Every dude wants bigger arms. Straight up, for most all of us, the first movement we gravitated to in the gym was probably the bicep curl. Takes me back to my early training days. My training partner and I were on a strict “chest + arms daily” routine. “Lol you’re doing squats?? Girls aren’t gonna look at your legs.” I laughed at a friend that had the audacity to train legs. I’ve come a long ways, ok? But anyways. You want bigger arms. Here’s how to do it:
#1: Don’t neglect the compound movements.
You work your biceps any time you do a pull movement. You work your triceps any time you push. So you’re still getting an “arm workout” in, even if you’re targeting your chest or back.
Now, some people preach that you can build a great pair of arms from strictly getting extremely strong at the compound movements. This is true. Somebody that can bench and row 300+ lbs will likely have big arms. But… building up to a 300+ lb bench and row takes a really long time. Years. If big arms are a priority, focusing strictly on compound movements is far from the most effective/efficient way to get big arms quickly.
That being said, it’s crucial that you don’t neglect compound movements. The compound moves are a great way to add volume to your biceps and triceps. Just not the only method you should use if arms are a priority.Plus, if you only focus on arms, without building the rest of your body, you’ll look ridiculous.
#2: Lots of direct arm work.
Your goal is to hypertrophy (a.k.a grow) the muscles of the arms. The main driver of hypertrophy is volume (sets X reps X weight). So, to a certain extent more volume equals more growth. (Again, to a certain extent. There’s a point of diminishing returns here.)
How to increase arm volume:
- Per #1, don’t do your direct arm work before your compound movements. It’ll significantly hinder the effectiveness you’re able to train the rest of your body with afterwards. Arms come after compound moves.
- Honestly, the easiest way to track your volume is just thinking of it as number of hard sets per muscle. Increase this, and you’re increasing the growth stimulus your arms are receiving weekly. (For an awesome article on volume, check out: https://www.strongerbyscience.com/the-new-approach-to-training-volume/ )
Figure out the total number of sets you’re doing for your biceps and triceps each week currently. Increase it by 3-6.
I’d start by adding in your extra sets to days where you previously weren’t training arms. For most, this means tacking on 3-4 sets of direct arm work after leg days. This also increases the frequency you’re hitting your arms with.
#3: Find the mind-muscle connection.
Ever notice how your weakest muscle groups are also the ones that are hardest to “feel” working? That’s not a coincidence.
To build a muscle to its full potential, you need to be able to fully activate and fatigue its muscle fibers.
If you can’t feel your biceps or triceps working, you’re probably doing some combination of the following:
- Lifting too heavy.Go to heavy on isolation movements and form gets sloppy. You start recruiting other muscle groups, which do the work you want done by your biceps or triceps.
- No quality contraction. At the “top” of every rep (top of the curl for biceps, elbows fully extended for triceps) focus on really squeezing the desired muscle. Do this every rep. Practicing squeezing/flexing the muscle while loaded builds the mind-muscle connection. It also helps the muscle pump.
- Lifting too fast. Tying into a and b, if you’re performing your isolation movements too quickly, the mind-muscle connection will be poor, and you’re likely recruiting other muscle groups along with the arms.
Slow down. Focus on creating lots of tension in the desired muscle. Incorporate a 2-3 count in both the concentric and eccentric of the lift.
#4: Don’t neglect the triceps
When we think big arms, we automatically picture big biceps. But the triceps are just as important to making your arms look big. Lagging triceps will make your arms look unbalanced and unimpressive. Train ‘em with the same number of sets you train your biceps with.