2 dumbbells, 4 exercises and this home workout to build arm and back muscles

15 minutes is all you need to increase muscle size in both your arms and your upper back

Young muscular man lifting up dumbbells at the gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Quick question: What muscle do you need to work to have arms as big as Chris Hemsworth's? Maybe the forearm? Or the biceps? How about the shoulder? No, no and no. To reach peak arm, you need to focus on your triceps, the muscle at the back of the upper arm – that helps you build arm girth the fastest. And with this arm and upper back workout, you can grow bigger arms, shoulders, and a strong back using only two dumbbells. 

As well as increasing upper arm circumference, completing triceps exercises can help stabilise your shoulders and increase your arms' flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, you are less likely to develop a rotator cuff injury if you strengthen this muscle area. Enough teasing, though; let's start working out!

In this workout, our instructor invites us to complete a 15-minute workout focusing on strengthening your triceps, biceps, shoulders and back. All that is required are a pair of light dumbbells as we proceed through 4 exercises, with 12 repetitions, each lasting for 3 sets. The exercises:

  • Zottman curl 
  • Underhand rear delt raise 
  • Tricep push-up 
  • Single-arm floor press (6 reps for each arm) 

Keen to focus more on arm workouts? We recommend checking out this 15-minute two-dumbbell routine for toned arms. Looking for a rapid but effective strength training workout for your back? Try this 5-minute home AMRAP workout. Don’t own any weights? No problem, as you can still participate in this 30-minute, full-body drill by GRNDHOUSE founding member Izy George. 

Like to take part in XHIT’s workout but don’t own any dumbbells? Check out the best dumbbells we’ve reviewed and ranked this year. Finally, if you’ve been powering through your strength workouts but notice your hands are becoming more calloused and blistered as your weight increases, then we advise protecting these with one of the best gym gloves

Meg Walters
Freelance journalist

Meg is a British-Canadian freelance writer based in southeast London. She can usually be found writing about classic films, rom-coms, period dramas, TV, Millennials, pop culture, books, style, lifestyle and fitness. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, GQ, Stylist, The i, i-D, Little White Lies, Insider and more.