Who doesn’t want big arms?
Every man wants a set of bulging biceps to show off his physicality and strength. It’s a body part that you see getting the most attention in the gym, from guys young and old.
Unfortunately, a lot of people suck at arm development, because their training is all wrong. So, let’s look at how to train the arms for sleeve-tearing effectiveness.
Not Just Biceps
The first mistake a lot of guys make is only doing curls. Dozens and dozens of sets of curls. The biceps are important, and curls are an important part of any arm routine, but the arms are not just biceps.
In fact, the triceps at the back of the arm are bigger in surface area than the biceps, meaning developed triceps give the look of much bigger arms.
For a fully developed arm, you need to train the biceps, triceps and forearms. It’s easy for your arms to look big when you have a vest on, but if you want to show your strength in a t-shirt, you need to ensure the forearms are developed as well.
All The Angles
For full development of the arms (indeed any muscle) you need to train all the muscles through all the angles available.
The biceps have 2 heads, while the triceps have 3. To fully develop the arm muscles, you need to apply good training stimulus to each head. Meanwhile, the forearms are made up of about a dozen muscles, which for simplicity we will categorize into 2 – the flexors and the extensors.
To train all the different angles, you need to do exercises with different grips, and different shoulder angles. Palms facing up, neutral / facing each other, and facing down. With the arms overhead, in front of the body, straight down, and behind the body.
I will explain which exercises hit each position in the next section.
Exercises for Full Arm Development
Chin ups and pull ups work the biceps with the arms overhead (find chin up bar reviews). Using a variety of different grips will work the arms in a variety of different ways. This focuses predominantly on the short head of the biceps
Preacher curls, with the elbows in front of the body also work the short head predominantly, this time in isolation, without the help of the powerful back muscles.
Standing curls with dumbbells or barbell work the biceps in the most balanced way. Be sure to use all the different grips; palms up, hammer grip and palms down.
Placing the arms behind the body in a seated incline curl, or cable drag curl will work the long head of the biceps more.
Overhead triceps extensions, and to a lesser extent skull crushers will work the long head of the triceps, which will pack size onto the upper arm.
Triceps pushdowns work the triceps in a balanced way, be sure to alternate the 3 grips to fully develop the muscles.
Dips, with the arms behind the body, will build up mass on the short head of triceps, giving the ‘horseshoe’ shape to the muscle.
Not to neglect the forearms, you can work them as primary movers in wrist curls and wrist extensions. Supplement this with other exercises that force the forearms to work hard such as reverse curls, hammer curls and anything that challenge the grip.
Rope climbs, towel rows/pull ups and heavy carries/farmers walks will develop powerful forearm muscles.
Programming Arms Workouts
The arms are small muscles that tend to fatigue quickly. The upside of this is that they also recover quickly. This indicates the best way to train the arms is high frequency – 2 to 3 times per week. Use moderate volume and weight in your arms workouts for best results.
Go heavy on the multi joint exercises like dips and chin ups. Anything from 5 to 15 reps will be effective. These are the exercises where you should focus on the weight you’re lifting and look to progress.
On isolation exercises, such as curls, push downs and triceps extensions focus on time under tension and strong contractions. The aim is to ‘get a pump’, forcing a lot of blood into the muscles. These exercises should be done for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Arms Workouts
- Minimize cheating. Avoiding swinging the body, using momentum and other muscles to lift the weights. Especially on the isolation exercises; you are better going a bit lighter and focusing on perfect form, creating tension and really squeezing the muscles.
- Get a full stretch. When doing biceps, ensure the elbow fully straightens at the bottom, flexing the triceps to completely open the elbow and get a full stretch of the biceps.For triceps, fully close the elbow joint, feeling a deep stretch in the back of the arms.A full stretch will necessitate using less weight, but will give a more effective stimulus to the muscle.
- Leave your ego at the door. Arms exercises are not powerlifts. It’s important to remember the point of doing them – to maximize growth – and train appropriately. Use control, high reps, short rest periods and practice creating as much tension in the muscles as possible.Arms are not the muscles to test your maximum strength.
- Focus on squeezing the muscles. Don’t just move the weights from A to B. Make sure you are flexing as hard as you can, forcing blood into the working muscles. It is mind over matter when training arms. You must keep yourself strict and force the muscles to work. Do not let yourself get lazy and just move the weight from A to B. You will kid yourself that you’re getting stronger, while using a host of other muscles to do the work.