It’s quick but super intense.
If your regular arms routine is a few sets of half-hearted curls, you might be looking to kick it up a few notches. This biceps and triceps workout will do just that—in only 10 minutes.
You don’t need a long, drawn-out workout to really challenge your arms. What you do need to do, though, is train smart, so you can get in a whole lot of work in a short amount of time.
For an arms workout, that means picking exercises that challenge your biceps (the muscle in the front of your upper arm) and your triceps (the muscle in the back of your upper arm) by working them from different angles, Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of Work training studio in Irvine, California, tells SELF.
That means your biceps curl variations should ideally include different grips—a hammer grip, where your palms face each other, will hit your muscles a little differently than a supinated grip, where your palms face up—as well as rotation at the shoulder, he says. The same applies to triceps exercises, where the pronated grip (palms facing your body) helps you with the “pushing” movement in exercises like dips.
Even though your biceps and triceps are smaller muscles, they can put out a lot of force, says Miklaus. Still, if you’re only working your arm muscles, you need to make sure they don’t fatigue too quickly. That’s why this biceps and triceps workout alternates biceps moves with triceps work.
“We want to make sure we oscillate between the two, basically taking tension off one while working the other,” Miklaus says. That’s especially helpful because biceps and triceps are opposing muscle groups worked by the same joint, the elbow, so while one works, its opposite is not only resting, but actually also getting in a good stretch, since the same joint is still working.
Exercise physiologists call this reciprocal inhibition, but what it really means for you is that you can get a whole lot more quality work done in a lot less time—without over fatiguing.
You can use this workout as a standalone arms routine—it’s a solid way to get in a heart-pumping workout in just 10 minutes—or you can consider it a finisher for a full-body or upper-body workout when you want to include some extra focus on your biceps and triceps. While your arms also work during compound moves (your biceps assist your “pulling” muscles in moves like rows, while your triceps help your “pushing” muscles in moves like chest presses and overhead presses), this workout is a great way to isolate them to really make them work hard.
Want to give this biceps and triceps workout a shot? Here’s what you need to get started.
What you need: A set or two of light dumbbells and a step or box for the triceps dips. Choose the weight for this wisely: Because this workout is intended to be done without resting between exercises, you’ll definitely want to go with lighter weight than what you would normally use for these moves. (I used 5-pounds dumbbells for everything here, and I was really feeling it by the end.) You can go slightly heavier on moves like the cross-body curl, since you’re working one arm at a time, but one set of dumbbells should be just fine.
3-way biceps curl
Cross-body single-arm curl
Renegade row to tricep kickback
Wide-grip biceps curl
Triceps box dip
Hammer curl to overhead press to triceps extension
For circuit 1, complete each exercise for 40 seconds (switching sides halfway through for the cross-body single-arm curl). Try not to rest between exercises. Rest for 20 seconds at the end of the circuit. Complete 2 rounds total.
For circuit 2, complete each exercise for 40 seconds. Try not to rest between exercises or rounds. Complete 2 rounds total.
Demoing the moves below are Nathalie Huerta (GIF 1), coach at The Queer Gym in Oakland, California; Rachel Denis (GIF 2), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength; and Denise Harris (GIFs 3, 5, and 7), a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City.
3-Way Bicep Curl
Start with your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a supinated grip (palms facing up).
Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders and bring down to starting position. This is a regular biceps curl.
Rotate your wrists to hammer grip (palms facing each other). Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders and bring down to starting position. This is a biceps hammer curl.
Hold your arms wide at your sides with your elbows pushing in toward your ribs, palms facing up. Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders and bring down to starting position. This is a wide-grip biceps curl.
All 3 moves make up 1 rep. Continue for 40 seconds.
Lie with your back flat on a mat and your legs bent with your feet on the floor. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
Hold the dumbbells straight up and over your shoulders, palms facing in, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart.
Bend your elbows to bring the weights down by the sides of your head, keeping your elbows in the same spot. Be careful not to flare at your elbows.
Straighten your arms back out to start position. This is 1 rep.
Continue for 40 seconds.
Cross-Body Single-Arm Curl
Start with your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with a hammer grip (palms facing each other).
Keeping your palms facing each other, make a circle with your right hand from your right shoulder to your left shoulder, then to your left hip, then to your right hip, drawing a C as the weight crosses the body.
Continue the movement with the same arm for 20 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.
Triceps kickback in plank
Renegade Row to Triceps Kickback
Start in a high plank, shoulders directly above your wrists, hands shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand on the floor, legs extended behind you slightly wider than hip-width apart (to help with stability), core and glutes engaged.
Pull your right elbow back to do a row, raising the dumbbell to your chest and keeping your elbow close to your torso. Keep your abs and butt tight to prevent your hips from rocking.
Keeping your elbow in place, straighten your right arm completely, pressing it back in a triceps kickback.
Bend your right arm, bringing the dumbbell back toward your shoulder, and then lower the weight back to start.
Repeat with your left arm. This is 1 rep. Continue, alternating sides, for 40 seconds.
While the kickback at the end of the move works your triceps, you are also getting an added core challenge here, says Miklaus. With each row, your core has to resist rotating, which fires up those muscles.
wide grip biceps curl
Wide-Grip Bicep Curl
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and hold your arms wide at your sides with your elbows pushing in toward your ribs, palms facing up.
Perform a wide-grip biceps curl by bending at the elbow.
Bend your elbow to lower the weight back down. This is 1 rep.
Continue for 40 seconds.
The wide-grip biceps curl feels more challenging than the traditional biceps curl because when your arms are out wide with that supinated grip, you have less leverage than if your hands are narrower, says Miklaus.
Triceps Box Dip
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat and your back against a box or step. Place your hands on the box, fingers toward your body. If your box is high, like the one pictured here, place your hands on the box first, and then walk your heels out so you can comfortably lower your body in front of the box without hitting it.
Straighten your arms to lift your butt, then bend your elbows to lower yourself without sitting down completely. That’s 1 rep.
Keep your heels on the floor and your elbows pointed directly behind your body (not flared out to the side).
Continue for 40 seconds.
If 40 seconds of continuous dips feel too challenging, there are a couple of modification options, says Miklaus. You can bend your knees to make it easier, or you can focus on getting a certain number of reps done—say, 10—during the time frame so you don’t start too fast and burn out too quickly.
biceps curl to press to triceps extension
Hammer Curl to Overhead Press to Triceps Extension
Hold the dumbbells in front of your body, palms facing each other.
Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders.
Now press the weights overhead.
With your arms over your head, press the weights together.
With your elbows locked in place, bend at the elbows to lower the dumbbells behind your head.
Raise your arms back up, straightening them completely at the top. Keep your upper arms pressed close to your ears.
Slowly reverse the motion to return to start.
Repeat for 40 seconds.
Author: Christa Sgobba