by Will Grumke June 22, 2022 7 min read
When many people think about someone with big, strong muscles ... they’re thinking about arm muscles.
We’re probably programmed to think that way because we use our arms for virtually everything.
But also, many clothes and styles we wear expose our arms or are even designed to accentuate our arms.
If you’re looking to develop stronger and more defined arm muscles … tone up and add some shape to your arms … or want to add a little bit of muscle to fill out your shirt better (that's me) … you’ll have to put the work in to get them.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to get there.
We could split them up a few different ways, but for the sake of this article ... we’re going to keep it simple. At its most simple level, your arms consist of three muscle groups.
Those muscle groups are:
Your bicep rests on the top of your upper arm. When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing one of his classic bodybuilding poses, this is the muscle you’re probably imagining sticks out the most.
“Bi” means two. Your bicep contains two main muscles.
You can alter your workouts to focus on one of the two muscles specifically, or you can work on both of them at once.
Your triceps are located opposite of your biceps on your upper arm. “Tri” means three.
They’re called triceps, because, you guessed it, they consist of three muscles. Think of your triceps as the counterbalance to your biceps. Your biceps pull while your triceps push.
Triceps make up approximately 2/3 of the upper half of your arm.
When we’re talking about your forearm, we’re talking about all of the muscles in your lower arm that run from the elbow to your hand. These muscles are important for gripping things, whether we’re talking about tools, grocery bags, or a hand in a handshake.
In order to get bigger, or more defined, muscular arms ... it’s important that you properly work out all three of these muscle groups. That way, no one part of the arm will look underdeveloped, which can take away from your overall size and the look you might be going for.
Here are some great exercises that you can do to strengthen your arms and get them looking how you want.
Curls are probably the most commonly known arm exercises out there. Curls are great for working out your biceps.
Curls are a simple exercise that is done by holding a weight in each hand with your palms up. Use your biceps to bring the weight in front of your body, just below shoulder height, making roughly a 90-degree angle between your bicep and forearm.
That's a general explanation of how to do a curl, but there are tons of different ways to do them and each variation will focus on a different part of your bicep, or tax your bicep in a different way.
This allows you to really hone in on what you’re looking to change and develop. We’ll talk about some specific types of curls later on.
Dips are great for working on your triceps. You can do them in a variety of different ways from leaning against a chair and dipping only part of your body weight … all the way to draping a weighted chain across your shoulders and dipping your full body weight, and then some, between two bars.
Also, your hand placement will change which part of the tricep is being activated most.
These variations, once again, allow you to target different areas of your arms that you want to grow. BUT do not let the different variations, hand placements, and other variables confuse you or stress you out. At the end of the day, dips are great, and you could greatly benefit from doing them.
This can be done on a traditional cable machine. Typically, you set the cables all the way down, and attach a straight bar, EZ-Bar, or Rope Attachment. Then, focus on keeping your elbow in a fixed position and curl the weight up in front of you.
Just like a dumbbell curl, you want to create a 90-degree angle with your forearm and bicep. Cables allow for constant tension on the muscle, which can help with working the bicep and even forearm muscles.
Hammer curls are the first variation of the standard curl that we’ve already mentioned. The main difference between regular curls and hammer curls is how you hold the weight.
When you do a normal curl, the dumbbell or bar is parallel with the ground.
When you do a hammer curl, the dumbbell is perpendicular. Twisting your wrist 90 degrees forces your forearms to work more, making the curl utilize more muscles beyond the bicep.
Personally, I am a big fan of hammer curls, because it does recruit more muscles to be active during the movement. That and I’ll be honest … I’ve always thought it translates the best to looking “jacked” in a t-shirt or holding a beer at the pool. haha
Wrist curls are another great way to focus on strengthening the muscles in your forearm.
Just make sure that you’re using enough weight to make your arms work, but not too much to where you start using other muscle groups and sacrificing good form.
Since the weight should be lighter, wrist curls can be great as part of a good warm-up to your arm workout, or an awesome way to “burn” things out at the end!
Your triceps are used for pushing. And what better way to get them to push than a push-up?
You can do a variety of different kinds of push-ups from standard to wide to diamond to clap. Each one will work your triceps, pecs, and shoulders from a different angle, with a different intensity.
To target your triceps more, utilizing the diamond push-up more than some of the other variations is an effective approach!
Skull crushers are also called French extensions or French presses. They’re used to work your triceps as well.
A common error for skull crushers is going too heavy in weight. This can add unwanted strain to your elbows, recruit the wrong muscles to move the weight, and diminish the results from doing this exercise.
You want to use as heavy a weight as you can while keeping great form and effectively controlling the weight throughout the entire movement.
This can be done with a dumbbell or the rope attachment on a cable machine.
Once again, this will target your triceps a bit differently, overloading them when using a challenging weight, that will help stimulate growth. Focus on keeping your elbows stable and really using the tricep to push the weight overhead.
Dumbbell kickbacks are another great tricep exercise.
You can use a bench, a chair or your bed for support. You can do them practically anywhere.
Chin-ups are similar to pull ups, but the changing of the direction and width of your grip puts more of an emphasis on your biceps.
Yes, a Chin-up requires you to use a lot of back but when done properly you will be using your biceps more than when you do a regular Pull-up.
While this blog is about exercises you can do in the gym … the real growth and strength increase can only happen if you take care of your needs outside of the gym.
If you don’t do that, no arm exercise will help you get the arms you want.
Plus, if you’re really working out your arms, they’ll feel pretty sore. And nothing will make this soreness more obvious than going about your daily routine.
Whether you’re cooking dinner, working at a computer, closing the trunk of your car, or getting out of bed ... most everything requires at least a little bit of arm strength.
So to help you earn the results you want, and reduce soreness, you'll want to take control of your after-workout recovery.
And you can take control of your recovery by supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to reduce soreness, restore glycogen levels, and build stronger muscles quickly and efficiently.
You can do this by simply using proper post-workout supplements, following a nutrition plan designed for your goals, and ... if you fall short on your nutrition ... utilizing high-quality supplements to fill those nutritional gaps!
Whether you want to have the biggest arms in your group of friends, tone them up, or just add a little size … we can help you!
Developing the arms you want and can be proud of will take a proper training program (which can be found inside the 1st Phorm App), a solid nutrition plan, and a few key supplements like proper post-workout … all of which we can help you with!
The one thing we can’t help you with is doing the work.
As I said in the very beginning, if you want to grow your arm muscles, you're going to have to put in the work … both in and out of the gym … on the days you feel like it AND the days you don’t … because even the best plan is useless if not acted upon consistently.
If you have any questions or need any help at all, please don't ever hesitate to reach out!
We have a fully-staffed team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialists that will help you for free! They are available Monday through Friday 6 am to 10 pm CST at 1-800-409-9732 … or anytime via email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com!
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer