Build Bigger Arms – The Right Way

Your upper arms are divided into three main muscle groups – the biceps, triceps and brachialis. Most people are familiar with the bicep and tricep, but the brachialis is just as important: an upper arm muscle that runs under the biceps and pushes it up. It’s really only visible when looking at the arms from the side, but will make your arms appear much larger when viewed this way.

It’s a classic mistake to focus primarily on biceps for arm growth. The triceps are the larger muscle group, but unfortunately, many people neglect this muscle. Most people focus on biceps training, so if you want really big arms then you need to work all three muscle groups — biceps, triceps AND brachilais.


Train the arms a maximum of twice per week

Overtraining arms is a common error, mainly because they’re worked hard during pulling and pushing movements, such as the pushup and pullup. But many guys still think that training their arms 3-4 times a week is the best way to get them to grow. Sometimes though, ‘less is more’ it is true in this case. Stick to 1-2 arm workouts per week. This will give your arms the recovery time they need to grow bigger and stronger.

For example in P90X Phase 1 workouts, you already hit your arms 2x per week. When you hit Chest/Back day, you’re working on your biceps, triceps, and brachialis, although indirectly, you’re still working them strong. And then, you have the Shoulder/Arms day, which is your 2nd arm workout of the week. Adding a  3rd arm day in hope of getting bigger arms is in all likelihood going to be counterproductive and could wipe out any progress you’ve made in the other two workouts.


Train them hard & fast

When aiming to add muscle mass to your arms, your entire arm routine should take you no more than 45 minutes. Building muscle is not like running a marathon. Short and intense is the best training way to add mass quickly, which is true when working on any major muscles in your body. With a 30-45 min window (not including warmup and stretching) you have to move pretty fast between exercises, with about 1 min of rest between sets.

Overload your arms, by periodically training them to failure and beyond. Keep pushing and squeeze out for that extra rep than you did last week. You may also want to include some specific intensity boosters, such as forced reps, negatives, drop-sets and controlled cheating, to trigger that extra growth.


The right form

Anyone can curl 50 lbs dumbbells by swinging the body and arm – but that is called cheating, and you’re more likely to injure yourself. Lift and lower the weight slowly in a controlled motion. Don’t let your ego gets the best of you; use lower weights if needed to get the clean motion. My favorite tempo is be 1 sec lift and 2 sec down.

Full range of motion is important. Start your reps with your arm fully extended, and when you curl, squeeze your bicep to get the pump. This makes the exercise harder and targets all the fibers in the muscles.


The role of nutrition

Heavy curling will not give you bigger arms alone; exercise only provides the stimulus for growth. To provide your muscles with the fuel they need to get bigger and stronger, you need to make sure you eat enough calories every day and take [the] proper supplements. Most fitness enthusiasts eat enough protein, but protein is not enough – you need a surplus of calories for muscles to grow.

If you’ve stayed at the same weight for a while, try adding 200-300 calories into your diet and adjust as necessary. Of course, if you still have some leaning down to do, work on that first before focusing on the surplus of calories.

Read more here to see my recommendations on supplements and sample diet 


Don’t forget your rest!

Although the pump you achieve through your workout might make you think otherwise, your arms do not grow while you’re working out, in fact, you’re actually stripping down your muscle tissue. All of  the growing and rebuilding process take place while you’re resting. Do you consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep per night? If not, you’re robbing yourself of natural growth hormones and recovery time. Your muscles will stay sore and you will not be able to see the physical changes you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Read more on the Power of 8-8-8



6 Responses to Build Bigger Arms – The Right Way

  • Hi in your article “gain lean muscle mass with p90x” you wrote that we can do becnhpress on fridays. Wouldn’t that work your arms a little bit as well?

    • That is correct. And so is doing Back & Leg, which you’re working on your bicep. That is why I do not have any additional arms day since I hit my arms about 2x per week, directly and indirectly

  • I’ve been working my arms, but they don’t seem to grow. Also, my right arm is bigger than my left arm. How do I balance them out and make them even? Unrelated question, how come when my friend does squats she always says her glutes are sore the next day, but mine are never sore?

    • That is normal that most people have 1 bigger arm that the other. If you’re a right handed, then your right arm will be bigger than the left, and vice versa. It is hard to keep both of them balance, but by pushing through your weaker arm, and start with certain routine with that arm first, you might be able to get both arms closely matching in size

  • “Full range of motion is important.” Could you tell me what happens if you don’t use a full range of motion? Will the muscle not develop properly? Will it look different if you only go halfway motion during exercises?

    • If you’re not doing full range, then your arms will not developed properly. You could argue that you could curl with 50 lbs, but your arms are not as big as the other guys who are curling at 40 lbs, with full range motion.