Article last updated: January 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
When someone asks you to flex, you don’t flex your legs or your back. You flex your ARMS.
Arms make your physique look complete. Without big arms, you don’t look like you lift weights.
As a skinny-fat teenager I was always self-conscious about the size of my arms.
When I flexed my biceps, nothing would happen.
I had no biceps peak at all, and when I touched my arm I couldn’t feel any muscle at all. It was all soft.
However, that all changed after putting in several years of hard work in the gym and at the kitchen table.
Today, I often get comments about the size of my arms.
Therefore, I have written this article to share my 6 best tips on building big arms.
1) Want Big Arms? Eat Enough Calories.
A lot of guys want to build big arms while losing fat.
That’s VERY difficult to accomplish, since fat loss and muscle building are two conflicting goals:
- To build muscle, you must fuel your body with a caloric surplus while training hard.
- To lose fat, you need to eat a caloric deficit.
If you chase both goals at the same time, you will get NOWHERE.
Without sufficient calories, you won’t be able to push yourself hard enough at the gym to stimulate growth.
Also, your body won’t have anything to build from. The body needs surplus calories to build, so you better make sure that you feed it.
I’ve never gained size on my arms while being in a caloric deficit.
Therefore, don’t expect to build big arms while doing fat loss.
If you want to big arms, EAT BIG. Listen to your body, and feed it when it’s hungry.
However, don’t do it for too long. As a skinny-fat guy you’re bound to gain some fat during your bulks, so you want to keep your bulks to maximum 3 weeks.
2) Isolate Your Arms
If you’re reading this article, I assume that one of your weak body parts is ARMS.
A lot of internet experts will tell you that you will build big arms by doing big compound movements:
“Just do your squats, bench presses and deadlifts, then your arms will grow.”
For me, that was never the case. By doing those exercises, my legs, back and traps grew, while my arms remained skinny.
Once I started doing isolation exercises for my arms, they started growing.
Therefore, train your arms properly, by doing isolation exercises.
Now, there’s no exercise that will work for everyone, but I can tell you the exercises that worked for me.
Favorite Biceps Exercises
Close Grip Chin Ups
Seated Machine Curls
Favorite Triceps Exercises
Seated Machine Pushdowns
Those 6 arm exercises are responsible for most of the growth that I’ve had in my arms.
But, that doesn’t mean that they will work well for YOU. So, how do YOU pick the best exercises to train your arms?
That’s quite simple: do the arm exercises that feel the most comfortable for you, and get really good at them.
Just pick a few for biceps and triceps, and do them over and over again. Keep it simple, and see your arms grow.
3) Use Lighter Weights
It’s not about how much weight you can lift. The weight is just a means to an end.
It’s all about working the target muscle.
And, to focus on working your target muscle, you want to lower the weight.
If you think you can lift 80 pounds for 5 decent reps, then use 50 pounds and do 8-12 GREAT reps.
By using lighter weights, you’re able to focus on working your arms, instead of working your ego.
Now, some of you may ask: but isn’t it better to lift more weight to stimulate muscle growth?
Not necessarily. If you want to, you can make 50 pounds FEEL heavier than 80 pounds by:
- Using longer timer-under-tension on each rep.
- Doing more sets and reps.
- Going beyond failure by doing dropsets.
- Using shorter rest between sets.
- Supersetting bicep exercises with tricep exercises.
By following the above mentioned principles, you will achieve a much better pump in your arms, compared to swinging around heavy weights.
4) Train Arms First
In my first year of training I made one huge mistake: I trained my arms at the end of my training.
When I got to work on my curls and triceps extensions, my arms were already trashed from the heavy presses and pulls.
It’s a mistake, because I wanted big arms, but I never trained them when they were fresh.
If you want your arms to grow, you should train them before anything else.
Once I decided to start every training session with several supersets of close grip chin ups and diamond push ups, I had better growth in my arms than ever before.
Today, I have my whole Wednesday dedicated to arm training. On this day I train my arms for 1-1.5 hours straight, and leave nothing in the tank.
Therefore, prioritise your arms and train them when they’re fresh.
5) Train Your Triceps Harder
Most guys want bigger biceps, because it’s the muscle you notice when you flex.
However, triceps make up 2/3 of your arm size, so it makes sense to train them harder.
I found that I can train my triceps much harder than my biceps, and that has enabled me to keep growing.
So, how exactly do you do this? There are several ways:
- Once your biceps can’t do more work, stay for 10-20 minutes extra at the gym and trash the triceps.
- Do diamond push ups at home throughout the day and/or when you wake up and go to bed.
- Do triceps work on the days you don’t train arms. For example, if you train legs on Monday, finish off your workout with some triceps work.
I found I can train triceps pretty much every day, since they recover much faster than my biceps.
Experiment with this, and see what happens.
6) Take Regular Measurements
The final tip of this article is that you stay consistent.
Big arms, take years to build if you’re lacking good arm genetics.
There’s no way around staying consistent and putting in the time.
To stay consistent, measure your arms twice a month and note it down somewhere visible.
I use a whiteboard in my room, where I put down all my measurements every 2 weeks.
You need to track your progress in hard numbers, because it’s VERY difficult to see arm growth in the mirror.
How are you going to see a quarter inch growth in the mirror? You won’t, so make sure to take those measurements.
Furthermore, by noting down the measurements somewhere visible, you will be exposed to your measurements all the time.
This will keep you motivated to progress, and you will know what works and what doesn’t.
That’s it. Implement the 6 tips in your training and lifestyle, and I’m sure you will be on your way to build big arms!
Finally, here’s my arm training video for you:
Be proud but stay hungry,