Don’t be ashamed to admit you want bigger arms. It’s okay. Just about everybody wants huge biceps. Although beach-ready bi’s and tri’s aren’t the most important attributes for most athletes—unless you’re a professional arm wrestler, lower-body power and core strength matter more—there’s nothing wrong with wanting ’em. The good news? You can build bigger arms by focusing on three things in your workout.
1. Heavy Leg Work
Yes, you read that correctly. As counterintuitive as it sounds, you can build your upper body faster by performing lots of lower-body strength exercises. Why? I could give you a long scientific answer, including a complicated explanation about hormone response to exercise and the like. But I’ll spare you that and just say this: Your lower body represents the greatest percentage of your body’s muscle mass. Get it bigger and stronger, and the rest of your body—including your arms—will follow.
Exercises to do: Barbell Squats, Deadlifts, Leg Presses.
2. Pull Movements
You might know these movements as “curls for the girls.” The bicep muscles are designed to flex the elbow and supinate (rotate inward) the forearm. Exercises that allow for full elbow flexion work your biceps across their fullest range of motion.
Exercises to do: Barbell Curls, Thick Bar Curls, Hammer Curls, “Cheat” Curls or Close Grip Chin-Ups. Check out Thomas Jones’s “Man Exercise” for bigger arms.
3. Push Movements
These are the extension-type motions that work the triceps—the muscles that work opposite the biceps and allows the elbow to extend.
Exercises to do: Dips, Standing Overhead Presses
With all three components, you should see efficient results. Below is a complete workout that will stimulate arm growth if performed two to three times each week for 8-10 weeks. The key is to focus on getting stronger with a few exercises performed regularly so you can see progression, rather than performing many different types of movements in no particular pattern.
1. “Breathing” Squats (20 reps)
For this exercise, set up the same way you would for a Barbell Squat and squat down to below parallel. The key is to choose a weight that will be challenging for 10 repetitions. After 10 repetitions, keep the bar on your back and take a few deep breaths until you feel ready to do the second group of 10 repetitions. The goal is to reach a total of 20 reps before racking the weight.
2. “Cheat” Curls (15-20 reps)
Select weight that allows you to perform a set of 10 Barbell Curls as best you can. Assume a regular Barbell Curl stance and perform as many strict, proper-form curls as you can. When you reach a point where you can do no more, use your legs and hips to help “throw” the weight through the raising phase. Lower the weight slowly and with control. Continue doing “cheat” curls until you hit a total of 20 reps.
3. Bodyweight Dips (50 reps)
Perform proper-form dips, pausing at the top and bottom until 50 reps have been completed. This may take several sets, but it will effectively work your arm muscles.