Fitness and Training

Arm Building Exercises to Help Build Big Arms

Big Time SquattersSand deadlifters put a major focus on training their legs. Benchpress fanatics spend their time building up their chests. Athletes commit their efforts to sport-specific training, working to hone their bodies to peak conditions for optimal performance. But for just about everyone else (and even many members of these aforementioned groups of exercisers), sculpting a set of strong, muscular arms is high among their top priorities at the gym, if not the number one physical training goal.

The big arms ideal is often thought to be a purely aesthetic pursuit. For some trainees, that might be the case—they might not have anything else on their minds but big gains for their big guns, with plenty of curl-only workouts and mirror flex selfies on their social media profiles. For the uninitiated, larger-than-life arm muscles can signal strength, toughness, and fitness, even if the owner of those pythons would struggle to deadlift or squat their own weight.

That’s just fine. You’re allowed to have purely aesthetic goals for your workouts—that’s what the whole sport of bodybuilding is based around, after all. But even if you want to have more functional goals in mind beyond your looks and how well you can fill out a tee shirt, you’ll still be better off if you include a generous number of arm-focused exercises in your training split. Just like you shouldn’t skip leg day, you shouldn’t totally ignore focused arm training in a misguided effort to avoid looking vain.

The Benefits of Training Your Arm Muscles
So why exactly should you give your arms any attention outside of their role in big compound movements that build strength? While arm muscle development might seem like a vain pursuit that doesn’t yield the same performance and real-world benefits as some of these other muscle groups, that’s not quite the case. Your arms are integral for so many movements, even exercises that most people consider to be focused on other muscle groups.

Indeed, you can’t deadlift or squat without using your hands and arms to grip the bar and keep it in the right position. Even if you have the strongest posterior chain in the world, you’ll have a tough time pulling heavy weight off the floor if you’re unable to grip and hold onto the barbell.

There’s more to training your arms than just ego and looks. Your arm muscles—namely the biceps, triceps, and forearms—are essential for so many daily movements, from gym staples like pushing, pulling, and pressing to everyday tasks like hauling your groceries or picking your kids up to carry them. You’ll have a better quality of life with strong, healthy arms.

Training your arm muscles isn’t super complicated, especially since there’s a wide wealth of movements that are easily accessible for all types of exercisers. You can target your biceps, the crown jewel of the arm muscles, or the triceps, the largest arm muscle on the backside of the limb—or you can really dial down for focused training on less-commonly appreciated muscles like the forearms. No matter which group you want to train, keeping good form paramount will be the most sure path to your gains.

These arm exercises will help you to build up all of those muscles. Make sure to take note of all the notes on form and how to implement them into your training, then plug them into your workout to start on your path to big arms.

The Big Arm Building Exercises
Biceps Exercises
Biceps Curl
3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

The basic, tried-and-true biceps curl is the key to big biceps.

To do it right, squeeze your shoulder blades, glutes and abs. Keep everything tight. Keep your uppers arms perpendicular to the ground, locking in your lats. Take out any rock/momentum from your waist. Keep it all in your biceps.

As you curl up, squeeze your biceps and turn the dumbbell toward the sky (parallel to the ground). The more rotation, the more you’re working your bicep. Want an even tougher challenge? Add an isometric hold to the rep at its halfway point. Count a 2 to 5 second hold.

Spiderman Curl
3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

preview for Master the Spider Curl for Bigger Biceps | Form Check
Master the Spider Curl for Bigger Biceps | Form Check

The spiderman curl eliminates all momentum to really target your biceps.

Start on a bench with a 45-degree angle. Your body should be strong and sturdy on your stomach, with your chest high on the bench. Squeeze your glutes to keep pressure off your lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades, keeping your chest up.

Keep your upper arm angle perpendicular to the ground the whole time. As you curl up, rotate your pinky up. Squeeze your bicep at the top with a forward rotation to keep your shoulder protected.

Dumbbell Preacher Curl
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

preview for Dumbbell Preacher Curl | Form Check

Dumbbell preacher curls are useful for changing the upper arm angle on your biceps curls, giving the muscles a different type of pump. The EZ bar and specialized bench or machine setup might be more common in big box gyms, but you can do preacher curls anywhere with dumbbells and an adjustable bench.

Set up from behind the bench, laying the back of your arm against its inclined surface and “hugging” your armpit to the top. Squat down and engage your glutes, hamstrings, and abs. Then, curl the weight up, making sure to keep your upper arm glued to the bench and keeping the wrist in a neutral position. Keep the range of motion away from resting at the bottom or top of the movement so it’s a position of constant tension.

Concentration Curl
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

preview for Concentration Curl | Form Check
Concentration Curl | Form Check

Concentration curls are a classic biceps builder—and unsurprisingly, most people go about them the wrong way. The most common mistake trainees make with concentration curls is sitting with poor posture. The point is to isolate your biceps muscle, which is difficult if you’re moving your torso and digging your elbow into your thigh.

Instead, take your non-working hand off your thigh and hold it away from your body. Sit with good posture (core and shoulders engaged), rest your working arm’s triceps against your thigh, and hold the weight. Curl up by only moving at the elbow.

Tall-Kneeling Curl
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

preview for Men’s Health New Rules of Muscle: Kneeling Biceps Curls
Men’s Health New Rules of Muscle: Kneeling Biceps Curls

One of the most useful things about arm training is that you can shift your position to shift up the challenge. By performing dumbbell biceps curls from a tall-kneeling position, you won’t just eliminate the inclination to “cheat” the curl using body English—you’ll get a core workout, too.

Make sure that when you assume the kneeling position, you squeeze your glutes and core.

Source – MensHealth

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