The 10 Best Arm Workout Exercises for Building Bigger Arms
If you’re looking for info on how to build bigger, badder arms, then you’ve come to the right place. Having a strong set of arms is important not just for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it will also help you in many everyday tasks. In evolutionary standards, weak arms meant a man would have a harder time finding food. It meant you’d have a harder time providing for yourself, your family, and your mate. And well, if you couldn’t do that, you didn’t survive.
Luckily today things are much less cutthroat, but having a nice set of arms at your side is still something you should strive for. Having some well-built arms nowadays will help make sure you can carry all your groceries in one trip, hold your children for longer periods of time, or give you an edge for any manual labor jobs out there. They also serve as a stunning visual cue for your peers that you are the kind of person who takes the time to care for himself through fitness, health, and nutrition. It also doesn’t hurt that they look very appealing as well. In our modern era, having a good appearance and perception are big contributors to our identity, and having some quality guns help a lot when inspiring some self-esteem and confidence.
In this article, we’re providing you with some of the best arm exercises we have found to build major mass and put your biceps and triceps to the test. Scroll down further if you want to just get straight to the workouts.
Key Tips to Building Bigger Arms
For the majority of people out there, the desire to build up bigger arms is usually one of the first things to go on our list of gym goals. Arm workouts are a staple of a weekly training routine and we're here to give you some tips on how to improve your arm gains potential.
What can we do to ensure the growth of our handy sidekicks and build bigger guns? There are a few keys that we believe are important in unlocking the potential of your arm’s sleeve shredding abilities.
1. Train Your Arms 1-2 Times a Week
The muscles in your arms are quite prone to being overtrained than the other muscles in your body. This is mainly because they are used so often and worked hard during other exercises, specifically pushing and pulling exercises. Days on which you focus on your chest and back will ultimately work your arms as well.
For this reason we advise against training your arms more than 2 times a week if you want them to grow. If you focus on arms 3-4 times a week, odds are you are overtraining them and setting yourself up for some disappointment. Sticking to 1-2 times a week gives your arms the proper time they need to recover and grow stronger.
Another thing to note is that it is more beneficial to spread out your arm workout over multiple days instead of trying to obliterate them all at one time. Completely exhausting your arms once a week may be holding you back when it comes to muscle growth. Train smarter, reducing the volume you hit in a session will reduce the chance of exhaustion while allowing you to hit your arms again later in the week. Lifting a high volume all on one day is more taxing on your body than spreading out a higher volume over 2 days. For example lifting a volume of 200lbs in a day is more strenuous on your body than spreading 300lbs over two days.
2. Train Them Hard and Train Them Fast
If you want to see results in your arms, you need to overload them by training them to failure and beyond. You really need to push yourself here. Don’t be content to just go through the motions. Be prepared for high intensity sets and to work for every rep.
All in all, your arm routine shouldn’t take any longer than 30 minutes to complete. Working out your arms for mass isn’t like running in a marathon, it's more of an intense sprint. A common mistake people make is that they do too much arm work in the pursuit of sizable arms. The best way to achieve this is actually in short and intense sessions. Remember, when training your arms, more doesn't always mean better.
3. Focus on Progression
Our bodies, and therefore our muscles, adapt to stimuli in order to adjust to new conditions. Forcing this adjustment can be done through some training techniques such as increasing reps, increasing weight, and reducing rest times. These changes force an adaptation that challenges your muscle fibers, breaking them down and making them grow back stronger than before.
You’ll want to focus on progressing your exercises week to week just as you usually would for your compound exercises. This is because increased performance on isolation exercises have been seen to have a stronger relationship to changes in muscle size than compound exercises do. With this in mind, two major progression techniques you should focus on are: Slowly increasing the number of reps you can do per set and Slowly increasing the amount of weight you can lift.
4. Don’t Change Your Exercises Too Often
While there can be benefits in some variation in your exercises, it probably is not the best idea to change your designated arm isolation exercises so frequently.
Lately there have been claims that you have to “shock and confuse” your muscles in order for them to grow. The idea is that putting them through new exercises and stimuli will force progression in your muscles. We believe this isn’t the best approach and that the key to building bigger arms doesn’t come from just trying a new exercise every week. The real key is through increasing the exercise by forcing them to do a little bit more week after week.
For this you want to pick proven and effective exercises and stick to them, focusing on getting better and stronger at those every week. This method also allows you to consistently track your progress with the same movements.
