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5 Ways to Build Big Arms

big armsHey, you… guess what.  I’ve got something for you. What is it, you ask? Two tickets to the mother fucking gun show!

Guns, pythons, sledge and hammer… whatever you wanna call them, big arms are the desire of almost every man who regularly lifts weights.

While seeing guys grind through a ball busting set of squats or deadlifts is almost as rare as a Bigfoot sighting you can bet your ass you’ll find plenty of them at the dumbbell rack, in front of the mirror, doing “curls for the girls”.

I can’t hate on them though. While squats and deadlifts are two exercises guys definitely should be doing if they want a bigger body, including arms (I’ll explain why, soon), I myself have spent more time curling than Gilligan spent on that fucking island.

Yep, you gotta love some big arms. They make that jack ass in the bar think twice before starting some shit with you. And, even better, when you lug around a set of massive arms it displays to women physical prowess, ruggedness and masculinity. 

A girl sees them and she realizes that it would be no problem at all for you to pick her up, put her against the wall and have your way with her. Trust me, they love that shit and it turns them on like crazy.

So, by now it should be clear that if you don’t already possess a set of impressive arms, or you’re not completely satisfied with their current level of development, it would serve you well to get busy building them!

Now that I’ve covered the reasons why we want big arms, I’m gonna tell you how to get them.

5 Tips for Massive Arms:

1. Don’t work your arms 

I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “what the fuck is this guy talking about?” I don’t literally mean not to work your arms but the point I’m making is that the basic, big (a.k.a. hard, intense, ball busting) mass building movements should come first and foremost in your weight training routine.

The exercises I’m referring to are called Compound Movements and they are the REAL mass builders:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Presses
  • Overhead Presses
  • Barbell/Dumbbell Rows
  • Pull-ups
  • Chin-ups

These exercises are the foundation of a solid mass building routine and focusing your time and intense effort on them will result in a bigger, stronger, more muscular body and this includes your arms. 

As hard as it may be for some of you to believe, if you perform the basic, mass building movements with enough intensity, your arms will GROW! 

This is true in regards to all of these movements but there is something particularly almost “magical” about Squats and Deadlifts for overall, total body muscle growth. 

Performing them properly and intensely results in the release of a flood of muscle building hormones in your body. I’m talking about the “good shit”, a cocktail of anabolic (muscle building) hormones naturally released in your body that most juice heads pay thousands of dollars a month for. 

When you set up your training routine, especially if you have less than a year of consistent training under your belt, make sure you do these types of movements first and place the most energy and effort into them. And never do an exercise, such as an isolation movement like concentration curls, at the expense of a mass building, compound movement like deadlifts. 

What I’m saying is put your energy into the big, heavy, basic movements first and ONLY perform isolation movements (concentration curls, cable curls, dumbbell curls, etc.) if you have anything left in the tank.

2. Use my “secret” mass building movement for Biceps

Actually, I can’t really claim that this exercise is my “secret”. I learned this tip from one of the greatest and most successful NATURAL bodybuilders the world has ever seen, Jim Cordova. (If you’ve never heard of this guy and you’re interested in building a better body and you want to see what CAN be achieved, naturally, through proper training and diet, I highly suggest you Google him).

When it comes to biceps training I’m willing to bet a one night stand with Sofia Vergara that 99% of guys only perform isolation movements such as barbell/dumbbell curls, concentration curls, cable curls, etc. While these are definitely great exercises, and certainly have their place in a sound arm training routine, NONE of them are a compound movement. 

Now, as we’ve already discussed, compound movements are the most effective exercises in terms of building muscle mass. If you include a compound move for every other body part (if you don’t, you’re wasting your time and effort) then why not do so for your biceps?

That’s where the “biceps row” comes into play. Performed correctly the biceps row looks much like an underhand grip barbell row that you would perform to hit your lower lats. The difference is that there is far less upper arm movement since you should focus on pulling with your biceps. 

When you perform them, lean forward just enough to optimize the line of tension and pull the weight towards your upper abs. Doing so will force you to move your elbows backwards. 

