Are you getting a little tired of ‘get big arms’ articles that are devoid of any really valuable information on improving your arm size? You know the ones I’m referring to; containing brilliantly original information such as “do standing barbell curls” and “build your triceps more than your biceps” because triceps make up two-thirds of upper arm size… “blah, blah, blah”.
Hey… are you such a neophyte that you need to read about standing barbell curls being a feasible way to build bigger arms? I didn’t think so; that’s like the first exercise a ten-year-old instinctively does when he gets his first set of weights.
No… I won’t bore you or waste your time with the redundant ‘bigger arms’ tips you’d see skimming any muscle-head periodical you could find on most newsstands. Instead, I’ll go over the three biggest reasons I’ve observed that stop people from enjoying ownership of big, shapely, and powerful guns hanging at their sides.
Getting ‘Bigger Arms’: Why should you listen to me?
First reason: My upper arms keep getting bigger – week-by-week, month after month, with each passing year.
Second reason: I’m forty-six years old – not twenty-six. If you’re younger than I am, you have nothing to blame but worthless training methods if you’re arms aren’t growing while you’re giving it an honest effort to get big arms.
Third reason: My bodybuilding genetics suck and I don’t use steroids and I never have.
Mistake #1: Overtraining the Upper Arms
The next time someone tells you to ‘get big arms’ by training your triceps more than your biceps; you might want to question their credibility. Yes, you do want your triceps to obtain maximum growth in order to get bigger arms. But training more is NOT always the answer to gaining more. Oftentimes, it’s counterproductive and a prescription for disaster.
If either or both your triceps and biceps are not gaining strength and size, there’s a good chance you’re overtraining them. Many trainees (especially guys) get over-zealous about building arm size and resultantly perform too many sets of upper arms exercises. Moreover, they often exacerbate this overtraining scenario by doing arm workouts too often. Overtraining like this will all but ensure that your arms stay their current size and don’t acquire the sought-after size that you’re working so hard to gain.
Consider this: Your upper arms are used secondarily and as stabilizers in many upper body exercises such as bench presses and rowing movements. This makes their susceptibility to excessive tissue teardown more prevalent than with other muscles, such as the chest. Muscles don’t gain size and strength directly from workouts. It’s an indirect effect; we break down the tissue during workouts and it grows and becomes stronger while resting and recuperating. The likelihood of the biceps and triceps being over- worked often necessitates performing fewer direct sets for the upper arms while providing more rest days between workouts.
How can you tell if you’re overtraining your arms in your quest to ‘get big arms?’
Quite simply: If you are training your triceps and biceps with a respectable amount of intensity and you’re not making strength and size gains – overtraining is probably the culprit. The remedy is to reduce the number of sets you’re doing and/or add more rest days between your arm workouts.
Mistake #2: Not Keeping a Record of ‘Bigger Arms’ Progress
I’ll be straight-forward: You’re very likely to commit mistake #1 if you keep no written record of workouts and rest days in your quest to ‘get big arms.’
When I see people go to the gym and put in exercise effort without keeping a record of what they’re doing, I assume I’m among individuals who have no qualms about wasting time. Why would they want to do that? If they’re not going to get a noticeably better body for their time and effort – they might as well do some other valuable activity with their time. And if they don’t keep track of sets, reps, and recuperation time between workouts, they’ll be hard-struck to distinguish between when they’ve hit on a highly effective muscle breakdown/recuperation ratio and when they’re just going through the motions.
Let me provide a simple example. Let’s say you work your upper arms on Monday. You perform a random number of sets that includes some intensifying techniques such as forced reps. You assume your biceps and triceps will be fully recuperated and ready for their next workout in a week’s time. However, unbeknownst to you, the intense workout has torn down the tissue more than you realized. When you work them the following Monday, they don’t perform any better than the previous week because they really needed eight days of rest instead of six due to the hard workout they’ve undergone. But how will you know how they really performed compared to the first workout without seeing it on paper? Moreover, how will you determine the optimal number of rest days given a certain amount of tissue tear-down unless you have a written record to provide you with necessary feedback? A written record can show you long-term trends going back a few weeks in your quest to “get big arms.”
Personally, I’m making incredible progress in getting bigger arms by using a record-keeping system that’s so simple that it would be painfully self-defeating to go back to doing arm workouts without the system. When you learn to put it on paper the easy way and interpret and adjust to the feedback, your arms will expand like crazy. That’s exciting.
Mistake #3: Trying to ‘Get Big Arms’ with Bad Exercise Form
“Cheat reps” – they’re almost synonymous with some people’s routines for ‘bigger arms.’ How many times have you seen a guy or group of guys at the gym as they pile too much weight on a curling bar and then proceed to do standing barbell curls for which they heave their upper bodies in order to gain enough momentum with each rep to “curl” the weight?
Is this technique effective?
My twenty-five years or so in natural bodybuilding has told me it’s not. The notion with which “cheat reps” are rationalized and performed is one which says that in order to “get big arms” we need to “train heavy.” But “heavy” is a relative term. What’s heavy in terms of weight that I can cheat with is relative in its difficulty for me to lift to weight that’s lighter and challenging to move with strict form. The difference is that the strict form is more likely to engage maximum muscle fibers of the targeted muscle while the sloppy form with the “heavy” weight will miss much of this targeting while favoring dubious means of momentum and recruitment of “untargeted” muscles to move the weight.
What’s more, muscle growth for ‘bigger arms’ (and every other muscle) is not so much about “training heavy” as it is about “making heavy weights into lighter ones.” So whatever weight is currently difficult for you to strictly lift during standing barbell curls needs to be easier for you to lift in the near future in order for arm growth to occur.
Is there more to a ‘get big arms’ formula than what is here? A bit; but borrowing an old adage from medicine that says “first, do no harm” would be judicious in your quest for bigger arms. And if you avoid the three blunders mentioned (especially the overtraining mistake), you’re likely to see your upper arms explode with new growth.