T Nation


How often do you train arms and what are your protein intakes? I’m doing Poliquin’s maximal weights for arms and then will do Ian King’s great guns. My arms are incredibly small for my height and weight (12 inches unflexed, so you get the picture)at 6’ 170 lbs.

What have you been doing for arms so far? How many calories do you eat each day? What is your current daily protein intake? How long have you been training? These are all things I would need to know to give you the best advice I can, but I’ll tell you what I know from what you’ve mentioned.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the Maximal Weights workout (I’ll need a refresher) and I don’t know if I looked at the Great Guns program, so I’ll have to look into that as well. Now, my “guns” aren’t enormous, but I feel that at 18" for being 217 lbs. they aren’t all that bad. But, for what worked for me (DISCLAIMER - what worked for me will not necessarily work for you, but if nothing seems to do the trick, what have you got to lose?)

Keep the following info in mind for making some sound gains:
If you’re one who has a fast metabolism, shoot to eat 15-20x your bodyweight in calories each day if you seem to never be able to put on size. Too many people eat far too few calories, yet they throw money down the toilet on supplements. Plenty of people can make good gains with nothing more than a lot of food, and it should be your backbone for looking to add mass! If the calories aren’t there, then you aren’t going to gain anything! Look to take in 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per bodyweight as a base - don’t leave it too low as it is important to get enough protein!

I myself train arms anywhere from once each week while on a standard program, whereas whild doing microcyclic periodization I will train arms twice each week on the average (though, there are heavy, medium and light days, so they aren’t all-out ass-kicking days at all!) My protein intake is anywhere from 220g to about 280g per day, depending on what I have available to stuff my face with. I make sure to take in at least 160g before I leave work at 5 PM as I’ve already done my training by that time and want to make sure I have an ample amount in my system for tissue repair for growth. Make sure you’re eating frequently enough as well! 5-8 times each day, on the aveage. None of the 3 square meals crap - a constant supply of energy is necessary, and it takes frequent feeding for that to happen!

These are just basics that I've learned work for me. Like I always say, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Bodybuilding is all trial and error - it takes years of different experimentation with dozens of programs until you really get a feel for what is going to work well for you. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, GET LOTS OF SLEEP! 8 hours per night will aid in growth, and a nap here and there will help as well. Remember that cardio work will affect your gains as well - if you run around a lot, you're going to be burning a lot more calories! There are so many things to remember, but just keep experimenting and you'll find what works. Later!


If you want your arms to grow don’t train them!

I never trained arms my first two years of training. Instead concentrate on building your poundages up in the basic exercises in this order You need to atleast reach a core level of strength which I recommend before concentrating on arms:

SQUAT: 405 parallel or 275 full squat POWERCLEAN 250lbs DEADLIFT 455lbs WEIGHTED CHINS 4 sets of 12 Close Grip Bench 315

I know it seems hard now but trust me concentrate on poundages with these lifts it will pay off. DON"T USE STRAPS EVER!!!!!!!!!!

Once you have added twenty pounds of muscle to your body check your arms size I guarantee they will have grown 2inches! After two years you can start training arms! Trust me on this one I currenty have 18 inch arms 5’8" 212 pounds 12% BF and After my first two years of training I had 16.5 inch arms without even doing a curl or tricep exercise. I trained for football and only trained 4 days a week, I had one hell of a powerclean, squat, close grip bench, and deadlift though!

stop the program you are doing!! at your body weight you are too small to be doing arm specialization routines. I fully agree with tapper that you should focus on your core lifts. get on both of ian’s trainging programs as quick as possible. as far as dieting is concerned use the get big diet, but iclude an extra 100 grams of protein during the day through protein powder.(I recently switched to Grow! it’s awesome) once you finish Ian’s programs switch to GVT 2000. I guarantee if you do this not only will your arms have grown substantially, but everything else will have too.

Ah, yes, I didn’t take into consideration the possibility that you hadn’t worked on core lifts. If you’re still inexperienced in things like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and such, it’s going to make a big difference. Always work on the foundation before trying to improve the rest of your features. Not that you have to become a monster before you can work arms, but you will want a firm grasp on the basic compound movements as they are the key to insuring growth in other areas. Listen to the advice that you should make sure you’ve put effort into this area first. But, since you haven’t listed your time lifting and previous experience, we don’t know for sure that you haven’t already tried. But remember, during things like deadlifts and pull-ups, the biceps will still get some indirect use. For bench presses and dips (done for chest) you’re still going to be hitting your triceps. Perhaps it would be a good idea to take a few months off from arm training and focus on these movements. It won’t be easy if you’re already accustomed to arm specialization training, but the break you have may just be what your body needs for growth. If nothing else is working, it may be worth a try. Now, I don’t know anything about things like the Get Big diet, (I don’t typically use programs that I find here, even though they’re supposed to be fairly good) but what I do know is that you have to eat according to your metabolism! Most guys I know of my size require 4000 calories per day to grow, whereas since I have a naturally shitty metabolism, I can grow off as little as 3200 per day. Everyone is different, no canned program works for everyone, there are no guarantees that if someone says “This diet will make you gain size!” or “This program will add an inch to your arms!” that it will work. Always do your research, listen to your body, and go from there.


