T Nation

Arms, Arms, Arms


Hi All-

I'm finally back on track with training, after a very long sabbatical. I had a pretty bad sports injury that sidelined my training and found me two years later with 30 extra pounds, little motivation, and a long uphill climb to fitness ahead of me.

Long story short, I'm back in the saddle and am on a great program now. I've dropped a couple waist sizes, got my nutrition back, and am making solid progress on all body parts. Except the arms.

I was frustrated, so I found myself doing arms 2-3 times a week. Even if I was just throwing in a few sets of tris or bis after another body part. But while I'm building muscle everywhere else, my arms don't seem to be catching up. So here are my questions:

1) How many times a week do you all do arms?

2) Does anyone have any good exercise tips for building up some bicep/tricep muscle?

Thanks in advance, everyone!



I've heard of some people's arms growing better than ever when they cut out all (or most) direct arm work and used mostly compound movements.


For starters could you please tell us/me the following:

  1. How much can you squat?

  2. " " deadlift?

  3. " " benchpress?

  4. How tall are you?

  5. What do you weigh now?

  6. Finally, what exercises do you use for triceps now.

If you want to know about myself personally?? I'm at the point where I've been training long enough that to really increase my arm size I need to increase my big lifts (squat, deads, bench, rows). Yeah this could apply to anyone at any level, HOWEVER I think that (and some will probably agree) that newbies can gain more size/make more progress in their arm training with more direct work on their arms and less emphasis on really moving up in the amount of weight they can lift with the lifts I mentioned. Hope that makes sense and helps a little.


2-3 times a week is too much. Your not giving your muscles time to recoup, and thats when they grow. Try one day per week and really blast them. Im 5' 7" 215lbs and my arms are 17.5" cold and 18" pumped, so for my size my arms are pretty big. I used to have problems as well with arm size. I always envied my friend who grew large arms easy. Sometimes genetics play a role here as well.

But over traaining them will definately hinder growth. Your arms are in a constant tore down mode and do not have time to heal and grow before the next workout. I train my arms ussually once per week, both bi's and tri's the same day. Once in awhile Ill throw in a light day mid week, but ussually only 1- 2 times per month, depends how I feel. If I feel rested and absolutely no soreness, Ill do the light day. My main day of arm training I do bench, Overhead presses, some chest moevements, then I go to curls and maybe one other tricep movement because the bench realy trains them good. I superset everything going from a tricep to a bicep movement and back and forth till I cant hardly do anymore and they are cramping. 8-10 reps as heavy as you can go within tose parameters.

Rest up all week and do it again. Eat right, plenty of protein and not just whey, all types of protein with balanced carbs and E.F.A's. (Essential Faty acids) Eat 5 times per day modestly and youll get as big as you given your genetics.

good luck


Train moderately and/or heavy with the compound exercises, but when doing arm work use very light weights and do high volumes just for a pump, no failure. Now when I say light, I'm not kidding - they should be so light thatyou can do something like 3x15@2min 4 to 5 times/week. Forget about failure, as soon as you begin loosing form - drop 'em. You have one goal - major pump. When that bicep is so full of blood that it's hard as steel you're there. Now just work at that level, but no exertion, no failure. You should be getting around 200-250 reps per week. And execute with proper form - no jerking, strict 'robotic' movement(use a mirror). Just with dumbbells alone you can get enough variation to not get bored.

It works if you work it. Give it 6 weeks and get your guns big.


Seriously? I would have thought that sets of between 8 and 12 would be best for growth. Certainly the high rep sets will give you a pump, but how about cold size?

I'm not saying you're wrong, and in fact, I've never tried the super high rep schemes (typically I'd be sitting around 90 reps a week on semi-isolated bicep exercises).

Has anyone else experienced this?


Standing barbell curl with good form, figure out the rep range that feels best, I prefer 8 or less.

Dips, same thing with the rep range, I prefer 5 or less (so I add weight).

Eat more?

Train arms once a week?


Well the way I think it works is like this. You take a light weight and do something like 5x10, 4x12, 3x15, 6x8... It will add a bit of mass and also creates a good environment in these muscles for further development. Together with the compound lifts it will make the arms stand out once they get accustomd to the volume. It's the rule of specialization. What's the most problems people have with arms? Disproportion! They don't want to gain overall body mass to gain on arms as that takes much longer. This oversaturation with volume and time under tension will let you go as far as you can. That's why it's so important to not exert yourself and carefully work through it. I know it goes against the "lift fast" trend, but I stick with what works. After all, they are STRENGTH coaches, those who are giving us bodybuilding advice. There will always be bias. I love CW too, there's still plenty of uncharted territory.

