If you’re the typical guy, you got into weightlifting to build a broad chest, wide shoulders, and a pair of big arms. And, if you’re a girl, the thought of having a pair of lean, well toned arms to replace those turkey wings you used to have probably at least played a small role in helping motivate you to start lifting.

The truth is, no matter whether you’re male, female, an aspiring bodybuilder, or the casual gym rat, having muscular, well developed arms is incredibly appealing.

Who can blame you either? Movies, magazines, and commercials glamorize shapely arms in sleeveless shirts, and countless surveys have identified lean, toned arms as one of the hallmark “turn ons” among adults.

But, building an impressive pair of bulging biceps and tremendous triceps isn’t the easiest thing to do. Doing the same old routine of 3×12 isn’t going to do much to build those toothpicks you’re currently walking around with. If you’re really want to build some guns, you’re going to have to hit your arms just like any other major body part you’re looking to grow. It’ll take a lot of volume, heavy weight, and a variety of exercises that hit your arms from every angle imaginable.

In other words, you need the ultimate arm workout, and that’s exactly what we’ve got in store for you. But before we get to the workout, let’s briefly review the musculature of the arm to learn a little bit more about what we’re targeting with the workout.

Why the need for big arms?!

If you’re not a bodybuilder, you’re probably wondering if having big arms is really necessary, and you might think it’s even on the silly side to devote any amount of time to growing your biceps and triceps. Well, we’re here to tell you that no matter if you’re a bodybuilder, crossfitter, or weekend warrior, having muscular arms is incredibly beneficial to your overall athletic performance and development.

Simply put, bigger muscles have the potential to be stronger muscles. In other words, having bigger, stronger biceps will help in all of your pulling exercises, such as bent over barbell rows and chin ups. On the flip side, having more muscular triceps will enhance your pressing strength on movements such as the bench press and overhead press.

The Gun Show

When people think of well developed arms, they’re almost always talking about the biceps and triceps, but if fact these two muscles are actually groups of muscles. So, let’s take a second to learn a little bit more about what we’re training before getting to the actual workout. Having an idea of the form and function of each muscle will help you understand why training them is as important as all the other muscles you diligently train each week.

Biceps

The biceps is composed of two muscles (bi is derived from the latin meaning “two), the biceps brachii and biceps brachialis, and is involved with movement of the shoulder and elbow. The brachialis sits under the biceps brachii and adds thickness to the arm, while the brachii is the portion of the biceps that most people are trying to grow and show when flexing their arms. In other words, the brachialis pushes the biceps up as it gets bigger, thereby making your biceps appear taller.

So, it’s important to target the brachialis during your workouts as much as you are the brachii. To maximize maximizing recruitment of the brachialis, it’s best to use a neutral (hammer) grip when doing any kind of curling (elbow flexion) exercise.

As for the brachii, it’s composed of a short head and a long head. How you hold the bar will dictate which head is more emphasized when lifting. Using a narrow grip when doing barbell (or EZ bar) barbell curls will emphasize the long (outer) head, while a wide grip emphasizes the short (inner) head. Additionally, curling the bar or dumbbell to nose height will force the long head to contract on both ends, yielding a superior peak contraction.

Triceps

The triceps (triceps brachii), a.k.a. “horseshoes”, as you probably guessed is comprised of three heads (lateral, medial, and long) which connect the scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (upper arm) to the ulna (forearm). The head most responsible for the “horseshoe” shape is the lateral head, which is located on the outward facing side of the upper arm. The medial head is located towards the middle of the body, while the long head is situated on the bottom side of the humerus.

The triceps’ primary function is to straighten the arm, by extending the elbow, and it has a secondary function is assisting the Latissimus Dorsi (lats) in bringing the arm down toward your body (adduction).

Much like the biceps, you can target the different heads of your triceps by switching up your grip or direction of movement. The lateral head is best targeted when the arms are at your sides and overhead, as in the case of press downs or bench dips. The medial head when your arms are at your sides with an underhand grip (reverse grip pushdowns or reverse grip kickbacks). Finally, the long head is hit most effectively when the arms are overhead (i.e. skullcrushers and overhead extensions).

Now that the anatomy lesson is complete, we can get onto the really important portion of this article — the arm workout!

Training Pointers

  • Use a mix of high weight, low reps, and lower weight, higher reps to develop size and strength. Doing so will pave the way for greater gains in your overall physique and performance.
  • When doing the lower rep strength-focused work, take a full 60 seconds (at least) to recover fully in between each set. Once you move into the higher rep, lower weight (hypertrophy-focused) work, then you will superset exercises to maximize time efficiency and create one hell of a pump in your arms.
  • Don’t rush through the movements, make sure you “feel” muscle you’re targeting for each exercise. This ensures you’re establishing a strong mind-muscle connection and working the intended muscle, which will lead to a more effective workout, and ultimately, greater hypertrophy.
  • Hold the contraction at the top of every rep for 1-2 seconds, don’t just bounce the weights up and down. By “squeezing” each and every rep, you’ll create an intense burn, maximize time under tension, and ensure you’re not letting secondary muscles compensate for your biceps and triceps.
  • EAT! This may seem like a strange comment, but if you’re looking to increase the size of your arms, you’re not going to gain any size or strength if you’re following some fad fat loss diet.
  • To grow your arms, you’ll need to eat in a modest surplus, about 250-300 calories over your maintenance. Any less than this, and you probably won’t gain weight at the rate you’re wanting to, and any more than this will most likely lead to excess fat gain on your arms (and abs), which is something no one ever really wants.
  • Form over weight. Yes, you need to be lifting a weight that causes you to fail in the prescribed rep range, but if you’re jerking around and doing all sorts of body english to move the weight, you’re not really working the intended muscles as effectively as you could. Rather than heave-hoing the weights around, lower the weight a bit to focus on form and this will make certain only your biceps or triceps are doing the work.
  • Progression is key — growing your arms isn’t a matter of simply doing a prescribed set of exercises for a certain number of reps. It’s about doing those exercises correctly and progressing on them in either weight or the number of reps. You won’t get stronger (or bigger) if you aren’t constantly challenging your muscles. If you’ve reached the upper limit of the rep range for a certain exercise, next workout, it’s time to up the weight!

Ultimate Arms Workout

To grow your arms, hitting them only one time per week at the end of your shoulder workout simply isn’t enough. If you want the big guns, you’re going to need to hit them at least two times per week using a mix of low reps and high reps.

As such, we’ve got the ultimate mix of methods training program for your arms that hits them twice a week using a blend of compound exercises, isolation exercises, low reps, and high reps to build those 3D arms you’ve always wanted.

Arm Workout A

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

Close Grip Barbell Bench Press

 4

 6-8

 60

Weighted Chin Ups

 4

 6-8

 60

Seated Overhead Tricep Extension

 3

10-12

0

Standing Dumbbell Curls

 3

10-12

 60

 Dips

 3

AMRAP

 60

Chin Ups (Focus on pulling with biceps)

 3

AMRAP

60

 

Arm Workout B

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

EZ Bar Curl

5

5

 60

Lying EZ Bar Skullcrushers

5

5

 60

Prone Incline Dumbbell Curl

 3

8-10

0

Dumbbell Incline Tricep Extension

 3

10-12

 60

Rope Hammer Curl

 3

12-15

0

Rope Pushdown

 3

12-15

 60

Smith Machine Body weight Curl

 3

AMRAP

 0

Smith Machine Body weight Tricep Extension

 3

AMRAP

60

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