boosting runs or sweaty spin sessions.
We get it - arm workouts with dumbbells and barbells can seem scary, but they needn't be. Wondering why building your arm strength is so important? Well, one 2018 study found that a training programme using free weights helped improve tricep strength in older adults by up to 111%, while a 2023 study from Nature reported that training with barbells helped women increase their strength and muscle mass and lose body fat more effectively than doing bodyweight exercise.
Of course, there are loads of different types of arm workout that all offer the benefits boasted above. Go with whatever session you enjoy most, whether that's home arm workouts with small weights or lifting super heavy in the gym. The key is to make sure you’re progressing, says Aoife Flannery, personal trainer at Third Space London.
“One of the most important things when trying to build muscle is using progressive overload, which means increasing the weight, frequency and repetitions in the exercises gradually over time in order to avoid reaching a plateau with your progress. Increasing the weight you lift each week is one way to do this, or if you can’t do that, you can add an extra rep each week to keep challenging your body and get stronger over time,” she says.
Keep scrolling for my pick of the best arm workouts for women with weights - I'm a health writer but also a qualified personal trainer so I know what to look for when it comes to a good workout. You can take these plans to the gym with you or buy some weights to use from home and get sweaty in your living room. You’ll be reaping the strength benefits in no time.
5 arm workouts for women with weights to try tonight
3 benefits of having strong arms
Wondering why strong arms matter? Well, aside from looking great, they also promise a whole host of health benefits - we're looking at you, improved joint health, reduced risk of injury, and increased mobility.
1. They improve joint health
“Biceps and triceps play vital roles in the healthy movement of your elbow and shoulder joints,” explains Flannery. In other words, weak arms could lead to joint pain or injury - not ideal.
2. They support your upper body muscles
“For those with specific fitness goals such as being able to do a push-up or pull-up, strong biceps and triceps are essential,” says Flannery.
That’s because the muscles in the arms support the rest of your upper body. Namely, your biceps help your back muscles in pulling movements while triceps help your chest and shoulders in pushing movements.
3. They're key in daily life
Last but by no means least, think about how often you use your arms each and every day. Now, think about how important (not to mention useful) it is to make sure they're strong enough to carry you through your day-to-day tasks pain-free.
“Building muscle and strength in your arms can help with many aspects of daily living, from mobility and posture to improving hobbies like yoga and pilates,” says Flannery.
Arm workouts for women with weights to try
1. 5-minute weighted arm workout
What? A 5-minute weighted arm workout
Why? Only got a few minutes to squeeze in some movement, or looking for an armed-focused video you can pop onto the end of a run or workout of another kind? Look no further - in this video, you’ll use dumbbells to work the biceps and the triceps in just a few moments.
How long? 5 minutes, but you can repeat the circuit if you've got time to spare and wish to continue your workout.
2. 20-minute dumbbell workout
What? A 20-minute dumbbell upper body workout
Why? The tri-set style of this workout ensures you hit every muscle in your upper body with a special focus on your biceps and triceps. It’s a great one for improving muscle strength and overall fitness.
How long? 20 minutes.
3. Back and biceps workout
What? A back and biceps workout from Whitney Simmons.
Why? By pairing back and bicep exercises, you’ll be doubling up the effort going through the front of your arms. Get ready for those wide-to-hammer bicep curls.
How long? 30 minutes.
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4. Weighted upper body workout for beginners
What? A beginner-friendly upper body workout with weights
Why? As Flannery mentioned, your arms are connected to your whole upper body, so it’s best to target them in a workout that will strengthen all of your upper body muscles. This workout does just that, using exercises like bent-over rows to work the biceps and back and press-ups for the chest and triceps. It’s also perfect for beginners thanks to the coaching cues from Hannah Oberg.
How long? 45 minutes.
5. Krissy Cela's go-to upper body workout for women
What? Krissy Cela’s ultimate upper body workout for women
Why? First, you’ll hit compound exercises that work multiple muscles in one go, like a push press that works the shoulders, back, chest and arms. Then you’ll work on unilateral moves and supersets to fire up the whole upper body.
How long? 45 minutes.
Shop MC's go-to workout kit now
This Energy bra is a firm favourite in Health Editor Ally Head's workout wardrobe rotation. It's flattering yet functional, offering support for intense weights sessions and cardio alike.
These shorts may be designed for yoga, but they sweat-wick well enough to support you through pretty much any workout. Spin? Weight lifting? Hiking? You're in luck.
What is the best weight for women's arm workout?
This will depend on your current fitness level. If you're a total beginner, starting with your bodyweight may be a good way to get a feel for the exercises and how to complete each move with the correct form.
Then, as Aoife Flannery, personal trainer at Third Space London, advises above, progress your weights upwards each week. Start with a lower weight (that might be 2.5kg or 5kg) and progress to a heavier weight (say, 8kg to 10kg+) as you become more comfortable with the moves. Remember, you'll see the most progress when you apply progressive overload - that is, push yourself to try a new weight that you couldn't lift the week before.
If you've any concerns about your form or whether a weight is right for you or might be too hard, do check in with a PT at the gym. They'll be best placed to advise on the right weight for you and your current fitness level.
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Chloe Gray is a freelance journalist who writes and talks about health, fitness, and wellbeing through a feminist lens. She was part of the launch team for Stylist magazine's fitness brand, Strong Women, and has written for i news, Women's Health, Red magazine, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, and more. She's all about building mental and physical strength, eating delicious food that fuels you well, and making the fitness industry more accessible and enjoyable. She's also a qualified fitness trainer and research nerd, so you can be sure everything you read is backed by proper science.
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