The Best Arm Exercises – Guide To Big Arms

By | February 5, 2015

The Best Arm Exercises – Guide To Big Arms

You’re interested in building bigger arms and that’s good, real good! This article will give you the best arm exercises and everything you need to know to build those sleeve ripping guns you’ve been dreaming of.

The number one mistake people do when they try to build their arm mass is that they’ll do millions of assistance exercises for their biceps and triceps and then wonder why they end up with all kind of pains and aches in joints and muscles. And with all that pain the progress is not what they had in mind.

Needless to say this kind of training is counterproductive to your arm development. Don’t get me wrong the assistance exercises have their place also in your routines but they are just that, assistance / secondary exercises. They won’t build you muscle in the most optimal manner.

Before we look at the exercises, let’s take a quick peek at the anatomy of the arm.

Anatomy of the armanatomy

You don’t have to become expert in human anatomy but just understanding which muscle groups do what and how much mass they accommodate in your arms helps you to understand how to train them and where you should put your main emphasize on.

  • Triceps are responsible for any PUSHING movement
  • Biceps are responsible for PULLING movements
  • Forearms are responsible for SQUEEZING

The upper arm mass is divided between the triceps and biceps. Triceps accommodate 2/3 of your upper arm mass and the biceps rest 1/3. So if you want to maximize the size of your arms you should pay attention to really work the triceps instead of biceps.

Then there is the Forearm which is basically divided into 2 different parts of wrist flexors running the under side of the forearm and wrist extensiors which are located on the top of the forearm.

Most beginners do the classic mistake that they think to get fit arms they have to do tons of different bicep curls to make their arms bigger. At many levels this is exact opposite what you want to do. As stated above the tricep covers most of the mass in your upper arm and naturally if you want bigger arms, you’ll have to do some serious work with your triceps. Ofcourse this doesn’t mean that you should neglect working the biceps either.

Compound Exercisesbench

The basic heavy compound movements are the movements which build the most muscle in your triceps, biceps and forearms. They should be your core principles when planning an effective workout program to build some serious size into your frame. And what are these compound exercises you might ask? Here is the list what we’re going to focus on here:

  • Barbell Bent Over Row
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Chin-Ups & Pull-Ups
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press
  • Dips

By planning your workouts upon these compound movements you’ll be stimulating your whole arms to the greatest degree possible.

When these exercises are done properly they’re not only the best way to build muscle but they will strengthen your core and posture which will have dozens of different positive effects on your general well being also.

Proper Formproper_form

Executing proper lifting technique should be one of the most important goals. Not only it decreases your risk of injury but it ensures that you’re using the right muscles when performing the exercises AND the exercises will work the targeted muscles to a better degree.

In pulling movements such as different rows you’ll want to keep your back always straight and not let it round. This will ensure that you won’t put any unnecessary strain on your lower back.

In pushing movements the importance of keeping the upper back tight plays a big role. Your shoulders should always sit in their pockets when performing different presses. This eliminates the strain on the shoulder joint and will ensure that you won’t crack your rotator cuffs and other joints and ligaments around your shoulders. Also retracting shoulder blades is very important when doing bench press. By doing this you’ll again counteract the strain on the shoulder joints and keep the tension in your muscles rather than on the joints.

So now let’s look at the actual exercises to get those arms to grow!


Like mentioned before the triceps are the muscle group that makes your arms really stand out and the best way to train them is to perform heavy compound pushing exercises. It is a good idea to make a workout routine where you hammer all of your pushing muscles in one workout, including:

  • Pecs
  • Shoulder
  • Triceps

By targeting all of these muscle groups you’ll experience the best gains in your triceps as well as shoulders and chest. It’s the best bang for your buck so to say.

So let’s look at the exercises and which order you should perform them:

  1. Barbell Bench Press 2 sets of 5-7 repetitions
  2. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions
  3. Overhead Press (Barbell or Dumbbell) 2 sets of 8-12 repetitions
  4. Triceps Overhead Extensions 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions
  5. Triceps Rope Pushdown 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions
  6. Lateral Raises 2 sets of 8-12 repetitions

This workout is done from 1 to 6. Remember to do proper warm up for the barbell bench press before hitting the 2 work sets. Gradually increase the weight to your working set to hammer down the movement pattern and get your nervous system ready for the heavy work set. Never go and do your first heavy compound work set without warm up since it will increase your risk of injury greatly.

As you can see there is 3 compound lifts and additional 2 secondary exercises for your triceps and 1 secondary for shoulders. When doing secondary / assisting exercises focus on squeezing with the triceps and use light weights.

This workout here laid out will be enough to stimulate all your tricep, chest and shoulder gains. Do this twice a week for the best gains.