The best advice I can give you is to really develop your “mind/muscle connection” and focus, hard, on pulling the weight with your bi’s instead of your back. 

Until you master the correct form of this exercise use a moderate amount of weight and do it on a cable machine, using a straight bar attachment, and pull from the bottom.

You’ll know you’ve got the form correct when you experience the best pump you’ve ever had in your life in your bi’s and hardly any in your back. Then you can transition over to the free weight, barbell version and go heavier to shock your bi’s into more growth than you may have ever experienced before.

3. Stick with basic barbell and dumbbell curls

I don’t want you to get the idea, based on my advice above in number 1, that I am “anti-curl” or anything like that.

I definitely believe that in order to maximize the size of your biceps you should include SOME type of curling movement. All I’m saying is that they should come AFTER you’ve busted your ass on some of the heavier, basic movements. 

But after you’ve completed your squats, deadlifts, benches and so on, by all means hit your biceps directly with curls. I do however highly recommend that you do so with BASIC, heavy ass barbell and/or dumbbell curls. 

I fully realize there is a seemingly endless plethora of curling movements out there and there are as many different contraptions to perform them on. Fuck that.

Who needs all the confusion? What works? What doesn’t? Who knows? 

What I DO know is that putting some intense effort into 3 or 4 sets of good old fashioned barbell and dumbbell curls, with heavy weight (heavy for YOU) and proper form will deliver REAL results. 

Just work hard at them, perfect your form and make damn sure every time you’re in the gym you’re either using more weight, doing more reps with the same weight or BOTH….more weight and more reps. 

This, my friends, is progression and it is how muscle is built regardless of what body part you’re training.

4. Alpha Males know when and how to “cheat”

I don’t want you to take me the wrong way, using proper form on exercises is absolutely essential in terms of making the move effective and it goes a long way towards injury prevention. 

However, much like when you’re dealing with women, there are times when a little “cheating” isn’t such a bad thing because it can help your ultimate cause. Again, I’ll refer to Jim Cordova and the spin he puts on cheating. He calls it “strategic momentum”.

You’ve probably all heard that you must be super strict when performing a barbell or dumbbell curl. You know, things like “keep your elbows in place” and “don’t rock back or use your legs” and “squeeze hard at the top of the movement”. 

I don’t, by any means, totally disagree with this advice that is no doubt passed on by fellow gym rats with the best of intentions. However, I can tell you there are times when “strategic momentum” is not only a good thing but a MUST, when performing barbell or dumbbell curls in an attempt to build mass in your biceps. 

Strictly speaking in regards to mass building you SHOULD use a weight that’s heavy enough so that you’re forced to use a little momentum to perform your reps. But, please keep in mind, there is a right way and a wrong way to implement this strategy. 

You don’t want to attempt to use a weight SO heavy that it requires you to use so much of your legs and back that your biceps don’t get any stimulation. Find balance. 

Basically you should only use a bit of momentum, initiated with your legs, at the bottom of the curl and just enough to get the heavy rep started. Once the barbell travels around waist high you should transition into more strict form where your biceps completely take over and complete the rep.

I’ll also tell you this… if you’re attempting to build mass, and you’re using a weight for your curls that allows you to pause at the top and squeeze or flex hard, you need to rethink your strategy. 

When attempting to build muscle you should use a weight heavy enough that you can’t stop and squeeze.

Those peak tension or “squeeze” reps are better left for a period of time when you’re leaning out and looking to get as cut as possible. That is also the time for super strict reps as you are aiming more for definition and muscle separation than for building muscle mass.

If I have not yet swayed you towards using strategic momentum when attempting to build your biceps let me tell you this, super strict reps performed with heavy weight (heavy enough to cause muscle growth) warps your tendons and ligaments. 

So, eventually, an injury is likely. Bottom line is, make use of cheat reps (done the right way by NOT going overboard) on a consistent basis when you’re doing curls.

5. Build your triceps

Up until now the emphasis has been on biceps training. However, the reality is that your biceps only make up half of the size of your arm.

In order to fully develop your arms and build them to the peak of your genetic ability you need to put just as much effort into triceps training. 

