Lessons From Lifters: The Truth About Arm Training for Tall Guys

Lessons From Lifters: The Truth About Arm Training for Tall Guys
Hey string bean, those pipe cleaners got you down? Learn the secrets from a 6'4" lifter who has packed on some serious mass.

It’s not uncommon for me to walk into my local gym and see guys crowding the dumbbell rack hitting some curls for the girls. The problem is, most guys who are prisoners to this ritual have pipe cleaners for arms.  It’s not often that you see guys with respectable sized arms, focusing on them in the gym more than once per week as an accessory workout.

That got me thinking a bit more- it seems that the vast majority of these lifters were taller with long arms that just seem to be anti-muscle mass.

I feel for this crowd. Not only am I a former stringbean, but I stand at a respectable 6’4”. In my quest for size I noticed a few truths specific to the taller, long-armed creed that are worth sharing.

Tip 1: Biceps - Focus on High Volume for Compound Movements

To tell you the truth, I probably directly isolate my arms by way of biceps curls and triceps extension variations no more than 10 times per year.

Lessons From Lifters: The Truth About Arm Training for Tall Guys

To really pack size on, you have to take advantage of the fact that though you may not be able to curl more than 40 pound dumbbells, it doesn’t mean the cumulative volume from heavier compound lifts can’t be helpful. That means taking advantage of your longer levers for exercises like dumbbell rows and inverted rows can only do your body good in terms of beefing up your arms.

Also, pay attention to the length of your levers and utilize the larger ranges of motion you get from V grip pulldowns, chin ups (without straps!), and pull ups. All three of these movements activate the brachialis muscle which is located deep to the biceps. Their development will help improve the presence of a peak. The catch with this muscle is that it’s best activated when pulling from overhead. As a by-product, your back will look fantastic.

One more thing: Loaded carries and other grip strength dominant movements are great for time under tension, one of the most important factors for bicep growth.

On top of this, the lower arm and brachioradialis muscle (which crosses the elbow joint) can hypertrophy from various grip-dominant loaded carries like farmers walks, fireman carries, atlas carries, and even overhead waiter walks.  Use them as finishers on any given workout day for the kick in the pants you need for growth. 

Tip 2: Triceps – Activate the Long Head

In reality, it’s pretty damn easy to hit the triceps in a given exercise. It’s not one of those muscles like the mid back that takes plenty of technical focus to finally start feeling it in the right places.

Lessons From Lifters: The Truth About Arm Training for Tall Guys

The problem is, most guys stick with what’s comfortable and easy, and only beef up the lateral head of the triceps (the head most people can see when they flex) through movements like pressdowns, close grip bench, and diamond pushups.

Ever look in the mirror from the side and think your arms look good and thick, then look from the front and realize they’re still skinny with no width?  This could be why.

The truth is, there are 2 more heads to the triceps – the more important focus for size being the long head.  This head of the triceps runs high on the upper arm and connect s to the scapula. The good news about that is the fact that training the long head can actually add to shoulder stability as a net product. 

Hitting the long head comes from, once again, moving the upper arm further away from the body. Performing overhead triceps movements like the French Press and the Skull Crusher “Plus” (see video) will hit the long head and add true upper arm size and girth.

For more on hitting the long head of the triceps and a modification to basic triceps pressdowns to get the job done, check out this instructional video.

Tip 3: Overhead Press

It’s time to think physics.

There are very few exercises where the hardest part of the lift comes where the elbow is completely flexed, with the forearm right up against the biceps. In the case of a bench press, the arm has at least 45 degrees of space. And most people stop at 90 degrees for their pressdowns and dips.

Doing full range overhead presses allows you to start the movement from zero momentum with the tightest elbow angle you can possibly create. That works wonders for triceps thickening – especially through the lower half of the upper arm.

In addition to this, once again it’s a compound movement – meaning you’ll get plenty of stimulation for your central nervous system, enabling you to build muscle everywhere via hormonal release. 

You’re going to be glad you put your long arms under such stress, because the amount of work you’re producing (force x distance) is far greater than that of a shorter lifter, and the dividends will show in your physical results.

Lessons From Lifters: The Truth About Arm Training for Tall Guys

Tip 4: Speaking of Overhead Press, Get Bigger Shoulders!

From a completely cosmetic standpoint, a tall guy’s arm size and overall presence is strongly enhanced by a pair or capped deltoids.

It’s a lacking area that I definitely notice makes a difference to the appearance of being lanky. A developed set of rear delts will meet a developed long head for the look of size we’re going for.

Skinny to Swole Arm Training

Exercise Reps
Chin Up Max
Skull Crusher Plus 10
Note: Perform 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between each round.
TRX or Barbell Inverted Row Max
Barbell French Press 10
Note: Perform 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between each round.
EZ Bar Curl 10
Tricep Pressdown 15
Note: Perform 4 rounds. Rest 2 minutes between each round.
Loaded Carry 50 Meters
Note: Perform 4 sets. Use fat grips if possible and the heaviest dumbbells that you can carry with good posture.

Stay Tall, Get Jacked

For bigger arms, 9 times out of 10 it helps to think outside the box to break plateaus and pack on muscle. That’s even more the case when you’re a tall guy with a gangly reach. Take these tips from the trenches and you’ll be busting through sleeves in no time.