Do you want bigger and stronger arms but lack the time to perform arm-blasting workouts? Are you looking for more effective ways to add arm size? Fortunately, there is a way to increase both biceps and triceps size and strength that’s unlike any traditional training method. And the best thing about the routine is that it takes only two minutes to perform at the beginning of each workout.
How to Get Big Arms
The philosophy behind building bigger arms is outlined in both the biceps and triceps sections of Arm Exercises for Athletes. Instead of succumbing to the Ron Burgundy syndrome—performing isolation exercises until your eyes explode—get big arms by focusing on multi-joint compound movements that engage the arms along with other muscles in your body. Although isolation exercises certainly aren’t useless, they work better as a supplement to compound exercises.
How to Program for Big Arms
When it comes to muscle growth, the name of the game is progressive overload, which, in the simplest of terms, means getting better over time by continually adding sets, reps and weight, or by decreasing rest periods.
An important part of progressive overload is recovering from training sessions. It’s often said that you don’t get strong or build muscle while lifting weights. These things happen when you recover from lifting weights. Hence, most programs are structured to allow muscles to fully recover after a workout.
But there’s more to recovery than simply resting. Certain exercises are more stressful to the body and require longer recovery time. Others can be performed more frequently without this concern.
Reduce Your Spinal Stress
According to Chad Waterbury, exercises that don’t stress the spine are easier to recover from (1). This is one reason why heavy Squats and Deadlifts take a heavier toll on the body than other exercises.
Under this philosophy, most weighted exercises tax the body, thus requiring a longer recovery period than bodyweight exercises. Hence, bodyweight exercises can be performed more frequently without as much recovery time.
Bodyweight Exercises for Big Arms
Two heralded bodyweight exercises are Dips and Chin-Ups. They are often referred to as “the upper-body Squat.” In fact, these two exercises are the most commonly recommended compound exercises for athletes looking to add mass to their upper arms. Plus, they are bodyweight exercises, so they don’t stress the spine.
Chin-Ups and Dips are foundational movements that should be in everyone’s program. But for those who want bigger arms, consider using them in an unconventional fashion.
Unconventional Exercise Methods for Great Gains
A way to use Chin-Ups and Dips to get bigger arms is to perform them as a warm-up before every training session. Doing ten repetitions of each movement before a workout adds tremendous volume and workload to the arms, which they would not normally face.
Training three days per week and adding ten repetitions of these movements to a warm-up equates to an average of 120 additional repetitions per month. That’s an extra 1,440 repetitions per year. In the long run, this added volume will contribute to significant size gains.
Unconventional Arm-Building Warm-Up
If you can do five or more repetitions of Dips and Chin-Ups, then perform ten reps of each during your warm-up. Do them in any set or rep scheme. Do what best fits your workout: two sets of five, one set of ten—it doesn’t matter. The focus is simply to get the work done. If you can’t do more than five repetitions, start by performing five repetitions of each movement during your warm-up.
The goal is to gradually progress to one set of ten repetitions. To adjust to your strength level, take 50 percent of your max reps and start with that on your first set. Once you hit one set of ten, add single reps if desired. Your warm-up then consist of one set of eleven repetitions, and so on. Always match the amount of repetitions for both Chin-Ups and Dips.
To save time, perform Dips and Chin-Ups in a superset fashion with smooth and controlled reps. Keep a high tempo, but do not work each movement to failure.
Chin-Ups, max reps: 8
Dips, max reps: 10
Warm-Up Set 1: 4 reps each
Warm-Up Set 2: 3 reps each
Warm-Up Set 3: 3 reps each
Note: Always base reps off of the weaker of the two exercises.
(1) Waterbury, C. (2011, October 5). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://chadwaterbury.com/another-way-to-build-maximal-strength/