The 8 Best Arm Exercises for Weightlifting

Big biceps don’t win strength competitions. Developing proficiency in the sport of weightlifting is about mastering both the snatch and the clean. If you’re striving for the largest possible total, the way you exercise your legs deserves the lion’s share of your attention.

However, there is no reason to neglect your arms all the way. In fact, the right biceps and triceps exercises can help you stay healthy while training and lifting weights on the platform. Knowing which exercises to incorporate—and which aren’t worth your time—will make the difference between a quality supplement routine and unnecessary fluff.

Credit: Arsenii Palivoda / Shutterstock

To that end, below you can find a list of some of the most valuable arm isolation moves for Olympic lifting, as well as an explanation of how to add direct arm work to your weightlifting training schedule.

Best arm exercises for weightlifting

curl hammer

While brushing isn’t a dominant arm exercise—if you’re doing it right—the technique does require a lot of elbow flexion.

As you pull yourself down to meet the breast, your elbow bends to reach you, but your hand does not lie down, or it turns up. Because hammer curls do not involve any movement or twisting of the wrist, it closely simulates the position of your arm as you move to receive an intense brushing.

Benefits of Hammer Curl

  • Mimics the same elbow position you take during the pick-up phase of cleaning.
  • Dumbbells reduce the absolute load used, making them less stressful for the body than the work of iron.

How to do the dumbbell curl

Stand upright with your feet close together in a clean position and your palms facing each other. If you want to be very specific, you can grab dumbbells if their thickness allows. Bend your elbows to bend each dumbbell as high as possible – don’t stop the movement when your forearm is parallel to the floor. Keep your upper arm folded tightly over your torso at all times. Lower the weight slowly, keeping your wrists neutral at all times.


Curl Reverse

Most standard curls are performed with a supine wrist – palms facing the ceiling. In weightlifting exercises, your arms are often under a load when your wrists are enlarged or your palms are facing downward. While the former provides more direct stimulation of the biceps since one of the main functions of the biceps is hand rolling, the latter is more specific to your sport.

Benefits of reversing the plexus

  • The mechanics lever is similar to clean or power clean.
  • It can be performed with a standard iron bar.

How to do the reverse curl

Get an iron bar with a clean regular grip. Stand upright and roll the weight up as far as possible. He paused briefly at the top and slowly descended. If you feel discomfort in your wrists or elbows, thumb release may relieve some of the tension.


Zottman Curl Band

Unless you’re an accomplished pro, your approach to snatching or brushing may vary slightly from rep to rep. Because lifts are made dynamically, there is plenty of room for small adjustments to shape or joint placement that can become dangerous over time if neglected in your extra work.

By adding rotation to standard resistance band curls, you can prepare your wrists and elbows to withstand unplanned movements or wrong technique.

Benefits of the Zottman Curl Band

  • Train your wrists and elbows to be strong against torsion and torque.
  • Low impact, which makes it easy to include in most workouts.
  • Almost every weightlifting gym offers resistance bands to work with.

How to do a Zottman Curl Band

Place the tape on the floor and stand in the middle of it. Hold each end in your hands and stand upright, palms facing forward. Roll the tape as high as possible. Pause, then slowly descend. As you lower your hands, rotate them so that your palms are facing behind you when you go back down. Rotate them back to the starting position, then go again.


upper range extension

Preventing a snatch or flick is about how strong the triceps, the muscle that controls elbow extension, is. Strong triceps secure tight and fast shut-downs, and your supplement training should support that as much as possible.

Because resistance bands get tighter as you pull them, using one of them to perform an overhead stretch not only trains the triceps one at a time, but also promotes a full elbow lock with your arm resting over your head.

Top Range Extension Benefits

  • It can be done one arm at a time, providing some valuable one-sided stimulus.
  • Simulates a snatch or jerk lock.
  • The dynamic tension of the range teaches you to stretch harder the closer you get to closing.

How to do an upper band extension

Wrap a strap around a fixed point at a low elevation or stand on the stray end. Lift the upper part of your arm and then straighten your elbow firmly. Pause in the highest position for a moment, and imagine a successful overhead lift. Slowly lower your hand behind your head and repeat.


press grab

If privacy is the name of the game, pressure to snatch has the winning hand. Although the push-up is technically a compound lift, a wide grip requires the triceps to do the bulk of the work. Not only can you do snatch press as a way to build locking strength, but it’s also a great general warm-up.

hijack press benefits

How do press kidnapping

Loosen the barbell as you would a standard back squat. Assume a typical snatch grip and a hold-up stance. With your gaze fixed straight ahead, push the bar away from your back with the triceps and lock it firmly at the top. Keeping the pressure on the top, press your arms and upper back evenly. Lower the weight and absorb it by bending your knees slightly.


Diamond push-up

The pushup is a great general purpose exercise but leaves something to be desired for Olympic lifters. Where it lacks triceps stimulation and firm stability in the wrists, the diamond push-up excels.

