Training arms as a hardgainer isn’t much different than anyone else. You aren’t disadvantaged in any way. There ARE however, certain aspects of lifting you aren’t focusing on that are preventing you from maximizing your gains. I’ve created a checklist for you to go through to see if you might be selling yourself short in the gym.
Range of Motion / Mind Muscle Connection
Studies show exercises done in a full range of motion stimulate more muscle growth than exercises done in a shortened range. So right off the bat, if you are ego lifting and shortening your reps, this can be a big culprit why you aren’t seeing gains. I see this happen the most with guys. We get started in the gym, and of course we want big arms. Between all the local babes in there, and guys who you randomly feel in “competition” with, you somehow find yourself pushing the weights harder than if you had been lifting alone. You make these big increases, which sacrifice the form, and ultimately cause you to cheat the rep for the sake of moving it. Just because you can MOVE a weight, doesn’t mean it’s making the intended muscle grow.
This leads me to the mind muscle connection. If you want your arms to grow, they have to actually do the work. When you do tricep pushdowns, are you actually FEELING your triceps pressing down, or are you throwing your back into it and it just kinda feels “meh”. I used to do skullcrushers all the time because my friend with big arms said they destroyed his arms. I never once did a workout where I felt my triceps burn the way bicep curls did. It wasn’t until years later when I actually went a lot lighter, slowed the reps down, and really thought hard about that muscle working.
Another problem you might be having is not training the arms enough. Now, don’t get this confused with adding junk volume. I’m not telling you to add more work in. Take your current total sets per muscle (let’s say you are doing 8-10 sets for biceps on an arm day), and split that up over 2-3 days. So now you are doing 3-4 sets each workout. It allows you to come at the arms feeling fresher, and thus potentially using heavier weight than if you did it all on the same day. It also sends a more frequent muscle building signal to grow those arms.
Variety of Exercises
You should also consider changing the angles. If all you are doing for biceps and triceps is barbell curls and skullcrushers, you are short changing yourself. Different parts of the muscle can be stimulated at different angles. For example, when you do an overhead tricep extension, you will target the inner head more, whereas if you do pushdowns, you will target the outer tricep head more. Angles play a small but important role. Make sure you choose exercises for each muscle that are in front of (preacher curl / skullcrusher) your body, next to your body (dumbbell curl/ tricep pushdowns), and overhead (extensions for triceps) or behind (seated incline curls for biceps).
Another issue I see many guys overdo is too MUCH volume. Especially for their arms. Keep in mind, when you do any pulling work you are still hitting the biceps. When you do any type of pressing work, the triceps are still involved as well. Most lifters (especially newer to lifting) most likely don’t need an ADDITIONAL 10-15 sets on TOP of all that pressing and pulling work. I’d rather see you take back the volume to 8-10 weekly sets tops for your biceps and triceps, and focus on making each set count. You might find you get a better mind muscle connection when you have way less volume to get it to grow. Focus on quality.
Having said that, there is a time and a place for adding volume. This is a more advanced tool, so use it sparingly. I like adding sets when I’m doing a training cycle where I want to focus on 1-2 muscle groups. This means the rest of my body I significantly lower the overall sets to 8-10 per muscle. I’ll then add 1-2 sets a week on my bicep or tricep work, ONLY IF I’m able to continually progress on that exercise in weight or reps. If not, I don’t add any sets. Even then, remember, your arms probably can’t handle more than 18 total weekly sets so don’t go crazy with it. Add it on an as needed basis.
Hopefully, some of this advice helped clear up the proper way to grow your arms. If you want a little more help mapping it out be sure to check out my article on how to grow big arms if you are skinny.