You only need these four simple moves to build strong, toned arms

Pick up a pair of dumbbells and get to work

A woman performing dumbbell bicep curls as part of an arm workout
(Image credit: Getty)

If you're looking to build stronger arms, there are two muscles you need to focus on: the biceps and triceps. These are the limbs' biggest muscles, responsible for supporting movement in the elbows, shoulders and forearms, and they're going to be the focus of our featured workout. 

Forging a set of toned arms needn't be a complicated endeavour. In fact, all you need is a pair of dumbbells (we’d recommend investing in a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab) if you’re working out at home) and you'll be ready to take on this session.

This workout has been designed by fitness trainer Hayley Madigan, and is made up of just four simple exercises. It's perfect for beginners and seasoned gym-goers alike, as you can scale the workout to suit your fitness level by increasing or decreasing the weight you're lifting.

Take a look at Madigan’s Instagram post below, where she demonstrates the exercises with a pair of light weights. Match her technique to make sure you're performing each move with good form, then give this workout a go for yourself. 

Watch Hayley Madigan's dumbbell arm workout

A post shared by Hayley Madigan (@hayleymadiganfitness) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

This session is an example of hypertrophy training (or, in other words, a workout designed to grow the targeted muscles). It can also help build strength in your arms, which will benefit your performance in other exercises. For example, building a strong set of biceps will help you to perform exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups (opens in new tab), while the triceps are a key player when completing a push-up (opens in new tab)

The workout requires you to do each exercise 8-12 times per set, so try to choose a weight that allows you to hit the prescribed number of reps while still feeling challenged. According to Madigan, the last 3-4 reps should feel hard, but not so difficult that your technique falters.

According to 2019 research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (opens in new tab), you should try and work at 60-80% of your one-rep max to get the best results from hypertrophy workouts. Your one-rep max is (as the name suggests) the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep. This will vary for everyone, with factors such as your strength and technique contributing to your overall performance. You can test this for yourself in the gym, although we suggest enlisting the help of a trainer to ensure you're lifting safely and with good form. 

If you're looking for a slightly longer workout to build your upper-body, why not pair this session with our chest and back workout (opens in new tab), which also only requires a pair of dumbbells.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.