If you lift, then you probably want to look like you lift. Many people who work out want to look imposing and show off their arms to signify that they “lift.” One way to improve your bench press, overhead press, and row is to build up your arms. However, The bigger and stronger arm benefits don’t stop there.
They also have a lot of benefits for strength, so they are worth building. There are actually some specific exercises that make your arms appear bigger. But before you know what those are, you should first understand these four fundamentals of muscle building.
Arm Training Tenants
- Muscle Mechanics: This means how your muscles move your joints. To fully develop your biceps or triceps, it’s important that you know the appropriate exercises to involve.
- Training Volume: You need to put in sufficient training volume so that you can build muscle. While there is no proven way to know how much volume will be enough for you to get bigger, it’s imperative that you don’t decline your ability to recover.
- Progression: If you don’t know what progression model to use, we recommend doubling the intensity across your workout when you reach the maximum number of reps. For example, if your exercise involves 10 reps, carry on until 20 reps before increasing the weight in that exercise.
- Training Frequency: A comprehensive meta-analysis has confirmed that 2 workouts per week are superior to 1 workout per week when it comes to maximizing growth. Higher frequencies might be better, but we can’t be sure because there isn’t enough research on this. Training your arms three times per week is not unheard of. If you’re training more than once in the gym on some days, it may make more sense to break up your 15-20 set workouts into two-three eight set sessions.
You can’t train them well with any degree of effectiveness if you don’t understand their anatomy. To that end, we need to quickly look at their fundamental bones, muscles, and joints.
The anterior compartment of the upper arm consists of three muscles – but we only need to focus on two of these:
- Biceps brachii
The biceps has two muscle heads – the long head is commonly thought of as the ‘outer’ while the short head is known as the ‘inner’. Both muscles originate at your shoulder blade and insert on your forearm. The biceps crosses both the elbow and the shoulder, and is able to flex the elbow (known as curling) and flex the shoulder (known as raising it in front).
The brachialis is the stronger of the elbow flexors and originates at the upper arm’s humerus bone. It inserts on the ulna bone of the forearm. The brachialis is not involved in shoulder movement, but it only assists in elbow flexion.
The triceps brachii is the main muscle in the posterior compartment of the arm. It has three branches:
- Long head
- Medial head
- Lateral head
One of the two muscles that make up the triceps is the lateral head. It is visible in the side triceps strike-a-pose and can be seen as one lump because it gets thicker and more dense as it moves away from the joint. or as a horseshoe shape that wraps around the joint. The medial head of the triceps is a deeper muscle that’s not as noticeable.
It primarily does elbow flexion, unlike the other two heads. All three heads of the biceps muscle converge and insert on the ulna bone of the forearm. The origins for both the lateral and medial heads are found on the humerus bone, with the long head crossing over to originate on the scapula.
When it comes to your triceps, you might hear that bicep curls are enough of a stimulus. But in reality, your triceps work just as hard and don’t get activated by pulling movements alone, which backs up the importance of overhead presses and push-ups for this muscle group. And there are studies that show pull-ups and rows cause high levels of biceps activation and horizontal presses engage the triceps.
These lifts alone, however, may not maximize biceps and triceps activation. Arm muscles are only hit to a certain degree when you put all your attention into exercises that require you to twist your arm, such as the lateral raise.
Especially- The biceps will be outside of the range of movement in a lot of other exercises because they’re not being hit from these muscles often get neglected in favor of larger muscles because they are not as visible. That’s why it’s important that you focus on these muscles too. especially if you are training for a specific goal.
You don’t need to do two to three biceps workouts, though, since these won’t grow as quickly as the other muscle groups. It’s probably easier to do higher sets of reps for recovery purposes and to avoid repeating the same exercises. In order to prevent overtraining of your triceps, it may be wise to switch up your set schemes. You can do this by doing more sets in the moderate and high rep range.
The Missing Link
Exercise variety is an often overlooked aspect of arm training. You may think that curling and extending is enough to stimulate all the muscles, but there’s so much more. But arm training isn’t as simple as it seems. You might have heard that you should do 10 push-ups every day, but this is flawed. You may be able to do 10 push-ups on day one, but can you still do the same amount on day two? Your arm muscles contract in different ranges throughout the entire range of motion from start to finish.
- Mid-range: To build your biceps, do a barbell curl. For your chest, do a close-grip bench press.
- Lengthened (stretched position): An incline dumbbell curl is much more natural and comfortable, while the French press allows you to control the pressure level – so your hands never get tired.
- Shortened (contracted position):High Cable Curl
“Fine, then I’ll just make sure to lift with a full range of motion for every single move.” You say calmly. “Hold on now, if you only do it with a full range of motion, that’s great.” But. your body also needs some variety in order to balance out and prevent injury.” But picking the right exercises to work on is key. You want to resist moves that only use some of your muscle’s range of motion. A good arm workout challenge yourself throughout the full range.
Putting it all Together
Have you had a look at the charts below? You’ll see that there’s a lot to be done, but don’t worry. If you look closer, you’ll notice that most of the changes are attributable to just a couple of high-rep players. Between muscle groups, the goal is not to annihilate them but rather to engage in 10 sets per group. This will allow you to work all ranges in order to cover all of your muscle groups.