Building Big Arms In 10 Easy Steps!

By on March 9, 2013
Building Big Arms

Building big arms is actually really easy and in this article we will cover exactly what you need to do in 10 easy steps!

If you ask most guys what muscle group they would like to grow quickly they will generally reply with: ‘Arms!’ Whilst having big shoulders, chest or back are impressive, no other body part quite has the impact of a decent set of guns!

Even though building big arms is a goal for many guys, it is amazing how few actually achieve their goal. Before we go through the principles you need to employ, we will firstly examine how to rate different arm sizes.

Of course, the shape of everyone’s arms is different. Some have peaked biceps, while others are flat. Some have full, sweeping triceps while others have little shape at all.

Even though you can’t change the shape of your muscles (i.e. if you don’t have peaked biceps then no matter what exercises you do, you will never get peaks on your biceps!) you can change the shape of your arms by increasing the size of your muscles and by decreasing the fat stored around the muscles.

Best of all, no matter what you current arm size, using the strategies covered here will definitely help you with building big arms!

Here’s a guideline for arm size
(for natural bodybuilders):

  • 15-inch arm:                       It looks like you might train a bit
  • 16-inch arm:                       It looks like you definitely train
  • 17-inch arm:                       That is a decent-sized arm
  • 18-inch arm:                       That is a very big, impressive arm
  • 19-inch arm:                       That is a massive arm!

Very few natural bodybuilders get arms bigger than 19 inches. However, if they do they are genetically-gifted indeed, and tend to weigh well-over 100 kilograms (220 pounds)!

These measurements are based upon the circumference of the flexed upper arm, measured around the peak of the bicep perpendicular to the floor. It may also vary quite a lot based on the height of the person (and therefore their limb length).

The appearance of the upper arm also depends on how lean you are. The above measurements and comments are dependent upon you being relatively lean, i.e. you can see veins in your arms. If you can’t see the veins in your arms you simply aren’t lean enough!

Here are the 10 principles you need to employ for building big arms:

  • Train ALL the muscles in your arms
  • Train as many muscle fibres in each muscle
  • Progressively overload the muscles
  • Use a variety of rep ranges
  • Use various ATOs
  • Train your arms twice a week (plus indirectly as well, split them up?)
  • Train your legs!
  • Consume sufficient calories and protein
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Use suitable supplements

We will examine each of these principles in detail.

Train ALL the muscles in your arms

If one of your goals is building big arms then you must train all the muscles in your arms. This means not just your biceps and triceps muscles but also your brachialis, brachioradialis, and forearm flexors and extensors. If all of these muscles aren’t trained then building big arms is extremely difficult.

The brachialis muscle sits underneath the biceps and its function is to perform flexion at the elbow joint (this is one of the functions of biceps as well). However, since the biceps muscle is far stronger than the brachialis muscle it tends to do most of the work when the forearm is in a supinated (palm-up) position.

Therefore, in order to put greater emphasis on the brachialis muscle the forearm should be in a pronated (palm-down) position or neutral position. Reverse curls and hammer curls are examples of exercises that work brachialis more than biceps.

Brachioradialis is the muscle on the lateral (outside) aspect of the forearm. Hammer curls are a great exercise to work that muscle.

The forearm flexor and extensor muscles are worked very effectively by performing the wrist flexion and extension exercises.


Train as many muscle fibres in each muscle

Building big arms requires you to train as many muscle fibres in the targeted muscles as possible. In order to do so you must firstly know the function/ action of each muscle. By knowing the function/ action of each muscle you can then select exercises that utilise those functions/ actions.

For example, the biceps brachii muscle has 3 functions/ actions:

  • Flexion at the elbow joint
  • Supination at the wrist joint
  • Flexion at the shoulder joint

Therefore, when training your biceps you should select exercises that incorporate those actions into their movement. Barbell curls is a good exercise for performing flexion at the elbow joint, alternate dumbbell curls is a good exercise for supination at the wrist joint, and cable curls can incorporate flexion at the shoulder joint when you perform that movement.

