The Ultimate Guide for Arm Training: There isn’t a person on the planet that gets into lifting weights uninterested in building the biggest arms they possibly can.
Having a real “set of guns” on you is a badge of honor amongst athletes, bodybuilders, weekend fitness warriors, and regular folks alike. There’s just something about slipping into a shirt and having the sleeves fit just a little bit too tight thanks to all of your hard work and dedication.
At the same time, a lot of people find out pretty quickly that there’s a whole lot more to building bigger arms than simply curling iron over and over (and over) again.
Below we run through the secret sauce of (almost) everything you need to know about building bigger, stronger arms.
We start off by focusing on the main muscle groups that make up your arm anatomy, giving you the inside information you need to know how (and why) to target different components to build the best looking arms you can without sacrificing any strength.
From there we move into a couple of core principles that will help you dramatically accelerate your “arms race” timeline.
Use these tips and tricks and you’ll pack on pound after pound of lean muscle mass in your biceps, triceps, and forearms a whole lot faster than you ever would have thought possible. You’ll be stretching shirtsleeves in no time!
After that we jump right into more than a handful of core exercises you’ll want to implement to blast as many muscle fibers in your arms as humanly possible. Use these exercises together to build workout plans that fuel growth, generate more strength, and increase your overall athletic capabilities all at the same time.
Closing things out is a quick FAQ to highlight some of the most common questions people have when getting ready to train arms followed by a short wrap up that sort of rounds everything out.
Now that we’ve square that away, though, let’s jump right in!
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Before really getting into the nuts and bolts of building bigger arms it’s critically important to understand a little bit about your arm anatomy.
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The biceps are the “bread and butter” muscle group for building bigger arms, at least when it comes to what people think they need to focus on during each training session.
Made up of two major muscles, the short head biceps brachii and long head biceps brachii, these muscles extend out from your scapula (up in your shoulder) down to your forearm.
Develop your biceps right and you’ll be able to get a little bowling ball tucked underneath your sleeve every time you flex. You’ll also be able to generate a lot of pop and a lot of power when you’re biceps are fine tuned.
The triceps are almost criminally overlooked when it comes to building bigger arms, at least when you are talking to people that haven’t spent a lot of time in the gym already or folks that haven’t checked out a guide like this.
Sure, plenty of people work on their triceps to build that little triangle pop when they push their arms down – but most people (when they think about size) are focused on building bigger biceps to build bigger arms.
No, in reality it’s your triceps that are going to make up the bulk of the meat in this muscle group. This is the biggest chunk of protein on your upper arm, sitting directly opposite your bicep, and is made up of three individual heads – the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head.
If you want to build arms that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous you’re going to need to learn to love blasting your triceps!
If triceps are criminally underrated parts of building bigger arms the forearm muscles might be overlooked completely.
That’s a big mistake.
You might not be looking for forearms that could stunt double for Popeye, but you don’t want to be walking around with lean and mean pythons in your upper arm and forearms that look like you spent most of your time with your hands in your pockets.
The forearm is a single muscle that connects your hands to the muscles in your upper arm, though most people focus on targeting both the anterior and posterior “faces” of the forearm when they are working it out.
Because the forearm has such a huge impact on overall grip strength (dictating how much weight you’re able to pick up safely and securely) you’re going to want to make sure that these muscles are getting just as much attention as your biceps and your triceps.
Don’t let your forearms become the weak link in the chain. Develop them to create real power, real strength, and a real symmetrical kind of luck, too.
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Now that we have the basics of your upper and lower arm anatomy taking care of, it’s time to start building a foundation of fundamentals that will help you train smarter (speeding up your results along the way).
One of the biggest mistakes that newbies make when they want to train their arms is skimping on volume, often because they just don’t know any better.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Nothing is going to push your body to grow bigger, faster muscles more than ramping up the volume of your workouts – adding extra sets, adding extra reps, and (possibly) adding another arm workout during the week, too.
If you’ve scheduled three arm exercises to target your biceps, triceps, and forearms consider kicking that up a bit and going with four with the same rep schedule. If that’s not going to work, add two or three reps to whatever you had penciled in for each set already.
