There is one very valuable piece of information every Youtube Video and Website leaves out of “Building Big Arms” posts.
You can’t build big arms without get big in other areas. You can’t honestly expect a guy that weighs in at 150lbs to have 20 inch arms (unless he’s injecting synthol in them). According to data, the average lifter gains one inch on their arms per 15-20lbs of overall weight gain. This means in order to get bigger in one area, you must get bigger overall. Don’t be that guy that trains Arms 3x/Week but doesn’t eat enough to even gain a few pounds.
Here are the 4 Steps for Growth
1. As I mentioned, Gaining Weight, aka, Eating at a Caloric Surplus.
As you already know, to gain weight you need to eat at a caloric surplus. If you maintain your weight on 3000 calories, eat 3300. If the scale hasn’t changed at all in a few weeks, bump it up to 3500 calories a day. Sometimes finding your maintenance calories can be difficult and no calorie calculator will be 100% accurate, your calories might be more or a lot less than what the calculated result says.
2. Training Your Arms Optimally.
There are thousands of Arm Workouts/Training Programs out there, and it doesn’t necessarily matter which one you choose (most are pretty decent). The only thing that matters is that you are training them with enough volume and weight. Many guys say you should hit all angles of the arms, which of course consist of the biceps, triceps and forearms. I agree with this but there is no reason to go overboard and do 25-40 sets of arms. Beginners especially don’t need more than 10-15 sets of arms. Pick two exercises for Biceps and Triceps, and do at least 3-5 sets of them, decide the rep range for your training goals.
My Arm Training:
Biceps: 3 Sets of Dumbbell Hammer Curls 8-12 reps. 3 Sets of Barbell/EZ Preacher Curls 8-12 reps.
Why? I prefer Hammer Curls to regular DB Curls because they hit more of the forearm and I also just enjoy doing them while building size. And Preacher Curls provide a great stretch with more tension (imo) on the biceps. You can also try Preacher Curls with Dumbbells.
Triceps: 5 Sets of Tricep Rope Pushdowns 10-12 reps. 3 Sets of Barbell/EZ Bar Skullcrushers 8-12 reps.
Why? Rope pushdowns are a staple exercise to building bigger triceps and I like to do as many as I can. Skull Crushers are great because they hit more of the long head of the Tricep, make sure to look up proper form for this (many people mess them up).
Forearms: I don’t train them except for the extra stimulation I get from Hammer Curls. You can look up forearm routines if you’d like, but they are a highly Genetically Dependent muscle group similar to Calves. Some people can work them like crazy but never see and progress, while others hardly even train arms but nevertheless develop massive forearms. I’d honestly say you’re probably wasting your time working them unless your a competitive bodybuilder/fitness model.
Notice that I only do 14 sets in total of arms. Believe it or not, you can still make good progress even if you do less than 10 sets. Some training minimalists say you can still gain significant size doing only a few sets, but I’d rather make sure I’m targeting them as best as I can.
3. Figuring out where you fall Genetically.
As I just mentioned, forearms highly depend on one’s genetics. The size of your biceps/triceps and how they respond to resistance training also (of course) are affected by genetics as well. Some guys are genetically gifted and others are not. If arms are your weak point in your physique, you should train them. If you don’t experience much growth training them properly over the course of a year or two then you might just not have the genetics to get bigger. You shouldn’t give up if you’ve got bad genetics, but remember every person has limits to the amount of muscle they can gain.
If your arms look something like the guy below, and you’ve been training for a while (even though it looks like he doesn’t lift), you might just not have the best genetics to achieve your goal size.
4. Training Consistency and Weight Progression.
Consistency in your training is the most important variable. If you only train your arms occasionally ( once or twice a month) don’t expect a lot of progress.
If you can get a set of 20 reps with 20 lb dumbbells, increase the weight and use 30 lb dumbbells for lower reps. Weight Progression means through training you grow stronger so you use heavier weights to stimulate more growth. I started out curling 20 lb dumbbells and now I use 40s for the same number of reps. I have gained good size on my arms by increasing the weight overtime. Remember that using good form is important, but that doesn’t mean you should drop the weight down 50 lbs so you do everything perfectly.
If arms are your weak point or you just really like training them, then I’d highly recommend training them at least twice a week, no more than 3 times a week. If you’re like me and you do a Push/Pull/Legs split you can add and arm day with a rest day in between.
Here is an example:
Monday: (Push) Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Tuesday: (Pull) Back, Traps, Biceps
Thursday: Legs, Abs
Friday: (Arm Day) Triceps, Biceps, Forearms
Sunday: Repeat, starting from Day 1 or take another rest/cardio day. Maybe train Abs again.
Stick to these 4 Steps and you’ll have no problems making progress. Find a good program if you aren’t already on one, and stick to the plan. You don’t build big arms overnight, so don’t expect to be a Greek God with only a few months of training.
Suggested Article: What are “Clean” Foods and Do They Matter?