A future article will cover the functions/ actions of all the major muscles groups in the body, but until then you may need to visit a library (remember those?) or search online for more information about the different functions/ actions of muscles.


Progressively overload the muscles

There are many fundamental bodybuilding principles that apply for building big arms just as they apply for any other muscle. One of the most well-known of those principles is that of ‘progressive overload’. This principle states that in order to stimulate a muscle to grow it must experience a stress that it is unaccustomed to. Therefore, as a muscle grows and becomes stronger the stress needs to become progressively greater.

The greater stress doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep increasing the weight even though that is one way to progressively overload a muscle. Progressive overload can also be achieved by increasing the intensity of exercise, perhaps by using Advanced techniques of Overload (ATOs), you could also increase the frequency of exercise (how often you train), or by increasing the volume (amount you train).

Usually a combination of all 3 factors, intensity, frequency and volume, works best.


Use a variety of rep ranges and sets

Since different rep ranges target different aspect of muscle hypertrophy it is worthwhile using a variety of rep ranges for each exercise in your workout. This is discussed in greater detail in the article: How to Build Muscle Fast!

You may also want to increase the number of sets you perform for each muscle group. This is one of the factors in progressive overload. However, if you decide to increase the intensity of your arm workout you may want to reduce the number of sets you perform. This will help to reduce your risk of over-training.


Use various ATOs

ATOs are a great way to increase the intensity of your workouts and intensity is one of the key factors involved in progressively overloading the muscles. They also make it easier to help use a variety of rep ranges.

The most common ATOs are covered in the article titled: Top 7 Advanced Techniques of Overload For Weight Training Routines.

If you’re serious about building big arms then you must use some of these Advanced Techniques of Overload in every workout.


Train your arms twice a week

One of the best strategies for building big arms is to train them more frequently. This is also one of the factors for progressively overloading the muscles.

When structuring your workouts for this make sure that you have a break between arm workouts and try and if possible try to avoid training them the day after training them indirectly, i.e. when you train chest or back.

If you decide to split up the muscles or train them together in a workout is completely up to you. It will make little difference. However, it may be a good idea to change things around after a few weeks of following the same routine so if you usually train them together, perhaps try splitting them up and training them with a different muscle group.


Train your legs!

The hips and thighs are the largest muscle groups in the body. As a result, they have the greatest impact on hormone production when they are trained. This means that anabolic hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, get produced in greater quantities when these muscles are trained.

Best of all, not only do these hormones affect the muscles that stimulated their growth in the first place, but also all of the muscles throughout the body. This process is known as the ‘Indirect Effect’ and will be discussed in greater detail in a future article.

Therefore, if building big arms is important to you it is absolutely imperative that you train your legs in order to maximise the hormones production in your body.


Consume sufficient calories and protein

Building muscle requires sufficient calories and protein in your diet. Therefore, building big arms means you must focus on eating correctly in addition to training properly. Calories, in general, provide your body with energy and protein provides the building blocks of muscle tissue. This means that you must have sufficient quantities of both in order to build your arms.

Insufficient calories or a lack of protein in your diet will impede your ability to build muscle and therefore will stop you from getting bigger arms.

The importance of nutrition for muscle growth as well as the importance of rest and recuperation (next point) are covered in more detail in the article: The Process of Muscle Growth


Get plenty of rest

Your body builds muscle during rest, not during training. Training provides the necessary stimulus for muscle growth, nutrition provides the energy and building blocks for muscle growth, and finally rest and recuperation provide the ideal environment for muscle growth.

Therefore, makes sure you have a good quality sleep each night and take naps during the day whenever you can. This will ensure adequate recuperation and an optimum environment for muscle growth.


Use suitable supplements

Supplements are a great addition for building big arms. Whilst they certainly can’t take the place of good nutrition or a suitable training program, they can definitely give you an edge. To find out more about the best supplements for building muscle, please read, Top 5 Muscle Building Supplements

If you would like to build more muscle in the next 28 days than you have in the previous 6 months, then please read: Muscle Explosion!

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