By placing your hands close to each other on the floor, your triceps should work harder to lock your elbow, which should translate well into your overhead game. Furthermore, the diamond press is a more challenging position for the wrist, providing some equally valuable tension to the joint.

Diamond push-up benefits

How do you do the diamond press?

Get into a plank position, but place your hands directly under your torso so that the tips of your index and thumb fingers are touching. From here, lower slowly, allowing your elbows to extend as needed, until your chest is as close to the floor as possible. Press with the triceps to return to the starting position.


rice digger

For such a small joint, your wrists bear incredible loads in snatch and cleanliness. However, the complex muscles of the forearm, wrist, and hand are often hampered by static postures – or even their attachment to the wrist fascia. To make sure you’re healthy from tip of the finger to the elbow, you need to be a little creative with how you train.

Cedar burs provide comprehensive and consistent resistance to all the fine motor functions your wrist and hands can perform, a luxury that simply isn’t available with dumbbells or dumbbells.

rice digger benefits

  • It allows you to train all anatomical functions of the wrist and hand without the need for high-tech equipment.
  • Rice digging does not result in much general fatigue, which makes it suitable for daily practice.

How to do rice digging

Fill a medium to large bowl with a bag of rice. Dip your hands in the rice and twist, roll, sifter, or rotate depending on what you want to train. If you are working on your fist, crush the rice in the palm of your hand for some time. If you want to improve wrist and finger health, rotate your closed fist in a “figure eight” motion for time.


wrist rotation

Many weightlifting movements occur in one plane. When it comes to your wrists, they are usually flexed or extended. However, the upper position of the abduction requires rotation and radial deflection. These fine motor patterns are not usually stimulated by curling or even most direct forearm action. Wrist rotations allow you to work on a function of the wrist that may not be sufficiently stimulated.

Wrist rotation benefits

How to do wrist rotation

Stand upright, arms folded at your sides and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you while holding a pair of light dumbbells. Starting with your palms up, as if you were halfway through the dumbbell bend, rotate your wrist so your palm is facing the floor. Hold for a while, and slowly rotate back to the starting position.

Anatomy and function of the arms

Your legs steal the show on the weightlifting platform, but the bar doesn’t get to where it needs to go without strong arms to keep it there in the first place. Every muscle group in your arm plays a vital, albeit sometimes weak, role in your weightlifting performance.

triceps

The triceps brachii extends primarily your elbow but also helps extend your shoulder. When it comes to weightlifting, your triceps runs the show once you get the hang of lifting weights in a snatch or a jerk.

biceps

While the biceps brachii is front and center in bodybuilding competitions, it is unfortunately a second violin muscle in Olympic lifting. However, the biceps shine on the third clean pull, as you bend your elbow to pull yourself up to the bar.

Forearms, wrists and hands

Although they don’t do a lot of weightlifting — or literal — the different muscles that run from your elbows to your fingertips take a lot of tension in both lifts.

The forearms contract isometrically to help secure the grip of the hook, your wrists flex in the stages of clean draw and snatch, and even the delicate tissues in your hand are tense due to the width of the grip for most shots.

How to combine weight lifting and arm training

A good weightlifting routine doesn’t consist of curls and push-downs. If you are building your snatch or jerk, you already have a lot to do when it comes to your workouts. Your accessory training should be tightly calibrated so that it doesn’t conflict with your main goal – a big overall.

Therefore, it is important to avoid “oversize”. It’s common for weightlifting exercises to last more than an hour or two, and the last thing you want to do after you’ve finished your eighth set of squats is to grind through a full arm workout.

To build your weapon while still making progress in your sport, arm exercise can be included in one of two ways – either as part of a warm-up, with exercises that complete your session, or towards the end of your workout, where you’ll raise the volume up a bit.

Here are two sample exercises that show how live arm training can fit into a complete weightlifting training plan:

A . workout model

This exercise puts the work of isolation first. Zottman’s curls should warm up your elbows nicely for a front squat later, without stressing you out too much. Snatch presses can double as both the direct triceps muscle and the pre-snatch balance technique work.

B . workout sample

  • grab: 5 x 2
  • Power cleaning and jerk: 3 x 3
  • grab pull: 3 x 3
  • Back squat: 4 x 4
  • Back extension: 2 x 15
  • Curl Reverse with a comprehensive set diamond push: 3 x 10 each
  • rice borer: 3 x 30 seconds

You can add more arm size after your workout, provided you have the energy. Reverse braids do so well with diamond push-ups that they can be made on the platform, and you can finish off with some cedar drills for the hand or wrist.

The Big Picture

Strong legs and a sculpted back are the hallmarks of any dedicated weightlifter. This does not mean that you should neglect your arms completely. There’s nothing wrong with including a little vanity in your routine to keep things fresh and fun.

Plus, a little direct arm training can do more than just help you look good at the beach. Each bar that you push above your head is supported by your arms. Show them some love, and they will reward you accordingly on the platform.

Featured image: Arsenii Palivoda / Shutterstock

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