Guns, jacks, pipes, hooks, pythons… Whatever you call them, the fact remains that most guys want bigger arms. While they are nowhere near as impressive as a big set of traps, you still don't want to have and extra six inches of space in your shirt sleeves; that's for sure. So the question is how to build bigger arms? The answer is not as simple as you might assume. If it were easy, you would see tons of guys walking around with 18 inch arms. But that simply isn't the case.
It's been said over and over again that in order to add an inch to your upper arms you need to gain ten pounds of bodyweight. This advice has become gospel and it seems that nearly everyone agrees with this these days. Real world evidence shows that this is not the case, however. Walk into any public gym on a Monday night at five o'clock and you will see quite a few skinny guys, weighing no more than 170 pounds, who are sporting decent sized arms.
Many of them probably have not gained more than 10 or 15 pounds total since they started training but they all have put more than an inch or two on their arms. This is because localized hypertrophy/ muscle growth will take place if enough volume is present, without a large increase in bodyweight. Look at the calves on soccer players or the forearms on mechanics. But this only happens up to a certain point.
So these young guys read in some magazine about how to build bigger arms and start by doing ten sets of arms two or three days a week. The volume is enough to elicit a growth response and they may even get a good eight weeks out of this and a quick two inches of arm growth in the absence of any significant weight gain. Seems to defy the ten pounds per inch rule, right?
But what happens after that? Where do they go from there? The gains will halt and there will be absolutely no more arm growth whatsoever unless they make some drastic changes. And that is the pitfall of high volume training- where can you go when you plateau? Add more volume? At what cost? How much volume can you add? If ten sets isn't enough should you try twenty? And then thirty? And eventually a hundred?
There's nowhere to go with this approach. Like I said, it's great for some quick gains on your arms but isn't a long term approach. Once you hit a plateau you have no choice but to start lifting heavier weights and eating more. More weight on the bar and more food on your plate is the fastest way to increase the size of any body part. All the fancy supersets, drop sets, tri sets, pre exhaustion, post exhaustion techniques in the world won't help in the least if you are not doing those two very important things.
Beginners can train the arms three times per week and intermediate and advanced lifters seem to do better training them twice per week. Stick with big exercises like close grip chin ups, barbell curls, hammer curls, towel curls, dumbbell curls, parallel bar dips, close grip benches, and lockouts. You shouldn't need more than 2-4 sets of biceps and triceps twice per week to achieve optimal growth, providing that you are always increasing your loads and steadily adding more calories to your diet. After a couple of heavy sets finish your arm workout by getting the biggest pump possible with one or two higher rep sets.
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