How to Build a Bigger Arm Muscle

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A sign of strength and power, dedication and ability—a fit upper body is something everyone wants, but not everyone knows how to get.  Despite the popularity of arm muscle routines, the majority of people don’t train effectively.

Your arms are composed of three muscle groups: your biceps, your triceps, and your forearms. They all have different functions in daily life and, as a result, different training needs. Understanding how these muscles work, where they are, and how best to use each is crucial to building bigger arm muscles.  

Before you focus on the specifics of training your arms, it’s important to be sure that you are following all of the best practices of a successful fitness routine and healthy lifestyle. Without considering all of the elements that affect your muscles, including food choices and sleep habits, you run the risk of working hard in the gym without seeing gains.

Follow the basic principles of all good workout routines.

Whether you're training for huge muscles or to look better on the beach, the same basic principles apply.

-Don’t overtrain. 

Workout each muscle group twice a week - and that's it. You build muscle mass when your muscles are resting and recovering from lifting sessions. Overtraining and not resting your muscles may cause delayed gains and slow results.

Intense, but short, workouts are your best bet when working to build mass. Aim for a solid 30 minutes of work, and then let yourself recover.

-Train to failure.

Reaching muscle failure means you can’t possibly lift the weight you’ve chosen again. Whatever your fitness goals, muscle failure should be part of your training plan. When working to gain muscle mass quickly, you should hit this point after a small number of repetitions. If you’re new to weight lifting, aim for failure between 10 and 12 reps. For more experienced lifters, this number could be 6 to 10.

That said, muscles are less likely to stagnate or stop growing when you keep them confused. Alternating the weights used to reach muscle failure can help encourage your muscles to continue growing and push past any plateaus you might reach. Add some light or moderate weight training days into your lifting schedule to help promote faster muscle growth. Equipments listed here at Basic Training SF are great for that.

-Maintain a healthy diet to encourage muscle development.

Many argue that lifestyle choices have a more significant effect on muscle tone and size than what you do in the gym. A poor diet can negate even the most strenuous workout plans.

When your goal is to gain weight, you still want to be careful not to eat too many calories. If you eat more than your body can process or burn, the food you consume is stored as fat. Aim for meals that include fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats. White sugar, flour, fried foods, and high-calorie low-nutrient foods should be avoided.

Protein is the primary macronutrient involved in developing muscles. Therefore, it’s helpful to increase your protein consumption when you’re trying to build bigger arms. Lean meat and eggs are commonly recognized sources of healthy proteins. Dairy, beans, and nuts are also excellent choices. If you’re struggling to add enough protein to your diet, whey protein supplements can be extremely beneficial as well.  

Especially after workouts, be sure to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You don’t necessarily need eight 8 oz cups a day—that’s a myth—just drink enough that your urine stays light in color. You’ll likely find the increased strain of high-intensity workouts likewise increases your water intake needs. Thirst can also sometimes be mistaken for hunger, leading to overeating and in turn unwanted weight gain.

Perform targeted exercises to focus on growth.

Using proper form is an essential consideration for any workout plan. When you don’t execute a move the correct way, you run the risk of developing an injury. You can’t train if you’re injured, and that’s certainly no way to build bigger arms!

No exercise should cause you pain.  If you notice pain or unusual strain during a workout, and you’re unsure you’re performing a particular move correctly, find a certified personal trainer or reputable websites with example videos to check your form.

An ideal arm workout routine should include these basic moves:

Biceps:

Your biceps are the muscles on the front of your upper arms - the ones that everyone loves to flex. Biceps exist to help bend, lift, and extend your arm.

Mix up your bicep training by alternating between these three exercises:

  • Bicep curls require barbells or dumbbells. Hold the weight in your hands with your palms facing you, then slowly bring the weights up to your shoulders and back down.
  • Hammer curls are the same as bicep curls except you keep your palms facing in towards your sides.
  • A reverse bicep curl is yet again the same motion, but with the palms facing away from you. A barbell is a more common choice for this move than dumbbells, but either work.

Triceps:

Your triceps are the muscles on the back of your arms. Though they don’t get the same attention of as biceps, your triceps add to the overall circumference of your upper arms. Weak triceps can make your arms look flabby from the back.  Additionally, you need strong triceps to balance out powerful biceps. Where your biceps work to bend your arm, triceps are there to straighten it back out again. An imbalance in strength between the front and back of your arms can lead to tendonitis, muscle pain, or injury.

 Train your triceps with these two exercises:

  • Tricep extensions involve holding dumbbells over your head with your wrists facing in towards each other. Keeping your elbows pointing forward, lower the dumbbells behind your head and then raise them back up by straightening your elbows.
  • A lying triceps press is a similar action to the tricep extension, except you begin lying flat on your back. Keep your elbows stacked on top of your shoulders as you bring the weight down towards the floor and then raise it back up above your chest.

Forearms:

Forearms are often considered one of the hardest muscle groups to bulk. They play a role in everything you do, and this frequent use makes it hard to work these tiny muscles to failure. When training your forearms, be very protective of your wrists.

Wrist curls are the most effective exercise for growing your forearms. There are two different methods to perform them:

  • For palm up wrist curls, sit down with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest your forearms on your thighs with your wrists out past your knees and your palms facing the ceiling. Pull the weights in towards you and back down, keeping your arms firm against your legs.
  • Palm down wrist curls are exactly the same except you begin with your palms facing down, away from your torso.

Using these exercises to train the three primary muscle groups in your arms to failure twice weekly will help to encourage quick results.

The benefits of compound exercises on days you aren’t specifically training your arms.

On days of the week when you aren’t scheduled to train your arms, you should train the rest of your body, including muscles in your legs, back, and core. This helps to increase your overall strength. People who have huge arms but neglect training the rest of their body can appear imbalanced in ways that take away from all of their hard effort in the gym.

Another benefit of training all body parts is the boost in metabolism or calorie burning ability. The more lean muscle you have, the more energy your body needs just to exist. The more energy your body burns, the easier it is to lose excess body fat and see your muscles pop.

Compound exercises are exercises that use multiple muscle groups at once. These moves will still help to bulk up your arms while toning other parts of your body. Samples of compound moves that strengthen your arms include:

  • Chin ups, which work your back along with your arms
  • Push-ups or the close-grip bench press, which not only target your chest but also involve your triceps
  • A bicep curl to shoulder press works all parts of your shoulder, while also including the front of your arms

Reachable goal through targeted, intentional training and a balanced workout routine and lifestyle reachable goal.

It will take time and dedication, but, following this guide on how to build arm muscles, you’ll quickly see magazine-cover worthy guns. In summary, eat healthily, vary your workout routines to target alternating muscle groups, aim for complete muscle failure during each set, and opt for total-body compound exercises during the days you aren't targeting your arms.   

You too can have the arms that make heads turn and keep your shirt sleeves tight. The only question that remains is, what are you waiting for? Get bigger arms with your perfect training plan today!

About the Author

I’m a fitness enthusiast and a part time personal fitness trainer and nutritionist residing in Elmhurst, IL. Over the past 11 years I've spent a lot of my time trying to stay in shape by doing both cardio and strength training.

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