Do you want to know how to build massive arms? Looking for proven methods that will not only build size but also strength in your triceps, biceps and forearms. Then this is the article for you.
Arms and pecs, arms and pecs, arms and pecs. All I could think about when I first started weightlifting, and guys I think most of you can relate to this, was “how big I wanted my arms to be and how I wanted my pecs to look like Arnold Schwarzeneggers (it’s good to dream right :-)).
And Ladies, from my experience, building your butt is more of a priority for you. But hey you are reading an article about building bigger and stronger arms, so I’m guessing you understand how important it is to have a balanced physique. Both lower and upper.
Well, I have good news for you guys and gals. You are in the very best place to learn how to turn your guns from pistols into bazookas. I am not just going to throw any old random rubbish at you, but instead, you will learn scientifically backed methods for accelerating your gains.
Table Of Contents
What The Gym Rats Say
Gym Rat Number One
Having good genetics is the only way you will ever have a good set of guns. You can do as much heavy lifting, isolated bicep curls and tricep extensions as you want, but if you have rubbish genetics, you will have rubbish arms. What do we think about this then?
Gym Rat Number Two
Concentrate on your heavy compound lifts, like the bench-press, bent-over row and the over-head press and your arms will take care of themselves. Is this what you think, or do you have a different opinion?
Gym Rat Number Three
If you don’t train and isolate your arms, how can you expect them to grow and become stronger? You must focus on movements like barbell curls and rope extensions if you ever want to have a set of guns you would be proud to show off in a vest. Does this gym rat speak the most sense?
Does your view match any of the above? Although you may have your own opinion as we all do, by the time you have finished reading through this article you will fully understand all the above and much more.
You will come away from reading this with everything you need to know on arm training, from correct exercise selection to programming the very best scientifically backed arm workouts. Not only that, but you will also get an out the box and ready to smash arm workout, you can start using immediately.
Although everything you will learn today is backed by science, in my opinion, that isn’t enough. Experience counts for so much, and you will not find anything written today that I don’t personally use myself.
It’s time to get stuck in below.
The Rules For Getting Massive Arms (Just 2 Ultra Important Ones to Follow)
In order to maximise arm growth and strength, it is important to understand a bit of the sciency stuff, like what makes up the muscle groups and what movement patterns they are responsible for etc. And although this is something I will definitely cover later on in the article, I thought it would be much better to get stuck straight into some of the essential stuff for maximising your gains.
As you know from above, if you ask anyone on their opinions on how to improve your arms, they will say one of three things
- Without good genetics it doesn’t matter what you do, they just won’t grow.
- Just do your basic heavy compound movements like deadlifts, bench pressing, barbell rowing etc, and your arms will grow.
- The only way to get your arms to grow is to do a whole load of isolation exercises. They also usually say it’s all about feeling the pump and burn so do high reps and lots of volume.
Well, the first and the second on the list kind of link together. Although for some people it is possible to build a great set of arms through just doing heavy compound movements, it usually comes down to them also having those wonderful genetics for muscle building that we would all love. Unfortunately, for the majority of us, me included, doing only heavy compound movements just won’t cut it.
Now let’s look at number 3 on the list. In general speaking terms, this approach will work for far more people than just doing heavy compound movements. However, this is more to do with you actually targeting the muscles you are trying to grow and not so much to do with the high rep approach. As you will soon see, there is a much more efficient way to build bigger arms.
So, what are these two ultra-important rules?
- Your main focus should be lifting heavy weights while making sure you progressively overload the muscles
- Make sure you actually include arm specific focused exercises (I will cover the best exercises later on in the article).
Nothing too complicated here right. So let’s take a closer look at each rule.
Your main focus should be lifting heavy weights while making sure you progressively overload the muscles
The Heavy Lifting Part
Okay, I’m sure we have all fallen into the mindset of, “if you can’t feel a pump or burn in your muscles, then they won’t improve”. Heck, I still fall into this mindset sometimes now. I mean come on it’s such a nice feeling when you look in the mirror after a high rep set and you just look fuller and bigger. In fact, there are definitely benefits to a high rep pump approach, but for gaining muscle, it is by far inferior to heavy low rep training.`
I can imagine so many of you are now shaking your head in disagreement to this. I also once thought heavy low rep training was just for increasing strength and not size. But through years of experience and studying different scientific research papers, I realised how wrong I was.
What I am about to say next is vitally important, and I wish it’s something I had realised way back when I first started training. But it took years of training, experimenting and researching before it properly sunk in.
In order to gain muscle efficiently, your main focus should be on increasing strength throughout your whole body.
This is even more important for natural weightlifters.
Seriously, focus on whole body strength and muscle will also grow in size.
