Build Big Guns - Muscle Building Exercises For
Men Who Want Amazing Arms
one of the most common things that men want - bigger, more muscular
arms. I mean, who wouldn't want them? Even through the confines
of dress shirts and business attire, muscular arms demand attention.
As men, we are predisposed to having proud, muscular arms by our
hormonal starting points. While genetic differences may show a difference
in size and shape of the arms from person to person, men can get
their arms built much more than a natural woman.
It is important for men to briefly understand how the upper arm
muscles work to get the best benefit from exercising them. Let's
take a quick look at the anatomy of the biceps and triceps to best
understand how to attack them in the weight room.
Behind the Scenes with the Biceps and Triceps
The biceps are actually two-head muscles ('bi' meaning two,
like in bicycle) and the triceps, in turn, have three parts to them.
The biceps muscle connects to your upper arm bone (the humerus)
and the front side of your shoulder blade (also called the scapula,
this is the bone that connects your arm bone with your collarbone).
Further down your arm, both heads of the biceps muscle join together
into one tendon that connects to your radius bone, one of the bones
of the forearm. Because of way the biceps connects to the different
bones, it allows it not only to control the flexion of the elbow
joint but can also contribute to the rotation of your wrist as well.
Your triceps muscle also attaches to the scapula and humerus, although
all three heads combine together into a single tendon mass that
connects to the other forearm bone (the ulna) and give your body
the ability to extend your elbow joint.
Your biceps and triceps muscles move the same joint in opposite
motions, extension and flexion. Scientifically, they are called
antagonistic pairs for this very reason. The important thing to
remember is this: your biceps and triceps work against one another
at the same moment in time to provide stability to your elbow joint.
That means that these two sets of muscles will help hold your elbow
joint steady if it's under pressure. It also means that if there
is an imbalance between your triceps and biceps muscles, you can
be setting yourself up for injury.
The Common Sense of Arm Size
When most people are asked to make a muscle, do you know the
number one muscle that is flexed? You probably guessed it - the
biceps. Did you also know that this muscle actually comprises less
than half of the muscle mass of the upper arm? It's true - the triceps
muscle actually makes up more than half of the upper arms muscle
mass and yet is often neglected by the very same people seeking
to get 'bigger guns.' Since the muscle heads of the biceps and triceps
are roughly the same size if you could take all of them apart and
lay them next to one another, it does make sense that a muscle with
three heads would be bigger than a muscle with two heads. At the
same time, the most important to understand here is that by correctly
working your biceps and your triceps along with a couple of supporting
upper arm muscles, you will be maximizing your muscle growth potential.
A swooping triceps muscle can help accentuate a bulging biceps muscle
even more. With that said, let's take a look at some key exercises
that can take your arm size to the next level.
For all of these exercises, please pay close attention to the
- With curling exercises, if your elbows come forward too far
away from your body during a curling exercise, the front of your
shoulder will kick in and steal some of the attention away from
the deserving biceps. Focus on keeping your elbows from kicking
forward and you'll get a more intense feeling. It may help to
squeeze your upper arms against your sides as you work these lifts
to keep the elbow locked in place.
- The muscles that flex your elbow help to make that joint look
great -- experiment with different wrist rotations and see where
you feel the different exercises
just remember to keep your
wrist straight in line with your forearm and solid to help prevent
joint stress. (Curling with your wrists bent at 90º isn't
- Regardless of the triceps exercise that you're doing, remember
to squeeze the dickens out of those puppies when your arms are
most straight during each movement - if they feel like they're
going to cramp, relax for a little bit and then continue.
- There are two main ways in which the triceps are worked - pressing
and extending. As you exercise your triceps, try to cover both
of those movements as shown with the two movements selected below.
Curls - Biceps
- While standing with good posture, hold weights (either dumbbells
or a barbell) of appropriate weight in your hands with your arms
extended (hands down by your thighs). Grip the weight firmly but
not so hard as to go white-knuckled.
