Getting big arms is easy.
Building your arms is no different to any other muscle group. You need progressive overload, which means lifting heavier weights, for more reps, over a sustained period of time.
If it’s so easy though, then why do so many people have lacklustre arms?
These aren’t guys who don’t train either – we’re talking about people who’ve spent half their life in the gym, yet their arms still resemble toothpicks protruding from their tee shirt sleeves. They perform curls and pushdowns religiously twice a week, yet those stubborn biceps refuse to increase just an inch, and the triceps don’t want to know. What could the problem be?
The answer – exercise selection.
This article will delve into the depths of arm training, sort out the good from the bad, and deliver you the absolute best bodybuilding arm exercises for beefy biceps and tremendous triceps.
Building the Biceps
By far an away the most well-known biceps move (and possible the best known exercise in general) is the biceps curl. That’s not where we’ll start though. Instead, the first biceps exercise in the list is...
Chin-ups hit your back, but they also place a great degree of stress on your biceps. The one huge advantage chin-ups have over curls is that you can use a lot of weight on them, as you are, after all, lifting your entire body-weight.
To make chin-ups more biceps-focused, use a supinated grip, with your palms facing you, or find a neutral grip bar, where your hands face in toward each other.
2. Preacher Curls
The problem with the way most people perform biceps curls is that they use too much momentum. You might be able to grab a 60 pound dumbbell and get it from your waist, up to your shoulder in some sort of movement that resembles a curl, but you’re probably using momentum, and a huge degree of swing to get the dumbbell up.
Preacher curls completely eradicate any body momentum or cheating, as your upper-arms are fixed in position.
3. Fat Grip Curls
When you increase the diameter of the weight you’re curling, your forearms and biceps have to work overtime to hold it. This is why fat grip curls are such as awesome arm-builder.
You can either use a specialty thick bar, buy a pair of fat grips, or even wrap a towel around a barbell or dumbbell to make it tougher to hold, and perform curls as you would usually.
4. Concentration Curls
Concentration curls were a favorite of legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a staple in his peak-building biceps routine.
Perch on the end of a weight bench with a dumbbell in one hand and your elbow resting on the inside of your knee. Use a full range of motion and squeeze your biceps on every rep.
Try These For Triceps
Much like the best biceps exercises kicked off with a body-weight move, the same thing’s happening when talking triceps.
The dip is a much underrated triceps-builder, as it’s often more thought of as a chest exercise. By using a narrower grip on the dip bars, and keeping your torso in a more upright, vertical position, however, you transfer all the load onto your triceps.
If you’re a dip aficionado, however, then try adding weight by wearing a dipping belt around your waist, do your reps with slow five to 10 second negatives, or simply increase the reps.
2. Close Grip Bench Press
By making one simple tweak on the bench press, and narrowing your grip, you can turn it from a chest-builder into a triceps torcher.
Look to have your hands roughly 12 to 18 inches apart. Any closer and you’ll put excess strain on your wrists, and too wide and the chest will still do the majority of the work.
For even more triceps activation, try the reverse close grip bench press, performed with your hands turned 180 degrees. Be warned, however - you don’t need too much weight with this one.
3. Crush Grip Dumbbell Press
Just as you can turn bench presses into a triceps move with one small change, the same can be done with dumbbell presses. Turn your palms so they’re facing each other and press the plates of the dumbbell together. Lower them down to your chest, making sure the weights stay in contact with each other all the time. Pause briefly, then push back up.
Again, you’ll need less weight on these than you’d use for a regular dumbbell presses, and they can be adjusted to be performed on an incline or decline bench too.
4. Overhead Extensions
One of the main problems with many triceps moves is that they don’t hit all three heads of the triceps. You’ve got three triceps head – the short, medial, and long, and most exercises focus on the medial and short heads. Overhead extensions, however, do get these, but also emphasize the long portion.
The key is to get a stretch in the muscle in the relaxed position, using a full range of motion, then squeezing as you hit the contraction.
When training to build your arms, pick two to three exercises and perform each twice a week, alongside exercises for the rest of your upper body. Aim to increase the weight or reps each session over the course of four to six weeks, then switch to a couple of new exercises, and repeat the process again. Mix up your rep ranges so you’re working with both heavy weights in the six to 10 rep range, and slightly lighter weights for 10 to 15 reps.