In this article, we go over the best movements to build arm strength and how to implement those movements into a cohesive training program. However, if you already have a well structured training routine, you will likely already be performing compound movements that build the arms.
Arm Muscle Anatomy
Biceps means two heads and triceps means three heads. The heads of the biceps insert in in the coracoid process and the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. In short, when people have injuries or pain on the front of the shoulder, it’s most likely because one of these biceps insertion points is aggravated or injured. The heads of the triceps have insertion points on the medial and posterior aspects of the upper humerus and the inferior side of the scapula. Biceps and triceps work together to flex and extend the elbow, which is why playing with elbow position is so key in working these two muscles. There are many muscles that make up the forearms that work together to flex, extend, and rotate the forearm, wrist, and digits of the hand.
How To Build Arms
Compound lifts for the upper body work the biceps and triceps to maintain muscle and build new muscle depending on the person. If you want to grow the biceps and triceps, you’ll need to add more volume by prioritizing compound lifts and train the biceps and triceps via different elbow positions.
Biceps Workouts For Muscle Growth
The single best exercise for building the biceps is chin-ups and weighted chin-ups. Even if you cannot do full reps, you can still train to build the strength to do so and still see amazing results for bicep growth.
Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl
The next best bicep builder is the incline dumbbell biceps curl. In this position, the elbows are behind the body which allows a greater range of motion than a regular bicep curl. When doing this movement, think about pulling your weight up into your armpits vs the shoulders. This will bring more action to the biceps instead of the shoulders.
Preacher Curls are also great for building biceps. With this curl movement, place the elbows in front of the body, resting on a pad. This movement needs to be done with care, allowing for full extension could cause injury to the arms. There should always be tension in the arms in this movement and stopping before you fully extend your arms. Because this movement works the forearms as well, use a weight that is not putting too much strain on the forearms and wrists.
Standing Barbell or Dumbbell Curls
Standing Barbell or Dumbbell Curls are also great for building the biceps. For this movement, elbows are on the side of the body and feel for a full range of motion with arms extended at the bottom of each rep.
Tricep Workouts For Muscle Growth
The best triceps movement is dips. Nothing will build the triceps like weighted dips, however you need to start with bodyweight and work up to weight. If you can’t do bodyweight dips, eccentrics will help build your strength.
Close Grip Bench Press
The next best compound lift for the triceps is a close grip bench press. For the close grip bench press, placing hands extremely close together might actually injure your wrists. A slightly narrower than shoulder width grip is all you need to emphasize the triceps.
Triceps push-ups are essentially the same movement pattern as a close grip bench press, however the close grip bench press is an open chained movement and the triceps push up is a closed chain movement. You won’t be able to load a triceps push-up the same way you can load a close grip bench press, however, when using proper form, triceps push-ups are plenty to grow the triceps and work core strength as well.
Overhead Triceps Extension
With overhead triceps extension, elbows are overhead and flared out.
For this movement, lay on your back and work with dumbbells or a barbell.
Forearm Workouts For Muscle Growth
Improving your grip strength will build muscle in your forearms. For example, hanging movements and chin-ups/pull-ups are some of the best ways to improve grip strength and forearm strength. However, if you want to focus on the forearms here are some workouts that will help build them:
In this movement, load the forearms isometrically with heavy weights as you’re walking.
Dumbbell wrist curls
If you want to train wrist flexion and wrist extension, take a light dumbbell and place your forearm over a bench for dumbbell wrist curls. Start light with these – you won’t need much weight. You’ll need even lighter weight for the wrist extensions. Set up the same way on the bench with palms facing down towards the floor. Curl the knuckles up towards the forearms.
How To Structure An Arm Workout
Day 1: weighted chin-ups, weighted dips, and farmer’s carries. If you can’t do chin-ups and dips with weight, do just the bodyweight movement, or train eccentrics. For farmers carries, try 3-4 sets of walking with heavy dumbbells in your hands for 30-40 seconds.
Day 2: barbell curls, skull crushers, wrist curls, wrist extensions
Day 3: preacher curls, single arm dumbbell overhead triceps extensions, reverse grip barbell curls (forearms and biceps)
Don’t do anything less than 5 reps for all of these movements unless you’re doing weighted chin-ups and weighted dips. Stick in the 6-25 rep range, phasing in and out of different rep ranges according to your program.
You don’t want to add in too much volume to these muscle groups. If you’re structuring your program effectively, you’re doing compound lifts that will build these muscles when you’re working the other muscle groups.
Final Thoughts On How To Build Arms
Training compound movements in a well structured routine will invariably build the arms muscles. However, if you are training a compound movement like a bench press, for example, and you tend to have weak triceps, doing some isolating tricep movements will help strengthen that aspect of your bench press. The arms are easy to overdo when you isolate them, and you need to be mindful. You can injure the joints of the arms and wrist easily.
You can checkout our Youtube channel for tutorials on all the movements we mentioned in this blog and check out our library of over 750 videos of movement tutorials, Q&A’s, fitness programing and so much more.
Want to learn more about building your arms? Listen to the Stronger Than Your Boyfriend Podcast: Episode 110 – How to Build Series: Arms