If you want to build muscle in your arms, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your training.
Regarding arm training, some people prefer to remain ignorant of the potential ways to increase size. This thinking can prevent someone from being tempted to learn more and improve their physique. You must put in the effort and learn how to train your muscles properly to achieve bigger arms. With dedication, you can see significant gains in muscle size.
If you want to learn more about working your biceps and triceps properly, check out these nine tips. As you’ll discover, gaining knowledge is just as important as putting in hard work to gain quality muscle, so get started!
1 – Have a day to train arms on their own
A common training split involves grouping a larger and smaller body part into either push or pull days. When training back and biceps or chest and triceps, it is common to do so together. For many lifters, this method works just fine. However, over time, many people find that the second muscle group worked (arms, in both examples) does not get training emphasis as much as the first.
One recommended solution is to focus on arm exercises on a dedicated day for training arms. Doing no heavy pushes or pulls before and with energy levels high, you can approach these workouts with full force and intensity. This will result in more significant muscle growth due to the increased weight lifted.
To ensure full recovery between workouts, it is recommended that you leave at least a day before and after your arm workouts when scheduling your back, chest, or shoulders. This will help to prevent overtraining some of the muscles. When deciding on a body-part split, it is essential to consider what will work best for the long-term goals.
2 – Start your arm workouts heavy
This is an essential part of any arm workout. Start your arm workout with exercises you can do with the most weight.
After your warm-ups, focusing on exercises such as dumbbell curls or triceps push-downs is easy. However, why jump to the pump exercises when you can start with some double or even triple the heavy loads on close-grip bench presses or dip machines? You’ll be able to lift significantly heavier weights doing standing EZ-bar or barbell curls over preacher and concentration curls. Remember, the first exercise in your arm workout will dramatically impact your results. Give some thought to where you want to begin your training.
Choose a weight that is challenging but not too heavy. You should be able to complete the desired number of repetitions with proper form. If you want to build muscle mass, don’t be afraid to push yourself with a load you can complete for only 6-8 reps. You’ll get a better muscle-building and strength stimulus here than choosing a weight you could do for high reps chasing a pump to start your arm workouts.
3 – Bicep training is all about “angles”
Regarding curling exercises, the elbows-by-your-sides shoulder-width grip should be your starting place. However, like the basic bench press or row, there are plenty of variations to explore that can increase overall arm development.
When your arms are in front of the plane of your torso, as when doing preacher curls, the biceps long head can’t fully stretch. As a result, the focus shifts to the short head. Similarly, when your arms are behind the plane of your body, as when doing incline-bench dumbbell curls, the long head is fully stretched and can contract more strongly, making it the movement’s focus.
When performing barbell curls, you can shift the emphasis by changing the placement of your hands with different angles. When doing barbell curls, a grip inside shoulder width will target the biceps long head more effectively, as it is located outside the short head. A grip outside shoulder width will primarily focus on the short head.
4 – Add overhead tricep work for the long head
To develop your triceps to their fullest potential, it is essential to overhead train. This allows you to target the triceps specifically and create the “horseshoe” shape. This is because the bulky long head attaches above the shoulder joint, which is only fully stretched when your arms are in the overhead position. A muscle can only contract most strongly when it is fully stretched. With your elbows by your sides, your lateral head takes on a greater portion of the load.
Any triceps movement in which your arms are overhead works the long head. Overhead barbell, dumbbell, or cable extensions focus on the long head, and even some machines can do the trick. You will engage the long head to some degree when performing skull crushers with your arms perpendicular to your body. If you move your arms further overhead, as when doing skull crushers on an incline bench, you will experience greater long-head activation.
5 – Change your grip
A curl is a biceps exercise in which a weight is lifted using an underhand grip. While this is one way to build your arms, it is not the only way. The arm flexors are made up of more than just the biceps brachii, a two-headed muscle. The brachialis is located underneath it, and increasing its size can also help improve the arm’s overall size.
When working the brachialis, hammer curls can be performed with the palms in a neutral position and the hands facing each other. This can be done with a rope attached to the lower cable or by holding dumbbells.
The brachioradialis, which provides thickness to the thumb side of the upper forearm, also contributes when doing hammer curls. It is targeted when using an overhand grip during a reverse curl.
6 – Don’t flare your elbows
One potential problem can occur when extending your elbows to target the triceps: allowing your elbows to flare out. When performing tricep exercises such as push-downs, overhead extensions, dips, close-grip benches, or skull crushers, it is essential to keep your elbows tight to emphasize the triceps.
When performing tricep extensions, keeping your elbows close to your body to isolate the muscle group fully is essential. Elbow position can be difficult to maintain, especially for individuals with larger arm circumference, as the joints naturally tend to flare out. If the elbows flare out during the exercise, the chest and shoulder muscles will also engage, reducing the movement’s effectiveness.
7 – Watch how high you curl when training biceps
The most common error trainees make when doing biceps is raising the weight too high, with help from the front delts. While full-ROM training is beneficial, it is often done improperly in this case.
