Meet Jim. Jim is a gym rat that likes to walk around with his racerback tank top, showing off his veiny arms. He looks a lot like a Waving Wacky Tube Man.
He exhibits no size, no definition, but trains arms every day.
What's his problem?
Related - The Only Arm Workout You'll Ever Need
Jim follows the same wannabe bodybuilders in the gym who do more curls than a hair stylist... But why isn't he getting any bigger? Don't be like Jim and learn what really makes your arms bigger.
If you've been training like Jim and you are tired of not seeing any results, check out these 12 tips to build some massive arms.
Build Bigger Arms
#1 - Triceps vs Biceps
A common misconception about building big arms is that the bicep is the important muscle to train. Sure, having a nice bicep peak is nice, but if you are looking for the massive arms that make people stop what they are doing to look, you need to hit your triceps too.
Your triceps make up two-thirds of your arm, so why neglect them?
If you have a well-rounded workout, the pressing movements help hit your triceps, while the pulling exercises hit the biceps. The important part of your training comes after your main lifts; what do you do to train triceps and biceps afterward?
Do you have a specific arm day? Do you have an upper body/lower body split?
Whatever it is, be sure to put as much (if not more) emphasis on your triceps, while building strength and size in your biceps.
#2 - Quit Focusing Solely on Isolation Movements
Like I said earlier, your biceps and triceps both get worked on heavy compound movements.
If you skip the step of lifting heavy at all, the baby weights will keep you with baby arms.
Ronnie Coleman is right, everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift this heavy (bleep) weight.
Any pressing movement incorporates your triceps. This means all of the benching and overhead pressing you do is helping build your arms.
All pulling movements incorporate the use of your biceps. Your barbell rows, pull ups, pulldowns, deadlifts all go towards building stronger guns.
#3 - Eat More
You can't build muscle if you aren't eating enough. Well, you can, but that's another article.
Look, if you really want to build a bigger physique, you will need to eat in a small calorie surplus. Period.
Any fat or water weight you put on can be stripped away pretty quickly, so as long as you don't eat recklessly, you won't gain much fat.
Simply put, eat more nutritious home cooked meals and watch your arms grow.
How NOT to build bigger arms.
#4 - Get Stronger
Muscles that are strong are usually bigger than those that aren't. If you just want to fluff and puff your arms up, there will be a time where you have to start lifting heavier to get bigger.
This doesn't mean you have to ego lift 100lb dumbbells and swing them around like an idiot, but you need to stop using dumbbells that your little kids can use.
Focus on quality contractions and work on adding more weight to your lifts. Don't be like Jim.
#5 - Progressively Overload
Going along with getting stronger, progressively overloading your muscles is a tried and true method to building quality lean muscle.
Don't know what progressive overload is?
Every time you go to the gym, you want to put time and effort into each set and each rep you do. Why do you do that exercise? What weight have you been using? Are you doing more reps or doing more weight each time?
You are progressively overloading your muscles, you strive to add reps or weight to your lift each time you step foot in the gym. No more of this, "I've benched 135 for 5 sets of 8 for the last 4 months" crap.
#6 - Try a Different Tempo and Rep Range
Many people in the gym do a simple 1:1 tempo, which means they spend the same amount of time on the concentric motion as they do on the eccentric motion. For bicep curls, about one second to curl it, one second to straighten your arm.
It's a simple protocol that works, but messing with your tempo can spark some gains you didn't think you could get.
Simply try changing your tempo to 2 or 3 seconds and notice the extra strain and stress on your muscle. The more microtrauma you cause to the muscle will cause it to grow even bigger.
Start with changing the tempo on one or two isolation exercises, and then gradually modify the rest of your training so that your eccentric part of the lift slows down.
Try changing your rep ranges from a normal 8-12 range to a heavy 3-5 rep or a high volume 15-20 reps. The small change can make drastic improvements to your arms.
#7 - Try Eccentric Only Training
Eccentric only training is unique because you can generally use more weight on the eccentric portion of a lift than a concentric.
Don't know what that means?
Go over to the preacher curl station and grab your normal dumbbell. Do some reps to warm up and then choose a weight slightly higher than what you can normally rep out. Start with your arm in the curled position and slowly let the dumbbell down and straighten your arm.
You probably can't curl it back up, so use both hands and get back into position and go again. This eccentric only training works well as long as you use good form and practice safe lifting.
#8 - Use Different Grips
Just like on the bench press, using different grip widths can make a huge difference on how the muscle is targeted.
Never tried close grip bench press? Try them out and see how much your triceps scream.
Do you like to do barbell curls? Try moving your grip with in or out and feel the difference in how your muscles work together.
Instead of putting your hands directly in the middle of a dumbbell, try offsetting your grip and try different methods that work well for you.
#9 - Train Your Brachialis
Ever see anyone doing barbell or dumbbell curls with pronated arms? Instead of having your palms face up, they face down.
Hammer curls are a medium between supinated and pronated curls. Curls with pronated hands are also called reverse curls.
Your brachialis is a muscle that lies under your bicep. You can train your brachialis to get bigger... Do you see where I'm going with this?
In order to train your brachialis, you need to make your bicep as inactive as you can. That's where hammer curls and reverse curls come into play.
Training the brachialis also seems to have a direct carryover to your bench, so bust those hammer curls out.
#10 - Hit Those Shoulders
The way many bros train, you would think they only want their arms to have muscles. They skip training legs, they skip hitting anything other than glamour muscles.
While there's nothing wrong with it, if you really want to have an aesthetic physique, you should really hit those shoulders while you're at it.
Having boulder shoulders demands respect and having mountain traps on top of that lets people know that you are serious.
#11 - Don't Train Arms Everyday
Overtraining your arms is a common problem. Sure, the muscles are smaller than your quads or lats, but that doesn't mean they can be trained every day.
When training your arms, you need to make sure you get proper rest and recovery between sessions so your nervous system and your body can grow and get stronger.
If you beat your arms up every day, it's hard on the body to recover, and eventually, you will start to lose strength.
Hammer your arms once or twice per week, and incorporate quality heavy compound movements into your workouts for optimal growth.
#12 - Don't Skip Leg Day
I added this tip in initially as a joke, but there's some merit to this tip.
Your legs are huge muscles that demand a lot of blood and nutrients to build up. Your squats, deadlifts, and other leg exercises force your entire body to grow, not just your legs.
Consistently hitting leg day and training your entire body properly helps your body create a balanced physique.
Don't become a meme by skipping leg day.
Bonus - Lose That Fat
While this is the most effective way to make your arms appear bigger, it's not necessarily the best for building massive arms. Having 15-inch arms on a 120-pound frame may look good and all, but who doesn't want those 18"+ arms?
If you are already strong, lift consistently, and pack on some extra poundage, losing some of that weight will make your arms appear bigger, make you more vascular, and give you an overall better-looking physique.
Holding onto some water weight? Check out this article on how to get rid of water weight.
Wrapping it Up
Sometimes a small change in tempo, rep range, or weight can make explosive growth in your arms. Take the time to eat right, train your entire body, choose quality exercises, and progressively overload.
Following these tips will help you get a better set of guns and can boost your confidence to get even bigger, faster, and stronger.