Circuit Training Routines for Arm Workouts
Because the warm-up, cooldown, and movement between circuit training stations work your leg muscles, many people emphasize arm-strength exercises in their circuit routines, focusing as many as half of the total number of stations on their arms. If you don’t have the space to store weights, you can also use exercise bands or tubes to do many of the weight-intensive exercises.
You can pick and choose from the following list of arm-strengthening stations, as best suits your needs. If you get results from other arm-strengthening exercises, put those on your circuit.
Dumbbell biceps curl: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet as wide apart as your hips. Let your arms hang down at your sides with your palms forward. Pull your abdominals in, stand tall, and keep your knees relaxed. Curl both arms upward until they’re in front of your shoulders. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down and repeat.
Punches: Punches work your shoulders and upper arms. Take a dumbbell in each hand, put each hand in front of its respective shoulder, and stand with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, abdominals pulled in. Take your right hand, cross it over your body, and punch out to the left. To keep your knees healthy, roll up to your toes on your right leg as you punch out your right arm. Repeat with your left side and vice versa.
Upright rows: Upright rows work the shoulders. While standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand and put the ends of the two weights together, holding your hands right in front of your thighs. Pull your abdominals in. Keeping the weights together, pull your hands up to your collarbone. Lower and repeat.
If you’ve had any shoulder (specifically, deltoid) injuries, steer clear of upright rows. Instead, do shoulder presses.
One-arm dumbbell row: This exercise works the lats and biceps. Stand to the right of your weight bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in. Place your left knee and your left hand on top of the bench for support. Let your right arm hang down and a bit forward. Pull your abdominals in and bend forward from the hips so your back is naturally arched and roughly parallel to the floor, and your right knee is slightly bent. Tilt your chin toward your chest so that your neck is in line with the rest of your spine. Pull your right arm up until your elbow is pointing to the ceiling, your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and your arm brushes against your waist. Lower the weight slowly back down and repeat.
Push-ups: Push-ups work all the upper-body muscles. Facing the ground, rest your body on your hands and tiptoes, and keep your back and legs perfectly straight. Pull in your abdominals, lower your chest to the ground, and raise your chest back up again by pushing against the ground until your elbows are nearly locked. Repeat. As push-ups become easier for you, try elevating your feet, which makes this exercise much harder.
Pull-ups: Pull-ups work all the upper-body muscles. For this exercise, you need a bar that can hold your body weight. Place your hands (palms facing away) wider than your shoulders on the bar and hang. To do one pull-up, pull yourself up until your chin reaches over the top of the bar. Lower yourself to the hanging position and repeat.
Shrugs: Shrugs work your trapezius and upper-back muscles. Plant your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a dumbbell in each hand, relax your arms by letting them hang down at your sides, and relax your shoulders. Pull in your abdominals. Without bending your elbows, raise and lower your shoulders. Repeat.
Dumbbell chest press: This exercise works the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet flat on the floor. Push the dumbbells up so that your arms are directly over your shoulders and your palms up. Pull your abdominals in, and tilt your chin toward your chest. Lower the dumbbells down and a little to the side until your elbows are in line with or just slightly below your shoulders. The weights should be directly above the elbow joints, which should create a 90-degree angle. Push the weights back up in a triangular motion to where the weights are directly above your chest, taking care not to lock your elbows or allow your shoulder blades to rise off the bench. Repeat.
Dumbbell shoulder press: Shoulder presses work your shoulders, triceps, and upper back. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench with back support. Plant your feet firmly on the floor about hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and raise your upper arms to shoulder height so that the dumbbells are at ear level. Pull your abdominals in so that there is a slight gap between the small of your back and the bench. Place the back of your head against the pad. Push the dumbbells up and in until the ends of the dumbbells touch lightly directly over your head, and then lower the dumbbells back to ear level. Repeat.
Triceps dips: Use a sturdy chair, ledge, or seat of a weight bench. Extend your legs with your heels on the ground and rest your hands on the outside edge of the chair with your elbows locked. Pull in your abdominals; keep your shoulders back, down, and not rounded; and pull your chest up. Bending your elbows, lower your butt to the ground and then push yourself back up until your elbows lock again. Repeat.
If you find that you can’t lower yourself all the way to the ground and still come back up, lower just half the distance to the ground and do as many that way as you can.
Triceps kickback: Stand to the right of your weight bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in. Place your left lower leg and your left hand on top of the bench. Lean forward at the hips until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Bend your right elbow so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor, your forearm is perpendicular to it, and your palm faces in. Keep your elbow close to your upper arm. Pull your abdominals in and relax your knees. Keeping your upper arm still, straighten your elbow behind you until your entire arm is parallel to the floor and one end of the dumbbell points down. Slowly bend your arm to lower the weight. Repeat. On the second circuit, do the exercise with your left arm.