One thing. Are you sure about completly trashing the arm isolation exersizes? My arms are 15" at about 190lbs 6’1 about 8% bf. They’re very small but the rest of my body is ok. Do you really think trasing my arm exersizes is a good idea? I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by dave tate lately, and even him (as a powerlifter who cares mostly about raising those core lifts) recommends doing work for especially triceps. In chinups it feels like it’s my biceps that is my weaker point (pronated, just a bit wider than shoulder width). Just a bit confused here!


You don’t necessarily have to ditch the arm-specific programs. It all depends on varying things, like your history of training, past programs, and such. Have you been training for only a year, or have you been training for a few years? For beginners, as in up to 1 year, it will be different for someone who is an experienced lifter. What sort of rep schemes have you been doing? If you’ve only been doing reps in the 8-12 range, try going heavier in the 3-6 range for your sets instead and see if it helps. If you’ve been doing only straight sets, try giant sets, drop sets, slow eccentrics, or other “mucsle-confusion” techniques. If you’ve been doing an average of 10 sets for arms in the past months, cut it down to 5-6 sets and see what happens. I can’t stress enough how important change is to keeping progress continual - I may as well keep a document saved that I can just paste in whenever I feel it appropriate since I speak of it so often. Keep your programs 6-8 weeks in length maximum to keep bodily adaptation to a minimum. Switch exercises with new programs! If you’ve been stuck in a rut for your barbell bench press max, then switch to dumbbells for 6 weeks! Something so simple can be what breaks your plateau. All too often I see people who keep doing the same routines for a year straight, then they wonder why they look the same at the end as when they started. VARIETY, PEOPLE! It is necessary, since nothing will continually provide results when done the same way for long durations of time.

Sorry, Neo, if I'm getting off track here. I just always keep coming back to this advice since it is so often overlooked.

Bodybuilding is complicated, but it isn’t rocket science. I’ve made minor gains training with no set program, changing exercises every time I went to the gym, just going on instinct alone. Not everything boils down to scientific calculations and precisely-planned programs as being the only way to make progress - it all comes down to what works for you and you alone.


THnx Flax! I’ve done mostly 4-6 sets (1-2 sets to to failure) -10 reps. Sounds like a mix of HIT and high volume perhaps. Im lacking some forearms strength too, but do you really think it’s a bad idea to hit a program like “great guns” without actually having those stats which tapper wrote? I mean building stronger triceps builds a better bench. Strong biceps increases your chin-up strenght. Stronger forearms and grip helps for… well… everything! Why is it a bad idea to do a arm prioritation then if you’re really feel a lack in arm strength?


Like I said in my last post, it all depends on history. A beginner will beed arm specialization less than someone who has been training a while. It sounds like you have probably been training for a while, so I’ll go on that assumption. Other things to note are as follows:
For the person who was a football player who didn’t train arms, think about the fact that a football player doesn’t need to do individual bicep and tricep work necessarily since it isn’t a priority - brute strength and quickness are far more important than appearance, hence less need to do arm specialization. Some people also tend to make gains well with nothing more than indirect training, and this person was apparently one of them. I had the same thing with triceps - mine are freaky huge and were enormously wide even before I began training back when I was a fat kid! Everyone’s genetic makeup is different, so keep that in perspective. Some people will gain well with little training done loosely, some will not be able to add more than a few lbs. of lean mass each year despite following everything down to the science and precision of every detail.

Also, yes, bicep strength will help in rows, pull-ups, etc, though it is supposed to be used at a minimum during these exercises. It is almost impossible to isolate the movement to the lats entirely, but you don't want to take the work off them and shift it to bicpes else you're taking much of the effectiveness out of the exercise. Same goes for triceps, too. They are important, and if you are able to come to the conclusion that these arm muscles are holding back your core lifts, then by all means, specialize! I think that a lot of the bias comes from the fact that too many people place too much importance on the "show" muscles such as chest and arms, and therefore leave out the important parts such as back, legs, and such. But, you need to assess your goals - are you lifting to be sport-specific and have power and speed, or are you in it to develop the appearance of each muscle to its fullest? This is very important in determining your training protocol.

One last thing - where in your workout schedule are you doing your arm workouts in regard to your back and chest workouts? If you want to make the most out of the arm workouts, NEVER train them without at least 1-2 days rest between doing chest and back workouts since the biceps and triceps play important roles in those workouts as well. You don't want the arms to be fatigued when it comes time to work them, as you'll be overtraining and cheating yourself out of an effective workout. It goes the other way as well for cheating yourself out of a good chest or back workout. Hopefully these things will help you in your quest for arm size. Later!


