Sun's Out, Guns Out: The Key To Bigger Arms

What is the first pose that people generally strike when they want to show strength?  Most people put both arms in the air and flex their biceps.  Having massive arms is usually one of the first goals for guys when they start working out.  But it’s not just the guys - women also want those toned, well-developed arms.  Your arms are often the least covered part of your body below your shoulders, which make them a really quick indicator of someone’s overall level of fitness.  Everyone can appreciate well developed arms, but not many people know the most effective ways to get them.  In this article, I’ll break down everything that you need to know to develop those massive guns.

I’m going to start with the triceps, then talk about the biceps.  People tend to focus too much on their biceps when building their arms.  The triceps are a muscle made up of three heads (“tri” means three and “ceps” originates from caput, meaning head) and take up two-thirds of your arm.  The biceps, on the other hand, consist of a two-headed muscle that only takes up one third of your arm.  So, if you want bigger arms, you’ll want to spend more time developing your triceps since it makes up the majority of your upper arm muscles.

Anatomy of the Triceps

The triceps, also known as tricep brachii, are a three-headed muscle located on the back of your arm.  The three heads are known as the long head, lateral head, and medial head.

They look like this:

Here you can see that the long head, lateral head, and medial head come together to form a horseshoe shape.  If you look at the triceps of a muscular lean person, you’ll see this familiar horseshoe shape around the back of the arm.  The lateral head is the largest of the tricep muscles and will usually develop the quickest.  However, it’s important to make sure to target all three heads of the tricep in order to develop full “3-D” muscles and really grow your arms.

Anatomy of the Biceps

The biceps, also known as biceps brachii, are a two-headed muscle located on the front of your arm.

They look like this:

The short head is usually the largest of the bicep muscles and forms the bicep “peak” when you’re flexing your biceps.  However, you shouldn’t neglect the long head of the biceps.  It helps push up the short head and creates more definition and separation between the muscles in your arm.  Incorporating exercises like barbell curls and dumbbell hammer curls into your workout will help ensure that you hit both heads of the biceps.

Effective Arms Training

The arm muscles are probably more frequently overtrained than any other muscle in the body.  Not only are they used in chest, back, and shoulder exercises, but some people even devote an entire workout to their arms.  While you don’t need to devote an entire workout to your arms in order for them to grow, there are a few key points that will help ensure that you are training your arms effectively:

  1. Train the muscles directly to get the size and definition you want.  Training your chest will also train your triceps, and training your back will also train your biceps.  But in order to really grow your arm muscles, you should also directly train your triceps and biceps to provide them with the direct stimulation that they need.
  2. Use heavy weights to grow your muscles.  Just like any muscle, you need to challenge and stress it in order for it to grow.  Your arm muscles are no different.  You need to use heavy weights to ensure that you are constantly challenging your muscles so that they’ll continue to grow.
  3. One tricep/bicep workout per week is usually enough.  If you are lifting heavy weights, then you’ll want to ensure that you’re giving your arm muscles plenty of time to recover.  If you’re directly training your arms more than once a week, then you risk overtraining them and causing injury.

I recommend that you train your triceps and biceps on the same day that you train chest and back.  Since you’re already indirectly training your triceps on chest day, you should just add in some direct tricep training on the same day.  You’re already indirectly training biceps on back day, so go ahead and add some direct bicep training on the same day.  This also helps prevent overtraining.  If you devote an entire day to directly training your arms, then you risk overtraining since they’re also getting trained on other days.

The Best Tricep Exercises

Some tricep exercises are more effective than others.  When training your tricep, you should make sure that you hit all three heads during your workout for proper development.  You won’t be able to directly hit all three heads of the triceps with one exercise, so you should incorporate several exercises that emphasize different areas of the triceps.  Here are some of the most effective exercises that you can incorporate into your workout to ensure you’re hitting all three heads of your triceps:

  1. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press.  This exercise targets the long head of the triceps and allows you to safely press heavy weights to grow the muscles.
  2. Close-Grip Bench Press.  This exercise targets the lateral head of the triceps.  If you’re training triceps on chest day, it’s easy to just change your grip after doing bench presses and really target your triceps.
  3. Dips. Dips are another effective workout for the triceps that allows you to really load up the weight.
  4. Lying Tricep Extension (aka Skull Crushers).  This exercise targets the medial head of the triceps.
  5. Triceps Pushdown.  This is one of the most common exercise for the triceps, and surprisingly it’s also quite effective.  You can use a variety of attachments such as the rope, V-bar, or straight bar to hit different areas of your triceps.

The Best Bicep Exercises

There are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure you are effectively training your biceps.  First, supinate your wrists to make the contraction more difficult.  That means you should rotate your wrists so that your thumb is slightly lower than your pinky as you curl the weight upwards.  Second, make sure that you’re hitting the biceps brachialis in your bicep workouts.  The biceps brachialis is a small muscle next to the biceps on the outside of your arm.  Developing this muscle will help provide separation between the biceps and triceps as well as help “push up” the biceps, adding to their size and circumference. Here are some effective exercises that you can incorporate into your workout to ensure that you’re hitting both heads of the biceps:

  1. Alternating Dumbbell Curl.  This exercises is one of the most common bicep exercises and it works at effectively targeting the biceps.
  2. Barbell Curl.  This exercises is also a common bicep exercise and it’s also great at hitting both heads of the biceps.
  3. E-Z Bar Biceps Curl.  This exercise slightly rotates your wrist from the regular barbell curl and puts less stress on your wrists and elbows.
  4. Hammer Dumbbell Curl.  This exercises is best for building the biceps brachialis, the muscle mentioned in the paragraph above.  It helps give your biceps a bigger peak when flexed.
  5. Chin-Up.  The chin-up incorporates the back muscles and is a great exercise to perform when you’re working back and biceps on the same day.

The biceps and triceps are just like any other muscle in the body.  They need to be challenged and stressed in order to grow.  So make sure that you are constantly challenging them by lifting heavy weights.  You should also make sure that your workouts target all heads of each muscle.  If you do all of that, you’ll have massive arms in no time!

Do you have any tips for bigger arms?  Comment below and add them.

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Michael McGill

Uproar Athletics

Michael McGill
Michael McGill


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