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Big Arms Without Direct Arm Work



I have heard many times (including on this site) that you do not need to do any direct arm work to develop huge arms. Here are a few photos of the guys (Drew Baye and Martin Berkhan) who claim that they do not do direct arm or ab work - i.e., no standing barbell curls, for example. And yet they have pretty good arms.

Assuming these guys are not genetic freaks, I do not believe it. Do you? How would something like this work? I mean, why would anyone have huge quads, for example, by doing, say, shrugs? Similarly, why would anyone have huge arms by doing squats, deadlifts and rows?



A lot of it is genetics. Some guys can grow their arms without much "direct work". I think some of it has to do with being arm dominant in pressing pulling movements.

But, and here is the big catch, it is almost impossible to grow your arms too much. So if you want to have the best arms you can, whether or not you can get decent arms without it, you should do direct work.

  1. Guy on the right doesn't have big arms by bb forum standards.
  2. Needs definition of huge.
  3. The real keys are intensity and consistency. Someone who works his ass off on compound exercises for 10 years will probably have bigger arms than the clueless weekend warrior who changes programs every other week "cause that's how long they work" A gymnast who does a million one arm chins and dips on rings a week will also get pretty good arms. Farmers and construction workers etc.

All of this is irrelevant. Those who are best at building big arms have worked their asses off on compound and isolation exercises at least at some stage in their life. Direct arm work will probably get you there faster.


Those are big arms?

They just look like really lean arms.


They are some of the biggest, baddest 14" arms I've ever seen.




Uh, I don't know about you guys, but those arms look pretty decent. I got decent arms without much direct work.

But the better point is, who wants decent arms? I'd rather have great arms.


Not training abs is a big mistake IMO, unless you are already badass in that department (can do hanging leg raises with ease, dragon flags, ab roll outs all day long, etc). If your abs are a weak link, it's going to hold you back on some of your other lifts. (I know this from personal experience). Some guys say that chins or front squats provide their abs with enough work - that's maybe fine for them - they may already be stronger than hell when doing ab movements. If you're not already strong in that area, IMO it's foolish to think that you can get there using only indirect work.


I'm just an over-aged weightlifter who can't/won't ever gain any size because I read that I'm too old, but I'd wager that the quickest/best path from "decent" to "great" is direct arm work.



They are very lean. I am sure we can all see that, but they are not by any means 'BIG arms' by bodybuilding standards. They are "well developed", but it is no surprise they don't do much direct arm work....because they aren't that big.

I would be very surprised if there was one arm much over 15" in that whole group.


It was interesting to see Skip in his DVD discussing reducing direct arm work to increase growth and questioning its worth entirely.

Chapter 2, 13:30 onwards:


I use "huge arms" loosely. Elite and or professional bodybuilders have huge arms, but for a regular guy "huge arms" would be the picture on the left. In other words, you can tell that this guy lifts weights by looking at his arms and his overall upper body development. Here are a few more pics of Martin Berkhan.

Here is a quote from him:


im pretty sure Professor X's arm is as big as my head, and i have a big head. i hear he occasionally does direct arm work. what does that imply?


I'm not saying they are huge. 15-16 inches and that lean doesn't look bad, thinking of someone like 1morerep.

I agree with how you are describing them. My point is like yours, they may be fine without direct work, but if you are a BBer, you should want much more than fine.


Question....why are we discussing "regular guys" on a bodybuilding forum?

I knew from the first pic he wasn't that big. I am positive those arms aren't over 15" now so thanks for the other pics.

Yeah, if you want "ok" arms on a smaller but really lean frame, have at it and don't train arms directly.

Just don't call that "bodybuilding" and we will all be ok.


Bad comparison comparing this to someone like onemorerep. He is like 5'5". 16" arms on someone that short ARE big.

For a person of more normal height, that is small.


I thought this guy looked pretty small framed too. I guess I could be wrong.


Well, regular guys can be bodybuilders. I am a regular guy and I am working on gaining muscle mass, so I am bodybuilding, my body, that is, but I am not a professional bodybuilder.


Ok...so why would a BODYBUILDER looking to BUILD THEIR BODY as optimally as possible AVOID training an entire muscle group directly?

Looking like these guys is more about NOT eating than building a lot of quality muscle. They are small and very lean. The ONLY reason they look big to you at all is because of their level of leanness. If you saw these same guys in clothes, you wouldn't notice them standing out much at all.

Here's what you do...go ahead and completely avoid training arms directly. Then, in 5 years after you finally realize they are lagging, then you can play catch up for the next decade.

Good luck.


The guy is really lean, but with a t-shirt you probably wouldn't even notice he lifts weights.

Neglecting a bodypart is dumb.

edit I type way too slowly, all in the above post.