A big, strong, sleeve-popping pair of arms has long been a key calling card to a superhero physique. From athletes to superhero actors to construction workers, powerful forearms, ripped triceps, and baseball-sized biceps are always eye-catching.
They are not, however, always easy to build. And the general fitness scene doesn’t help. Yes, you can hit a stationary bike or run through a CrossFit workout or do a half-hour Instagram live workout for a crazy sweat. But if you want to build big arms, you need targeted, focused isolation training. You need to learn to attack muscles instead of motions, chasing the mythical “pump” (a rush of blood and nutrients into a muscle) in your biceps and triceps.
This sometimes means using lighter weights and slowing down exercises, and it means not rushing any motion. Time under tension, the amount of time during which a muscle does not get to be in a fully relaxed, stretched state, becomes key, taking precedence over such things as how many reps you’ve done in a minute, or how many reps you can do overall.
All of this means growing arms requires more training nuance. Here are the things to think about, and the exercises that can get you the arms you want.
One of the challenges of training arms is this: When you start to use heavier weights, every muscle except your arms wants to be involved. This is common during biceps curls. Grab, say, a 50-pound dumbbell and try to curl it, and there’s a good chance, you’ll find yourself hinging at the hips and leaning back with your torso. All of this helps you lift the weight, but it’s not necessarily helping you build the big biceps of your dreams.
To build big arms, you need to focus on utilizing your arm muscles only. Advanced lifters can get benefit from “cheating” the weights up, but to start, you have to master key form points first.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you won’t use the rest of your body. Quite the contrary, in order to do a proper curl, abs, glutes, and midback muscles must play key roles: They must stay tight for every single rep, because when your glutes, abs, and midback muscles are flexed, they’ll hold your torso as stiff as a board, insuring that you can’t cheat on any of your reps.
So on any standing exercise you do for biceps or triceps, before you do a single rep, squeeze your glutes, tighten your abs and envision them keeping your ribcage close to your body, and tighten your shoulder blades, squeezing a pencil between them.
Before you do any exercise that has you lying down, go through a similar process: Squeeze your glutes, tighten your abs to avoid arching your back, and tighten your shoulder blades. It’ll set you up for success on all your moves.
All About the Elbow
Your biceps has two key functions: It flexes your arm at the elbow joint. It also rotates your palm toward the ceiling, an act called supination. Your triceps, meanwhile, is primarily responsible for straightening (or extending) your arm.
Both muscles have some additional functions stabilizing the shoulder joint, but, by and large, they’re driving movement at the elbow. And that means that, on both biceps and triceps exercises, you want to focus on how you’re moving at the elbow.
Don’t let other joints, in particular your shoulder joints, get involved. It’s often convenient to do a biceps curl and let your elbows shift forwards in front of your torso. But doing so can take emphasis off the biceps, recruiting your shoulder muscles into action. Similarly, on skullcrushers, novice lifters often let their elbows shift forwards closer to their torso when they drive the weight upwards. This just makes things easier on your triceps.
Focus on moving only at the elbow on all your motions, at least to start, for the best arm-blasting results. Then jump into these moves.
Eccentric Skullcrusher to Double-Press
Pack serious meat onto your triceps with this move that lets you overload your triceps with resistance from Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Here, you’re focusing on owning your form and lowering the weight slowly. You’ll be able to use a heavy weight for this while still piling up time-under-tension, translating into growth and strength.
Double-Pause Spider Curl Dropset
Using an incline bench can help you reinforce good curling form and insure that you don’t involve your shoulders in the curling motion. You’ll do that while also focusing on an aggressive squeeze at the top of the curl with this move.
The classic concentration curl, when done correctly, is another move that forces your biceps to work in complete isolation and can deliver an explosive arm pump.
Iso-to-Reps Biceps Smash
Iso-holds are one of the best ways to challenge your biceps and learn how to rotate your wrists toward the ceiling at the proper time to maximize biceps development. By the time your forearms are parallel to the ground, your palms should face the ceiling. Here, you work on that technique, then apply it into reps right after spending plenty of time in that iso-hold.
Towel Hammer Curl
You build biceps and brachialis strength and size with hammer curls. By adding a towel, you also challenge your forearm muscles, which must tightly squeeze the towel, challenging your grip. A bonus: The instability of the towel demands perfect curling form.
Kneeling Triceps Kickback Challenge
Kickbacks challenge your triceps to face the full force of gravity when your arms are straight. That’s a valuable, muscle-building challenge. Best of all, it can be done with light weight.
Total Arm Countdown Finisher
Blast your entire arm, from biceps to triceps to forearms, with this light-dumbbell crusher. You’ll mix in hammer curls, biceps curls, JM presses, and skullcrushers in a no-rest sequence that attacks every arm muscle. Use this as a workout finisher, or as a lightspeed arm workout all its own.
3D Hammer Curl with Parallel Twist
Blast your brachialis a you curl the dumbbells upwards, then attack your biceps with controlled eccentric reps and targeted supination in this move. Best of all, you can go heavy on this exercise: It’s easier to perform a hammer curl (instead of a biceps curl) on the way up, which allows you to use a challenging weight.
Rocker Bodyweight Skullcrusher
No weights? No problem. The rocker bodyweight skullcrusher lets you still isolate your triceps and focus on straightening your arms at the elbow while using only bodyweight. That reliance on bodyweight means you’ll get a core workout out of this too.
Mixed-Style Biceps Curl
Mix halfway hold reps and full biceps curl reps in a series that keeps you accountable to form, setting the stage for major biceps gains.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io