5. Use the Correct Technique
It is vital to be using the correct technique and training with the appropriate weight. Be sure to be focusing on lifting and lowering the weights in a slow and controlled manner. If this is too hard for you, most likely the weights you are using are too heavy and you are training for ego rather than results. Training your ego will never get great results, training for improvement will. In order to fully develop your arms you need proper technique with challenging weights.
6. Eat Like an Animal
It's no secret that if you want to grow, you’re going to have to eat. We’ve been told this ever since we were little kids and there’s a lot of truth to it. A great deal of the results you want to see in the mirror are based on your nutritional habits. You need to be putting substantial sources of nutrient-dense food into your body every day along with a sufficient amount of protein. Now we’re not saying eat everything and anything in sight, you need to be smart about it. Be sure to keep track of how many calories you are consuming. If you’re not seeing any gains, bump up your calorie intake by 200-300. If you want to gain serious mass on your arms you’re going to need to put on some body weight, around 10 pounds for an inch of growth on your arm. Read here for some good eating habits to develop that will help you out with your plan.
How to Warm Up for These Arm Workout Exercises
As much as we all would want to hop right in and get to the pump, you should probably warm up first. Ease your body into the workouts below with some movements that will get your blood moving and prime your muscles for more intense work. Not only will this help you perform better overall, especially in the earlier sets of your workout, it will also make it less likely that you’ll injure yourself during your session. Nothing is worse for your progress than getting an avoidable injury that puts you out of commission for two to three weeks. Yikes.
We recommend that your warm up be somewhat related to the workout you’re about to do. Don't go in blindly and just hop on the treadmill for five to ten minutes before an intense arm sesh. Start your warm up with some dynamic stretches that target the muscles you are going to be working. After stretching out your muscles, move on to more exercise specific moves.
An easy way to do this is to run through a round of the exercises you have planned in your upcoming routine. Remember that this is a warm up so pick up very light weights or even no weights at all. For bodyweight moves, do easier versions such as kneeling push ups or assisted pull ups etc.
The Best Bicep Arms Workout Exercises
Biceps are without a doubt, one of the most popular muscles that people look to train during an arm workout. If you’re a regular gym veteran or a total gym newbie, biceps are something you are most likely familiar with. It is one of the most famous muscles there are. During your time in the gym, you’ve most likely seen some crazy weird exercises that can target your bicep muscles in different ways. But we believe the tried and true exercises are typically the most effective. The best part is they are usually the most simple as well. Try these exercises out and see the results for yourself.
1. Dumbbell Bicep Curls Arms Workout
These are easily one of the most recognizable arm exercises there are and for good reason. It is one of the best exercises for building muscle mass in your biceps and is a staple in the fitness world. If the bicep curl isn’t already part of your arm workout routine, it is definitely time to start including it. Using dumbbells instead of an ez bar will ensure that you are unilaterally conditioned, meaning both your arms are as strong as one another.
How To: Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells in each hand and stand with your feet positioned about shoulder width apart. Make sure to pick a weight that is manageable for you but will also put you right at muscle failure near the end of your sets. To begin the exercise, keep your elbows tucked close to your side and your upper arm parallel to your torso. Then bend your arm right at your elbow and curl the dumbbells upward with palms facing up until the weight reaches your shoulder. Once you hit the peak, hold for a second and then begin to lower slowly. Keep the tension on the muscle before repeating again with the other arm. Once you have completed this motion with both arms, count one rep.
Reps: 10 - 12
Sets: 3 - 5
2. EZ Bar Curl Arms Workout
An EZ bar curl is pretty straightforward to perform, or “easy” if you will. Using an EZ bar with an undulating handle will help stimulate better muscle activation in your biceps. The utilization of the bar allows both arms to work together, allowing you to pull more weight. Increasing volume through the amount of reps and total weight will lead to greater muscle growth.
How To: Pick up a free weight EZ bar - or cable machine if you can’t find a free weight variant - and set the weight to a few dozen pounds under what you bench. Grab the bar with both hands with your palms facing up and then curl your arms in unison until the bar reaches up to your chest. Form should be close to that of dumbbell curls with your elbows aligned and kept tightly to your sides. Keep a straight back and your shoulders back for the entire exercise.
