A lot of people ask me what they need to be doing if they want to grow their arms. Many men desire big arms and even women will ask how they can tone them up.
The first thing I tell them is that they won’t lose fat around their arms by simply training arms. The cardio incorporated throughout your workouts as well as a healthy diet over time will provide overall weight loss from the entire body, which we need to see more muscle.
We cannot tell our bodies where we want to lose the weight from, as convenient as that would be. However we can add on lean muscle to desired areas which can promote extra fat loss…
Don’t worry ladies, training to add lean muscle will not make you big and bulky… we promise.
An important point to keep in mind when training to increase the size in your muscles is that there is a specific style of resistance training that leads to those adaptations.
While many people go to the gym and lift as much weight as they possibly can for minimal repetitions, this technique will not lead to the desired size increases. It will make the muscles themselves stronger, but may not have your desired appearance.
When talking about muscular hypertrophy or size increases (building, toning, tightening, etc) we want to emphasize time under tension.
Pick a moderate weight that will challenge you for a higher repetition range. 10-12 repetitions is optimal for muscle growth… Make sure your performing your reps slow as you move through the range of motion, that way you're increasing your time under tension.
Now that you know a little bit more about what to do to fill out those sleeves, try my 4 favorite exercises to bulk those arms up (or lean them out)!
1. DB lying Tricep Extension: Start out lying on your back, feet flat on the ground with the dumbells lying vertically on the ground next to your ears. From that position grab the dumbells, brace the core and tilt your pelvis back so that there is no space between the ground and your low back. Then keeping the shoulder blades back, extend at the elbows and move the dumbells up towards the ceiling. This is a great overall tricep movement that will target all 3 heads of the muscle.
2. Resistance band Tricep kickback: Start out with a resistance band anchored to a mount that is around the height of your hip. Grab the handles and step back from the mount to create some tension in the bands. Once you have a decent amount of tension you should hinge your hips back until your torso is parallel with the floor. Pull your elbows in and back so that they are in line with your torso. Finally extend at the elbow to contract the tricep. The cool thing about using the resistance band for this exercise is the idea of progressive tension. As you go through the movement and extend those elbows.
3. Chin Ups: Hold on to a pull up bar with your palms facing in. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down as you pull your chin over the bar and slowly lower yourself back down. Step on a box to rest in between each rep if necessary. If you cannot perform a chin up without assistance, attach a band to the pull bar and loop in around your knee or foot for additional help. When people think of this exercise generally they will immediately correlate it with the back or lats. They aren’t wrong, any vertical pull will use the lats as a prime mover, but by turning the grip around so that the palms are facing in toward you will engage quite a bit of bicep work. Add some weight to it and you’ll be left with fatigued arms!
4. “21”curls: As the name suggests each set is going to consist of 21 reps. The movement is nothing out of the ordinary, just a regular bicep curl... but it feels so much worse! The first 7 reps of this complex consists of half reps starting from the bottom and bringing the weights (barbells, dumbbells, etc) up to the ribs. The second 7 reps will also be half reps however they will start from the top with the bar near the clavicle. Lower the bar down to the middle of your chest and then bring it back up to the top. The last 7 reps are full reps starting from the bottom and bringing the bar through the full range of motion up to the top and back down. Remember when we talked about time under tension... good luck!