Drop the barbell — you just need 4 moves and a pair of dumbbells to sculpt your upper body

a woman doing a bicep curl with a pair of dumbbells
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

One of the best pieces of equipment you can use to build muscle in your arms, more specifically your biceps and triceps, are some dumbbells. If you can get your hands on some and are looking to make some upper body gains, we highly suggest you try out this efficient four move routine.

Dumbbells are effective for biceps and triceps training due to their versatility in allowing a wide range of motion and the ability to isolate each muscle group effectively through certain exercises. They also engage the stabilizing muscles, helping to promote functional strength in the arms.

Before you start, make sure to pick a weight size that you feel comfortable working through each exercise with. If you are looking to build muscle then you will want to look into increasing the weight size as you work through the sets. In this case you will need access to more than one dumbbell option. Alternatively, if you own a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells, these are even better for home workouts. They allow you to implement progressive overload into your training from just one set of weights, making them a more space efficient piece of equipment for your home.

ProForm 50 lbs Rapid Strike Dumbbells Set: was $349 now $299 @ Best Buy

ProForm 50 lbs Rapid Strike Dumbbells Set: <a href="https://shop-links.co/link?skuId=6545965&publisher_slug=future&exclusive=1&u1=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bestbuy.com%2Fsite%2Fproform-50-lb-rapid-strike-dumbbell-set-black%2F6545965.p%3FskuId%3D6545965&article_name=hawk-article-name&article_url=hawk-article-url" data-link-merchant="bestbuy.com"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">was $349 now $299 @ Best Buy
There's a $50 discount on these adjustable weights at Best Buy right now. This is a fantastic deal for those looking to develop strength and muscle at home as they allow you to customize each dumbbell from 10 lbs to 50 lbs in 10 lb increments. They also include a storage tray and compatibility with the iFit workout app.

What is the bicep and tricep workout?

@hayleymadiganfitness

♬ Easy on Me Pargoy - DJ Lunox

This is just a four-move workout. This might not sound a lot but you will be working with sets and reps, recommended by Hayley Madigan, the fitness coach behind this dumbbell routine.

You can view Madigan demonstrating each exercise below in the video which shows how to perform each move with correct form. Proper form ensures that the targeted muscles are effectively stimulated while minimizing strain on joints and supporting muscles, leading to safer and more efficient workouts.

The workout begins with hammer curls, a compound movement that engages multiple muscles, including the biceps and forearms. This exercise sets the foundation for upper arm strength and definition, promoting hypertrophy with its moderate rep range and multiple sets.

Following hammer curls, overhead tricep extensions shift the focus to the triceps, providing a thorough workout for the muscles on the back of the upper arm. This exercise not only strengthens the triceps but also engages stabilizing muscles in the shoulders and core, contributing to overall upper body stability and strength.

Bicep 21's add a little twist (and challenge!) to the routine by incorporating different curl variations within a single set. The high-repetition format of Bicep 21's enhances muscular endurance while stimulating muscle growth. Finally, tricep kickbacks serve as a finishing touch to the triceps workout, isolating and contracting the triceps muscles. This exercise helps to balance muscle development in the arms and improves overall upper body strength and definition.

Incorporating upper body training into your fitness routine is essential for achieving a balanced physique and enhancing functional strength. Strong biceps and triceps not only contribute to a sculpted appearance but also support daily activities and athletic performance. So, why not pick your dumbbells and give this a shot?

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.