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Fitness & Health

21st May 2018

Build bigger arms with these 3 simple tips

Tickets to the gun show, anyone?

Alex Roberts

Lagging in the arm department? Make these tweaks to your training. You’ll be dishing out tickets for the gun show in no time

Building a bigger set of guns is a goal held by virtually everyone.

It’s not just about filling out all those t-shirts you bought. There’s the functional element of being able to move heavy stuff with ease. Who doesn’t want that?

Unfortunately, cookie-cutter, quick fix training programmes and the wrong kind of advice muddies can confuse things.

It takes seconds to purchase an arm-training plan off the internet, but you may be selling yourself short when shelling out on these.

Here are three ways to build bigger arms that are proven by evidence and experience:

1. Compound lifts

A mistake that many make is incorporating too many isolation exercises into their arm routine.

For those unaware, an isolation exercise works from one joint only, activating one single muscle. Tricep rope pulldowns and bicep cable curls are two prime examples.

These two exercises will not allow you to add much weight before form or technique falters.

Compound lifts, on the other hand, activate multiple muscle groups at once and always call upon smaller, stabilising muscles that are too tough to target individually.

Take the chin-up with an underhand grip, for instance. This is essentially a bodyweight bicep curl. If you weigh 70 kilos, that’s a bicep curl with a huge amount of weight that is completely safe on your joints. 

2. Prioritise triceps

As is the case with biceps, compounds are also key for tricep growth.

When the time comes to train arms, your first thought may be to blast your biceps. This is more than a little hasty.

Pay attention to your anatomy. The tricep muscle, composed of three heads, takes up two thirds of your upper-arm.

If your goal is building sheer arm size, the tricep needs to take precedence in the gym.

The tricep dip is a fantastic bodyweight exercise, and that’s before you go adding any weight. In addition to adding some serious size to your tris, this exercise also works your shoulders and chest.

Dips offer great crossover strength too – meaning that getting stronger on this lift generally tends to improve your performance on similar exercises [think bench press, military press and more].

They can be performed on parallel bars or gymnastic rings – such as the below.

3. Up the frequency

Muscle grows with volume – but that doesn’t mean you should smash the living daylights out of your bis and tris on one day and forget about them the rest of the week.

As with any other muscle group, ensure you hit it with sufficient volume frequently throughout the week.

You may watch your favourite bodybuilder train chest once per week, legs once per week and so on. This is probably not the best example to follow, for the majority of people.

If you’re a drug-free lifter (which you should be if you’re not a professional bodybuilder) – then you need to stimulate muscle protein synthesis every 48-72 hours.

For the majority of people, a far better method of arm building is this:

  • Splitting your week up into four training days: heavy upper and lower body training [Monday and Tuesday]
  • Lighter, high-rep upper and lower body workouts [Thursday and Friday]
  • Hit your biceps and triceps with compound lifts such as the chin-up and weighted dip on heavy strength days
  • Limit your bodybuilding-style, arm ‘pump’ to the high-rep upper body day