Bulging biceps, a big muscular chest, and a 6-pack. These are often referred to as vanity muscles and are what most people aim at building in the gym.
Before we discuss building bigger arms, it is essential first to understand the anatomy of the arm. The bicep makes up only one-third of the upper arm with the triceps making up the other two thirds. Most people make the mistake of doing countless amounts of bicep exercises while ignoring the triceps. The fact is, if you don't pay enough attention to your triceps, you will never achieve a bigger set of arms.
Overtraining - I see this all the time. Guys in the gym doing countless sets of bicep curls and tricep extensions in the hope that this will help them build bigger arms faster. The fact is, the arms are a small group of muscles and don't need to be trained hours on end. If you do the correct exercises and use proper form, then a 45-minute arm session once a week is more than enough.
Bicep Curls and Tricep Extensions - While these two exercises are popular and do work well, you cannot expect to build an impressive set of guns if you only stick to these exercises. You need to mix it up and take advantage of all the different types of arm exercises available.
Not Eating Enough - This applies to building muscle all over and not only your arms. Nutrition is the most essential part of bodybuilding. You need to consume enough calories and enough protein to provide your body with the 'fuel' it needs to build new muscle. If you weigh 60kg's, there is no way you will be able to build 18" arms. You need to eat, eat, and eat some more.
Here is a list of exercises that will help you achieve faster growth in your biceps. When doing any of these exercises make sure you use correct form. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time.
Standing Barbell/EZ Bar Curl
This exercise can be performed with either a regular Barbell or an EZ bar. Barbell curls are an excellent exercise for adding mass to your biceps.
Keep your feet shoulder width apart and grab the bar using an underhand grip. Also, make sure that your hands are about shoulder width apart as well. Start by curling the bar up slowly and then slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position, pause for a second or two, and repeat. Make sure not to swing or use momentum to help complete the movement, especially towards the end of the set when your biceps become more fatigued.
Incline Dumbbell Curls
Looking to give your biceps a bigger ‘peak,’ then this is the exercise to do.
Start by sitting on an incline bench, with a dumbbell in each hand, curl the weight up towards the shoulder level. When the dumbbell has reached the top position of the exercise, squeeze the bicep muscles hard before slowly lowering the weight down to the starting position.
This is a similar exercise to a barbell curl except it is done at a preacher curl bench. This is an excellent bicep peaking isolation exercise.
Hammer curls are a great addition to an arm workout, not only do they focus on building the biceps, but they also target the forearms.
The movement is similar to an incline dumbbell curl except you will be holding the dumbbell with a hammer grip (imagine holding a hammer and knocking nails), and you will be standing instead of sitting.
Below is a list of effective mass building tricep exercises. As with the bicep exercises, make sure to use proper form.
Overhead Tricep Extensions
The overhead tricep extension is a very effective exercise and is my personal favourite.
Sitting on a chair or bench, hold a dumbbell or barbell with both hands and extend it up overhead. As you bend your elbows, lower the weight behind your head until you reach a 90-degree angle. Push the weight back up and return to the starting position by straightening your elbows.
While performing the exercise make sure to keep your elbows tucked in close to your ears.
Tricep kickbacks are another great exercise that activates almost 90% of the tricep muscle.
Using a flat bench, place your right knee and right forearm on the bench. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and place your elbow near your hip area. Keeping your elbow and upper arm as still as possible, extend your forearm behind you till it reaches around a 180-degree angle. Once you have completed the set, place your left knee and left forearm on the bench to complete the next set focusing on the right tricep.
During this exercise, every part of your body needs to be kept as still as possible, with only the forearm moving.
Start by grabbing a parallel bar and straighten your arms so that your body is off the ground. Lean slightly forward and lower your body by bending your arms. You should go down until your shoulders are are inline with your elbows and then lift your body back up by straightening your arms.
This exercise can put strain on the shoulders and should be avoided if you feel any discomfort.
Below you will find an example of an arm workout using some of the exercises mentioned above. Remember to change up your arm workout every 4 to 6 weeks.
EZ Bar Curls 5 sets, 8 to 12 reps
Incline Dumbbell Curls 5 sets, 8 to 12 reps
Tricep Extensions 5 sets, 8 to 12 reps
Tricep Kickbacks 5 sets, 8 to 12 reps
Arm Training Tips
Focus on the movement of the muscle being worked throughout the motion. Make sure you use weights that are heavy, but not too heavy that you compromise proper form.
Stretch your biceps and triceps between sets. This helps blood flow into the muscles and also helps remove lactic acid.
Remember to change the exercises you do every 4 to 6 weeks. If you stick to the same workout week after week, your body will no longer respond as well to the exercises.