Almost every bodybuilder wants bigger triceps and biceps. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of conflicting information on how to get bigger arms. Some say you should gain bodyweight as a whole, while others believe you should blitz your “guns” nearly every day. This article will give you a few strategic tips on how to get bigger arms as well as maximize your upper body training in general.
Start with Strength-Based Compound Upper Body Exercises
When you’re learning how to get bigger arms, your best first step is to make sure you’re doing compound strength movements for the upper body. Although the biceps and triceps might only be “supporting” musculature, they still play a key role in overhead presses, bench presses, dips, rows, and chins.
By consistently striving for strength gains in some of these basic, multi-joint movements, you ensure that your arms have commensurate base strength and size. Look at any guy who can press his bodyweight overhead or do weighted dips or chins with an extra 100+ lbs attached. There’s no way he doesn’t have an impressive set of arms.
Hit the Arms Hard and Heavy
Once you have the general upper body strength work out of the way, you can focus on the biceps and triceps directly. Ask any successful bodybuilder how to get bigger arms, and they’ll likely tell you hit them hard and heavy. Your best bets for biceps are barbell curls, dumbbell curls, preacher curls, and EZ-bar curls. For triceps, you’ll want to stick with close grip bench press, skull crushers, French press, and heavy pushdowns.
Picking two of each per arms workout would do you well. For more well-rounded development, pick one barbell and one dumbbell movement each. So for biceps, you could do barbell curls and dumbbell curls. Or EZ-bar curls and dumbbell preacher curls. Or EZ-bar preacher curls and hammer curls. Anything like that would work.
For triceps, you could pick skull crushers and single arm pushdowns (in lieu of a dumbbell movement). Or single arm overhead extensions (dumbbell version of a French press) and v-bar pushdowns. Or close grip bench press and lying dumbbell extensions (dumbbell version of skull crushers). Changing up pairings like this every workout will give the arms plenty of stimulation and good all around development. Do 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps per exercise. For an added twist, cut the weight in half for one last final set for as many as you can manage with controlled form to finish them off.
Up the Ante with Intensity Building Techniques
Most lifters interested in how to get bigger arms stop taking care of basic upper body strength work and some direct biceps/triceps work. But if you really want to stretch the tape measure in a hurry, add the following intensity building techniques. Do two of the below (one each for biceps and triceps) applied to any exercise you like at the end of every arms workout.
- 21s – You’ve probably seen this before. This is where you curl a barbell from the bottom to half way for 7 reps, then from half way to the top for 7 reps, then from bottom to top (full range of motion) for 7 reps. This equals 21 total reps per set. Do 2-3 sets.
- Negatives – Either cheat your way or have a partner assist you to the fully contracted position of a movement. Perform a “negative” rep, resisting the weight as much as possible until you reach the full muscle extension. Your goal here is to make the “negative” last 30 seconds or so. Do 2 sets like this.
- Drop sets – Using a weight that lets you perform 8-10 reps for a set, do as many reps as you can with good form. When you hit failure, lower the weight and rest 20 seconds. Pick the weight up again and rep out until failure. Lower the weight some more and rest 20 more seconds. Now pick the weight up one more time, repping out until failure. If you really want to push your limits, rest and rep out one last time.
- 100 reps – Using either an empty Olympic bar for barbell curls or an empty EZ-bar for skull crushers, grab the bar and perform 100 reps. You don’t have to do all 100 reps non-stop and can rest when you like, but you’re not allowed to put the bar down until you’ve done 100 total reps.
Doing two workouts like this per week will help anyone who wants to know how to get bigger arms. You can either do your arm work in a separate workout, or after working your shoulders or chest first. Regardless, hitting the biceps and triceps with a solid mix of strength movements, direct heavy work, and intensity building techniques will have you needing bigger sleeves before you know it.