It’s not the car you drive, it’s the size of the arms which hang out of the window.
And today you’ll learn how to get bigger arms in a hurry with a selection of my favourite methods.
Rest assured these have been proven effective via education and application, with research born in the labs of the fitness industry going on to be tested by thousands of my clients in the gym over the last decade.
I wanted to compile today’s post because I see countless guys hammering away at their guns day in, day out, never really progressing as much as they are aiming for.
Time for that to end.
Share this post with anyone you feel it can help.
How To Get Bigger Arms
So, here are 9 changes you can make to your workout to get bigger arms in double-quick time:
- Get negative
- Train arms after legs
- Train your 3 header monster
- Move your grip
- Use the stairs
- Train to failure
- Embrace the burn
- Dropsets rule
- It’s not cheating if it’s planned
We’ll run through each on in finer detail below.
1. Get Negative
Many of us power the weight up and neglect the negative phase of a lift.
This is bad news when it comes to building muscle.
You see, the negative phase of a repetition is where you can do the most damage to muscle fibers in your biceps and triceps. And more muscle damage means, you guessed it, more muscle growth.
For those unsure what this means, the negative phase of the rep – otherwise known as the eccentric phase – is where you bring the weight back to the starting position, allowing the target muscle to lengthen.
Of course, this isn’t a technique I’d recommend using all the time.
Studies show that negative reps will cause significantly more muscle damage and take longer to recover from, so use them sparingly for greater results. (1)
While simply focusing on controlling the lowering phase of the rep will see you yield some magnificent results, some people like to focus exclusively on negative reps. They do this by having a training partner assist them through the lifting phase. That’s because you can handle over 150% more weight during the eccentric portion of a rep in comparison the the concentric portion.
So once you’ve got the hang of the basic principle, feel free to experiment.
To apply this tip: add a 3 count to the negative phase of each rep.
2. Train Arms After Legs
This is a favourite technique of my clients.
In fact, whenever a client comes to me asking how to build bigger arms it’s one of the first things we implement into their training program.
You see, when you train your legs you’ll kick-start an abnormally high release of testosterone and growth hormone inside the body. This is one of the nice benefits to big compound lifts, such as barbell squats and deadlifts.
And this short yet huge growth hormone spike can be used to your advantage if you train smart.
By training a smaller muscle group – such as arms or any other minor body part – within 20-30 minutes of finishing your leg session, you can allow that smaller muscle group to reap the rewards of the elevated levels of growth hormone within your body. (2)
To apply this tip: add the following short arm workout to the end of your next leg day.
- EZ-bar Skullcrusher x8 – superset – DB Hammer Curl x8 (3 sets)
- Triceps Pushdown x12 – superset – Cable Curl x12 (3 sets)
3. Train Your 3 Headed Monster
When people want bigger arms they usually mean bigger biceps.
But what they really should be focusing on is bigger triceps.
You see, your triceps are – by far – the bigger muscle here, and by developing them you will create much bigger guns in a much smaller time frame.
Of course, exercise selection is key to making this happen.
And the best exercise for activating your triceps is something 90% of guys are overlooking – kickbacks.
That’s right, the one you see girls doing with pink fluffy dumbbells.
While old favourites like pushdowns, a close-grip bench press and skullcrushers are definitely effective for building bigger arms, kickbacks are able to engage the muscle fibers within the triceps over 50% further, so consider them a useful tool in your arsenal. (3)
To apply this tip: train your triceps before biceps. If you superset, do the triceps portion first, and ensure you are including kickbacks in your workout.
4. Move Your Grip
Grip placement can help you to significantly shift the focus of an exercise onto muscle fibers which have been taking the easy way out.
By taking a tight grip on an EZ-bar you make the long head of the biceps the primary target of curls, and by taking a wide grip you switch the focus to the short head.
You can also remove certain assistance muscles from exercises by making slight adjustments to your grip placement.
For example, performing a lat pulldown without wrapping your thumbs around the bar will allow you to isolate your lats more, whereas performing EZ-bar curls without wrapping your thumbs around the bar will allow you to lower the involvement of your forearms.
Further still, experimenting with offset grip placement is a great way to shock new results from your biceps.
In this situation, your biceps will have to work significantly harder to stabilize the weight, providing you with a fresh stimulus to work against.
To apply this tip: perform dumbbell curls with your pinky pressed against the side of the weight.
5. Use The Stairs
You might be thinking “Hey Russ, how is using the stairs going to help my arms get bigger?”
And you’d be right.
But I’m not talking about literally using the stairs. I’m speaking of a training principle known as the staircase effect.
