Are You Trying to Build Bigger Arms?
You have tried various arm routines but your arms still have not shown any signs of growing.
Or maybe you have been training for a while and you have managed to put on some muscle but your arms are still lagging behind.
If this sounds similar to you then you have stumbled upon the right place. As a natural bodybuilder with very poor genetics (skinny arms, narrow waist, ribs and spine always visible) I have beaten the odds and forced my body into growth. You can do this also.
Before You Begin
You can follow the best bodybuilding routines and train with perfect form, however if you are not dedicating your time towards upholding to these 13 techniques then you will struggle to build muscle let alone build big arms.
Read my How to Build Muscle article to learn 13 ways to build muscle fast. Following these 13 proven techniques will set the right conditions and environment which will allow your body to produce quality muscle. When you understand this then you are ready to turn your twig-like arms into guns. Soon enough your sleeves will be hugging your arms after this.
It is important to know exactly what muscles you are trying to target for each arm exercise. A basic understanding of the muscles that make up your arm will benefit you greatly.
The arm is made up of the upper arm and the lower part of the arm. The lower part is referred to as the forearm. In this article we will be focused on the upper arms but remember that your forearms will become stronger and in turn become bigger when your upper arm strengthens.
The upper arm is made up of the Triceps Brachii and the Biceps Brachii muscles. In simple terms the upper arm is made up of the triceps and the biceps. An important fact about overall arm size is that the triceps make up approximately two-thirds of your entire arm.
If you want to learn how to get bigger arms then the smart thing to do is to spend more focus into training your triceps. The Triceps Brachii is made up of three muscles heads hence the name “tri” which means three.
- Tricep Long Head
- Tricep Lateral Head
- Tricep Medial Head
The Biceps Brachii is made up of two muscle heads.
- Bicep Long Head
- Bicep Short Head
How to Get Bigger Arms – 5 Tips
Now lets us learn how to get bigger arms. This is the bulk of the article in which I will go through 5 Key tips that every lifter must be aware of and need to action, to build bigger arms.
1. Experience Level
There are countless articles in fitness magazines and all over the internet about increasing arm size. What most, if not all fail to acknowledge is the reader’s experience level. If you are a beginner to weight lifting the way you exercise to increase arm size will be completely different compared to an advanced lifter.
To get bigger arms, there are many things to be aware of. First you should address what type of experience level you are currently, as a lifter. If you are unsure it is better to be brutally honest and underrate yourself and be safe.
When you have established this detail then you can analyse what needs to be done in order for you to build bigger arms.
Let me address the differences on what to do to get bigger arms for those at different experience levels. A) Novice Lifters & B) Intermediate/Advanced Lifters below:
A) Novice Lifters
As a novice to bodybuilding make use of compound and free weight exercises. You want big arms but cannot achieve this by training your arms every day with just isolation exercises (Exercises that focus on only one muscle group).
Spend more time on your big lifts that targets your bigger muscle groups such as your chest and back. Targeting these bigger muscle groups will release more testosterone in your body will lead to building more muscle.
Compound and free weight exercises such as barbell bench press, barbell bent over rows, pull ups, dumbbell bench press and dumbbell rows will add serious mass on your chest, back and your arms. The heavy pushing movements heavily involves your triceps and the heavy pulling movements puts a lot of emphasis on your biceps.
In other words doing these big compound exercises indirectly trains your arms at the same time. You will not see a guy with massive chest and hug back with skinny arms. It is unheard of and not physically possible. So work on getting stronger on your big lifts to increase your arm size. Also add an extra one to three isolation exercises individually for your biceps and your triceps.
As a beginner do not be tempted to add any more isolation exercise into your routine. Your arms will receive plenty of training with your compound exercises and with the further one to three isolation exercises. Doing more will lead to overtraining and instead of increasing your muscle size you will decrease in muscle size.
Free Weights for Bigger Arms
As a novice you have to build a strong foundation. That is why one must focus on compound lifts first. Furthermore your workout must consist mainly of free weight exercises.
Free weight means using barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight etc. Everything that does not require and machine or an attachment is pretty much a free weighted exercise.
Your workout will be dominated by free weighted compound exercises, then followed by free weight isolation exercises. This will ensure you build a strong foundation. In time you can add extra exercises involving resistance machines. As novice do waste time on resistance machine isolated exercise.
Work your way up and get stronger. You are a beginner there is no rush nor pressure just take your time to improve and gain strength.
Get stronger on all your exercises if possible. Getting stronger on your compound lifts are more important and will get you bigger arms than getting stronger on your isolation exercises. For example it is unlikely to see a man bench press a heavy weight with thin arms.
Click here and ensure you are not doing these 10 Reasons Why You’re Not Making Gains
B) Intermediate/Advanced Lifters
For intermediate and advanced lifters you have to train smart to build big arms. As an intermediate or advanced lifter you should have built a considerate amount of muscle on you body frame already. If your arms are lagging behind compared to rest of your body then it is likely that it is due to bad genetics or due to the way you train.
Drop the Weight
The first thing an advanced lifter must do is to start again and go back to the drawing board. Leave your ego behind and lighten the weight. Now is the time to focus on free weighted isolation exercises. These exercises should dominate your arm routine. Try to really focus on the pump by feeling each rep with at least a 2 second negative on all reps.
Re-visit Exercise Form
There is no doubt that your exercise form and technique is sufficient. Obtaining bigger arms when you are already an intermediate lifter means your arms are not genetically gifted.
