There isn’t a man alive who doesn’t want bigger arms. Sleeve-busting biceps and triceps are the epitome of manliness and are what differentiates then men from the boys. As well as being a gym badge of honour, big arms project an image of strength and capability – men with big arms inevitably have no problem opening jam jars or arm wrestling bears for that matter!
However, go into any gym and you’ll see line after line of young guys trying to build their arms by performing exercises that simply are not right for the job. Triceps kickbacks, dumbbell concentration curls, reserve grip triceps pushdowns and other “pump and pose” exercises are all but useless for building huge arms. Like bringing a knife to a gun fight, these exercises just don’t have what it takes to win the battle of the bigger biceps.
That’s not to say these exercises are entirely worthless – they aren’t. It’s just that they are better considered as finishing exercises rather than mass builders.
So, if what most people do for arm training is ineffective, what exercises are best for building huge arms? Good question! The best arm builders are the ones that allow you to lift the greatest amount of weight and therefore place the greatest amount of tension on the target muscles. Here is our list of the five best exercises for huge arms…
Barbell power curl – to the uninitiated, the barbell power curl looks like a cheating exercise but, in reality, it’s one of the best biceps size and strength exercises around. And while is does involve an element of body English (that’s cheating in American!) it does so in a very strategic way to help you lift the biggest weights possible. To perform this sleeve buster, grasp a barbell with an underhand, hip-width grip and stand with your legs slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart. Without rounding your back, lean forward slightly and then drive your hips forward. Use this momentum to help you curl the bar up to your shoulders. Next, slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position making sure you control the bar all the way down to full arm extension. Because you are stronger when lowering a weight, you should be able to curl 20% more weight than normal by using this method.
Weighted chins – in most biceps exercises, your body stays stationary and you curl the weight up to your shoulders. This means that the limiting factor in most biceps exercises is not arm strength but your ability to stay standing when lifting a heavy weight away from your body. In contrast, chins involve pulling your body upward while the bar remains stationary – like a curl but in reverse. This all but eliminates any balance issues and leaves you free to focus on working your biceps as hard as possible. Use an underhand, shoulder-width grip for maximal biceps stimulation and if you can do more than ten reps, strap a weight around your waist for a more effective workout.
Weighted dips – dips are usually considered a chest exercise but, in actuality, they are also a superior triceps exercise. Use parallel bars and not the edge of an exercise bench and strap some weight around your waist if you can do more than ten bodyweight reps. Keep your torso upright and bend your elbows until your biceps touch your forearms to maximally activate your triceps. If you can’t do dips, try the close grip bench press exercise detailed below.
Close grip bench press – like the dip, the bench press is often considered to be a chest exercise but if you bring your hands in to a shoulder-width grip, this chest building exercise becomes an excellent triceps builder. Bend your arms and lower the bar to your sternum and then push it back up as powerfully as possible but do not bounce it off your chest. Don’t use a narrower grip than the one described as this can cause wrist and elbow pain. Try to keep your elbows tucked in toward your ribs for maximum effect.
Alternating dumbbell curls – doing your curls with dumbbells allows you to place all of your mental focus on one arm at a time which means you’ll be able to lift a) more weight, b) do more reps and c) get better results. Seated or standing, alternating dumbbell curls also leaves one arm in a stretched position which can also contribute to muscle growth by stretching the fascia – the fibrous bag that surrounds your muscles. Don’t “seesaw” your reps by lowering one arm as you simultaneously raise the other; make sure only one arm is moving at a time. Don’t be afraid to add a bit of power curl-style cheating to your reps – especially toward the end of each set. Just remember to always emphasize the lowering part of each and every repetition.
While huge arms are important, don’t forget that your arms are only one part of your body and need to be partnered with big shoulders, a deep chest, broad back and powerful legs too. Training your whole body equally will result in much bigger arms.
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