How do I Build Big Arms?

Oct 12, 2022 mindpump

In short, the key to growing big arms involves variety and proper stimulation. It sounds simple, but if you are unfamiliar with anatomy, or not sure why you are choosing an exercise, you can end up spending your time spinning your wheels in the gym wondering why they aren’t growing.


Let me preface all this by saying if you want to grow big arms, you need to be in a calorie surplus. Make sure your protein intake is at 1g/lb and you are eating enough to support the growth of new muscle tissue. No one built big arms while being in a deficit. Muscles need fuel.

Sending the Right Stimulus

There are no hardest rules here, but generally speaking some exercise can respond better to certain rep ranges than others. Of course, ultimately play around with the ranges and see what works best for you.

Compound type exercise usually does better at lower reps and higher weight. For triceps this is movements like close grip bench press, and dips. For the biceps this could be supinated pull-ups. Isolation exercises tend to do better with higher reps and lower weight. For the triceps this could be rope push downs and skullcrushers, and for biceps it can be dumbbell curls and preacher curls.

For the compound exercises do sets of 2-3 in the 5-10 rep range. For isolation exercises do sets of 2-3 in the 10-15 rep range.

Challenging the Strength Curve

Another important factor you want to consider is the angles with which you are training the arms. This is actually why I see so many lifters stall in their progress. They’ll tell me all these exercises they do for the arms and little do they know it’s all the same stimulation. We can’t fully isolate individual parts of a given muscle, but we can change the point at which the tension is strongest based on angles.

For the arms we want to have an exercise to our side, in front, and then either behind or overhead our body depending on the exercise.

At the side:

Biceps – curls

Triceps – dips 

In front:

Biceps – preacher curls

Triceps – skullcrushers


Triceps – overhead extension


Biceps – incline seated curl

Mind Muscle Connection

You want to make sure you actually FEEL the exercises you choose. Meaning, when you do a dumbbell curl, you should actually feel the biceps doing all of the work. I’ve seen a lot of guys throw too much weight on, and start swinging their arms which incorporate shoulders and too much momentum. This takes away providing the optimal stimulus for the target muscle to grow. You’ll know you fall into this category if after a couple sets you find yourself saying “yeah I guess my arms kinda feel like they got something.” In that case, find a new exercise or lower the weight. If chosen properly, you should find after even 2 sets that your bicep or tricep feels exhausted after. That’s when you’ve achieved a good mind muscle connection and proper stimulus to fatigue ratio with that exercise.

Shoulder Work!

When people say they want big arms they tend to only talk about the biceps and triceps. The reality is, if you develop really full shoulders, it creates great separation amongst the three muscles overall, and makes the arm look way more jacked. So make sure to include shoulder work to help build those arms!

Bonus – Occlusion Training

We should always be prioritizing everything mentioned so far in this article. Include a mix of compound and isolation exercises. Make sure you are hitting the target muscle from all angles. If after all that, you still need something to give you a final bump in size, try occlusion training. Occlusion training helps build up a ton of metabolites using very little weight. This will help spur some great muscle growth, especially if you’ve been plateauing for a while.


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