I’ve been weight training for a while with the main goal of adding muscle mass to my arms since this is my favorite body part. How long do you think it will take to have a noticeable improvement in my biceps, triceps and forearm muscles? What are the best exercises I should be doing for my biceps? Is training only with dumbbells sufficient or should I be doing barbell work also? I would also like to develop my shoulders along with my arms so any help about this would be great!
I will discuss the core aspects of adding muscle mass to your arms later but I need to make sure you understand how important the overall holistic approach (whole body) is when weight training and trying to build an impressive physique. When you only focus on training one main body part, you neglect targeting all of the other major muscle groups which are extremely important for building the foundation of muscle, strength and overall power. Add to this that your main goal is focusing on one of the smallest muscle groups (arms) and your overall growth potential will be severely limited. If you wanted to only focus on building up your legs, this would be a much better option when choosing a single area to focus on simply because of the overall size of the quadriceps and hamstrings. The level of intensity that you can engage in when doing squats, leg presses and lunges are far higher than any exercise that will engage your body when doing arm exercises like bicep curls or tricep extensions. The fact is that the bigger the muscle group being trained will allow you to use more multi-joint mass building exercises with much heavier weights which results in building much more muscle mass!
When you train with multi-joint exercises like deadlifts, squats and bench press, you are using two or more joints during the movement which allows you to recruit more muscle groups, use heavier weight and have a much more intense workout. When you increase the intensity, you will release more muscle building hormones like testosterone and growth hormone during and after your weight training session. Just try doing 20 rep squats and then do dumbbell curls and notice the difference in the intensity level using both exercises. I guarantee you will barely be able to breathe after doing 20 rep squats, which are far greater for producing overall muscular growth when compared to training small muscle groups with single joint exercises.
The reason why I make this point of including big, compound exercises in your training routine is the fact that muscle growth is much easier to attain when you prime your body for hypertrophy with true muscle building movements (deadlifts, squats, bench press). When you combine these mass builders along with specific arm training, then you will see your full potential for building up your physique. So, always make sure to take a whole body approach when designing your weight training workouts for building overall muscle mass and also developing symmetry in your physique.
Now that we have discussed the importance of including compound multi-joint exercises into your routine and working all of your major muscle groups, I will now focus on developing the arms and packing on muscle mass to your biceps, triceps and forearms.
The key is to overload your biceps and triceps with heavy weight and the way you do this is using the core mass building exercises for each of these muscle groups. Start your workout with the main barbell movements in order to push your muscles to the extreme early on in your workout when they are fresh and have not been stimulated with other movements. This is the reason why you would always do bench press for your chest first before doing more shaping movements like cable crossovers. Your muscles are fresh and you want to overload them with maximum weights to break down the muscle fibers effectively.
Here are the top mass building exercises for your biceps and triceps. You can add additional forearm work to these if you want but if you are training your biceps with super high intensity, these exercises will also hit your forearms very well and stimulate growth in this area as well.
- Barbell Curls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Preacher Curls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Dumbbell Curls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Close Grip Bench Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Skull Crushers (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Dumbbell Extensions (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
For building up your shoulders, you need to apply the same principles to this muscle group. Use heavy, big and compound exercises to build overall mass. Here are a few mass builders to add to your shoulder workout:
- Military Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
- Barbell Shoulder Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
Along with these core mass building arm exercises, you will really need to focus on your diet and make sure you’re getting enough protein and calories to stimulate muscle growth. Your diet accounts for approximately 75% of the results you will achieve with your fitness plan so always place the utmost importance when designing your daily meals. You need to eat a lot of clean calories to stimulate muscle growth. If you slack on your diet, you will slack on your results! Read our Nutrition 101 article for the complete details on which foods to include in your diet to pack on muscle.