A jacked set of arms is one of those aesthetic muscle groups that will be quick to turn heads no matter where you are. For the hardgainer, having big arms feels like a never-ending quest that’s always just out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s review the best arm exercises to grow your biceps and triceps.
ANATOMY OF THE BICEPS
Biceps Brachii: As the name implies, the biceps brachii has two sections or heads. The long head runs along the outside of the arm and is the foundation of what we refer to when we say “biceps.” The short head runs along the inside of the arm.
Biceps-Brachialis: A deep-layer muscle found beneath than the biceps brachii. It helps with flexion at the elbow and by targeting this part of the biceps, you can achieve that classic peaked look when flexing.
BEST BICEP EXERCISES
One sure way of making your biceps bigger is by putting sufficient attention to the brachialis. When it gets bigger, so does the entire arm. The best way to activate the brachialis is with slower speed and isometric actions.
Slow Hammer Curl with Isometric Contractions: Use a rope attachment to do a low-pulley curl. Hold the rope with a vertical grip and your palms facing each other – this is the classic hammer grip.
As you curl, move slowly and squeeze as hard as you can throughout. On your last repetition, curl the rope halfway up and hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Focus on squeezing as hard as you can.
Chain Curls: Using a chain places a unique stress on your entire bicep muscle because you won’t be accustomed to the awkward and wide grip required to hold the chain.
Beginning at the hips, keep your arms at your sides as you slowly lift the chain up towards your shoulders. Perform three sets of chain curls: Begin with a regular grip, for the second set use a hammer grip, and finish with a reverse grip where the palms are facing the floor. Again, on the last repetition of every set, curl the chain halfway up and hold for 10 to 20 seconds as you squeeze as hard as you can.
ANATOMY OF THE TRICEPS
Triceps Brachii: Made up of three heads, the triceps forms the classic horseshoe on the back of your arm. It makes up the majority of the size of your overall arm and it’s also important for shoulder stabilization and chest support.
BEST TRICEPS EXERCISES
Given that the triceps muscle make up the bulk of your arm size, you’ll want to focus on hammering them as hard as you can to trigger growth.
Decline Bench Dumbbell Overhead Extension: Performing this exercise with a decline bench will increase the muscle activity compared to the flat bench version. The increased muscle fiber activity is going to be essential for muscle hypertrophy (growth).
Hold a dumbbell with both heads above your head. Make sure the core is tight and your elbows remain points towards the ceiling as you lower the dumbbell.
Close Grip Heavy Press with Pin Rack: Using a squat rack or power rack allows you to substantially increase the weight without the risk of injury. Adjust the pins to allow for as much range of motion as possible while allowing enough room between you and the bar should it fall.
Lying on a flat bench, take a close grip on the barbell. Your hands should be inside of shoulder width. Perform a bench press with your elbows close to your side. As you extend the barbell at the top, do not lock out your elbows. Squeeze your triceps as hard as you can as during the exercise.
ANATOMY OF THE FOREARMS
Critical for proper wrist and elbow range of motion, the forearms are made up of several small muscle and connective tissue. Here is a breakdown of the most important ones:
Flexor Carpi Ulnaris: This is the outside of the forearm and one of its most important jobs is to give your hand the ability to move inward (adduction).
Flexor Carpi Radialis: This is the middle of the forearm. It allows you to move your hand out to the side (abduction).
Pronator Teres: This is located on the inside of the forearm, giving you the ability to move your hand downward (pronation).
BEST FOREARMS EXERCISES
Incorporating forearm-focused exercises into your routine is essential if you want balance in the way your arms look. You’ve probably seen guys with giant biceps and triceps and small T-rex forearms, and this is a look you want to avoid. Here are two forearm exercises to ensure you complete the package:
Heavy Deadlifts Without Straps: Pulling heavy weights without straps builds grip strength and maximizes hypertrophy.
Place a loaded barbell on the ground in front of you. Stand with a hip-width stance. Begin with an overhand grip on the barbell, placing your hands outside of your legs. With your chest up, hips above the knees, and a flat lower back, pull the weight up but do NOT use your arms to pull. Your arms are there to hold the weight, not pull it up. Drive the hips forward to lock out, then slowly reverse the movement, bringing the barbell to the ground.
Perfect your deadlift: Read our article on the complete deadlifting checklist. These are things you must do to avoid injury and see incredible results.
Wrist Rollers with Reverse Curls Superset: To finish up your arms workout, you’ll want to bring your forearms to absolute failure. The way to do this is to superset barbell wrist rollers with reverse curls.
Start with a straight barbell and an overhand grip. With a slight bend in the elbows and the barbell hanging by your hips, roll the barbell in your hands with a forward motion. Alternate from left to right and back again. Soon you’ll feel a burning in your forearms. Keep going until you can’t possibly do anymore.
Now immediately jump into reverse curls. You can use the same straight barbell, but if you have wrist issues, use an EZ-curl barbell. Keep the upper arms at your side and with an overhand grip, curl the barbell toward your shoulders. Again, do as many as you possible can without losing form.
BIGGER ARMS WORKOUT
Using the exercises from above, here’s your new Arms Day workout:
- Slow Hammer Curl with Isometric Contractions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
- Chain Curls: 2 x 12-15
- Decline Bench Dumbbell Overhead Extension: 3 x 8-12
- Close Grip Heavy Press with Pin Rack: 2 x 8-12
- Heavy Deadlifts Without Straps: 3 x 5-8
- Wrist Rollers with Reverse Curls Superset: 1 x Failure (do as many as you can)
This takes care of your arms workout, but what about the rest of the body? If your goal is to get huge, check out our article on how often you should lift to build muscle.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BICEPS EXERCISE? TRICEPS EXERCISE?
Do you have a favorite arm exercise that we didn’t mention on our list? Any tricks that you use to get huge arms? Check out our hypertrophy equipment here!