How to Build Bigger Arms

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

how to build bigger armsGuns, jacks, pipes, hooks, pythons… Whatever you call them, the fact remains that most guys want to know how to build bigger arms.

While they are nowhere near as impressive, rarely seen and as intimidating as a big set of traps, you still don’t want to have and extra six inches of space in your shirt sleeves; that’s for sure.

So the question is how do you go about building bigger arms? The answer is not as simple as you might assume. If it were easy, you would see tons of guys walking around with 18 inch arms. But that simply isn’t the case.

It’s been said over and over again that in order to add an inch to your upper arms you need to gain ten pounds of bodyweight. This advice has become gospel and it seems that nearly everyone agrees with this these days.

Real world evidence shows that this is not the case, however. Walk into any public gym on a Monday night at five o’clock and you will see quite a few skinny guys, weighing no more than 170 pounds, who are sporting decent sized arms.

Many of them probably have not gained more than 10 or 15 pounds total since they started training but they all have put more than an inch or two on their arms.

This is because localized hypertrophy/ muscle growth will take place if enough volume is present, without a large increase in bodyweight. Look at the calves on soccer players or the forearms on mechanics.

But this only happens up to a certain point. So don’t get the wrong idea adopt a high volume workout program because of that.

These young guys read in some magazine about how to build bigger arms and start by doing ten sets of arms two or three days a week. The volume is enough to elicit a growth response and they may even get a good eight weeks out of this and a quick two inches of arm growth in the absence of any significant weight gain.

Seems to defy the ten pounds per inch rule, right?

But what happens after that? Where do they go from there? The gains will halt and there will be no more arm growth unless they make some drastic changes.

And that is the pitfall of jumping right into high volume training- where can you go when you plateau? Add more volume? At what cost? How much volume can you add? If ten sets isn’t enough should you try twenty? And then thirty? And eventually a hundred?

There’s nowhere to go with this approach. Like I said, it’s great for some quick gains on your arms but isn’t a long term approach. Once you hit a plateau you have no choice but to start lifting heavier weights and eating more.

Stick with the Basics
More weight on the bar and more food on your plate is the fastest way to increase the size of any body part. All the fancy supersets, drop sets, tri sets, pre exhaustion, post exhaustion techniques in the world won’t help in the least if you are not doing those two very important things.

Stick with big exercises like EZ bar curls, hammer curls, dumbbell curls (standing, incline, alternating, etc.), parallel bar and ring dips, close grip benches, reverse grip benches, weighted close grip pushups and lockouts or board presses. The occasional pushdown can also come in handy.

You shouldn’t need more than 3-5 sets of biceps and triceps twice per week to achieve optimal growth, providing that you are always increasing your loads and steadily adding more calories to your diet.

After a couple of heavy sets in the 8-10 range consider finishing your arm workout by getting the biggest pump possible with one or two higher rep sets of 12-15. A huge pump seems to be pretty important for maximal arm growth.

Three other tips that really help in building bigger arms are firstly, to train the biceps and triceps together. So do a set of biceps then rest and do a set of triceps.

Secondly, keep the rest periods low. 45 seconds between sets.

And lastly, be sure to stretch both the bi’s and the tri’s for a good 60-90 seconds at the end of the workout when they are fully pumped.

Please leave your comments below.

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8 Responses to How to Build Bigger Arms

  1. Preston March 10, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Hey Jason, great stuff.

    I had a couple of questions.

    1) I’d say i fall into the intermediate category so I was thinking of training bi’s and tri’s twice a week on Monday and Friday. Is that ok?

    2) also, should I be doing the same exercises for bi and tri on Monday and Friday or should I do different exercises on each day?

    3) and to get the “pump” you’re suggesting, should I just lower the weight from the bi and tri exercises I was using for my heavy sets?

    4) last one haha, how often should I switch up the bi and tri exercises?

    Thanks for all your help man.

    • Jason Ferruggia March 16, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      @Preston: Thanks. Yes, twice a week would be fine. Different exercises on different days. Yes, lowering the weight for one higher rep set at the end would work. Switch them up only when you can no longer make progress. This will be about 6-12 exposures to the same workout.

    • Dave December 17, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Jason, I’ve managed to get up to 18″ arms in the last year. I train biceps basically twice a week with several different exercises. I’ve gained a good 10 pounds in the last few months. I’ve added a good inch and a half to my legs, inch to my calves and traps are looking better than ever but I cannot get my arms to budge. I even tried changing up the tempo to include a 4 second negative on my bicep sets. I also reset weights to lower amounts and really concentrated on form. Few months have gone by now and no growth in arms at all. It’s kind of disheartening as strength it going up, but no size gains. I take in about 200+ grams of protein a day, BCAA pre and intra workout. Just nothing. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

  2. Raymond- ZenMyFitness March 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Excellent I’m going to add this into Minimalist training ( although not so minimalist then) but I do want to get better arm developments and this makes sense to me.

  3. Yudi March 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Hey Jason,

    Great post man, thanks so much for sharing. Quick question – what is the rationale behind the stretching when you are pumped? What is the benefit of it and is it also important to do that with other body parts?

    Thanks so much for your insight.

  4. yogesh February 19, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Yeah as usual great knowledge..

    @yudi. Although jason suppose to answer but being his pupil i know rationale behind stretching post WO.

    Its related to blood flow full of oxygen and nutrients into fibers of your arms muscles will trigger good growth. Its added thing comes with added benefits.
    Yes as per MGS you should do stretch for all body parts after you finish excercise for the part.

  5. Pallab chakraborty May 18, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Sir, i want to grow my chest..

    • kumar December 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      poola chappu!