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Build Big Arms! Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Matt Canning Build Big Arms!


Other than the coveted six pack, very few things are appreciated more than big arms. What some people don't realize is that the triceps comprise 60-70% of overall arm mass. So you can work your biceps as long and as hard as you want, but if you neglect triceps, the end result will be a less than satisfying overall arm development. Big arms are representative of size and power and is something almost every hard training bodybuilder wants most.


First and foremost, I have to emphasize the importance of proper nutrition. You can workout long and hard, but muscles are truly made in the kitchen. If you don't feed your body with the proper nutrients, you won't fuel muscle growth. Specifically, you should calculate your basal metabolic rate and determine a proper diet for muscle growth (bulking phase). If your goal is to lose body fat and maintain muscle, much of this article is not for you (at least the nutrition aspect). To build big arms during bulking, a bulking diet is required. Aim to get at least 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. So if you are 150 pounds, you will want to get between 150-225 grams of protein each day. Check out a list of great bodybuilding foods.

Some athletes find it difficult to consume the required amount of protein from day to day and find it beneficial to consume a whey protein supplement such as the whey protein by Optimum Nutrition.

Workout Intensity

Although proper nutrition is of fundamental importance to the weight training and muscle building athlete, workout intensity is also very important. Without it, the excess food you take in will serve no purpose and just go to waste. You want to workout hard and break down those muscle fibers so that you can rebuild them later.

Every guy wants bigger arms! There really is no bodypart that says "big and powerful" as clearly and obviously as a big pair of python arms. Your training should be hard and heavy, with moderate rest (1-3 minutes) between each set, and each set should be taking to temporary muscular failure; that means on your last rep of each set you should not be able to do another with perfect form. Find weights where you can reach failure in the 8-12 rep range (ideal for bodybuilding). It may take some experimentation to figure out exactly what that range is. A training partner is important if you plan on performing some exercises such as flat bench presses (for chest). For arm exercises, spotters are normally not as necessary (at least in terms of safety) except for certain exercises like overhead triceps extensions and skull crushers. If you want to figure out if your workout intensity is up to snuff, feel for "the pump". If you can feel the blood rushing into your muscles, chances are you've worked them sufficiently to build muscle.

Rest and Recovery

Recovery is of prime importance. You want to avoid overtraining at all costs. Working out 3-4 days per week, and working biceps and triceps no more than twice per week (with at least 72 hours between the first and second workouts for each group) is important. A three or four day per week workout split is optimal for a beginner bodybuilder, and this can be increased as you become more intermediate or advanced.

Click Here for 3 day a week training splits
Click Here for 4 day a week training splits
Click Here for 5 day a week training splits

Remember - growth takes place during your recovery periods so you want to adequately rest and feed the muscles after working them. Try for 8 hours of rest each night.

Gunter Schlierkamp

The German Giant Gunter Schlierkamp, showing fantastic overall arm development at the 2002 Mr. Olympia Contest. Photo © Ron Avidan and Reproduced with Permission.

For more photos of the 2002 Mr. Olympia Finals - Click Here.
For more bodybuilding photos - Click Here.

The Workout

Seated Dumbbell Curls: For this exercise, you sit on an inclince bench with a dumbbell in both hands. Use a weight which you can perform 8-12 strict reps before reaching failure. Simply curl the dumbbells up to the top and bring them back down, twisting your wrist on the way down so that your palms face you at the top of the motion and face towards you at the bottom of the motion. You can do these curls alternating between each hand or do them both at the same time. This exercise is a good one because you are seated the whole time and therefore your rep range is strict without bringing much of your back into play. Rest about 1.5 minutes between sets and perform 2-3 total sets for this exercise.

Close Grip Bench Press: Like the flat bar bench press for chest, the close grip flat bench press is a meat and potatoes mass builder for your triceps. It will also strengthen your bench press by increasing the overall power in your triceps (which is one of the three links, along with chest and shoulders, necessary to perform strong bench presses). Do this exercise in a power rack or smith machine for safety, or have a spotter on hand. This is in your best interest so that you don't get caught in an unsafe position which could create an injury. Your hands should be spaced about six inches apart and you should contract your triceps to lift the bar off the rack and squeeze at the top of the range of motion. You can perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps. Rest about 1-3 minutes and increase the weight and perform another set. You should always start any exercise with a light weight and work your way up (pyramid principle). The reason for this is because you want to avoid training injuries which result from using too much weight when you are not prepared for it. The rest period (1-3 minutes) is meant as a guideline. You should test different rest periods in that range and determine which one works best for you to achieve the optimal pump and related muscle growth.


Forearms are the often neglected part of overall arms training. Granted, they are not as impressive as massive triceps and high peaked biceps, but they are an important muscle and necessary to the overall strength and size development of the arms. Having powerful forearms to match biceps and triceps is good for aesthetics as well. Balance is what bodybuilding is supposed to be about.

Seated Wrist Curls: Sit on an bench holding a barbell with an underhand grip. Rest your wrists on your knees or on the bench itself. Allow the weight of the bar to push the wrists toward the floor and use your forearm muscles to curl your wrists inwards. Once again, perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps with approximately 1-3 minutes of rest between sets. Generally, the shorter the rest period between sets, the closer you are to being in the "bodybuilding" range. The longer the rest between sets, the focus becomes on gaining power "strength building" or "powerlifting" range. Since most of you reading this are likely striving to develop your muscles, keeping rest in the lower portion of the above mentioned range (approximately 1.5 minutes) will probably be ideal for you.

Some Sample Routines:

Sample Routine for Biceps:
Exercise Sets Reps
Standing Barbell Curls 3 8-12
Preacher Curls 3 8-12
Seated Dumbbell Curls 2 8-12

Sample Routine for Triceps:
Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Presses 3 8-12
V-Bar Triceps Pulldowns 3 8-12
Overhead Triceps Extensions 2 8-12

Sample Routine for Forearms:
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Wrist Curls 3 8-12
Hammar Curls 3 8-12

You can work biceps, triceps and forearms either once or twice a week depending on how you feel. Just be sure to give each individual muscle group at least 72 hours of rest between one workout and the next (three days). If you work out much more frequently than that, you risk overtraining. Also, if you have waited the three days and you are still feeling sore, continue to rest your muscles. Soreness is a sign that your muscles have not fully recovered and that more rest is needed before you can workout again.

Goal Setting.

It is impossible to say exactly how much mass or strength you will gain from workout to workout. The main thing is: focus on increasing it from each workout to the next, without necessarily setting specific goals. As long as you are making progress - you're doing something right. If your gains start to stall or decrease with time, you have reached a plateau and then you may need to consider some shocking principles to kickstart your muscle gains.

Click Here for A list of 50 shocking principles.

A 5% increase in strength per month, and a two pound muscle gain is great progress for the natural bodybuilder. Be pleased with what you've achieved and keep doing it. Remember, it's all good and it's all for you, so you have every reason to keep working out hard and eating healthy.

Good luck!

Take care,

Matt Canning

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