Big Arms Fast: A Scientific Approach

August 4, 2013 | Chris Hitchko

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Guys want them and girls love them. A set of sleeve-busting arms is usually one of the top reasons guys hit the gym. Although thousands of variations of Curls may leave lifters sore, it doesn't mean they are effective. Building larger arms requires the right program, one that enhances a workout routine without wasting time.

Three muscles make up the bulk of your arms: biceps brachii, triceps brachii and medial deltoid.

The biceps lie on the front of the arm and have two main jobs, to bend the elbow (known as elbow flexion) and to rotate the hand inward.

The triceps have three heads: lateral, medial and long head. All three extend the elbow, but they also have individual functions. The long head extends the humerus, pulling the arm behind the body. This aspect is important. To maximize size, athletes need not only to bend the elbow to engage the triceps, but also to pull the arm behind the body to engage the long head specifically.

If you're looking to add size to your arms, your shoulders matter, too. Several muscles are involved, but the medial deltoid gives you the most big-arm bang for your weightlifting buck by improving the overall appearance of your arms and shoulders.

Although it seems rather obvious that building larger arms requires more direct arm work, frequency of training isn't the only factor to consider. Here are three main principles to apply to your workout routine for greater arm development:

1. Overload principle

To challenge their muscles to grow to their maximum potential, lifters must use overload stimulus. Continuing the same lifting routine will produce mediocre results at best. The muscles need to be challenged.

2. Train for hypertrophy

Hypertrophy, the growth of muscle cells, requires specific variables to be most effective. Of those variables, intensity and rest time are most important. Although heavier strength training does have a place, for optimal muscle growth, perform 8-12 reps and limit rest time to 30-45 seconds.

3. Consistency and frequency

Performing Curls once a week will not get the job done. Athletes looking to build bigger arms should train several times a week to provide a large enough stimulus for growth.

The following workout has an optimal mix of exercises to develop the biceps, triceps and medial deltoid. Perform them at the end of your workouts a few times a week for the next six weeks, allowing one or two days of rest between sessions.

Biceps

Triceps

Medial Deltoid

For an added challenge at the end of each workout, perform the following two circuits in order:

Circuit 1. Chin-Up/Close-Grip Push-Up/Upright Row 

Perform as many Chin-Ups as possible. Then perform as many Close Grip Push-Ups as possible. Finally, grab a barbell and perform a set of 10-12 reps of Upright Rows. Rest 30 seconds before repeating the circuit three times.

Circuit 2. Bicep Curl Drop Set

Find a weight that allows you to properly perform 12 repetitions. Move down to a weight that allows you to perform at least 8 repetitions. Lower the weight again so you can finish with 10 reps (aim for 30 total reps). See how Thomas Jones uses drop sets to build bigger arms.

Chris Hitchko
- Chris Hitchko, CSCS, owns ShowUp Fitness, a personal training facility with locations in Santa Monica and the San Francisco Bay area. He is also an...
Chris Hitchko
- Chris Hitchko, CSCS, owns ShowUp Fitness, a personal training facility with locations in Santa Monica and the San Francisco Bay area. He is also an...
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