Big chest muscles, 6-pack abs, big biceps & triceps. That’s what most people want. I feel big shoulders, traps & back are more impressive, but to each his own. Here’s how to build bigger arms and increase biceps & triceps size.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
The number 1 mistake is doing endless biceps curls & triceps extensions to build bigger arms. This works at the advanced level, but for beginners it’s inefficient and counterproductive.
- Curls & Extensions. Beginners need free weight compound exercises like Squat and Deadlifts to build overall muscle mass, not isolation exercises like curls. You need to lift heavy to gain muscle mass, but you can’t lift heavy with isolation exercises.
- Overtraining Your Arms. Arms are small muscles which you hit on all exercises by holding the bar and bending your arms. You can’t train them 5x/week. Muscles grow when they rest.
- Neglecting Other Muscles. This will get you out of proportion. Your arms will be too big compared to the rest of your body and you’ll look funny.
- Not Eating Enough Food. You’ll never get 18″ biceps if you only weigh 120lbs at 6′. You must gain weight to build bigger arms. People often say you need to gain 15lb for every inch you want to add on your arms. Check the muscular potential table and how much you need to weigh in order to increase your biceps size.
How to Build Bigger Arms
You’ll never have big arms as long as you’re under-weight. No matter how many biceps curls you do. To build bigger arms, increase your overall muscle mass first by getting stronger and eating a lot.
- Eat More. You need to eat more calories than you burn in order to gain weight. Most guys will need at least 3000kcal/day, skinny guys with fast metabolisms will need even more. Start eating at least four meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, post workout. Eat your stomach full on each meal.
- Get Stronger. Strength is size. Increase your Squat to 140kg/300lb, increase your Bench Press to 100kg/220lb, and increase your Deadlift to 180kg/400lb. This will increase your overall muscle mass.
- Rest. Muscles grow when at rest. Give your arms a break, they’re small muscles. Check StrongLifts 5×5: the routine allows for plenty of rest.
- Track Progress. Weigh yourself and measure your arms every 2 weeks. If your arms aren’t getting bigger you’re not training properly or not eating enough food.
- Avoid Curls. Increasing your Squat & Deadlift will build your arms faster than biceps curls & triceps extensions. Get stronger and eat more.
StrongLifts 5×5 & Arm Growth
Popular question: can you add assistance exercises for arms to StrongLifts 5×5 to hit your biceps & triceps? You could but you’re get plenty of indirect armwork with StrongLifts 5×5 already…
- Biceps. Barbell Rows work your biceps because you’re holding the bar and pulling it toward you. Your arms bend like they would on a biceps curl, but the weight is a lot heavier because you’re engaging more muscles.
- Triceps. Bench Press and Overhead Press work your triceps hard. You’re pressing the weight away on every rep. Your arms straighten like they would on a skullcrusher, but the weight is heavier because more muscles are involved.
- Forearms. Deadlifts work your forearms hard. Avoid straps. Squeeze the bar hard, use chalk and use a mixed grip on your max sets.
Another reason you must focus on getting stronger on Squats and Deadlifts to build bigger arms, is that these work your arms indirectly. Your arms squeeze the bar hard during heavy Squats & Deadlifts. This will make them grow.
That said, you could add Chinups and Dips to StrongLifts 5×5 for extra arm work. These exercises are better than biceps curls or skullcrushers because the weight is heavier. Chinups force you to pull your own weight. Your body-weight is heavier than the weight you’d use on a biceps curl. You can therefore work your arms with more weight on Chinups because it works several muscles at the same time.
Check how to add arm work to StrongLifts 5×5 here.