Just like the athletes who train with me, a lot of you guys are looking for ways to grow your biceps and triceps – check out this upper body workout with dumbbells.

If you’re an athlete, your concerns should be less about aesthetics and more on function… BUT who doesn’t want to grow their upper body?

To hit biceps, triceps, and shoulders pick a few great drills and then move on to more efficient forms of movement. In my opinion, there’s no need to hit 6 or 7 different arm specific exercises during your workout.

No matter what sport you play, your arms alone won’t play nearly as big a role as the chest, back, and core do in push or pull movements OR especially the lower body while moving around the field or court.

Arm Training for Athletes

Athlete Performs Tricep Dips

When it comes to arm training, there’s a few aspects I want you to look out for…First and foremost, you should always keep performance and athleticism in mind.

As an athlete, you should always be thinking about movement over muscle. Despite the appeal, having huge biceps and boulder shoulders isn’t going to get you more touchdowns or help you at bat. In fact, it might actually inhibit some of your range of motion or upper body quickness unless you’re working on mobility drills like this. 

Any upper body workout you do, should somehow benefit you on the field – rather than just how you’ll look.

However, for most of you there’s definitely room to put some mass on and grow your upper body by hitting single-joint isolation work such as bicep curls, tricep extension, deltoids raises…

That’s why I put together this template for upper body training with dumbbells. However for those of you looking to get bigger arms or grow your upper body overall, this is how I’d do it:

Upper Body Workout with Dumbbells

Athlete Performs Dumbbell Skull Crusher

*This workout targets the biceps, triceps, and shoulders.

1. Grunt Work

To start, pick a heavier weight you can use for 8-10 reps. I suggest starting out with an upper body exercise that builds momentum such as:

  • Double arm hammer curl
  • Close grip bench press
  • Skull crusher
  • Dips

These are drills where you can “beast through,” meaning your form doesn’t need to be as strict to get results. So long as you’re being safe, you can really challenge the resistance for this set so long as you maintain a strong core and straight spine.

2. Polish Work

Next you’ll superset this first drill using what I call “polish work”

Drop down the weight and choose a strict upper body exercise with dumbbells such as

  • Incline curl
  • Lying reverse flys
  • Strict overhead press
  • Tricep push downs

Hit 12-15 reps. These will put you in a position that really isolates the muscle since you can’t rely on momentum.

The ultimate goal of supersetting together a heavier and lighter set is to totally exhaust the muscle to stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth). Just when you begin to recover from the heavier set, going straight into the polish work becomes harder to maintain for a longer rep range.

For an in-depth read that goes into chest and back training, check out HOW TO PROGRAM UPPER BODY TRAINING FOR ATHLETES

Upper Body Training Template

Athlete Performs Dumbbell Bench Press

So now that you have a template for creating any upper body workout with dumbbells, play around with different drills that target the bicep, triceps and shoulders.

Biceps – 

3 Rounds

1A. Double arm hammer curls x 8-10 reps

1B. Seated DB incline curl x 12-15 reps

Triceps – 

3 rounds

1A. Skull crusher x 8-10 reps

1B. Strict tricep push downs x 12-15 reps

Deltoids –

3 rounds 

1A. Close grip bench press x 8-10 reps

1B. Lying reverse flys x 12-15 reps

Try hitting any of these superset combos during your next upper body session.

And if you’re really looking to take your game to the next level, I recommend joining hundreds of athletes from every sport – who made the decision to train with OTA.

We’ve recently opened our doors to accept new talent into my elite 1-on-1 coaching program where you can train like the best with:

  • 100% Customized Training and Nutrition Programs
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  • Access to OTA Exercise Database 
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