Big Tips for Bigger Arms
One of the main reasons people become interested in strength training is related to defined, toned arms. It’s a high priority for most people when it comes to regular strength training as well as aesthetically speaking. If you’re new to the world of arms, this article will help you navigate their not-so-complex waters.
We’ll dive into what it takes to successfully and effectively build biceps, triceps and forearms and maintain muscle growth. It’s not as hard as you think to get it right, but it easy to be misled and get it wrong. So instead of wasting time training inefficiently, read on to get an in-depth breakdown of how to build those pipes.
First, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the arm muscles to try get a better understanding of the arm. In doing so, we’ll be able to more cohesively understand how to train and why certain routines work better than others.
How Your Arms Work
The biceps are a two-headed muscle including the biceps brachii and the brachialis. Both bicep heads run in parallel to each other along your upper arm.
The biceps brachii can be found between the elbow and shoulder on the front, upper portion of your arm. Its main job is to contract to help your elbows bend and can be exercised with curls. The brachialis can be found on the lower portion of your upper arm. This smaller muscle essentially ‘connects’ your bicep to the forearm and also helps with elbow functions and movements.
Your triceps brachii are the back portion of your upper arm, once again found between the elbow and shoulder. This muscle helps with elbow extension and can be exercised with Tricep Presses.
Your forearms contain several muscles, including the pronators and supinators that help your hands turn and the brachioradialis, which also assists in elbow movement. Wrist curls are a great way to exercise your forearm muscles.
Why You Need To Work Your Whole Arm
Triceps are exceptionally important when developing strong, toned arms. Many beginners overlook them because they’re so focused on the biceps, when it reality you need to train your entire arm - including your forearm - if you want that perfect, strong arm look.
Not to mention, isolating muscle groups and ignoring your triceps will make your arms generally weaker because all the muscles aren’t working together optimally. You simply cannot exclusively focus on training biceps if you expect to see results.
Now hold up for a quick minute – that’s not to say ignore your biceps. You need to develop a holistic approach to all strength training, especially when you’re beginning. Focusing solely on your biceps, or triceps, will not give you the overall good muscle foundation you need to keep going.
How To Train Your Arms
When it comes to toning your arms, it’s it’s best to choose compound exercises that work multiple muscles at once.
Depending on how biceps are exercised, they can actually change shape and be defined differently. Have you ever noticed someone with biceps that appear massive and toned from the side, by skinny and disparate from the front? Or even biceps that appear bulky and impressive from the front, but shapeless and flat from the side? This is a result of one bicep head developing while the other does not.
This goes to show you the importance of compound exercises rather than isolation. You don’t want to isolate muscles and build up single parts to develop disproportionate arms.
The exercises discussed in this article will focus on training the biceps and triceps together in a compound exercise, rather than isolation workouts. These exercises really are for beginners to arm training because they’ll help guide you down a path of developing a strong muscle foundation. Once you’ve got that foundation, you can focus more on isolation exercises and create a routine that shapes and strengthens specific muscles at a time.
Reps and Recovery
Another important aspect to remember when training your arms is the total number of reps you do per week. This is especially true if you’re consistently lifting a lot of heavy weights.
Remember, the heavier the reps, the less you should do each week.
Your arms will need to recover, and heavier weights take more of a toll on your arms. If you’re going heavier, you’ll have to dial it back on the amount of reps. If you don’t, you’ll be risking overtraining and injury.
High Rep Range
Standard Rep Range
8 - 12
Low Rep Range
4 - 6
Now when it comes to your forearms, you’ll have to work them a little hard to really beef them up. Reps could go as high as 50 to really start feeling a burn and seeing results.
A Workout to Bulk up Your Arms
Now that we’ve covered the basics when it comes to strengthening your arms, let’s take a look at a few well-rounded exercises that can help get you started and on the path to big, strong, toned arms.
Reps: 4 - 6
Hold a straight barbell at shoulder-width. Your palms should be facing up and your elbows should be kept close your body. While focusing on your breathing, curl the weights forward and breath out as you lift. Breath in when you lower the weight in a fluid, controlled motion.
Reps: 6 - 8
A Bench Dip will use your body weight to help build those arms and will focus on building your triceps. You’ll need a bench or ledge behind you to perform this exercise.
Sit on the ground with your back to the bench and place your palms on the edge of the bench. Your butt might need to be slightly lifted off the ground in order to make it easier for yourself to get started. Keep your legs extended ahead of you. Now slowly lift your body off the ground by pushing off with your palms. Keep your elbows close through to make it easier. Your forearms should always point towards the ground. You’ll want to feel your triceps doing the work to lift and lower your body throughout the set.
Cable Wrist Curl
Sets: 3 - 5
Now onto those forearms. Sit on a bench on front of a low pulley cable with a straight bar attachment. Keep your shoulders in and use your arms to grab the cable bar with your palms facing up. You’ll want your forearms resting on your thighs through this exercise. Your wrists should be hanging just beyond your knees.
Now begin by curling your wrist up towards your body while watching your breathing. Breath out when you curl in, and breath in when you slowly release. You’ll want to keep your forearms steady throughout this exercise. It takes more effort to work your forearms, but you’ll be glad you did when your arms start to bulk up together.
Build Your Arms
There are a ton of different theories, exercises and regimens out there that talk about training and toning arms. Too many to count. In reality, if you stick to basic, tried and true approaches to shaping your arms, you’re going to be successful. It’s not a matter of finding the trendiest exercise, it’s a matter of sticking to the ones that work and not losing dedication or faith. If you’re a beginner, it’s about doing a well-rounded training routine using compound exercises.
These three exercises are great to get started, but of course your workout doesn’t end here. You can also add in chin-ups to supplement the overall routine. Chin-ups are a great exercise to do that workout multiple muscles at once and use your body weight to do so.
With this how-to article on bulking up your arms, you’re ready to dive in. As you progress feel free to continue to research and learn about other exercises that both isolate muscle groups and work multiple muscles out at once.
Now, hit the gym!