Of course, when you start lifting weights for the first time, you can definitely gain a good amount of muscle without focusing on building strength, but the more advanced you become and believe me, it doesn’t take long for this to happen both muscle size and strength become more correlated.
So the next question is, what’s the best way to go about achieving this?
From so many extensive studies done over the years, it really couldn’t be much clearer, that heavy weight training is by far the most efficient way to build both size and strength.
You will hear many people in the gym talking about how different muscle groups respond better to different rep ranges etc, but this just simply isn’t true. Those stubborn smaller muscle groups (arms, calves etc), like the big ones (legs, back and chest) have all been shown to respond more efficiently to low rep heavy training.
So the main thing to take away from this is, to forget about focusing so much on building huge arms, but instead to focus on building super strong arms. This is by far the quickest way to build muscle mass.
So what do I mean by heavy low rep training? Most of your training will be done around 80 to 85% of your 1 rep maximum (don’t worry you won’t have to try a 1 rep max barbell curl to work this out). What this equates to in terms of reps is 4 to 6 per set.
Now there will be times where intermediate and advanced lifters can train with slightly higher reps at around 70 to 75% of your 1 rep max. Again in terms of reps, this equates to 8 to 10 per set.
Notice I said intermediate and advanced lifters can benefit with some slightly higher rep ranges in their training. Well as a beginner you will get amazing results from just sticking to the 4 to 6 rep range only. However, as you advance you can definitely accelerate your gains again by adding in some higher rep work. Why, well the reasons for this actually go far too deep for this article. However, if you are interested in knowing why, then check out the article “The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy” by a trainer called Mike Mathews.
Now here lies a problem. And this problem is why so many people especially beginners get taken down the wrong path from the get-go. The problem, “Social Media Fitness Models”. These guys and girls and followed by millions of people and for the most part are seen to be doing 1000s and 1000s using crazy techniques and obviously are in incredible shape with huge ripped arms.
“So what’s up with that”, you might be asking.
Well, I’m not going to condemn everyone, but it’s well known that steroids and widely used within this space. Social media and Fitness models feel they need to stay in great shape and have bags of muscle all year around. The main reason being, it’s how they make their money. And they all know taking steroids gives them a crazy advantage for doing this.
Taking steroids will take a persons muscle building abilities to crazy new levels. You could push out as many reps as you wanted, doing countless amounts of exercises and you will build new muscle and recover in time for your next session.
You may find this study Interesting. For 10 weeks two groups of weightlifters took part. One group was given 600 mg of testosterone per week, whilst the other group were given a placebo.
With what I said above, the results probably won’t surprise you. The group that took the placebo (the natural group) added a very respectable 22 lbs to their bench press, while also gaining 4.4 lbs of lean muscle.
Now, these are actually great results for 10 weeks worth of training however in comparison to the steroid using group they don’t actually look that impressive
The group taking 600 mg of testosterone recorded an increase of 50 lbs to their bench and 13.4 lbs of lean muscle gained.
But please don’t go rushing out trying to find your local dealer, as all is not lost, and you can achieve those massive arms you are after. It’s just going to take hard work and knowing the best way to train.
The Progressive Overload Part
Progressive overload must be at the forefront of your mind when training.
We now know getting stronger is closely linked with gaining muscle and getting bigger. So it only makes sense that if you stop getting stronger, then you will stop building muscle and getting bigger.
Check out this study showing the most productive and efficient way to build muscle is through progressive overload.
We what exactly is progressive overload? Well in simple terms it means placing the body and muscles under new tensions (weight and intensity) above what they have previously experienced.
So although all those fancy training methods like drop sets and tri-sets can be fun to do, if they are not accompanied by progressive overload, then building strength and muscle size will always be a struggle.
Without a doubt, the best and most effective way to progressively overload the muscles is to slowly increase the weights you are lifting over time.
By doing this you will see gains in both strength and muscle.
Now although everyone will have a limit to how much size and strength they can gain based on their genetics, I would say it’s very rare that most people even get close to this.
Make sure you actually include arm specific focused exercises
We know from above that there is a section of gym goers who believe you don’t have to actually isolate your arms for them to grow as long as you are doing your big compound lifts. Well from both research and training 100s of different people with different genetic potential I can safely say that this is extremely rare. I have only come across a handful of people in my time who have the genetics to build huge arms without directly training them.
Now don’t get wrong. Heavy compound movements will, of course, add growth to your arms, but unfortunately, they will only take your arms so far. To get to the level of muscle gain, that most people are after, then arm specific exercises are a must.
The Best Bicep, Tricep Exercises for Growth
It’s important to make sure you are doing only the very best exercises and not wasting time on anything inferior.
It would be easy for most gym goers to list loads and loads of different arm exercises, but in fact, there really are only a small selection you need to focus on for the rest of your time weightlifting.
