Big arms are not built of biceps curls alone. And yet in every gym, the weights room is full of red-faced men straining to lift the load from knee to chin, then wondering why their sleeves feel no tighter.
To pack on size, you need to think laterally. So stop following the crowd and try these guaranteed muscle moves. Just expect the curl brigade to start copying when they see your results.
Hit Your Triceps
The upper arm consists of two major muscle sets: the biceps on the front, and the triceps on the back. As the name suggest, there are two muscles in the former, and three in the latter. So follow basic maths and target the bigger number to build bigger arms.
“With almost 70 per cent of the arm’s mass, hit your triceps right and you will increase your arm size significantly,” says Dylan Jones, founder of P4 Body.
Start with a heavy bench press – six reps with a close grip will target your triceps – then go straight into rope pushdowns with no rest. “Rep out with 50 per cent of your max weight until you cannot complete anymore.”
Go Giant, Be Giant
Less is more everywhere but the gym. By bolting more moves together and cutting out rest, you overload your arm muscles to turbocharge growth.
“Giant sets work for both biceps and triceps,” says Jones. Do 10 reps each of three exercises, rest, then repeat for three rounds total. “They’re most effective when done every other week, at most.”
Incline Dumbbell Curl
“This hits the short and long head of the bicep.”
“Adds thickness to the arms.”
“You get 97 per cent bicep activity, which means more muscle fibres activated.”
Burning biceps can torch your motivation, so make it competitive. Face off against a training partner, each holding a barbell. When one curls, the other rests. As soon as they tap out, the other one starts. First to 100 wins.
“It’s important the bar never touches the floor,” says Jones. “As you both get tired, the rest decreases and the intensity increases. Your arms won’t know what hit them and will blow up like a balloon.” Make this your arm day finisher for more muscle by leg day.
Ignore the guy who does hammer curls like he’s trying to bang in a nail. Slow and steady wins the arms race. “Whether you’re working biceps or triceps, it is vital that you don’t rush through it,” says Jones. “The longer your muscle fibres are under load, the greater the time under tension.”
If you can’t lift the weight slowly, check your ego and step down a weight. “You’ll get better results than if you load up the bar and use every other muscle group in the body as you cheat it up.” With biceps, go for two seconds up, three seconds down; with triceps, the opposite.
Flex And Pop
Though you wouldn’t want to steal their workout, there is one move to half-inch from the biceps curl bros: the post-pump mirror flex. Turns out, an end-of-session squeeze can help make every rep count.
“Everybody does it (though not all admit to it) but it’s not just for posers or the seasoned bodybuilder,” says Jones. “Isometric contraction hardens the muscle and creates tone and separation. So at the end of a set, give it flex.” Up to 15 seconds is the sweet spot – any more and you’re just playing with yourself.