The idea here is to constantly look for ways to increase your volume, especially as you start to see results and start to plateau a little bit. Always try to do a little more tomorrow than you did the day before and you’ll be growing faster than you would have thought possible.
A little secret that some of the more advanced bodybuilders in the world like to use to maximize their arm growth is finishing off each workout with drop sets – not just adding extra volume, but generating extra intensity, too.
Drop sets are pretty simple and straightforward to implement.
At the end of your arm day workout load up a barbell (or grab the heaviest dumbbell you can manage) and squeeze out five reps. Drop the weight down and squeeze out five reps, and keep doing that until you are just too fatigued to get back after – and then try to squeeze a couple more reps out all the same.
Keep your form strict and disciplined, though, as any sloppiness here can sideline you for a couple of weeks (or even a couple of months).
The idea here is not to risk injury but instead to really recruit every possible muscle fiber in your arms possible at the end of your arm workout day.
Different grip choices are going to change the “angle of attack” that you are using to hit your muscles in different ways.
It might not seem like you are making all that much of a difference by moving your grip in or out on a barbell before curling, for example – but you’re making a world of difference when it comes to how your muscles work to lift that weight through the range of motion.
You still need to make sure that your grip is strong and stable to control the weight without risking injury. But there’s nothing wrong with shaking things up a little bit every now and again (every couple of workouts) to confuse your body, recruit different muscle fibers, and really put yourself through the paces to build big arms.
Your deltoid muscles “rollover” your biceps brachii as well as your tricep muscles, and even though working out your shoulder is a little bit beyond the scope of this specific guide it’s important to make sure that you are developing your shoulders as intensely as you’re working on your arms.
You definitely want to make sure that you are building as wide a shoulder base as you can.
That’s what’s going to add a lot of depth and a lot of volume to your arms, creating that symmetry that folks are after when they want to build better “beach muscles” like these.
Don’t ignore your shoulders. You’ll end up looking a little bit lopsided, just the same way you would if you only work to your biceps and your triceps and forgot about your forearms.
There are two absolute musts that you have to focus on when you are building bigger arms, and that’s getting plenty of rest and plenty of protein to “feed your pythons”.
The muscles in your arms (the grand scheme of things, anyway) are relatively small muscle groups – but your body uses them almost all day long, every single day during your waking hours.
It’s not going to take much to overtax them, especially if you are working with heavy weights and pushing your volume as much as you can.
Combine that with some of your arm muscle fibers getting recruited when you are doing other exercises that target your chest, your back, etc., and you really need to be sure that you’re not over doing things.
Without a lot of rest (and without a lot of fuel) your arms are going to have a tough time recovering inside of a week or so. That’s going to set you back, lower your ability to lift heavy weights, and open up the risk for serious injury.
Set aside four or five days between arm workouts to give yourself plenty of time to kind of reboot. It sounds counterintuitive, but more rest actually helps you build bigger arms faster.
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Your body is actively going to work against you when you want to build a bigger, stronger frame – especially when it comes to your arms.
Think about it this way:
When you have big, thick muscles they need a lot of fuel to keep them strong and healthy. That means that your bigger arms are very “metabolically hungry”, which is another way of saying you need more fuel to stay the same size (let alone grow).
Since the body was built to survive it’s going to try to conserve as much metabolic energy as necessary, and that means it’s going to start slowing down your progress when you are in pursuit of 18, 20, 22 inch arms.
To overcome that natural resistance you need to sort of shock your body.
This might mean shaking up your routine schedule, changing your rest and recovery timelines. It might mean lifting really heavy one day (90% of your one rep max), reasonably heavy the next (80%), super light the time after that (50%) before cranking things back up to 90% again.
If you’re starting to see a plateau and wondering why your progress feel stuck in the mud don’t be shy about shocking your system and shaking things up a little bit.
(This is definitely where drop sets can take things to the next level, too).
All right, all right.
We squared away a bit about anatomy and covered some fundamentals to building bigger arms, but now it’s time to get into the real nuts and bolts of the movements and exercises you’ll want to use going forward.
A huge favourite of folks that have already built gigantic arms, skull crushers work wonders to add a lot of mass to your triceps (and send your strength levels through the roof at the same time).