- While keeping your elbows from moving as best you can, raise
the weight up in an arc toward your chest.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your biceps and hold for
a brief second before lowering the weights back down smoothly
to your thighs.
- Keep the speed of the movement in a fast yet controllable and
French Presses - Triceps
- Carefully raise a dumbbell over the top of your head with both
hands securely holding one end of the weight. Keeping your elbows
closer to your head is better -- be careful not to let your elbows
go wide as this may cause undue stress in your shoulder. (This
exercise can be performed seated or standing -- seated can put
less strain on your lower back.)
- Smoothly lower the dumbbell behind your head being careful not
to hit yourself in the back with the weight.
- Raise the dumbbell up by extending your arms overhead and briefly
squeeze your triceps at the top of the motion.
Hammer Curls - Biceps
- Start this exercise with dumbbells just like the Biceps Curls,
but instead of keeping your palms forward, rotate the dumbbells
so your palms face toward one another with your arms hanging at
- Follow the same motion as with the Biceps Curls exercise, keeping
your elbows at your sides as best you can.
Close-Grip Push-Ups (always from toes, never from
knees) - Triceps
- Lay face-down on the ground or a soft surface with your legs
together and body in a straight line. Put your hands against your
body with your thumbs touching your ribs just below your chest
muscles. Rotate your hands out just a bit and keep your elbows
facing back while you press up into the top of the push-up position.
- Keep your chest out and head in line with the rest of your stiff
body as you press out each repetition. Keep your chest sticking
out and your neck in line with your straight back. Your upper
arms should be about parallel with the line of the rest of your
body at the bottom of the movement.
- Press yourself back up and briefly squeeze your triceps when
your arms are extended. Repeat the movement for each repetition
of the close-grip push-ups.
- If completing these movements for less than five reps in good
form is challenging, try heading to the stairs or using a fitness
bench sideways to operate at an angle and take some of the pressure
off until you get strong enough to do this movement from the floor.
Some Additional Movements
While all of the fundamental mass-building arm motions hinge
off of the above exercises, there are a couple of variations that
are good to know about. Generally, these involve slight variations
of wrist position or the angle at which the arm muscles are attacked.
For non-cable upper arm curling or extension exercises, the most
challenging point of an exercise is generally when your forearm
is parallel with the ground. This will happen roughly around an
elbow bend of 90º with a standard curl. But if you change the
position of your upper arm, it's possible to alter the angle of
the elbow when the forearm is parallel to the ground. For instance,
preacher curls hit this point when the elbow is quite extended,
while concentration curls hit this point when the elbow is mostly
flexed. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some other exercises that
can be utilized for building bigger guns.
- Preacher Curls
- Reverse Curls
- Concentration Curls
- Cable Curls
- Incline Bench Dumbbell Curls
- Skullcrushers/Lying Triceps Extensions
- Triceps Pressdowns
- Reverse-Grip Triceps Pressdowns
- One-Arm Push-ups
- Supinated/Rope Triceps Pressdowns
- Dips (off stand or bench)
Specific Lifting Techniques
following techniques will detail out particular phases to cycle
your arm training. This will keep the stimulation coming from all
angles and is a global perspective compared to actual exercises.
Too many times people focus on specific exercises for results instead
of how these exercises are utilized. The exercises are the tools,
but the application technique is the method to use the tools for
their best use.
The term 'phase' is used below to describe a period of time. In
general, this should encompass a biceps workout and triceps workout
during the same week for simplicity's sake. Consider a single productive
workout for a muscle group as the passage of one phase. While your
own body will have different recovery periods when compared to the
person next to you, it's important to note that every person will
need some recovery time after hitting a specific muscle group to
avoid overtraining, a dangerous state leading to inevitable injury
and stagnated results.
The Time Under Tension Phase
During the time under tension phase, techniques should focus
on optimizing the time under tension for muscles being worked. This
is accomplished through a couple of means.
