10 Compound Exercises for Arm Size and Strength

Compound arm exercises are ideal for building arm mass quickly. 

By working multiple muscle groups simultaneously, they allow you to train efficiently and handle maximally heavy weights, helping you build more muscle in less time. 

In this article, you’ll learn the best compound movements for your triceps and biceps, a highly effective compound arm workout to help you build arm mass fast, and more.

What Is a Compound Arm Exercise?

A compound exercise is an exercise that trains multiple muscle groups simultaneously. In contrast, an isolation exercise is an exercise that trains just one muscle at a time. 

Thus, a compound arm exercise is an exercise that trains several muscles, including the biceps or triceps.

Compound biceps exercises generally involve pulling a weight toward your torso. Conversely, compound triceps exercises typically involve pushing a weight away from your torso.





The 10 Best Compound Exercises for Arms

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

Close-Grip Bench Press gif

Muscle Worked: Triceps, pecs, and shoulders

Most weightlifters regard the close-grip bench press and the best compound triceps exercise because it allows you to train your entire triceps with heavy weights safely. What’s more, because it’s a barbell exercise, it makes implementing progressive overload simple. 

2. Dip

Dip gif

Muscle Worked: Triceps, pecs, and shoulders

The dip is a top-tier compound triceps exercise because it trains all three heads of the triceps, which means it’d ideal for adding overall mass to the back of your arms.

3. Diamond Push-up

Diamond Push-up

Muscle Worked: Triceps, pecs, and shoulders

The diamond push-up allows you to train your entire triceps using only your body weight, making it a fantastic compound triceps exercise for people with limited access to gym equipment.

4. Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press

Neutral-Grip DB Press GIF

Muscle Worked: Triceps, pecs, and shoulders

The neutral-grip dumbbell bench press works your triceps much like the close-grip bench press, though many people find it easier on their shoulders. It also naturally places your elbows closer to your sides, which ensures your triceps do the lion’s share of the work.

However, the downside is that dumbbells are harder to control than a barbell. This usually means you can’t lift as much weight, which slightly limits how much strength and muscle you can build with this exercise.

5. Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell Pullover GIF

Muscle Worked: Triceps, pecs, and lats

While the dumbbell pullover doesn’t train the triceps through a full range of motion, it does place a lot of tension on them (the long head especially) when stretched, which makes it an effective exercise for gaining triceps mass.

6. Chin-up

Chin-up gif

Muscle Worked: Biceps, lats, mid and lower traps, and rhomboids

The chin-up is arguably the most effective compound exercise for biceps because it trains your biceps through their full range of motion, makes lifting progressively heavier weights practical and safe, and places your wrists in a supinated (palms facing you) position, which is important for building your biceps “peak.”

7. Pull-up

Pull-up gif

Muscle Worked: Biceps, lats, mid and lower traps, and rhomboids

Research shows that the pull-up is an outstanding compound biceps movement. It’s so effective for gaining mass because it trains the biceps through a long range of motion and is easy to progressively overload (with the help of a dip belt).

8. Neutral-Grip Pull-up

Neutral-Grip Pull-up

Muscle Worked: Biceps, brachialis, lats, mid and lower traps, and rhomboids

The neutral grip pull-up is a proven biceps builder. Because it involves a neutral grip, it also emphasizes the brachialis, a small muscle that helps to “push” your biceps peak higher. 

9. Lat Pulldown

Lat Pulldown gif

Muscle Worked: Biceps, lats, mid and lower traps, and rhomboids

The lat pulldown trains the biceps similarly to the pull-up, so you can use these compound biceps movements interchangeably. 

10. Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldown

Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldown

Muscle Worked: Biceps, brachialis, lats, mid and lower traps, and rhomboids

Like the neutral-grip pull-up, the neutral-grip lat pulldown emphasizes the brachialis more than most other compound biceps exercises, making it particularly effective for adding size to your “bis.”

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The Benefits of Compound Arm Exercises

They’re time-efficient.

Compound exercises train multiple muscle groups simultaneously, allowing you to achieve the results of several isolation exercises in less time. 

This means you can . . .

  1. Spend less time in the gym without sacrificing workout volume (sets), or,
  2. Do more overall volume in the same amount of time, which will likely help you gain more muscle and strength

They allow you to lift heavy weights.

Because compound exercises involve several muscle groups, they typically allow you to lift heavier weights than isolation exercises. 

This means you can subject your muscle to higher amounts of tension, which is vital for gaining mass and strength.

Should You Only Train Your Arms with Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are crucial for building arm mass and strength, but relying solely on them isn’t enough for optimal development.

While compound arm movements train your biceps and triceps effectively, research shows that doing additional arm isolation exercises leads to more balanced and complete muscle growth.

For example, studies show that “pulling” exercises like the lat pulldown are almost as effective as isolation exercises for building your biceps, but adding biceps isolation exercises to compound pulling exercises results in slightly more growth.

In other words, while biceps isolation exercises may not drastically boost biceps growth, they likely contribute significantly over time.

Similarly, while pressing exercises typically train the lateral and medial heads of the triceps, they don’t work the long head as effectively. To compensate, doing isolation exercises that emphasize the long head is essential for all-around triceps growth.

Moreover, isolation exercises allow you to train your arms even when other muscles are fatigued from compound movements, which makes training your arms with enough volume to grow more practical. 

Therefore, the best approach for most is to spend around 70% of your arm training time on compound exercises and the remaining 30% on isolation exercises.

This keeps your training fresh, enjoyable, and engaging, gives your joints a rest from heavy compound weightlifting, and will likely cause more balanced arm growth.

The Best Compound Workout for Arms

This compound arm workout contains all the best exercises for training your biceps and triceps, as well as most other muscles in your upper body.

It also includes the perfect amount of volume to stimulate muscle growth without wearing you out.

For best results do this workout once weekly, and add some biceps and triceps isolation exercises to some of your other workouts during the week. 

Compound Arm Workout

3 Tips for More Productive Compound Arm Workouts

1. End every set 1-to-2 reps shy of muscle failure.

To maximize muscle and strength gains in your compound arm workouts, you must take most of your sets within a rep or two of muscle failure.

Ask yourself at the end of each set, “If I had to, how many more reps could I have gotten with good form?” If the answer is more than two, increase the weight or reps to make your next set more challenging.

2. Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, increase the weight.

If your workout calls for 4-to-6 reps of the close-grip bench press and you get 6 reps for a set, add 10 pounds to your next set.

If you manage 3 or fewer reps with the new weight, reduce the weight by 5 pounds to ensure you stay in the 4-to-6 rep range. 

Follow this pattern of trying to add reps or weight to every exercise in every workout.

3. Take the right supplements.

The best supplements for maximizing arm growth are:

  • Protein powder: Protein powder provides your body with the nutrients needed to build muscle tissue and recover from workouts. For a clean and delicious protein powder, try Whey+or Casein+.
  • Creatine: Creatine boosts muscle and strength gain, improves anaerobic endurance, and reduces muscle damage and soreness from your workouts. For a natural source of creatine that also includes two other ingredients to enhance muscle growth and improve recovery, try Recharge.
  • Pre-workout: A high-quality pre-workout enhances energy, mood, and focus, increases strength and endurance, and reduces fatigue. For a top-tier pre-workout containing clinically effective doses of 6 science-backed ingredients, try Pulse with caffeine or without.

(If you’d like even more specific advice about which supplements you should take to reach your health and fitness goals, take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know exactly what supplements are right for you. Click here to check it out.)

+ Scientific References

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