T Nation

Non Responsive Arms?

Hi Coach,

I’m following Wendler’s 5/3/1 for a year with a upper-lower split. I’m having very good gains in my pecs, lats and quads.
But my arms (and forearms) are at the same point of a year ago (14 inches arms, 12 inches forearms). I always hit them with one biceps, one triceps and one forearms exercise at the end of every upper workout. I also do a lot of chins, rows and pressing, like the program prescribes.
What can I do to finally see some growth?
I’m 6-2, 181 lbs, 29 years old, I’ve been training for 4 years, former skinny fat guy.

Thank you for your time!

I’m guessing that you have long arms. In general people with longer arms need more direct biceps and triceps work to make them grow. People with shorter arms need much less and can often get big arms simply by pressing and pulling.

The fact that your chest and back are growing tells me that during the big lifts they do most of the work and biceps/triceps are not asstimulated (which is actually a good thing even though it doesn’t feel that way).

The answer is simply to do more direct arm work. And to focus on the mind-muscle connection (you must feel the biceps or triceps do the work, think about lfexing your muscles against resistance during arm work, not on the weight lifted; you must also get an arm pump).

Start with a total of 8-9 sets for both biceps and triceps per workout, and have each set last 40-60 seconds under tension. Do that for 4 weeks to see how it changes your arms. You can use the 10-6-10 technique by Paul Carter (he has an article about it on T-nation), works great for arms.


Thank you for your awesome reply!

I have heard that it is necessary to increase approximately 5 kg of body to increase 1 cm in the arm. (muscle)

I went from 30cm arms when I started to 42 in less then 2 years. Thats 12cm gained with bodyfat nearly the same. I weighed 63kg when i started and am at 82kg right now. That means I gained 20kg bodyweight with 12cm arm size which is much less weight needed than what you said.

starting from the beginning of training, we have to take into account how “backward” his arms were to the rest of the body. After “stabilizing” the growth average is more or less that, up to 5kg for every 1cm. (drug free)

biceps and triceps are inevitably stimulated with great frequency.

How many times have you seen a person with 60kg and 40cm of arm? or even 35cm? (cold and relaxed)

otherwise, we would often see skinny people with mutant arms!

That was something told by Charles Poliquin. And while he is one of people who did the most to increase our training knowledge and he was a very good friend, I believe that he is incorrect in this regard. Plenty of people have gained 2-4cm to their arms with only a small amount of body weight.

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I already got initial gains like this. But after stabilizing, never. And I’m not talking about local swelling derived from some techniques.

we can not deny that there is a truth in this, maybe they achieve with less body weight and others more.

a person after initial gains, in which the arms are not lagging behind the body.

Stuart McCrobert also said that.

I’ve seen plenty of situations where people can gain 2-3cm to their arm with only a small amount olf overall body weight gain. Go to any commercial gym and you will actually PLENTY of guys with pretty good arms and who are 70-75kg. They train arms, chest and delts, a little back and almost no legs… and they end up with pretty big arms, ok chest, ok delts, some back and no legs but overall they don’t weight much.

I have also worked with plenty of athletes who have added a lot of body weight without gaining much on their arms. A good friend of mine is Canada’s 2nd strongest man (competed internationally) and he started at 100kg with 42cm arms and is now at 130kg with 45cm arms.

And you mention local swelling etc, to lessen my point. But what about fat gain and arm size. HONESTLY gaining 10kg of MUSCLE in one year is an amazing year after the beginner stage. Fred Hatfield (since you like to name drops, I’ll do it myself) published date where he showed that past the beginner stage, at the most, you can add anaverage of 0.22kg of muscle tissue per week…and that is if you do everything perfect. That is around 10kg per year. And many experts wrote than an average, non-drug using male, can add 20-25kg over his “normal adult body weight” in muscle throughout his trianing career. So that would mean that the normal person could only add 4-5cm to his arms during his whole training career.

Here’s the thing. Don’t forget that McRoberta was of the “Bulking and cutting” school of thought… he recommended mega eating to bulk up. Guys of that era would routinely gain A LOT of weight, but a large portion of it (a lot more than the experts of the time believed) was fat. AT LEAST half of it. It’s hard to evaluate how much weight you need to gain when you don’t differenciate between fat, muscle and water.

Listen, the “you need to gain 5kg to add 1cm to your arm” is a white lie. A white lie is something inaccurate that you tell someone to get them to do the right thing… if you believe that you need to gain 5kg to add 1cm to your arm you will focus on eating and training the bigger muscles of your body instead of just doing arms.

BTW this forum is for me to help other people with their training issues. It is not a place to debate with me.

If you get bigger overall it means that you are focusing on the big lifts which, of course, will help you get bigger arms. And YES you need to gain some weight to add weight to your arms (heck just the tissue added to gain 1-2cm weighs something). But I do not agree with the 5kg for each cm “rule”. I think that for some it will be a lot less than that (depending on their genetics and type of training).

I’d like to know how McRoberts came up with his ratio (I’m pretty sure that Charles took that from him). My theory is that he looked at bodybuilders of his time and asked them what their body weight and arm size was when they started out and what they were right now. And he calculated the average weight gained, and the average arm size progression and came up with his rule.

But by then whole body session with only big basic lifts where the norm. VERY few people specalized on arms and certainly not the competitive bodybuilders, so this ratio doesn’t take into account what could be possible to accomplish by doing more work for arms.


You are not everybody else. Just because something is true for you doesn’t mean that it will work the same way for everybody else.

First of all, I am very grateful to your work and the help you have given to us all!

I have heard that it is necessary to increase “approximately” 5 kg of body to increase 1 cm in the arm. (muscle)

I said “approximately”

can be a bit more or a little less.

And you know that it was not I who invented this theory.

I’m not attacking you at all.

The way he debated was healthy and friendly on my part.

I told this to a forum user because it was what made sense to me.

is all that for now, I have noticed and seen. (in natural persons without any kind of drug aid)
Issues involving drugs, I do not listen. Even because I do not use even food supplementation.

for the time being, I did not see anyone with 60kg with 40cm or even 35cm of arm.

so it made sense to 5kg per cm. (approximately)

I am not discrediting your theories and techniques.

I like to understand the concepts, to know the reasons and how things work and not just to accept with closed mouth.

I could be questioning and asking for help from Mcrobert and also from Elligton Darden, which also has a forum.

Two guys where I always read the books and I followed the training methods.

BUT, I’m here … asking you for help, because I believe in your work and I know you’re good at it.