Well that's just my explanation and I could be wrong about the explanation, but not the result - it worked for me and 5 other people, three of whom are my friends. And believe you me, neither of us have great genetics. If you force your body, it will respond, just force it gently :-).


Have you read Waterbury's Perfect 10? Try that in conjuction with Total Body Training.


This might sound crazy, but if you squat and deadlift more often, your arms will get bigger! Also, you gotto eat to grow big!

Read Alwyn Cosgrove's piece:



Yeah, or do preacher curls and get the same effect. I've never done a preacher curl in my life, but that whole article was debunked in the discussion that followed it. Some contributor tried to defend Cosgrove's point by saying that if you go the preacher curl route you'll have major imbalances. But the person rightfully questioned that if you're doing compounds anyway what's the point of the article?


Just to add in to the confusion for you, I agree with wideguy, what are you compound movements like. I hardly ever do bi's, maybe once every 10 days and that's for only 3 maybe 4 sets for my ego. I work mainly the squat, bench and dead and accessory work for it and my arms have actually increased since switching to powerlifting



I hardly ever just work arms, I uaually just do rowing, pull ups, and any other back movements. This seems to make my arms grow better than just doing curls or any other bi cep isolation movements. Just try different movements and exercises and see what works best for you.


Great question,I'm definately gonna take all the tips here in consideration.


Like ballbuster said, do your rows and pullups. They are compound movements, and then after you get done with them, go to your isolation movements with curls. You don't do tricep exts before you bench, so don't do curls without doing your rows and pullups first.


Do you know EDT mesocycle by Charles Staley?, please look the following
In my opinion it is very good and works!


Me too [age 42], hard to get arms to grow while everything else on bod seems to bulge nicely with steady training and good food intake. Worked out on and off over the years and I can say arms are way bigger than when I was skin n' bones but not exceptional compared to how my other muscles grew [except calves]. I'm now finding success with variations on compound/super sets[old days 'term'-if its the same thing] using a combo of four exercises;

1 Standing barbell tricep curls
2 Standing barbell bicep curls
3 Standing bentover barbell rows
4 Standing bentover tricep reverse dumbell curls

I do such a routine 3 times in a row with each exercise done to fatigue[or the proper term is just at reaching 'failure'] rather than a set amount of reps.[however the weight used makes it all come out to a mediun/high amount of reps], and I see good results so far.And I hope unlike in the past the results stay-unlike the rest of my body, arms and calves usually deflate very fast compared to rest of the bod, without training.

I always wondered though, do thin boned skinny people generally have a harder time getting mass on arms and calves than do thicker boned skinny people working out? This seems to be a valid observation -anyone here know otherwise on this point. All my other body parts respond very well to good training and eating.


First off, thanks to everyone for the fantastic input. You've all given me a number of great ideas, which will be good for shaking up my current routine.

My arm workouts recently have been pretty standard- 5 exercises of 3 sets with 10-12 reps. I guess I've been trying to move towards more weight/less reps lately and have been frustrated the lack of apparent results. I'm going to incorporate some of these ideas into my workouts for the next month and see how it works. In particular, I like the idea of trying to get up to 200-250 reps. I'm interested to see how that goes.

Wideguy- thanks for the time and thoughtful answer. Unfortunately, I don't have any numbers for you for the deadlift. I think the last time I squatted I got up to about 170. I weigh 180, bench 200, and I'm 5'9". I do about 160-200 g. of protein a day.

For triceps, I do rope pulldowns, reverse rope pulldowns, french presses, sometimes dips, and always skull crushers. I found a GREAT skull crusher exercise last year- if I'm doing 12 reps (on the ball) I bring the first four down to my ears, the next four down to my nose, and the final four down to my chin. The burn is much different as you can feel it run up and down the entire tricep. That's the only exercise where I feel I'm really getting any results.

Any thoughts on how I can tweak that?

Thanks again to everyone for your time and help!



I suspect this (not training the deadlift/posterior chain) has a lot to do with why your arms aren't growing. Please look up Don Alessi's Booming Biceps pt. II and Alwyn Cosgrove's "No Curl" program. I can also guarantee that if you start doing lots of deadlifting and dl variations, your arms will grow.


Are you serious?!! In one workout you do five exercises with three sets each???!! That's major overkill for the arms!!