Next we have to work the biceps since even though they make up minority of the upper arm mass they still need some love ofcourse. So the way you should be doing this is training your biceps with the same workout as your back.

Your back training alone will give huge growth stimulus to your biceps when you utilize heavy compound rows. The one thing you’ll want to do is to use supinated grip for all of these exercises. This will maximize the activation of the biceps to a greatest degree. Incase you don’t know what is a supinated grip it means that you’ll want to grab the barbell with your palms facing towards you.

So let’s look at the exercises:

  1. Barbell Bent Over Row 3 sets of 8-15 repetitions
  2. Chin-Up or Pull-Up 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
  3. One-Arm Dumbbell Row 3 sets of 8-15 repetitions
  4. Lat Pulldown 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions
  5. Dumbbell Bicep Curls 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions

When you perform all of these exercises with supinated grip you’ll ensure that your biceps are heavily involved in the movement. But remember this should be first and foremost BACK workout. Eventhough it might sound weird that training biceps with the same movements as you’re training back, this is the most efficient way.

One or two bicep isolation movements are enough for maximizing your bicep development. Do this workout twice a week.


Usually people tend to concentrate their forearm training in wrong fashion. They try to do wrist curls and extensions to build forearm mass. But this is not the way you want to go about training them. Those exercises put a lot of stress on the wrist joint and they also don’t stimulate the muscles to best degree possible.

Instead what you want to do is train your forearms by Gripping exercises. But here is the catch. When you do your  upper body workouts without lifting straps, as you progress and move onto heavier weights your forearms will grow bigger and stronger at the same time!

But if you’re genetically weak on forearms you could add some extra forearm exercises to your routines. These next exercises are good for developing your forearms:

  • Barbell Holds 3 sets of 30-60 sec holds
  • Weight Plate Holds 3 sets of 30-60 sec holds
  • Axle Barbell Holds 3 sets of 30-60 sec holds
  • Pull-Up bar Holds 3 sets of 30-60 sec holds
  • Grippers (Captains of Crush etc.)

These exercises will provide the extra stimulus if you feel it necessary. A good idea is to implement them to your routines as a last movement.


So there we have it. The blueprint for bigger arm development. If you start to implement these principles outlined here you’ll be on your way to developing those great arms.

One thing to mention is that you shouldn’t prioritize your arms over other body parts. You should train your body as a whole unit and keep everythin proportioned, this way you’ll minimize muscle imbalances and that results in a lower injury risk and better looking physique. Think about it, about 99% of people who have great arm development are well built over all, not just the arms! Because they know that sticking with the compound movements they’ll build muscle at the fastest and most optimal way while at the same time minimzing injuries.

The #1 biggest mistake is to isolate your arm work to bicep curls and tricep extensions and wrist curls, don’t fall to that huge trap of fail. Instead build your routines around compound exercises and throw some isolation exercise on top of them and you’ll be golden!

Let’s recap what we’ve gone through here now:

  • Main emphasize on heavy Basic Compound movements
  • Isolation Exercises are just icing on the cake after heavy compounds
  • Tricep has 2/3 of your upper arm mass
  • Use always Supinated Grip when performing pulling exercises to maximize bicep development
  • Forearms are built with Grip Exercises, not wrist curls and extensions
  • Don’t focus just in your arms, focus on your Whole Body
  • Always use Proper Lifting Technique
  • Avoid the use of Lifting straps

That’s all there is to it guys and girls! Take a look at my guide on how to eat to build muscle to gain knowledge on how to structure successful diet to ensure that you’ll be able to recover and grow HERE!

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have suggestions or opinions in mind? Drop me a comment down below, I’d love to hear what you think!

Remember to train hard and train SMART!

6 thoughts on “The Best Arm Exercises – Guide To Big Arms

  1. Nicole

    Great article! Wow it had so much information in it and was well organized. I’ve slowly been building arm muscle with my yoga practice (I obviously don’t want super huge arms lol) and it’s been nice having stronger arms. My goal is to be able to do some really cool inversions and hand stands! Anyway, great site, i love it!

    1. Jesse Post author

      Nicole don’t worry! Even with proper training your arms won’t grow over night too muscular. Building muscle takes a lot of time and effort, so it’s easy to stop when you’ve reached the right mass for YOU. I actually can do handstand and also handstand pushups without any wall to support, currently I can do 4 in a row. They require a lot of control over your body which will take also a long time to master 🙂 Remember to take baby steps and stay at it and the results will follow for sure!

  2. PY

    Lots to process but love the informations you have here Jesse. Very clean and precise!
    I will definitely try out some of your suggested routines! I have these ‘chicken wings’ arms that I need to toned! 🙂 I also know some of my male friends thats dying to build up their arms! Will pass on the information.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thank you my friend. These routines not only will build your arms but your whole upper body!


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