T Nation

Big Arms: Why Are They Important in Bodybuilding?

I have some specific ideas on this subject. But first, what do you think?

  1. They add to the overall appearance of “heavily muscled” - Biceps and Triceps are some of the easiest muscles to carve deep separation into (when compared to something like rhomboids). Even many meatheads who don’t compete can have fairly well defined/big arms.

  2. It gives the body width in a front relaxed posture, creating the illusion of a bigger person on stage.

  1. Everyone knows what arm muscles are “supposed” to look like. The average audience won’t notice a detail missing from the spinal erectors, or the line separating the two major muscles of the pecs.

Big arms, as opposed to big shoulders, traps, chest, back, thighs, and calves?

Sure most all men would like big arms, but you asked for bodybuilding. Don’t bodybuilders want big… everything?

I suppose I just don’t understand the question, but am interested in your ideas.

1 Like

We all wear t-shirt, there are not many guys walking down the street wearing clothes that could show most of the muscles (underwear) :man_shrugging:t3:

If you go back to the early days of bodybuilding contests in the United States, the AAU Mr. America was the most coveted title. It remained that way from 1940-1980. Can you name a winner from those years who did not have big arms?

Chris Dickerson. I was at that AAU Mr. America show.

I’m not entirely sure I understand the question either, but I think in a general way, bodybuilding ideals follow ‘layman’ ideals in terms of physique. I think because the average Joe prioritizes big arms, and there are so many average people out there who focus almost entirely on arms, that it would be really, really hard for a high level bodybuilder to ‘get away with’ small arms. I think it’s also very difficult to develop the rest of the upper body at a high level and somehow miss the arms. You use your arms to do every big upper body movement, they get trained by default.

I want to add that the overall arm look is heavily influenced by the appearance of the delts, and I’m not sure if we’re really talking about delts in this conversation. To me, massive delts are arguably more important to an aesthetic physique than bis and tris, and I see more variation in competitive bodybuilding in delts.

So are we talking about big arms in terms of judging criteria, are we talking about what the average bodybuilder strives for, are we talking about what separates average from good from great bodybuilders… etc?


Big arms are awesome and being awesome helps you win things


Big arms on a small body? Still looks good. Small arms on a big body? Nope GTFO.

Chris Dickerson was one. The guy I’m thinking about was earlier.

Could be Steve Reeves?

Jules Bacon was all lats but thats really going back a way.

The arms is what everyone comments on when they are big…also, it gives the image of strength and power…look at the comic books of tarzan, Conan and the superheroes and the drawings of the arms

1 Like

Yes. Jules Bacon was the other Mr. A winner I was thinking about. Great answer. Thanks.

Wow, never heard of Jules Bacon…had to look him up…amazing

I think arms, more than anything else, exude power and masculinity. That’s something that an average person can immediately look too and think “that guy’s strong!” Arms are a body part that appeal to women too, and that’s why a lot of guys get into lifting in the first place, to attract girls.

I wonder if there is some historical aspect to this going way back before bodybuilding…something to do with times when most people had to do some form of hard manual labour to make a living and the more successful and, therefore, more prosperous were those with naturally stronger and more muscular arms and shoulders? Did big muscular arms then get associated with more successful men?

If we’re talking competitive bodybuilders, this topic makes zero sense to me. I would think every competitive bodybuilder assesses his weak points and targets them for priority to improve.

Now if by “bodybuilder” we mean the non-competitive man lifting weights to improve his appearance, then I will concede that arms are extremely important. Like many have said, the man can display his arm development in everyday life.

BTW: I recall a very successful Florida bodybuilder that Ellington would know very well. He had a fairly ordinary physique, but had phenomenal arms and shoulders. He won many a show with those outstanding arms and shoulders.


I believe you must be talking about Gene Massey?

If you go back to the early 1900s. This was well before bodybuilding training and bodybuilding contests. Most men of that time lived a life of manual labor. Generally speaking, the guys who worked the hardest had the best physiques – and the biggest, strongest arms.

And yes, big arms were associated with success.