Upper Limb Strengthening Exercises

To build up strength in our arms, we need to build up stamina through repetition. Start low and build up. Do the exercise slow and precise.

Ideally you use some weights when doing these exercises. The weight should be comfortable to carry but get more challenging with repetitions. This can mean you need different weights for each arm if your ability is very different from one arm to the other.

It is also advisable to warm the muscles up, you are going to work on to prepare for action, so to speak. This can be, just a few punches in all directions or doing similar exercise than below but without weights with adding some shoulder rolls and neck stretches.

During the exercises always remember:

  1. Breathe! Never hold your breath, breathe deeply and slowly, in and out with these exercises
  2. Relax your shoulders - if you lift the shoulders during the exercise, you put a lot of strain on muscles which should not be involved and that might turn into stiff neck muscles and headaches
  3. Keep your head and chin in neutral  - you might think your chin helps to lift the weight but it is the same as with the shoulders, you are putting a strain on muscles which should not be involved in these exercises and also, it often means you are holding your breath
  4. Have plenty to drink during and after the exercises - keeping well hydrated during exercising is always advisable as we lose a lot of moisture through heavy breathing, sweating and to our muscles, which are working hard and increase their blood flow. Keeping well hydrated can help avoid headaches and muscle aches after exercising.

If you notice any of the problems listed above, you have two options:

  1. If the problems are at the end of the exercises, do fewer repetitions 
  2. If the problems are throughout the exercises, use lighter weights and build-up

Well now we are prepared, I think we are ready, hope you have fun with these lovely exercises!


Exercise one: Biceps Curl

  • Stand tall with arms by your side, holding a weight with one hand. Palm facing inwards.
  • Bend your elbow and bring your palm towards your shoulder. Straighten your arm back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat 3-5 times

Note: Try not to move your elbow.




Exercise two: Shoulder Press, Narrow

  • Stand tall. Hold weights at shoulder height, elbows pointing forward.
  • Press weights up by straightening your elbows. Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times


  • Do not let your elbows open to the side.
  • Try not to shrug your shoulders.
  • Keep abdominals tight to avoid excessively extending your lower back.


Exercise three: Upright Row

  • Stand tall, holding the weights in front of your hips.
  • Lift weights to chest level, leading the movement with your elbows pointing outwards. Lower down in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat 3-5 times


  • Keep your elbows higher than the weights at all times.
  • Focus on shoulder muscles; try not to shrug your shoulders.


Exercise four: Shoulder Press

  • Stand tall. Hold weights at shoulder height with your elbows pointing to the sides.
  • Press the weights up to straight arms. Return to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat 3-5 times


  • Try not to shrug your shoulders.
  • Keep abdominals tight to avoid excessively extending your lower back.



Exercise five: Bent Over Row

  • Stand with your trunk and buttocks active holding weights in each hand. Tilt forward from your hips, keeping your spine and neck in a neutral position.
  • Pull your elbows back and squeeze your scapulae in and down. Lower the arms down in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat 3-5 times


  • Don't let your shoulders rotate forward when pulling your elbows back.
  • Maintain neck in a neutral position.


Exercise six: Lateral Raise

  • Stand tall, with arms by your sides, holding weights.
  • Lift your arms to the side, keeping elbows straight. Palms face downwards or forwards.
  • Repeat 3-5 times

Note: Keep your chest open and try not to shrug your shoulders.





Exercise seven: Lawnmower with a Dumbbell

  • Start in standing, holding a dumbbell in one hand.
  • Bend forwards from your hips and bring the dumbbell in front of your opposite side knee/thigh, with your elbow straight.
  • Pull your elbow backward, shoulder blades together and slightly rotate from your trunk.
  • Keep your pelvis in place and pointing straight forwards.
  • Straighten your arm and rotate trunk back to starting position.
  • Repeat 3-5 times



Exercise eight

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight.
  • Clasp the arms of the chair and lift your bottom from the seat by straightening your arms and pushing the shoulders down. Do not let your chin protrude forward. 
  • Repeat 3-5 times




Exercise nine

  • Start either standing or sitting holding weights in your hands.
  • Pull your shoulders up towards your ears. 
  • Hold approx. 10 secs.
  • Lower your shoulders. Keep your elbows straight throughout the exercise.
  • Repeat 3-5 times





Exercise 10

  • Sit with back straight holding 1-2 kg weights in both hands.
  • Lift alternately arms up and bring back down.
  • Repeat 3-5 times






Exercise 11: Eccentric Wrist Extensor Strengthening

Note: In this exercise, the point is to avoid concentric muscle work, which in this case means do no actively bend your wrist upwards. Use the other hand to bend the wrist and bring the dumbbell to the upper position.

  • Sit beside a table with your lower arm supported on the table. Hold a dumbbell with your palm facing down and your wrist over the edge of the table. Your wrist is bent upwards.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell down. With the assistance of your other hand, return to the starting position by lifting the dumbbell and bending the wrist upwards.
  • Repeat 3-5 times




All these exercises and pictures are kindly provided by Physiotools. Thank you!