We are looking to maximally overload the muscles and put as much weight through them in a safe manner in order to effectively increase our strength. For this only certain exercises will cut it. There are many arm exercises that simply won’t allow you to lift the weight needed.
It’s time to look at each exercise, starting with the triceps.
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Best Tricep Exercises For Maximum Growth
Close Grip Barbell Bench Press
Tricep Cable Pushdowns
Lying Overhead Skull Crushers
There you have it. These are the only 4 exercises you should be doing to effectively and efficiently overload your triceps.
Best Bicep Exercises For Maximum Growth
Alternating Dumbbell Curls
EZ/Straight Bar Cable Curls
Close Grip Underhand Chin Ups
The Best Strength & Hypertrophy Arm Workout
Now we know exactly what the best exercises are, it’s time to actually put them in a workout and routine. You will not find anything fancy here like drop sets, rest/pause sets or tri-sets, but instead, we will be focusing on lifting in the correct rep range and progressively overloading the arms.
Below is a quick breakdown of the workout
- For 12 weeks you will train arms twice per week
- You will train each exercise in the 4 to 6 rep range. This involves picking a weight where you can lift a minimum of 4 reps but no more than 6.
- You will complete 3 working sets for each exercise
- You will complete 2 triceps and 2 biceps exercise per workout
- You will rest for 2 to 3 minutes between each set. This may seem like a long time but, resting properly between sets will play a key part in your progress
- Make sure there is at least a 48 hour period between two arm workouts.
- Do one of your arm sessions at the beginning of the week when you are most fresh.
Arm Session One
Make sure you warm up your biceps before attempting your first work set. You must then do the same once you move onto your tricep exercises.
Barbell Curls – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Alternating Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Cable Push-Down – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Arm Session Two
Tricep Dips – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Lying Overhead Skull Crushers – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
EZ Cable Curls – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Close Grip Underhand Chin Up – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
As you can see. There doesn’t seem to be anything ground breaking here. Nothing complicated or fancy, but as we know this is where most people go wrong. And if we are honest, could you honestly say you have worked your arms in this rep range consistently before. It’s just not a common thing to do, but at the same time, it really should be. Okay so let’s move onto some simple rules which will enable you to constantly progress throughout the 12 weeks.
Progressive Overload Rules
So we already know the best and most efficient way to see increases in muscle growth and strength is through progressive overload. And the best way to do that when weight training, is to gradually add more weight to the exercises. But how do we know when to add weight? Let’s take a look below
- You must select a weight that you can complete at least 4 reps on your first set with but no more than 6. Notice how I say on your first set. The reason for this is because if you lift a weight and fail on your 5th rep, the chances are on your second set, even after a good amount of rest time, you will only manage 3 reps. This is perfectly fine. Do not drop the weight on your second and third sets to get more reps out. Stick to the same weight.
- Once you can complete 6 full reps in good form, you must increase the weight by the smallest amount possible. So If you are close grip benching 170lbs and you manage to push out 6 reps, 2.5lbs to each side if possible. You then stay on this weight until you can complete 6 full reps again.
How To Add Both These Workouts Into Your Routine
Training arms is going to be a huge focus of ours for the next 12 weeks. So for that reason, I want you to make sure your first workout of the week is an arms one. Below is what a typical 5-day split could look like which includes 2 arm workouts.
- Monday – Arms (workout 1)
- Tuesday – Quads and Hamstrings
- Wednesday – Chest and Shoulders
- Thursday – Arms (workout 2)
- Friday – Back and Calves
- Saturday – Day Off
- Sunday – Day Off
After the 12 weeks is complete, you have a few options, however, the first thing I would do is take a full week off or complete a deloading week. Let’s look at your options
- Complete another 12-week cycle exactly the same. I would do this if by the end of the first 12-week cycle you were still seeing good increases in your strength. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it and all that.
- Still following the same principles go back to just one arm session a week for the next 12 weeks. This will allow you to then bring focus back to another weaker area.
- A final change you could make for the next 12-week cycle is to start doing some work in the 8 to 10 rep range using exactly the same training and progressive overload principles above. If you are a beginner, this will not be needed.
Below is what a typical arm workout could look when doing some movements in the 8 to 10 rep range.
Close Grip Underhand Chin Ups – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Alternating Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Lying Overhead Skull Crushers – 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
Key Takeaway On How To Build Massive Arms
- For the most part train in the 4 to 6 rep range
- Only choose exercises that allow you to lift as heavy a weight as possible in good form. This will create maximal overload and allow you to increase your strength most efficently.
- Follow the 2 ultra-important rules. (1) Your main focus should be lifting heavy weights while making sure you progressively overload the muscles. (2) Make sure you actually include arm-specific focused exercises.
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Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.