We dug through our extensive fitness index for the best of the best free weight exercises for toned arms you can do with a pair of dumbbells. Based on simplicity and effectiveness, these upper-body training moves are just what you need to start the summer. Mix and match the exercises, play around with weights and reps and have fun with it! You'll see those guns perk up in no time.
1. Scarecrow Squeeze: Those spooky farm figures sport some spectacular upper body strength. The trick here is to level the elbows with the shoulders whenever the arms are lifted, and to have a 90-degree bend throughout the sequence. Lift, lift, close and open equates to burn, burn, burn and burn!
2. L Raise: Shape those shoulder caps and lengthen your arm muscles with a super simple exercise, the L raise. These are best performed with lighter weights and great form. Stand tall, knees soft, and extend the arms going no higher than the shoulders. Not sure if you're doing it right? If your arms are shaking, you've got it!
3. T Raise: While we're in the alphabet, let's take a look at the T raise. You guessed it – you're creating a T-shape with your arms as you raise them. Flip your hands so the palms face outward, away from the body. Exhale, lift the arms to match your shoulder height, then release. You'll feel this in your upper back as the shoulder blades draw together; the shoulders as they partially rotate, and the biceps as they stabilize. Go ahead and go heavier on this one! Check it out here.
4. Strict Press: Whenever you see the word "strict" in front of an exercise, that means you're not using any other muscle group or momentum to help you achieve the full range of motion. These can be tough! Sit on the edge of a bench and draw the abs in as you push and return the weights. The shoulders, biceps and triceps will transform!
5. Kneeling Tricep Pushback: The back of your arm is comprised of three long muscles, forming the triceps. Even though there are three of them, they are usually much weaker than the biceps on the flip side! By coming down to the floor and dropping your upper body, you can really go deep with the tricep push. Pick a high number with a low weight and go to your happy place.
6. Curl to Press: Why not combine exercises to really max out those arms? Take your standard bicep curl, bringing the palms toward the shoulders, and rotate the wrists to continue into your basic press. Pick up some heavier weights for this one and take it slow. Feel the pump!
7. Side Plank with Arm Extension: Tap into your yogilates side with a stable left or right low plank. Add one free weight in the top hand and weave the arm underneath the bottom side, then open the body back to the beginning position. Yes, you can drop the bottom knee to make the plank easier; after all, you're focusing on the arms here! Reach the top arm straight over the shoulder, careful not to let the weight go behind you! This will tone and strengthen the tiny stabilizing fibers of the rotator cuff.
8. Bent Over Row: Like a see-saw, work the biceps and triceps with a complete row. Feet stay under the hips, bend the knees a little, then lean forward keeping a flat back. The weights go from your knees to your hips in a straight line. Make the shoulder blades kiss as you row backward. To keep an even tempo, move to the beat of your favorite training song! Oh, and it's easier, too, if you smile just like Real Mom Model Crystal.
9. Standing Rear Delt Raise: Get your upper back ready for full sun exposure. We're talking tank tops, sundresses, bathing suits – the works. Pick a moderately heavy weight so you can do at least three solid sets. The elbows stay soft so you can accurately target the back muscles and shoulders. You can even do this one resting the torso against an inclined bench.
10. Skullcrusher: Sounds pleasant, doesn't it? At least you can lie down for this one! Grab one weight with both hands and bend the arms at 90 degrees. Start with straight arms, holding the weight over the chest. Using your triceps to counterbalance, drop the weight slowly toward your forehead, then squeeze the back of your arms to lift it the starting position. There is no actual skull crushing involved, but it sure makes you feel like one bad mama jama.
11. Upright Row: You might need to look in the mirror for this one to make sure your elbows are not surpassing the shoulders. If they do, no biggy! But then it's called a "high pull" and you're working different muscles! Keep the weights at your body's center as you move them up and down, elbows sticking out to the sides. Every arm muscle gets some lovin' here!
12. Pushup Row: Any kind of pushup is ideal for training upper body strength. Add a row into the mix with free weights, and you've got yourself a sun's-out, guns-out result! The trick here is keeping the torso square to the floor as you lift and keeping the booty locked down. You can grab a friend a ask her to alert you to any unintentional booty popping to keep you in top form!