So ensure your exercise technique is 100% perfect. Spend time controlling the weight making sure you control both concentric and eccentric movements. Form is everything so pay attention to every little angle and learn more about your individual body mechanics.
Increasing Training Volume and Frequency
When you was a beginner there was a bigger risk of overtraining but now as an intermediate or advanced lifter it is time to increase the volume and frequency. In the space of a week for each the biceps and the triceps choose between five to six exercises. If you want to squeeze all six exercises into one workout that is perfectly fine, but that means you will only have one arm workout session a week.
You can also add more frequency into your routine by selecting three exercise at the beginning of the week and the other three half way into the week. If your workout routine thus far included training your bigger muscle group first and then followed by your arm exercises, then it is time to change. So typically you would hit the chest first and then train your triceps afterwards. To promote further growth on your arms now is a time for your arms to have its own workout day i.e. arm day.
2. Focus On Your Triceps
Tip number 2 is to spend extra time training your triceps. This tip should be obvious as already stated above in the arm anatomy that the triceps make up approximately 2/3 of the arms. Thus meaning if your triceps are lagging then your overall arm circumference will be small.
Your triceps will already be targeted, to some degree, on your push days of your workout. Therefore add an additional day to train your triceps either separately or with another body part. If you already have a tricep routine then add another additional day because it probably means that your triceps are a stubborn muscle group for you to develop. Do not directly train your triceps more than twice a week as this will be detrimental to muscle growth.
For those that do not have access to a gym or even dumbbells at home then try these Top 5 Bodyweight Tricep Exercises
3. Get Bigger Arms By Manipulating Order of Exercise
A general rule in regards to the order of your exercises are always do your heavy free weight exercises first and isolation exercises at the end. This is absolutely vital for novice. The reason for this is because while you are fresh and at your strongest attempt the heavy free weight exercises first as they pack on the most muscle onto your arms.
Advanced and intermediate lifters however have a different goal. Your arms should already have some muscle but it might look small because it does not look complete. You are probably lacking certain areas on your arms such as various tricep or bicep heads. For you priority is set on your weaker muscle head or heads. Start your arm routine on your weaker isolation exercise to improve the weaker heads. You will eventually be able to see that your arm’s will start to fill itself out.
4. Technique to Get Bigger Arms
Your exercise technique has to be good to increase arm size. It does not not have to be perfect just good is enough and in fact more important. Let me explain why good form is more beneficial for muscle building than using perfect form. I am huge believer in promoting great exercise form or technique. The reason why your form does not have to be completely perfect is because in order to grow you need to become stronger.
To get stronger you have to force yourself to become stronger. Just because you have been progressively overloading does not always mean you will easily become stronger each week. You have to force strength at times to get stronger and to grow. You are better of exercising with good form on a heavy and challenging weight rather than exercising with perfect form on a lighter weight.
When exercising with perfect form it becomes extremely difficult or even impossible to sustain when progressing with a heavier loads. At the same time it does not give you a reason to let your technique get sloppy and never rely on the assistance of other muscles on your isolation exercises.
For example I see many gym goers do bicep curls where their body swings back and forth in sync with their arms while curling the bar. This is a no as you are relying on your lower back to complete the bicep movement therefore you are barely training your bicep. Also by doing this you asking to get injured.
The importance on form that I want to stress the most is making sure you use a full range of motion with each rep that you do. So this means when you lift you go all the way up and all the way down. There are no shortcuts and by taking these so called shortcuts, you only be inhibiting your gains.
A general rule with rep tempo are as follows: for the positive movement it should be for 1-2 seconds, the static motion 1 second and the negative movement 2-3 seconds.
All exercises consist of three movements: positive, static and negative. So on if we a take a look at the bicep curl. When you lift the dumbbell all the way up that first movement is the positive. The static movement is when your biceps are most contracted, so right at the top. The negative movement is lowering the dumbbell to the starting position.
5. Change Your Arm Workout Routine Every 4-6 Weeks
The reasons why you need to change your arm workout routine 4-6 weeks for your arms to grow is because:
- Your muscles require exercise variety to grow. Your muscles easily adapts to a workout which means muscle growth halts. One needs to target all different types of muscle heads by working all the different angles. Changing your workout allows you implement other exercises into your routine to hit all the required angles and keeps your muscles guessing.
- The second reason one needs to change their routine is to overcome plateaus. You cannot keep improving every week on your workouts. When you do hit a brick wall that is a good time to change your routine as long as it is at least 4 weeks into your current workout plan.
- The final reason is to keep you motivated. Changing your workout and adding new exercises into it keeps things interesting. That way you never bored with your workout and you remain focused and reach your fitness goals.
Recommended Exercises for Triceps
These are our recommended exercise for the triceps that will promote more tricep muscle fibres. This in turn will help you get bigger arms. Please do not do all three exercises in a given workout if you are a novice. Select two of these exercises maximum, as these exercises are considered compound movements. Tricep exercises below:
- Close grip bench press
- Dumbbell tricep extension
Recommended Exercises for Biceps
Below are our favourite bicep exercises that will encourage bigger biceps. For the second exercise the barbell/ez bar bicep curl we personally recommend the ez bar bicep curl as it feels most natural and is safest on your wrists.
- Incline bicep curl
- Barbell/ez bar bicep curl
- Dumbbell bicep curl
Learn To Build Muscle – To Build Bigger Arms
You have enough information here on how to attain bigger arms. Ultimately one must acquire further knowledge on building muscle, because learning to build bigger arms is just a small piece of the puzzle.
Read our How to Build Muscle article and make certain you are doing all the required in order to build muscle.