Arms. The reason that most 14 years olds throw on their “no pain no gainz” tank top, take a pre-workout that is too strong for them, and spend 2 hours pumping their guns in the squat rack. In all seriousness, everybody wants big arms. There is no one who lifts weights, or wants to look better that would say no to a pair of thick pythons. So how can we build our own personal gun show? Let’s take a look at the arms, and what is required to build them up so no one ever asks you “Do you even lift” ever again.

Anatomy And Function

Let’s split the arm up into 3 parts, the bicep, tricep and finally the forearm.

Biceps – The king of the mirror muscles has the simple functions of bringing the forearm to the elbow, and supinates the hand. Primarily used in pulling movements.

Triceps – These have the function of extending the forearm until in a locked out position at the end of the movement. Primarily used in pushing movements.

Forearms – The part of the arm that most people don’t train! This important group of muscles extend the wrist and fingers. They are what is built if you want to be stronger at holding something.

General Training Principles

bicep anatomy

Frequency

How often should you hit your arms? Well, it may be the ambition of most young or new trainees to have big arms. If this goal is higher on your priority list than having a well rounded and impressive physique, it may be time to re think your training. Your arms are a smaller muscle group that your back, your legs etc. As a result, training them with as much frequency as your back or legs can lead to injury. There are two options for your arm training. Either you can opt for an arm day per week or you can add in your bicep and tricep work at the end of a workout,

• The argument for arm day. If you are a new trainee, then having an arm day probably isn’t necessary. You need to be making the most of your time in the gym, and that means hitting your entire body, and making the whole thing grow. If you are looking to lose fat, then again, an arm day isn’t totally appropriate for you either, since training the arms will have a smaller metabolic effect than a full body workout. However, if you are looking to add some extra arm work, or your arms are lagging behind the rest of your body’s growth, then an arm day is a good idea. Many bodybuilders with the greatest arms would do an arm day per week. A good idea would be to superset your bicep and tricep work for a fuller pump.

• The argument for adding it on at the end. Since the arms are made up of small muscles, the work required to get them to grow is not as exhausting as a squat, deadlift or overhead pressing session. As a result, it is realistic to do your arm work after your back workout, but not the other way around. Doing the traditional chest and tricep, back and biceps workout can give you good growth. It will mean that the arms have already been hit by the previous exercises, and are not ready to be finished off with direct training. 

If you are in a situation where you are looking to prioritize your arm growth over everything else (only for more advanced trainees) then upping the frequency for 4-6 weeks is a good idea. Perhaps two arm days, or a back and bis, chest and tris day with an additional arm day put on to help the growth.

Compound Vs Isolation

In general compound movements are the best movements for building muscle. Arm are no exception. Many people go in to the gym with the misconception that the way to create huge arms is with tricep kickbacks and cable curls. While there is a place for isolation work, it should always be done after your compound exercises are done. Compound movements will put more weight through the muscle, and usually make it work in a much more natural way. This stimulates bigger growth.

Isolation work is very important however for maximizing arm growth. Arnold was famous for his idea of chasing the pump at the end of an arm session. So after you have done your heavy compound work, getting as much blood as possible to the muscles can aide recovery, and stimulate immense growth. However, to reference Arnold again, he attributed his impressive arm size to the simple barbell curl.

Forearm and Grip

The forearms are something that are rarely trained in the gym. If you are someone who deadlifts heavy and regularly, and does plenty of other heavy barbell and  dumbbell work, perhaps your grip doesn’t need to be directly trained. However, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically have a bigger forearm.

The forearm will respond to you picking up heavy things, and generally that is what is needed to make it strong and muscular. However, for dedicated bodybuilders, direct forearm will give you bigger forearms, and a more impressive overall arm.

Best Exercises To Use

Biceps

• Bicep Barbell Curl – 8-12 reps. (NOTE: Raise your elbows at the top of the movement, like here)

• Dumbbell Hammer Curl – 8 – 12 reps

• Dumbbell curl – 10-12 reps (Supinate the wrists, focus on twisting your pinky finger toward your bicep, like here)

• Preacher curl – 10-15 reps

Triceps

• Close Grip Bench Press – 5-10 reps

• Dips – 8-12 reps

• Skull Crushers – 8 – 25 reps

• Pushdown Variations (Straight bar, V-Bar, differing hand placements) 15-25 reps, also try this tip by Ben Pakulski it will give you great variation in how your triceps are hit.)

• Seated/Standing Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension – 8-15 reps

• Rope Pushdowns – 15-25 reps

Forearms

• Farmers holds –  Do this for time, and beat your time each week

• Spring Loaded Grippers – 10-12 reps

• Wrist Curls – 8 or more reps. This is not for strength, so a lighter weight aimed at flooding the forearm with blood.

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