So you wanna know how to get big arms? Of course you do. It’s usually the very first question on the mind of every single guy who starts to workout.
Sure, they want to lose fat and get a 6 pack. And yes, a huge chest and shoulders is probably on their to-do list as well. But above all else, they want big arms. And they want them now. Bigger biceps, bigger triceps, whatever it takes.
Getting big arms is almost always the #1 goal of every guy’s workout program. And trust me, as someone who started off with 12 inch arms (just barely), I fully understand that desire. So do the muscle magazines and fitness writers, which is why a new article pops up every 10 minutes with a headline like “Get huge guns in just 2 weeks!!!”
Unfortunately, 100% of what you’ll read in those types of articles is complete bullshit written by idiots and designed for people using every drug known to man.
So today, I want to cut through that bullshit and tell you exactly what us natural, genetically average people need to do to get big arms. Here we go…
Focus Less On Arm Isolation, More On Compound Pushing/Pulling
Ok, let’s see. We want big arms, right? That means we need bigger biceps and triceps, right? That means we need to put all of our focus into doing as many biceps and triceps exercises as we possibly can.
You know… barbell curls, dumbbell curls, standing curls, seated curls, cable curls, machine curls, concentration curls, press downs, skull crushers, tricep kickbacks, dumbbell extensions, close grip bench presses and pretty much every arm exercise ever invented… for high reps, low reps, drop sets, super sets, for hours at a time, 4 times per week, changing exercises often to SHoCk OuR ArMs iNtO GRoWiNG!
Right? Ha, that’s cute. In reality, everything you read in that paragraph above is as WRONG as wrong can be. And yes, it may have been a little exaggerated, but, in reality, even a far less exaggerated version of that previous paragraph is still absolutely wrong.
The truth is, arm isolation exercises like the ones mentioned above are probably the least important factor in getting big arms. That sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. We definitely need to train our arms correctly in order for them to get bigger. We definitely need to create some type of stimulus for muscle growth to occur. It’s just that, the stimulus from arm isolation exercises is quite small.
However, the stimulus from compound exercises like bench presses, rows, overhead presses and pullups is quite high.
And, while none of those are direct biceps or triceps exercises, they ALL hit those muscle secondarily VERY well. Specifically, all pushing movements hit the triceps. This includes virtually every type of chest and shoulder pressing exercise there is. Similarly, all pulling movements hit the biceps. This include every type of back movement that involves a row or a pull down/pull up.
And it’s these types of compound exercises that will put more muscle on your arms than any arm isolation exercise ever will. Confused? Think about it. What do you think will stimulate more bicep growth? Doing 30lb dumbbell curls, or doing 185lb (or more) bent over barbell rows? What do you think will make your triceps bigger? Increasing your dumbbell kickbacks from 20lbs to 25lbs, or bringing your bench press up from 135lbs to 225lbs?
Makes a little more sense now, doesn’t it? However, this doesn’t mean that I think you should never care about training your arms or that you should never do any direct isolation work for your biceps or triceps (although many people do feel this way and do grow just fine with no direct biceps or triceps work at all).
I actually DO think some direct arm work IS required for the best possible results. It’s just that, putting most of your focus on isolation exercises for your biceps and triceps is useless at best and counterproductive at worst if your goal is building big arms.
If anything, arm isolation exercises should be kept to a minimum and used sort of like a side-kick to the MUCH more important compound pushing and pulling exercises like bench presses, rows, overhead presses and pull ups/pull downs, which your workout program should be built around anyway.
Focus Less On Pump & Burn, More On Progressive Overload
Another common thing you’ll see in the many stupid articles about how to get big arms is that you should feel the burn, and get a great biceps and triceps pump, and squeeze and feel and blah blah blah. While feeling your muscles working isn’t a bad thing, it’s WAY less important for bigger arms (or really muscle growth in general) than a little something called the progressive overload principle.
As I fully explain in The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide, the progressive overload principle basically states that in order to build muscle, you MUST gradually increase the demands being placed on your body. Meaning, if you lift 50lbs for 8 reps on some exercise for the next 10 years, you’ll never build any new muscle. If you work your ass off to try to lift 50lbs for 9 reps, and then 50lbs for 10 reps, and then 55lbs for 8 reps, and so on and so on… that’s progressive overload.
You can feel the burn till the cows come home and get a pump so intense that you can’t even dress yourself… but if there’s no progressive overload over time, muscle will NOT get built.
Oh, and here’s a funny thing about progressive overload. You know all of those compound exercises I mentioned in point #1? And how I said those exercises (and not little isolation exercises) were the real key to getting big arms? Well, it just so happens that you will be able to progress MUCH easier and much faster on those types of exercises than you ever will on any little biceps and triceps isolation exercises.
So, if you want bigger arms, progression is key. And yes, you should definitely strive to progress on the isolation stuff as often as possible too, but don’t expect it to happen at anywhere close to the rate you’ll progress on the bigger more important compound exercises. Which, by the way, is part of what makes those exercises so important in the first place.
Eat Enough To Support Muscle Growth
Guess what? Everything in this article is useless if you aren’t eating enough to support muscle growth and weight gain. Yup, seriously. Kiss your big arms goodbye if you don’t set up a diet that will allow you to gain mass across your body as a whole.
Because if you think you’re going to get bigger arms without gaining weight, then you’re just as dumb as… well… me. Like I said, I had barely 12 inch arms my first day in a gym. I weighed 120lbs. In my silly newbie imagination, I envisioned myself being able to put inches onto my arms without really going up in body weight.
What I didn’t realize however is that for every inch you want to gain on your arms, it requires that you gain about 15lbs of weight across your entire body as a whole.
Let me say that once again, because it’s pretty damn important.
1 inch on your arms = about 15lbs of equally distributed mass gained across your body as a whole.
So if you aren’t eating enough to allow for that type of weight and muscle gain, it means you also aren’t eating enough to get bigger arms.
And if you aren’t doing that, then nothing else matters. Your workout could be perfect. Everything else could be just right. It still won’t matter. If you aren’t eating enough to support growth, you (and your arms) won’t grow. (More about how much you need to eat here: How To Gain Weight Fast)
Ready, Set, Go Get Big Arms!
So you want bigger arms? You want your biceps and triceps bulging out of your sleeves (or at least filling those sleeves out a little better), here’s what you need to know:
It’s compound pressing and pulling with a focus on progressive overload, combined with a small amount of direct arm work and a diet that will allow muscle to be built and weight to be gained across your entire body as a whole. Add in some time and patience, and that’s it. That’s how you get big arms.
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