Often the most stressful days in the gym are not the heavy compound days when you are getting in your weekly squats, deadlifts and bench presses in a bid to maximize your overall strength and muscle mass.
Although taxing multi-joint movements such as those can be extremely challenging, it is easy to motivate yourself to get them done because of the impressive results they can produce in a short space of time.
What is far more difficult to get enthused about, is trying to improve the smaller muscle groups of your body which need to be isolated in order to improve your overall definition for a more aesthetically pleasing physique.
Which brings me to the subject of this article – training your arms.
Bodybuilders across all levels all strive for thick, defined arms which can be perfectly complemented by t-shirts or full suits, as an indicator to others that you are in fact a serious LIFTER. If you have no peak on your biceps, lagging shapeless triceps or skinny forearms, despite working out 5 times a week and maintaining a healthy diet, then you are doing something wrong.
Lifting heavy weights and targeting the bigger muscle groups of your body is all well and good, but weak point training is equally important if you ever want to see the fruits of your labor in the mirror.
For your arms specifically, there are several fantastic exercises you can perform to start sculpting them into shape, which I will describe in detail to you below.
Any training regime worth its salt needs to include days where you specifically target your arms, otherwise, you might as well just become a powerlifter.
Bodybuilding takes time and patience, plus the ability to scrutinize your body enough to work on the areas that need to be boosted in order to become more symmetrical.
Take your routine to the next level and read on!
Arm Building Exercises – Biceps & Forearms
There are a plethora of brilliant exercises available for building lean muscle mass on your arms, but it is important to note that performing each movement with strict form is absolutely necessary in order to isolate the biceps, triceps and forearms.
Otherwise, you will bring other assisting muscle groups into play, such as your shoulders, back and chest, which will not only reduce the impact of each exercise on your arms but also cause you to fatigue much quicker.
Let’s start with some of the best biceps exercises for you to experiment with along with a guide on how to perform each movement in detail so that you are maximizing your efforts in the gym.
Reverse grip EZ bar bicep curls :
Technique – Hold an EZ bar in front of your with your arms shoulder width apart and fully extended, adopting an overhand grip. Curl the bar up until your hands reach shoulder level and then proceed to slowly lower the weight back to your starting position.
Benefits – This particular movement will target not only the peak of your biceps but also your forearms, which help to improve the overall strength of your arms, allowing to you to lift heavier on other exercises in the future.
Concentration curls :
Technique – Pick up a single dumbbell and sit on the edge of a bench with your knees spread, resting the weight on the inside of your thigh on one leg with your arm fully extended. Maintain a neutral spine as you lean over by placing your other hand on your opposite knee and curl the dumbbell up towards your chin, squeezing at the top. Lower the weight slowly in the downward phase and repeat for several repetitions. Switch arms and follow the same protocol for one complete set.
Benefits – This exercise focuses on the stretch in the eccentric portion of the movement and forces you to target the peak of your bicep, which is fantastic for molding bigger arms.
Preacher hammer curls :
Technique – Grab two dumbbells and sit on a preacher machine with your arms fully extended holding the weights down on the pad in front you. Keep the palms of your hands facing inwards as you grip the dumbells and curl up until you reach shoulder level, before gently lowering the weight back to your starting position.
Benefits – By using a preacher machine, you can minimize cheating to target your biceps more effectively and with this particular hammer like grip, your forearms will also need to work hard to perform the movement.
Seated incline dumbbell curls :
Technique – lay back on the bench holding a dumbbell in each hand fully extended either side of you, with your palms facing inwards. As you curl the weight up, rotate your forearms inwards 90 degrees and squeeze at the top of the movement. Control the weight slowly in the downward phase of the movement and rotate back to your original position.
Benefits – Another great exercise for your biceps and forearms, this movement requires you to use both heads of the biceps and the lower portion of your arm in equal measure as you focus on keeping your triceps and elbows locked in for a full contraction.