And, if you were to guess, what type of exercise do you think I recommend in order to put some real size on your triceps, quickly? 

If you guessed a Compound move then you’ve definitely been paying attention so far! 

In my humble opinion one of the most effective exercises you can do to build triceps size and strength is the Close Grip Bench Press. This exercise allows you to use far more weight than any isolation triceps move out there and therefore it more effectively builds mass. 

Having said that, I see SO many guys, with the best of intentions, completely fuck up the form on this exercise. So, what follows is a list of common mistakes as well as how you should perform the close grip bench press:

  • Close grip does NOT mean that your hands need to touch or even come anywhere near close to touching. If you place your hands that close together the weight is not balanced, you’re putting too much strain on your wrists and you are just begging for an accident to happen and probably an injury. Flat out, it’s not necessary to place your hands that close together.
  • The idea grip is to space your hands about shoulder width apart, maybe slightly less. I recommend for you to start off with light weight and find the grip width that allows you the most comfort and control of the weight and the one that places the most stress on your triceps. You’ll know when you’re hitting your triceps effectively by the muscle pump you’ll get.
  • Do not allow your elbows to flare out to the sides. When performing close grip benches, or regular benches for that matter, excessive elbow flare takes power and strength away from you and it places dangerous stress on the rotator cuffs in your shoulder. Take it from someone who’s already suffered multiple shoulder injuries, you want to keep your shoulders as healthy as you possibly can.
  • HOWEVER, you also do not need to dig your elbows into your sides. What I mean is, don’t let them flare out too wide but it’s also not necessary for your elbows to touch your rib cage either. Again, start off light and get a good feel for where you need to place, and keep, your elbows for maximum triceps stimulation as well as control and safety.
  • For most people, if you’ve set your hands and elbows up correctly, the bar should touch around the nipple area, maybe slightly higher. Touching the bar much lower than that on the negative portion of your rep will take stress of the triceps and place it on the wrists and shoulders, where you don’t want it.
  • In addition to starting out light another good idea is to practice this exercise on a Smith Machine until you really master the proper form. Using the Smith Machine allows you to just focus on pushing the weight and you don’t have to worry as much about balancing the bar.

After I’ve thoroughly blasted my triceps I do like to throw in an isolation movement or two. For me the most effective ones are “head bangers” (also known as lying e-z bar triceps extensions) and cable pushdowns with either a rope, straight bar or v-bar. 

I’ll usually rotate the type of bar I use from one workout to the next. Just like on the close grip presses, the thing to remember on these movements is to keep your elbows from flaring out excessively and really focus on the “mind/muscle connection” and use your triceps to complete your reps.

I’m all for using heavy weight the vast majority of the time, especially when attempting to build mass, but keep in mind that you MUST not use more weight than you can handle with proper form. Even when using cheat reps or “strategic momentum” there is still an element of good form that must be used. 

Basically, just don’t get sloppy. Don’t throw the weight around with terrible form just for the sake of using a heavier weight. Doing so takes stress off the muscle group you’re intending to train and places it on other areas and this usually, eventually, results in an injury. 

Again, focus on your “mind/muscle” connection and make sure you feel the stress, and resulting pump, in the body part you’re attempting to work.

So, there you have it, a simple and basic guide to building bigger arms. You’re probably wondering:

  • Where are the advanced intensity techniques?
  • Where are the new, off the wall, exercises that I’ve never heard of?
  • I thought you were going to let me in on some BIG secret….

Well, my friend, I definitely don’t mean to disappoint you so let me explain.  I have found with weight training, and LIFE, it’s usually best to master and stick with the BASICS, also known around here as FUNDAMENTALS. 

If you’ll put your time, energy and effort into training hard on the basic exercises and implement a few, or ALL, of the strategies I covered above you will experience significant growth in your arms. (Provided you are eating enough quality, nutritious calories).

So, all that’s left to do now is TAKE ACTION. 

Get to the gym, work your ass off, train heavy, eat heavy (and clean) and, in time, you can take that little hottie at your gym, with the big tits and nice ass, to the “gun show” every time you walk in the door.

– Michael Wheeler

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