I currently work with young elite level athletes (pre collegiate) and all of them have bigger arms then their counterparts at school who isolate their arms hours a week training them. I am a strong believer in reaching those base stats before arm training. NOTHING will build your forearms better than powercleans, and deadlifts. Ask your self this question: as far as age goes in all sports who has the biggest arms. look at college football players Their between the ages of 18 and 22 I bet their arms are bigger than 99% of people out there. THEY give very little time to arms. Oh the nebraska clean record is 405lbs (his arms are hella big I guarantee it) I don’t think you need to go over board with your powerlifting reaching unreasonable unumbers but you do need base strength.:::linebackers, runningbacks, linemen, even db All posses arms that are thick and in proportion. You don’t need your arms in football bullshit! Who ever wrote that must not of played. You don’t need isolation work until you have reached base strength. I have 16 year old clients with 17in arms that started with 14 inches and haven’t done a single curl. TRUST me flaxoil build your core lifts for 1 year you will not be sorry!!!

Thnx for the replies. I forgot to add that i’ve been training for a bit more than 2 years. And i’ve actually did more like you tapper said. Dropped most arm movement, increased core movement especially my bench (240lbs) and full squat (240lbs). I guess i didn’t pay much attention to my deadlift and power clean tough, since i don’t like deadlifting, and power clean might compromise my squat (?). I gained 20lbs of lean muscle but my arms are still the same size…

Sorry for trying to steal your original post frederic :slight_smile:


Did I say that football players don’t need their arms? No, I didn’t. But, as far what your goals are, a football player isn’t working to make himself look pretty by doing exercises deemed to improve appearance over function; he’s training for sheer power and speed. If you’re training for that, why would you include arm specialization if you’re gaining well with indirect training? There would be no need. Arms can be built through compound movements like cleans, as I did say, and I DID encourage Neo to build his foundation before working on specialization, but apparently you only read the parts of my posts that you DIDN’T agree with, which doesn’t do me justice.

Now, let me repeat my thoughts for a third time - I DO believe in building a foundation before working on specialization for arms. But, since Neo hadn’t mentioned it before, I made the assumption that he had done foundation work. And, from what he says, he has done quite a bit (but Neo, I do recommend getting on with those deadlifts and cleans! They work wonders!) Never forget the core, and the rest will follow. Since he has done core training, he needs to alter it, expand on it, change things around, and give it a try. Who knows - perhaps there is a problem with his form, or maybe he’s just one of those guys who doesn’t grow much off certain movements due to what his genetic map has determined. We don’t know him, we don’t train with him, and we have to make multiple assumptions, not just “He needs to do cleans and he’ll build arms the size of Texas without anything else!” Maybe it will work for him, maybe it won’t. All I’m suggesting to the guy is to look at what he’s been doing, research different exercises, different rep schemes, different schedules, and think about what might suit his individual needs the best. If you can find anything wrong with that, you may as well go read a book on canned programs such as “Body for Life” because it’s the same way of thinking.

And, finally, for Tapper’s knowledge, no, I never did play football, despite being hounded by coaches for my entire high school term due to my large size. I chose skateboarding, which gave me leg strength and endurance like a motherf*cker before I even did my first squat. Football may be great for strength, but it isn’t the only thing!

I don’t want to step on any toes anymore, but when someone takes parts of my posts out of context and accuses me of saying things I never said, it kind of pisses me off.


Tapper, I never said that football doesn’t use arms. I talked about specialization according to objectives, and I wasn’t disrespecting your choices in any way. I am in agreement with you about building foundation strength first. I have some points I’d like to discuss in regard to what you think I said, but I don’t want to waste my time again since I lost my first post. Let me just say that you picked parts of my post that were incomplete and took things out of context, which is why you came to your conclusions about my advice. Please re-read my posts again and you’ll see that we’re in agreement about more than you think.


Here is my point: I never see people train Powercleans, Deadlifts, Squats correctly. I see so many people with superstrong benches 400+that have sorry arms. I have never seen anybody who had a strong Powerclean and Deadlift with weak arms. In fact at my High School bench was not even listed as important (unless the guy pancaked you and you pressed him off you) Our Coach always said concentrate lifts in this Order Squat, Powerclean, Deadlift(not bench and arms like other schools). We worked towards shirts which displayed how much we did the shirts went as follows. Squats:350, 400, 450, 500, (than boards the record is 600) Powercleans 200,250,
than the alltime boards bottom were 285 top was 325) deadlifts 400, 450, (Boards +500Bottom The record 585) We benched and did have shirts and boards for it 260, 300, boards record was 425 but those powerlifts were most important. I know those numbers sound astonishing, you would be blown away if you visited my old high school Football and lifting are the most important things. We modeled our program after the nebraska football team. All of these kids when I go back to visit continue to do the same workout reach those same great numbers of lifts and all have huge arms and don’t do arms. Our coach used to see guys doing curls and kick them out of the gym if thier cleans, our squats haven’t gone up. I think people to clean and deadlift because its very hard , hard to learn and hard to do. Plus thier ego takes a hit when they see how week they actually are!All the young kids I work with now adopt the same philosophy and thier arms are huge!