Standing cable bicep curl :
Technique – Stand up straight holding a bar attached to a rope pulley in front of you on the cable machine, with your arms fully extended shoulder-width apart. Curl the weight up until your palms come in to almost touching your chest, before slowly lowering the weight back down.
Benefits – Using the cables allows you to stabilize this movement properly for a full contraction, whilst forcing your forearms to work harder in the eccentric phase of the exercise.
Arm Building Exercises part 2 – Triceps
Now onto the back of your arms and the notoriously difficult to isolate triceps, which must be built up sufficiently in order for you to boast a more well rounded upper body.
Here are a few of the most effective triceps exercises you can perform in the gym, with detail on how to practice proper form and how each movement can ultimately benefit your routine.
Flat bench close grip EZ bar skull crushers :
Technique – lay down on the bench with the bar above you, arms fully extended. Make sure you adopt an inward overhand grip and slowly lower the bar down until your forearms reach a 90-degree angle, before pushing back up for a full contraction in your triceps. Keep the lower portion of your arm in a static fixed position at all times.
Benefits – Widely considered to be the granddaddy of all triceps exercises, the great thing about this movement is the range of motion you can achieve, which puts a maximum strain on the back of your arms and thusly helps to build lean muscle mass quickly.
Diamond Press Ups :
Technique – Adopt a typical press-up position but make sure that your hands are out in front of you in a diamond/V like position with your elbows tucked in. Lower yourself down until your chest nearly meets the floor and then proceed to push yourself up, fully extending your arms.
Benefits – This particular exercise can be done anytime, anywhere because it only requires you to use your body weight rather than any physical weights or machines. You can target all three heads of your triceps with this movement thanks to the narrow grip it requires you to adopt.
Cable push downs :
Technique – Stand up straight and grab the bar in front of you set up on the cable machine shoulder-width apart, roughly in line with your chest. Push the bar down while making sure that your elbows stay tucked in and that the entire up portion of your arms remains static, making sure to flex your triceps fully at the bottom of the movement.
Benefits – This exercise helps to build the lateral head of the triceps by forcing you to control the weight with strict form and has thusly become one of the go-to movements in any effective arm routine.
Bench Dips :
Technique – Position two flat benches apart parallel to one another and then proceed to place your hands on the edge of one of them, with your feet positioned at the edge of the other one holding you above the ground. Make sure you stay close to the bench and lower yourself down until your elbows are at the same height as your shoulders, before pushing up to contract your triceps.
Benefits – Another great bodyweight exercise, this movement allows you to really burn out your triceps and can be done using any two platforms that keep you just above the floor. However, if you are looking for an even greater challenge in the gym, place a weight on your thighs before you begin.
So there you have it! A variety of new exercises for you to try in order to promote maximum muscle growth in your arms, which in turn, will complement the rest of your physique.
It can be extremely difficult to improve weaker areas of your body but with the use of proper form and isolation movements, you can absolutely begin to make a significant change for the better.
Bodybuilding is an art and the little details are crucial if you ever want to achieve your goals, which means neglecting of the smaller muscle groups is simply not an option.
If up until now, your only focus has been training your chest, back and legs once or twice a week, in the hope that everything else will just grow along with them as a result, it is time to snap out of your comfort zone and accept that is not enough.
Start training your biceps after an intense back session, having already used them as an assisting muscle through the session and really start causing damage to those muscle fibers in your arms. The same goes for triceps after a chest workout, which can start to grow rapidly with some extra stimulation after an intense bout of work on your upper body.
Alternatively, you could set aside one day a week in which you specifically target just your biceps, triceps and forearms, allowing yourself the time to give your arms the extra attention they need to grow substantially.
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that you no longer neglect any part of your body when it comes to your bodybuilding routine. Your body is a machine which needs constant maintenance and if one part fails the whole system can suffer as result.
Get back in the gym and start building those gargantuan arms!