Reps: 10 - 15
Sets: 4 - 5
3. Hammer Curls Arms Workout
Hammer curls are the less popular cousin of the bicep curl, but they are great at hitting the brachialis muscle in your arm. It is found right next to your bicep on the outside of your upper arms. By targeting this muscle in your workouts, you’ll be able to add more mass to your arms and help your biceps get that oh so coveted peak people are looking for.
How To: Keep your form as you would a normal dumbbell bicep curl, so standing with your feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Hold a pair of dumbells in your hands with your palms facing inwards, toward your body. This is the main difference between the bicep and hammer curl as you will maintain this position for the exercise. Keeping your elbows close to your body, slowly curl the dumbbell up to your shoulders, keeping your palms facing inward. Hold it for a second at the top and then lower the weights. Repeat this with the other arm to complete a rep.
4. Chin-Ups Arm Workout
One of the more underrated exercises on this list, there is little that can be done to better the humble chin-up. Old school bodybuilders used to say to get strong doing chin-ups first, then focus on your more isolated, direct arm exercises. The great thing about chin-ups is that they are a compound exercise that hit multiple muscles simultaneously which include your lats, back, biceps, and forearms. All you need is an overhead bar that can support your weight to get started.
How To: Reach up and grab the pull up bar with your hands about shoulder width apart and your palms facing toward you (underhand grip). Start by hanging from the bar with your arms extended and your shoulder blades squeezed together, activating your back during the lift. Focusing on your biceps, pull your body upward driving your elbows toward your hips. Stop only when your elbows are in line with your body or your chest touches the bar. Pause when you reach the top of the exercise and then reverse the movement. Be sure to slowly lower yourself in a controlled fashion until you are back in your starting position. Repeat for the following reps.
Reps: 4 - 6
Sets: 4 - 5
5. Concentration Curls Workout
You probably don't have the intention of cheating on your reps, but it's easy to do at the gym. Especially near the end of a tough set, you’ll end up recruiting less fatigued muscles to help push the weight at the cost of form. This is something that is true of the bicep curl, where a little swing here and there can help build momentum. The beauty of the concentration curl is that it helps mitigate cheating by design. You’ll be working each of your arms individually which will stop your weaker side from letting your stronger side from doing more work when using a barbell or EZ bar. This slow pace of this exercise also makes for better time under tension which really puts the pressure on your biceps. Do these properly and you’ll have sleeve ripping upper arms in no time.
How To: Position a weight bench and set it to height that will have your knees bent at a 90 degree angle when you are sitting with your feet flat on the floor. Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and place the backside of your upper right arm on the inner part of your right thigh. Your arm should be extended holding the weight off of the floor, nearly perpendicular to it. Start by slowly curling the weight up, only moving your forearms with your elbow still placed on your thigh. Consciously concentrate on tightening and contracting your bicep during this movement, Once you have brought the weight to your shoulder, pause for a beat and squeeze your bicep. Then finally slowly lower the weight back to the starting position to finish the rep. Do all of your reps on one arm and then switch to the other.
Reps: 10 - 12
Sets: 3 - 4
The Best Triceps Arms Workout Exercises
As good as biceps look and feel, the reality of the situation is that they are more vanity muscles than work horses. Don’t be fooled by the public’s obsession with these two muscles on the front of your arm though. The true powerhouse of your arms are the underrated triceps. They contain much more muscle mass than your biceps, but often get neglected due to people’s pursuit of bulging t-shirt arms. Triceps sit on the back of the upper arm and contain the key to really strengthening your upper body and maximizing your potential.
6. Cable Tricep Extension Arms Workout
Tricep Pushdowns are one of the best exercises for developing your triceps. It is most commonly used on a cable machine, a common staple at most gyms, but it can be modified to be done without one. It is a versatile exercise that can benefit both beginners and veterans alike. Yout triceps brachii is located at the rear of your upper arm and consists of three parts: the long, lateral, and medial heads. The best way to build up your arms is to work all three of these heads and the triceps extensions do just that, but focuses a little bit more on the long head.
How To: Grab a cable machine and a rope attachment and set it to the highest position. Put on some manageable weights, something heavy enough that you will be on the verge of muscle failure at your last set. Position yourself one to two feet away, facing the machine with your feet shoulder width apart. Start by grasping the individual rope ends in each hand. Keeping your elbows tucked to your sides, extend your arms downward until you have reached full extension while squeezing your triceps. Slowly raise your arms back up and then rinse and repeat.
