The arms are one of the most common areas that lifters want to improve. After all, arms are
perhaps the most obvious indicator of muscle mass, especially if you like to wear t-shirts or tank
tops. When you have big arms, people take notice.
Whether you’re an experienced weightlifter or you’ve just started hitting the gym, taking the right
approach in the gym can earn you solid gains on your arms. Follow the tips in this guide to start
packing on muscle.
1. Make Compound Lifts Your Primary Exercises
The number-one mistake people make when they want to get bigger arms is focusing too much on
their arms specifically. Think of the stereotypical gymgoer who is doing bicep curls every day and
you have a good idea of this in action.
Although this idea seems like it would make sense, isolation exercises aren’t the best way to gain
muscle. You’re much better off with compound lifts that work multiple muscle groups at the same
time and allow you to lift heavy weights.
When you use more muscles in an exercise, it increases blood flow more and your testosterone
levels more than an exercise that focuses on a single muscle group. Testosterone is huge for
gaining muscle, and your body’s testosterone levels will go much higher if you’re squatting 300
pounds than if you’re curling 50.
Three staple compound lifts are the bench press, the squat and the deadlift. In fact, the Starting
Strength routine is highly effective and only uses these three lifts.
The two lifts in Olympic weightlifting, which are the snatch and the clean and jerk, are also
excellent compound movements.
2. Use Select Isolation Exercises as Supplements to Your Routine
Just because compound exercises reign supreme doesn’t mean that you can never perform
isolation exercises. When you want to build your arms, it can help to isolate those muscles and
give them some extra work.
Bodyweight exercises are particularly effective because of the amount of resistance you can
generate. When you want to work your biceps, chin-ups are an excellent choice, as you need to lift
your entire bodyweight for each rep. For your triceps, dips also require you to lift your bodyweight. If you can’t do either of these exercises, you can modify them to make them easier. As you progress, you can wear a weight vest to make the exercises more difficult.
When it comes to exercises with weights, rows will hit your biceps and your back. The movement is
somewhat similar to curls, but you’ll be able to use more weight. The overhead press will hit your
triceps hard. You can use either a barbell or dumbbells for either of these exercises, but a barbell
allows you to lift heavier.
3. Focus on Getting Stronger with Low Reps
What’s the ideal rep range to make your arms grow? Many lifters make this part of their workout
far too complicated. Lower reps are best for improving your maximum strength, and when you gain
strength, muscle mass tends to follow.
Of course, you should start all your exercises with a warmup set to get your body used to it before
the heavier work. For your work sets, you should be doing eight to 12 reps at most. Fewer reps is
fine, as you should also see gains in strength and muscle with four to six and even one to three reps. More reps would be a bad idea. At that point, you’re training for muscular endurance, and that won’t lead to much muscle gain.
4. Track Your Progress
It’s important to log the exercises you perform and how much you lift. This allows you to compare
yourself to where you were in previous weeks and months. You should see the amount of weight
you’re lifting gradually go up. If you’ve just started training, large gains are common as your body
gets used to the new exercises. When you have more experience, gains slow down, but you should
still be improving.
You also want to track your progress in terms of your own weight and measurements. If your main
goal is bigger arms, then measure your arms every two to three weeks to see if they’re increasing
in size. Remember to measure them in the same condition every time. Your arms can fluctuate a
bit, especially if you’ve just worked out and gotten a pump. It’s best to always measure them in
the morning for this reason.
5. Correct Any Issues
If you aren’t seeing the kind of progress you want, then you’ll need to reevaluate what you’re
doing to find out what the issue is. There are two common problems many lifters have.
The first is insufficient eating. If you want to gain muscle, you need to eat, and your usual calorie
intake likely won’t be enough. Not gaining weight? Then you need to eat more so that your body
can build muscle.
The second is insufficient rest. The arms have some of your body’s smaller muscle groups. You
can’t blast them every day and expect results. Give them at least every other day off to recover.
Ready to build the type of arms that get people’s attention? If you use the tips listed above and
work hard, you should see progress within the first couple weeks.