Build Bigger Arms The Right Way

armsEvery teen whoever picked up a barbell has always wanted to know how to get bigger arms. I know I did.

The usual response to this was to go curl crazy in the gym in the pursuit of the mythical 20” arm.

The fact of the matter is even bodybuilding champs were a little loose in the measurement department and never really made this number.

In the HGH and anabolic steroid era the 20” benchmark has been exceeded at the expense of health.

But what does the average trainer do to seriously build up the size of their arms?



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Where Most Trainees Go Wrong


The infographic above (click on it for a better view) demonstrates almost singularly, the reason most trainees stop training and let their gym memberships lapse.

Most of them have the misconception that isolation exercises build significant muscle mass. It's almost like the myth of spot reduction, when it comes to fat loss.

Pavel Tsatsouline calls this approach "Frankenstein Training" in his excellent bodybuilding tome "Beyond Bodybuilding" and he cites this approach as less than effective in building muscle mass.

Don't believe it? Then try and picture in your mind's eye the amount of underweight skinny/fat trainees in your gym, with less than average physiques, but gigantic perfectly built arms. I am guessing there will be next to none of you that can.

The fact of the matter is that building overall muscle mass through the practice of the basic compound exercises, progressive resistance and a nutritious increase in caloric intake will but more size on arms than  any type of bicep curl regime!

Bobby's saving grace is that he has Coach Rusty's advice to set him straight.

But the sad reality in the non-comic gym is that there are a sea of so called personal trainers that will make their students drink from the Isolation Myth Kool Aid.

At least Bobby realises that there are more to arms than just biceps, but he is looking at his arms like a collection of separate and unconnected muscles rather than a single component of his connected body.

So is there a place for isolation exercises for the trainee that wants to build bigger arms? Yes there is.

But this has to be in the form of specialization training built on a general mass gaining program based on the big four compound lifts. 

What Is The Best Way For You To Build Bigger Arms?

rust2.2If you are a lifter at a beginner's level of advancement, I am going to be revolutionary here and say that you do not need to undertake any direct arm work or any type of arm specialization program.

"What!?", you say, "How can this be?"

You need to be able to do at least two of the following:

  • Squat 1.5 times your bodyweight for 3-5 reps
  • Deadlift twice your bodyweight for 3-5 reps
  • Bench 1.25 -1.5 times your bodyweight for 3-5 reps
  • Press something approaching your bodyweight for 3-5 reps

If you are at an intermediate level you might want to do some arm specialization work for a short period of time.

I would suggest setting up a 6-8 week program to work on your arm development.

Continue to do your general mass building workouts twice a week using the four compound lifts.

Also continue to go hard and go heavy, rest between sets, pack away the calories and get your eight hours sleep a night.

Two days a week do a specialized arm program by doing the following:

Firstly I would consider investing in some Fat Gripz for this workout. Your loads will be lighter but muscle fiber recruitment will be intensified. However, doing the program without them will give you steady size gains as well.

Choose one direct bicep and one tricep exercise from the following lists:


  • Barbell Curls
  • EZ Bar Curls
  • Hammer Curls
  • Incline Curls


  • Weighted dips
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Reverse Grip Bench Press

Do 2-3 sets as heavy as you can go in reasonable form in the 6-8 rep range Take  around 90 seconds rests between sets.

Do the same exercise at 50% load (unweighted dips replaces weighted) and do 3 sets for 12-15 reps with a 30 second rest between sets. 

This is for the “pump” that Arnie so famously talked about and it acts as a great finisher.

For the next arm “workout of the week” choose a different tricep/bicep combination and repeat the formula.

You can mix combinations, so you can make an interesting specialization regime for the overall 6-8 week period.

At the end of each workout finish of with 3 sets of wrist curls and take the heaviest dumbbells you can find for a  “Farmers Walk“ for as long as you can handle it. This will assist forearm development and grip strength.
After the 6-8 week program is over move on to specialize in another area of your body or proceed to ramp up your overall mass gains with your regular strength program.

What Is The Moral Of This Post?


Coach Rusty would say, if there was an actual moral to be told, the following things:

  • Isolation exercises are fine when you have already built up a sufficient amount of size and strength.
  • Don't let specialization programs exceed 6-8 weeks. This leads to imbalance and a drop in gains
  • The road to true growth lies in the four basic lifts and progressive resistance. It's boring but its a fact.

And Coach Rusty Iron always says:

"Do your squats and drink your milk!!"