Dumbbell skull crushers and barbell skull crushers work just as well as one another. It really all comes down to your comfort level. The idea here, though, is to make this a cornerstone of your tricep work so that you really blast it is huge muscle group and generate that growth so key to bigger arms.
The close grip bench press is another fantastic movement for adding tricep mass and strength. It’s a fan favourite for beginners, too, especially since it’s so simple and straightforward to get started with.
All you really have to do is load up the plates with something you feel comfortable pressing, slide underneath the bar, and grip it so that your hands are in line with the centre of your chest – maybe four or five inches apart from one another.
Bang out a couple of sets of five or six reps with maybe 15 seconds in between each set and you’ll be good to go!
Dips are a beautiful thing to build bigger, stronger arms, shoulders, and a lot of extra mobility and flexibility all at the same time.
A great compound tricep exercise, you can do dips pretty much anywhere you like (on a dip machine, between two chairs, etc.) and as long as you are really going low into the dip and then exploding upwards you’ll be able to build big arms in no time at all.
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By flipping the grip position to make the dumbbell vertical rather than horizontal you’re actually able to target even more of your biceps brachii muscles than you would have otherwise.
Traditional curls are okay, but if you really want to maximize your growth potential it’s a good idea to shoot for hammer curls instead.
Finding exercises that hammer all three of the major muscle groups in your biceps can feel like a bit of an uphill challenge unless you start rocking and rolling with these modified curls.
To pull these off simply start in the traditional curl position (palms up at the rest and ready position) but then rotate the weights 180° as soon as you hit the top so that your palms are now facing down as you control the dissent.
It’s this twisting motion that’s going to activate the most muscle fibres in your biceps possible, guaranteeing that you really fry your biceps (especially if you’re lifting heavy) to get the growth you are shooting for.
About as basic a forearm exercise as it gets, do not overlook this staple if you really want to build big arms.
This movement is going to activate pretty much every muscle fibre in your forearms in a big way, including fibres in the wrist and finger flexors – muscle fibres that often go overlooked with some of the other forearm options out there.
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart or so, scoop up a pair of heavy dumbbells, and then walk in a straight line – keeping your back and core nice and tight – before reaching a predetermined spot, turning around, and walking back.
It doesn’t get much easier than that but it’s still going to fry your forearms, helping you to build muscles that Popeye would be jealous of.
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Truth be told, as long as you focus on the fundamentals we highlighted above it isn’t going to take you as long as you think to build absolutely massive arms.
You can do some serious growing in just a couple of months, and have massive “guns” six months from starting if you’re serious, dedicated, and are eating right.
It’s definitely possible to build big arms at home (push-ups, chin-ups, and dips are your best friend) but things certainly become a whole lot easier when you have access to weights.
Because there are three major muscle groups that you’re going to be hitting when working out your arms (biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles) it’s not a bad idea to split this off onto its own day.
Compound work (push and pull training days) aren’t a bad way to go if you absolutely have to attach on day to another four variety of different reasons.
It’s best you only work out your arms once a week, mostly because these muscles are still going to be getting plenty of attention every other time you work out and have to pick up weights or move something in the gym.
Five days between training sessions will work wonders without compromising your hard earned results along the way.
Heavy lifts with a lot of volume is the holy grail approach to building monster arms, but every now and again you should certainly shock your system by going with 60% of your one rep maximum (or even later) and just cranking out as many repetitions as humanly possible.
At the end of the day, building big, strong arms is often a whole lot easier than most people make it out to be – so long as you aren’t exclusively slamming out curls (especially preacher curls) over and over and over again.
You want to be a little more strategic and a little more savvy with your approach to building bigger arms, implementing a lot of tricep work to pack on more mass than just big biceps alone would bring to the table.
Use this guide to make smarter decisions every time you step in the gym and you won’t have anything to worry about.
You’ll have the kinds of arms that Adonis himself would be jealous of, the kinds of arms that are going to have you threatening to blow out of your sleeves even when you aren’t flexing.
Just don’t be surprised if you start catching a bit of extra attention with your new “guns”!