Arm (+Core) Workout with Hand Weights

Arm (+Core) Hand Weight WorkoutI get tons of requests for arm workouts, and since this upper body workout using light hand weights was a big hit, I decided to do another. This time, I’m making all the arm exercises a little more dynamic so that you work your core as well. Instead of just doing a shoulder press, you do it while holding a boat pose; instead of just doing a triceps kickback, you do it while in plank. This one is quick (12-18 minutes, depending on the intervals you choose) so it’s great to pair with a cardio workout or to do on days you’re “too busy” to workout.

Arm (+Core) Workout with Hand Weights

Equipment I Used:

  • Set of 5-lb hand weights
  • Set of 8-lb hand weights

As you can see, I used two different weights (light and medium), but you could definitely get away with just using one light pair. I only used the heavier ones for one exercise.

This workout flows from right to left. You’ll start with exercises isolating the right side, move into exercises with both arms, and then end by isolating the left side. You go through that a total of 3 times, taking a 30 to 60-sec rest in between each round (try not to rest between individual exercises; push to make it through the entire sequence before shaking out those arms!).

Your fitness level and the weight of the dumbbells you’re using will determine how long you stay in each exercise. To start, do each exercise for 20 seconds. If you’re more advanced, spend 30 seconds on each exercise. To help you gauge where you should start, when I did this workout using 20-second intervals, I was able to make it through the complete sequence without breaking. When I did it with 30-second intervals, I had to cheat and put my feet down a few times during the boat pose exercises.

Arm (+Core) Hand Weight Workout


  • One-Arm Flys: Start in a plank position with your left hand stacked directly under left shoulder and right hand gripping a hand weight. Hips should be level—fight to keep them this way throughout the exercise (your right hip will want to open up, shifting weight towards the left—don’t let it happen!). From here, squeeze your right shoulder blade in towards your spine as you lift the hand weight up and out laterally, keeping a soft bend in the elbow. Pause at the top and then slowly return right arm down to starting position.
  • Triceps Kickbacks: In a plank position, have left hand stacked directly under left shoulder, right hand holding onto a hand weight, elbow bent. Keeping your hips level as you do this (fight your body’s natural tendency to shift all the weight into your left side), extend your right hand straight back behind you, really squeezing the back of the arm (triceps) as you do. Hinging at the elbow, bring the weight slowly back to starting position. This is the one exercise I used an 8-lb weight with instead of 5.
  • Serve the Platter: In a plank position, keep left hand stacked directly under left shoulder, right hand holding onto a hand weight, palm facing up, elbow softly bent. From here, keeping your hips level (resist your body’s tendency to lean into that left side), reach that right hand forward, getting as close to a straight arm as you can. Slowly return to starting position.
  • Push Ups: Use both arms for these! If you need to modify, drop down to your knees.


All the following exercises are down while holding a boat pose. For boat pose, you balance on your tailbone, leaning back slightly, legs and upper body lifted in a “v” shape. To do this, engage your core (I think of trying to squeeze my belly button and spine together). I keep my knees bent in boat with shins parallel to the ground (except for during shapers), but if you’re more advanced, you can try keeping them straight the entire time.

  • Shoulder Press: Start with arms in goal post position: elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height. From here, press your hands up overhead, bringing weights together above your head. Lower back down, but only so far as brings your elbows back to shoulder height. Don’t let them dip down lower than that. As you do these, be careful not to shrug your shoulders up towards your ears.
  • Shoulder Shapers: Start with arms in goal post position: elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height. From here, maintaining those 90-degree bends, bring your forearms and hand weights together in front of your face. Return back out to goal post position. Elbows should stay at shoulder height the entire time. As we do these, we’re going to bend and extend our legs in boat pose so that it almost feels like a crunch. When arms are out wide, legs straighten, when forearms come in together, bend the knees, pulling them in slightly towards your chest.
  • Arm Circles: Extend your arms straight out to the side, a weight in each hand. Keeping arms straight, trace small, controlled circles with your hands, not letting your hands fall below shoulder height. Each round, alternate the direction in which you trace those circles.
  • Crossbody Punches: These are pretty self-explanatory: twist and punch! With a weight in each hand, start by holding them in towards your chest. From here, punch the right hand across your body, twisting your torso to the left along with it. Alternate, doing the same thing with the left hand. These should be quick—punch, punch, punch!


Repeat sequence you did on the right.

You will go through the entire sequence (right side, both, left side) three times. If you choose to stay in each exercise for 20 seconds, this workout will take you 12 minutes (plus a couple breaks). If you shoot for 30 seconds, it’ll take you 18 minutes + breaks.

Arm (+Core) Hand Weight Workout

WEARING | tank: Nasty Gal // leggings: c/o Puma // strappy-back sports bra: c/o Cory Vines // sneakers: Nike

Happy hump day!signature

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  1. Love this one!

  2. This workout looks intense! I have a pair of 5lb and 8lb weights so I am going to give this a shot soon. 🙂

  3. Love all your pictures and explanations. So much detail in your post. I have been working on my upper body strength for a while – I had a shoulder injury a few years ago. I include a lot of these exercises and am working up to a full push up!

  4. Love this! I run and spin most of the time and often think that I would love to do a quick workout that focuses on my arms/core. Love that it barely requires any equipment or space! Thanks!

  5. So good! Functional and compound moves for the arms and core are my favorite. I loev this one.

  6. thank you! I’m always looking for new at-home workouts and this is perfect.

  7. This is great! I love how it uses your abs too. I hate working just my abs: for some reason it’s just easier for me to work two things at once.

  8. Awesome! love your motivation for working out at home if you don’t have time for the gym! get it girl!

  9. Did this as a gym workout, inserting a hard 5 minutes on the treadmill between each set, making it a perfect all round workout when short of time. So much harder than I thought it was going to be! Definitely will do this again – and hope it gets easier!

  10. This is a great routine to get both your arms and abs! It is definitely one where I will work my way up to heavier weight.

  11. PINNED!! Loving this simple to do workout.

  12. You are what is wrong with the fitness industry. Please explain your interioraly translated humoral head.

  13. I’m going to give these a try. I’m a runner so my lower body is tone but I struggle with arms and back. Thx for sharing

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