Big Arms: What to Know, How to Grow

There are many myths and hyped claims about arm size in the realm of bodybuilding. Find out the truth, and grow your arms.

Everyone wants big guns. You do, I do, and heck…even my mother occasionally strikes a double biceps pose, and flashes her 65 year old pythons.

In this article, I am going to break down two aspects of the race for bigger arms:

  1. What to know. I will provide you with vital information on just how big you can expect your arms to get.
  2. How to Grow. I will provide you with training tips that will assist you in reaching your goal of bigger arms.

What to Know - 20 Inch Arms

It is nearly impossible for a natural bodybuilder to have 20 inch arms. I say nearly impossible, because I don’t want to rule out the possibility that a 6’10”, large-boned bodybuilder with 40% body fat is reading this article.

Some of the biggest natural bodybuilders in the history of the sport barely crept over the 18” mark. Remember, they also had a reasonably low body fat percentage. If you have a body fat percentage over 20%, your arms will be bigger by an inch or two.

I have had arms pushing 19 inches. But this was during times when my body fat was up around 25%. When I lost weight, and fat, my arm size dropped dramatically.

Shoot for 16-17” arms at a relatively lean condition. Your arms will look MASSIVE.

What to Know – Bone Size

Small-boned lifters have a harder time gaining strength. They also generally have smaller arms. Of course, we can’t rule out genetic freaks. But with that said, if you are large-boned, you are on the fast track to having impressive pipes.

It may seem like small-boned lifters are cursed, but there is good news. Because of their tiny wrists, ankles and waists, 16 to 17” inch arms will look bigger, and aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, big-boned bodybuilders often look blocky, and have less-pleasing lines.

Big Arms

What to Know – Genetics

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Larry Scott have two of the most impressive bicep peaks in the history of the sport. Sergio Oliva had thick, beast-like triceps. Following their training routines won’t help you.

You are a prisoner of your genetics. You can’t carve a bigger peak with hard work, nor can you plaster a Oliva-sized horse shoe on your triceps with endless sets of pushdowns.

They is what they is.

Understand, I am not telling you to give up. By all means, keep working hard! You have no clue where your genetics might lead you. (Well, some experienced lifters might have a clue) But if you have flat, lumpy biceps with a peak like a slow-rolling hill, more muscle mass will only exaggerate their current shape.

You can’t change the genetic shape of your biceps and triceps with hard work.

How to Grow – The First 2 Years

The fastest way to grow huge guns during your first several years of training is by focusing on heavy, compound lifts. These exercises include bench press, squats, deadlifts, and barbell rows.

If you only focus on your arms, you’re in trouble.

The first couple years of training produce the best results. The body is ready and willing to add muscle. And the fastest way to add muscle is by pushing for crazy strength on heavy lifts.

By adding more muscle across your entire body, your arms will grow. You can still do several sets for your biceps and triceps, but your primary arm builders should be compound lifts.

How to Grow – More Effort!

You can’t continue to use the same weight week after week, and expect to add inches onto your arms. It doesn’t work that way.

Big arms are made by big effort. Push yourself on every set of every exercise. Try for one more rep! And when you can perform 8-12 reps, add more weight! Effort!

Don’t waste sets. There’s no point in heading to the gym if you’re not pushing your body to the limit. Make it your goal to improve each week. This is the fastest path to quick arm gains.

How to Grow – Volume

High volume is not the way to go. I’m not telling you to perform only one working set like Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates. What I am telling you is this – you do NOT need to perform 20 sets for biceps and triceps each week.

Most natural bodybuilders grow MORE with lower volume. Each of us is different – obviously – but very few of us need more then 6 to 10 working sets for biceps and triceps.

Hard work is a good thing. Steroid using bodybuilders need higher volume, and a greater number of contractions. Steroids work better under these conditions. But natural bodybuilders are not playing the same game, and should back off the volume.

How to Grow – Triceps

Many young lifters focus too much on the biceps, and neglect serious, and heavy tricep training. Did you know that the tricep muscle makes up 2/3rds of your arm volume? Simply put, if you want bigger arms, you need to focus on the triceps first and foremost.

And don’t just train the triceps with light weight, isolation style movements. The triceps are a big, brawny, beefy muscle group. They need to be stimulated with heavy weights.

When’s the last time you used closegrip bench presses to hammer your triceps? How about seated overhead tricep extensions with a heavy dumbbell? And how about skullcrushers?

It’s Time to Get to Work!

Now you’re armed with arm knowledge. There’s nothing complex about growing big arms. Understand your potential, and make reasonable goals. Lift heavy, hard and smart. Don’t overtrain, and don’t forget the triceps.

A ripped, 17” arm looks darn impressive! It might not sound stunning on paper compared to the 22” inch arms of a steroid-gorged professional, but it is. I guarantee you one thing…If you walk out in public with 17 inch guns, people will stare.