Reps: 11 - 15
7. Dumbbell Kickbacks Arm Workout
The kickback is one of the most effective triceps exercises, activating about 85% - 90% of your muscles. This move is efficient because it also targets all three of the heads on the tricep brachii. This move is also more user-friendly to beginners and accessible to those without machines. You really have to engage your muscles in order to move the weight up and down and you’ll feel it in your arms.
How To: Grab dumbbell or kettlebell with a challenging weight and position yourself on a weight bench. Place your left knee on the bench and lean forward with your left hand in alignment with your left leg, supporting your weight. Now place your right foot on the floor with your right arm grasping the weight. Keep your back straight, your core tight and your active leg slightly bent for the duration of this exercise. To begin, lift your right arm so that it is perpendicular to the floor and parallel to your torso. Keep your elbow tucked in close to your side and then raise your right forearm backward until it is fully extended backward and parallel to your body. Once you hit this point, slowly lower your forearm until it is back to the starting point, perpendicular to the floor. Continue this motion to finish your reps and then flip it. Repeat it with your left side with everything the same, but mirrored to accommodate your left arm.
Reps: 8 - 10 per side
Sets: 3 - 4
8. Diamond Push-ups Arms Workout
Possibly one of most effective and challenging tricep exercises on this list. The best part is that this one doesn't require any additional equipment. All you need is some determination and a flat surface. It needs a formidable amount of upper body strength to perform properly, so don’t be afraid to start on your knees if you find it too difficult to complete. You’ll be able to work your way up to your toes with enough work. The great thing about this exercise is that it will workout your shoulders and chest as well.
How To: Position yourself into a standard push-up position with the only difference being the positioning of your hands. Place your hands on the floor directly under your chest with your thumbs and fingers touching their respective counterparts forming a diamond shape. Straighten your legs into a plank like position or with your knees on the floor for the easier variant. While keeping your back straight and your core tight, bend your elbow and lower your body until you are just above the ground. Slowly lift yourself back up to your starting point, all while maintaining form with hands firmly together and still centered under your chest. Continue this for the rest of the set.
9. Pull-Ups Arm Exercise
Unlike chin-ups which focus more on your biceps, the infamous pull up recruits more of your triceps muscles in order to perform the exercise successfully. Like the chin-up, they are a compound exercise and are fantastic at helping your arms, back, and core develop. While the majority of people will get a great tricep workout doing normal pullups, you can even challenge yourself further by putting your hands closer together resulting in greater tricep activation. Like the chin-up all you need is a pull-up bar or any overhead bar that can safely support your weight.
How To: Reach up and grab the bar with your arms around shoulder width apart and palms facing outward also known as an overhand grip. Start by hanging from the bar with your arms extended in a neutral position. Keeping your core tight, use your arms to lift yourself up until your chin and head reach above the bar. Pause for a second when you reach the top of the exercise and then reverse the movement to slowly lower yourself back to full extension. Be sure to lower your body in a controlled fashion to maintain good form. Repeat for the following reps. It is important to note that you should refrain from using momentum or kick your legs while trying to get over the bar. This is bad form and will end up working different muscles that you aren’t trying to focus on.
Reps: 4 - 6
Sets: 4 - 5
10. Skull Crushers
Most exercises are named quite literally after the movements you perform during them. If this exercise followed that trend then it would sound something more like lying tricep extensions or single arm overhead dumbbell extensions for the dumbbell variant. But this one has taken on a more widely adopted nickname: Skull Crusher. Named after the body part you would crush if you lose control, it remains one of the best workouts for your triceps. If you’re going for big arms, you cannot let it’s rather intense name intimidate you out of doing it. This exercise needs to be something that you are very familiar with. Typically performed using an ez bar or a barbell in order for both of your triceps to work together, this exercise wonderfully targets all 3 heads of your triceps.
How To: Grab a barbell or ez bar with a weight that you can manage well (dumbells can work as well just be sure to repeat for both arms). Lighter is better for this exercise as form is the most important part of completing this set. Start by positioning yourself lying down face up on a weight bench. Push your shoulder blades together and tighten your core, then place your arms perpendicular to your body and the floor. They should be vertica, directly above you, aand shoulder width apart. While maintaining the position of the upper part of your arms, lower your forearms slowly and bring the weight until they are about at the level of your head Make sure to keep your elbows directly above your shoulders for the entirety of the movement. Once at head level, slowly lift the weight up back up to your starting position. Really focus on contracting your triceps throughout this exercise.
Reps: 8 - 12
Sets: 3 - 5