Sporting large, muscular arms immediately show the world that you’re strong and fit. As an added bonus, having bulky arms enables you to perform impressive tasks like lifting heavy furniture and pushing stalled cars to safety without breaking a sweat. Read on to learn what exercises and lifestyle habits build arm mass.

Workout Basics

Train one or two times per week. Many people think that working out every day builds bigger muscles, but muscle mass is actually built during resting days between workout sessions. Your muscles grow stronger as they recover between lifting sessions, enabling you to gradually lift more and more weight. If you don’t give your muscles time to rest, particularly your arm muscles, you risk overtraining them and delaying the results you want to achieve.

Train in 30-minute sessions. For the same reason, you should only train one or two times per week and each training session should only last about half an hour. Your arm muscles are easier to injure than other muscles in the body, and training for over half an hour per session greatly increases the risk that you’ll get hurt. Short, intense training sessions are your best bet for building arm mass.
Train as hard as you can. Lift the heaviest weights you are able to lift and make your training sessions as high-intensity as possible. Muscle-builders call this “training to failure,” because it means lifting weights that are heavy enough to cause you to “fail,” or be unable to complete the exercise after a few reps. As your arms grow stronger, and you find that the weight you’ve been lifting is no longer as difficult, add more weight.

  • Find your “train to failure” weight by experimenting with different weights until you find one you can lift several times before breaking a sweat and feeling you can’t lift it again. If you can complete 10 or 12 reps without sweating or feeling much of a burn, you should be lifting more weight. If you can’t complete one or two reps before giving up, decrease the weight.
  • While extreme discomfort is part of building muscle mass, you shouldn’t be lifting so much weight that you feel you’re going to be sick or pass out. There’s no shame in starting at a lower weight. Start lifting a weight you can handle, and soon you’ll build up the strength required to lift heavier weights.

Use proper form. Get the maximum benefit from your workouts and avoid injury by using the correct form when you lift weights. In addition, to lifting the appropriate amount of weight for your level of fitness and keep the following tips in mind when you’re lifting weights:

  • Start with your arms fully extended, rather than bent.
  • Lift with controlled movements, rather than using momentum to move the weights.
  • Be sure you are able to complete each full exercise for at least the first few reps. For example, if you’re trying an exercise that requires fully extending your arms above your head, but you can’t fully straighten your elbows, you are probably lifting too much weight.

Work out your whole body. It’s healthier to strengthen all of your muscles with compound exercises than to focus only on building arm mass. If you don’t work out your legs and core, you’ll end up with big arms and a lower body that isn’t as muscular.

  • On the days when you aren’t training your arms, train other muscle groups in your legs, back, and abdomen. This way you’ll still be building strength while your arm muscles are recovering.
  • Do compound exercises that bulk up your arms while also toning other muscles. Chin-ups and push-ups, for example, strengthen your abs at the same time they are strengthening your arms.

Building Arm Mass

Do dumbbell curls to build your biceps and triceps.Your biceps and triceps are the main muscle groups in your arms, so focus on building them up to gain arm mass. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells at your sides with your arms fully extended and your palms turned inwards, curl the dumbbells to your chest, then press them over your head before reversing the dumbbells to the starting position.

  • Do between 8 and 12 reps, and 3 to 5 sets. Rest for about 45 seconds between sets.
  • This exercise may also be performed with a kettle bell or barbells.

Do chin-ups to work out your biceps. Grip a fixed bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing you. Use your arms to lift your body, until your chin is higher than the bar then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

  • Do between 8 and 12 reps, and 4 to 5 sets.
  • You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by using a weighted belt.

Do triceps dumbbell extensions to bulk up your triceps. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold dumbbells over your head with your wrists facing inward. Lower the dumbbells behind your head so that your elbows point up in the air, then raise the dumbbells above your head and straighten your elbows again.

  • Do between 8 and 12 reps, and 3 to five sets.
  • This exercise can also be performed using both hands to lower and extend one dumbbell above the head.

Eat plenty of protein. Protein helps build muscles, so when you’re trying to bulk up, it should be a mainstay of your diet. Find ways to make protein the focus of all of your meals.

  • Choose fish, chicken, lean beef, pork, and other types of meat to supply yourself with protein. Eggs are also a great source of protein.
  • Beans, nuts, spinach, and other vegetables are good vegetarian protein sources.
  • Consider supplementing your diet with protein powder such as creatine, which is made from an amino acid that helps you work out harder, recover faster and build bigger muscles.

Take rest seriously. When it comes to building muscles, resting periods are as important as workout periods. Get at least 8 hours of sleep on the days when you work out, and avoid overdoing it with other activities that require use of your arm muscles


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