Sometimes referred to as supercompensation, the staircase effect suggests that gradually ramping up your training volume for a certain muscle over the course of a few weeks, before suddenly backing off, will allow you to significantly boost production of key muscle building genes.
And it’s a technique which works incredibly well.
That is, when it’s done the right way.
While some people love training arms 3x per week purely for egotistical reasons, the “trick” here is the period at the end of the staircase effect, where we suddenly back off and allow our body to make a full recovery.
This ensures you draw a firm line between overreaching and overtraining.
To apply this tip: follow this training preset for the next eight weeks:
- weeks 1-2: train arms once per week
- weeks 3-4: train arms twice per week
- weeks 5-6: train arms three times per week
- weeks 7-8: do not train arms
6. Train To Failure
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know I’m a big fan of training to failure.
And it’s easy to see why – training to failure has been shown to boost muscle growth by over 60%! (4)
For those who are unsure, “failure” means being unable to comfortably perform additional reps when you reach the end of your set.
When selecting a weight, use your target number of reps as a guide for how heavy to go. You should not feel comfortable come the end of the set.
In doing so, you will create more metabolic stress and increase the production of several key muscle building hormones, allowing you to reap the rewards for months to come.
To apply this tip: use a weight which makes your final three reps of every set a nightmare.
7. Embrace The Burn
It’s no secret that most guys are terrified of going over the 15 rep threshold.
Yep, I used to be one of those myself.
High reps? Isn’t that for girls who want to “tone”?
Your primary rep range should always be 8-12 when it comes to building muscle.
This is home.
But that doesn’t mean you should never go outside.
High rep training is incredibly useful both for boosting muscle growth and for increasing your conditioning, which comes with several crossover benefits when you return to a lower rep range.
First off, hitting a high rep zone with a weight which causes muscle failure has been shown to be every bit as effective as lower rep training when it comes to building muscle. (5)
And by subjecting yourself to the intense burn of 20+ rep sets, you’re going to greatly increase your tolerance of lactic acid build-up. This allows you to push yourself harder – and heavier – when you return to the golden 8-12 rep window a more well conditioned athlete.
To apply this tip: every 4 weeks, shake up your training by setting your rep target to 25-30.
8. Dropsets Rule
Let’s kick things into another gear.
Now that we’ve established that both training to failure and high rep sets are useful for growing a pair of guns that stop traffic, let’s combine them.
We do this in the form of dropsets.
It’s the featured technique in my Dropset City workout plan, which you can tackle for free inside the website here.
This classic, time-tested bodybuilding method involves performing your regular set with as much weight as you can handle before stripping around 30% from the bar and continuing to force out repetitions until you reach failure once again.
To apply this tip: shock your arms to new growth by dropsetting everything for 2 weeks. Alternatively, use my full Dropset City workout plan.
9 . It’s Not Cheating If It’s Planned
Ideally we want to be practicing strict form as we curl a weight up to our shoulders.
However, from time to time it’s a good strategy to incorporate cheat reps into your training program.
A cheat rep is where we generate momentum to help get the weight up. It was a favourite technique of Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the golden era of bodybuilding, because it’s highly effective for stimulating more muscle growth.
It ties in very well with two of the other tips on this list.
The trick here is to know how – and when – to use cheat reps for maximum growth.
You’ll see countless guys swinging dumbbells around like they’re running on the spot, but the goal here is to build bigger arms, not to look like MC Hammer.
When used correctly, cheat reps should be saved until the end of your sets, when you can no longer perform full repetitions with good form.
By generating a little momentum to get you through the first third of the rep – typically the hardest, due to the fact that the forearms are the major player in this segment – we can then focus on lowering the weight in a slower and more controlled manner – see tip 1.
This allows you to eke every last bit of strength from the muscle, allowing you to also ensure you’re training to failure – tip 6.
To apply this tip: when you reach muscle failure on your final set of barbell curls, use cheat reps to see if you can squeeze out an extra couple of reps.
And there you have it!
Apply these tips, and enjoy the results.
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1. Dannecker, E.A., et al. “Effect of eccentric strength testing on delayed-onset muscle pain.” J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Nov;19(4):888-92.
2. Ronnestad, B. R., et al. “Physiological elevation of endogenous hormones results in superior strength training adaptation.” Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Sep;111(9):2249-59.
3. Porcari, J., et al. ww.acefitness.org. 2012.
4. Burd, N. A., et al. “Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise In Young Men.” PLoS ONE 5(8): e12033, 2010.
5. Mitchell, C. J., et al. “Resistance Exercise Load Does Not Determine Training-Mediated Hypertrophic Gains In Young Men.” J Appl Physiol. in press, 2012.