- Slower rep tempo: perform repetitions at a speed of 2-6
seconds per rep. This will be agonizingly slow in some cases,
but your muscles will be forced to respond to this increased tension
- Incorporate partial movements: Acting like a pre-fatigue
method, if you add partial movements into a set you can increase
the total time under tension for a muscle in question. 21s are
great examples of this: the first seven repetitions of the set
are performed only in the bottom ½ of the range, the next
consecutive seven repetitions are performed in the top ½
of the range and the final seven repetitions utilize the full
range of motion. When using this method, always add the partial
repetitions to the beginning of the set.
- Stripping sets: Also called drop sets, this is really
a giant set of two to four sets of the same exercises performed
back-to-back with descending resistances. A sample triple stripping
set of standing dumbbell curls may look like up to 12 reps with
30 pound dumbbells followed by up to 12 reps with 20 pound dumbbells
finishing with up to 12 reps with 15 pound dumbbells.
The Strength Phase
During the strength phase, it's important to push the limit strength
of your muscle for better power development. The goal here is to
hit heavier weights, thereby forcing a lower rep range. Strength
training like this may not leave with a great pump, but it will
certainly build the base power of your muscle and force it to respond
like no amount of higher rep sets can provide. You will probably
need longer rest times between sets here and the total number of
sets performed can be lower as your body can only produce near-maximal
output a couple times before it cries 'Uncle.' Always be sure to
use proper warm-up techniques before lifting in this range. The
goal here is to squeeze out your reps with maximum intensity while
using weights that restrict your reps down to the one to six range.
The Circuit Phase
During the circuit phase, the goal is to get a massive pump by hitting
your muscles from multiple angles one after another. This isn't
a whole-body circuit, but instead stringing three to six different
exercises together like a giant set and then repeating this set
multiple times with rest between each circuit. Alternate triceps
and biceps exercises so there is a slight bit of rest for each muscle
group while you keep on moving. Here's a sample circuit:
- Cable Curls
- Triceps Pressdowns
- Hammer Curls
- Standing Biceps Curls
- Close-Grip Push-ups
Mass Building Secrets
Now that you have some solid arm exercises along with specific techniques
how to utilize these movements, it's important to understand some
critical pieces of information - secrets to building arm mass.
is built with protein building blocks. If your body doesn't
have a healthy supply of these building blocks (proteins are broken
down into amino acids and utilized the body to help build and
rebuild muscle tissues, among other things) you could just about
lift until you're blue in the face and you won't see the progress
you're hoping for.
- Pump is important - it is good to have your muscles completely
engorged with blood as part of your cycle of arm exercises. There
seems to be some growth response that's related to the 'my arm
is a sausage about to explode' feeling that comes from certain
exercise techniques. Higher rep, 'endurance' methods tend to get
more blood into the muscles over time.
- Strength is important - while true strength training
doesn't tend to pump the arms up like some of the endurance methods,
it is nonetheless critical to develop sizeable upper arm muscles.
As your strength increases, this will affect the total power output
your muscle is capable of producing and that will in turn affect
everything you do with your arm lifting.
- Rest is a critical part of mass building. If you work
a body part out too soon or too frequently, it will not have time
to super-compensate from the last workout and get progressively
stronger. The heavier the workout, the more rest is normally needed
- Build volume, but don't keep building time. While the
total volume of sets and reps that your arms are capable of will
continue to grow as you positively develop, it's important that
the total workout time does not increase at the same rate. Intensity
is better than volume, so keep your workouts blasting with as
little rest between sets as necessary and you'll reap the rewards.
Wrapping It Up
We've covered a lot of ground here and by now, you've learned
not only what your biceps and triceps muscles do, but how to work
them best to blast your arms with awesome size and strength. Strong
arms are a great compliment to balanced, powerful shoulder and torso
joints. (And they look pretty darn impressive as well.) Have fun
with it and go bring out the big guns!