Here is why curling the weight with your elbows pinned by your sides strictly allows you to bring the weight to about shoulder height. However, years of bad habits can be challenging to break, and for many lifters, those habits result in them pushing their elbows forward to raise their weight even higher.
Elbows should be brought forward during the exercise to turn the single-joint movement into a multijoint one. This will also involve the front delts, bringing another muscle group. This movement allows for a resting spot at the top of the rep, as the hand is now stacked over the elbow—reducing tension on the biceps.
To ensure better isolation during single-joint biceps exercises, be aware of the tendency to pull your elbows forward as you raise the weight. Keep them pinned back by your sides for the duration of the movement.
8 – The pump is not the most important part
There’s a popular belief that to be successful on arm day; you need to get a muscle pump. The best way to achieve the “pump” is through high-rep training, which flushes blood into the target muscle, pushing the boundaries of the muscle fascia as it swells.
When the volume of muscle increases and the pump is real, this is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and should be saved for the end of your workout after you have completed your other exercises. Heavy training can cause myofibrillar hypertrophy, in which the muscle fibers are damaged. Lighter training may cause fluids to enter cells, but this does not necessarily lead to damage to cell structures.
Doing your heavy work at the beginning of your training session and working for the pump toward the end might be beneficial. This could allow you to get the best of both worlds.
9 – Train your arms more often
Larger muscle groups, such as legs, require more demanding workouts that take several days to recover from. Therefore, they are trained just once a week. Smaller muscle groups do not require as much recovery time and can be trained more frequently. This is one reason many lifters do body parts like calves and abs up to three times a week. As for the biceps and triceps, they are somewhere in between.
If you have the time and energy, adding a second round of arms training to your split is easy. Here is an example workout for when growing your arms is your main goal:
- Day 1: Push/Pull
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Push/Pull
- Day 4: Legs
- Day 5: Arms
- Days 6 & 7: Rest
If you choose to train arms twice a week, I recommend making the first session of the week very different from the second, both in exercise selection and approach. One session might be heavier, focus on weaknesses, employ more single-arm (unilateral) exercises, or use different intensity boosters like forced reps, drop sets, blood-flow restriction, or eccentric-focused training.
Adopting proven techniques and varied approaches is vital in pursuing chiseled and robust arms. As our comprehensive guide showcases, achieving the perfect balance between discipline, technique, and creativity in your workouts can result in significant muscle gain and improved overall strength. Remember, the journey to acquiring bigger arms is continuous, where knowledge and consistent effort play vital roles. Hence, leverage these top-notch tips to craft a personalized, dynamic, and efficient arm training regime that aligns with your fitness goals. Embrace the journey, celebrate your progress, and watch as your efforts transform into a pair of stronger, larger, and well-defined arms.
1. What is the significance of dedicating a day solely to arm training?
Dedicating a specific day to arm training ensures that you can focus entirely on your arm muscles, allowing them to receive the attention and intensity required for optimal growth. This strategy helps avoid the potential neglect that might occur when pairing them with larger muscle groups in a workout.
2. Why is starting the arm workout with heavy exercises recommended?
Beginning your workout session with heavy exercises allows you to lift more significant amounts of weight, providing a potent stimulus for muscle growth and strength enhancement. Remember to choose a challenging weight that allows you to maintain proper form.
3. How can changing the grip during arm exercises enhance muscle growth?
Altering your grip during workouts can target different muscles in the arm, encouraging balanced growth and preventing muscle plateau. Variations like hammer curls and reverse curls engage different muscle groups, adding versatility to your training.
4. What role do angles play in bicep training?
Playing with different angles in bicep training helps isolate and target various parts of the muscles, ensuring a comprehensive workout. Different curling angles can shift focus between the long and short head of the biceps, enhancing overall muscle development.
5. Why is it recommended to add overhead tricep work to the workout regime?
Overhead tricep exercises target the long head of the triceps, promoting a fuller muscle development and aiding in achieving the desired “horseshoe” shape. It emphasizes muscle contraction when the muscle is fully stretched, resulting in more effective training.
6. Is achieving a muscle “pump” vital during an arm workout?
While achieving a muscle “pump” can give a fulfilling feeling during the workout, it is not the ultimate goal. Incorporating heavy weight training for muscle fiber damage, which leads to growth, should be the priority. The pump, often resulting from high-rep training, can be saved for the end of your workout session.
7. Can I train my arms more than once a week?
Yes, smaller muscle groups like arms recover faster than larger ones and can be trained more frequently. If your goal is to enhance arm size and strength, incorporating two different arm training sessions in a week, focusing on various aspects, can be beneficial.
8. How can I prevent my elbows from flaring during tricep exercises?
To prevent elbow flaring, maintain a conscious effort to keep your elbows close to your body during tricep exercises. This stance will ensure better isolation of the tricep muscles, preventing engagement of chest and shoulder muscles and making the exercise more effective.