With all the contradicting information out there on strength training and muscular development, it’s no surprise people are confused about how they should or shouldn’t train. The Lean and Mean Training series gives you the muscle building blueprints you need to maximize results. The best exercises, the most effective rep ranges and the ultimate strategies for building muscle and increasing full-body athleticism.
The muscles constituting the arms are the biceps, triceps and the forearms. Arm training isn’t just another name for biceps curling. Don’t skimp on triceps and forearm training if you want well-developed arms.
If you want bigger arms, prioritize triceps training (the “tri’s” make up 2/3 of your sleeve size). Strong triceps won’t only help you fill out your sleeves, they’ll also increase your pressing power for exercises like the push-up, bench press and dip.
Use a targeted approach to sculpt your arms (Användare:Chrizz at sv.wikipedia)
How to build big arms
You can build muscular arms as a by-product of working on your main lifts. Pull-ups, push-ups, heavy rowing and pressing movements will definitely get those arms to grow. With that being said, if you want to maximize your arm development, you need to incorporate isolation work, regardless of what strength coaches and fitness experts are claiming these days.
You want big arms? Train them with mean intentions.
With that said, you can have the best routine in the world, but if you’re not training progressively and consistently, you won’t be getting any results.
Progression + consistency= results
No matter what muscle group you’re targeting or how you set up your training. Focus on the particular muscle you’re working. Feel the tension. Control every part of the motion. Never do an exercise or a set for the mere sake of doing it. You’re wasting time.
Put some effort into your training if you ever want to be more than average.
Make sure to introduce the training stimulus on a consistent basis. How often you train should be determined by your individual recuperative capacity.
“Got it Victor! So what exercises should I do?”
I’ll gladly share with you the best exercises for building big, powerful arms. Watch the embedded videos to see them performed live.
Best Arm Exercises:
- Curls (all variations: using dumbbells, a barbell, cables, bodyweight)
- Close grip chin-ups
- Close grip push-ups
- Triceps extensions (all variations: using dumbbells, a barbell, cables, bodyweight)
- Dips (paralell bar and bench)
- Fingertip push-ups
Curls, curls, curls
The foundation of your average bodybuilding routine.
Although hopelessly abused by most trainees, the curl is still a great biceps builder. There are plenty of curl variations to target the two heads of the biceps brachii. I won’t walk you through every single one, though. We’ll simply focus on the best variations for stimulating the biceps.
EMG analysis has shown that barbell curls (shoulder wide grip) and dumbbell concentration curls are most efficient at stimulating the muscle fibers of the biceps (For more detail, check out the complete EMG series on Suppversity).
Close grip chin-ups
This variation of the chin-up puts more stress on the biceps. Focus on stretching and contracting your bi’s during every repetition. Keep constant tension on the targeted muscle.
Close grip push-ups
Use a slightly narrower than shoulder wide grip and bang out a few muscle building reps. Focus on keeping the elbows close to your body and squeezing the tri’s at the top of each rep.
The floor extensions you see me doing in the video, are the bodyweight version of triceps cable push-downs. They might require some getting used to, especially if you’re new to bodyweight training. If they’re too difficult to do right away, focus on close grip push-ups, and slowly work your way up until you’re able to do the floor extensions. You can also place your hands on a bench or a chair to decrease the difficulty.
Work on perfecting your form and keep adding reps until you can do 20 clean reps.
Alternatively, you can use a bench and barbell to perform lying triceps extensions (aka skull crushers). These work all three heads of the triceps. Grab a barbell (you can use dumbbells too). Lie down on a bench. Extend your arms in front of your face. Lock the elbows into position and bring the weight to your forehead and back. Rinse and repeat. Go heavy.
Dips can be performed with paralell bars, 2 chairs or using a bench. Keep your body upright to target the tri’s and hit as many reps (with good form) as you can. This is a fantastic upper body exercise.
There’s a staggering amount of exercises for the biceps and triceps. You only need to incorporate a handful in your routine, however. Find your own best exercises.
Vary your hand position and the angles you use to suit your anatomy. Figure out which exercises feel best for you and produce the best results. This is far more important than any EMG data or scientific curling technique.
Don’t forget about your forearms!
A strong grip allows you to work with heavier weights, thus supercharging whole-body strength and performance.
You don’t have to do wrist curls or any special forearm exercise to get the job done, however. Focus on doing heavy pulling and rowing exercises without any form of assistance (straps etc.). Grip the bar as hard as you can during your sets.
Hanging is also a great way of increasing forearm strength and size. Hang from a pull-up bar until you feel the burn shoot through your forearms. Hold on for as long as you can and do multiple sets to failure.
The hammer curl is another phenomenal forearm (and biceps) builder. In contrast to using a supinated grip (palms facing up during the curl), the hammer curl has your palms facing each other during execution.
Lastly, incorporate fingertip push-ups for unapologetic forearm and hand strength. Tread carefully though. Start with push-ups on your knees to reduce the risk of injury and slowly work your way up to full push-ups on your fingertips.
If you’re ready to truly test your mettle, try doing one arm fingertip push-ups. Bruce Lee did one arm push-ups using only his index finger and thumb. Unsurprisingly, he had massive forearms for his frame.
Sets and Reps
Stick to 8-10 and 12-15 rep sets. In my experience arms respond very well to higher rep training (12+ reps). Experiment with lower reps (4-6) and high rep sets (15+) occasionally to provide a fresh stimulus. Just remember to always strive for progression (aka get stronger!).
On a final note, realize that your arms represent a very small group of muscles and therefore shouldn’t be hammered relentlessly day in day out. Their capacity for recovery is limited, so train smart.
Work them intensely but always provide sufficient rest and nourishment to promote growth and adaptation. If your goal is to add size to your arms, I’d recommend training them 2-3x a week. No more than that. Quality over quantity.
Now you’re equipped with everything you need to know about arm training. Time to make some gains!
Thank you for reading