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Whether you are overweight or underweight you will want to improve your physique. It’s a shame that so few people understand the struggles of skinny guys.
It’s also understandable, the bloke who just has to look at a slice of cake to gain 10lbs (or so he claims) will always struggle to sympathise with his friend who eats pizza three times per day and still has visible abs.
But being skinny definitely has its own frustrations, particularly when it comes to building muscle.
Of all the muscles men think they want bigger, the biceps are king. Shortly followed by triceps. But if you’re naturally skinny they can be really hard to train.
The purpose of this article is to teach skinny guys exactly how to get bigger arms.
Anatomy of the Arms
There are two main parts of the arm: The triceps and the biceps.
The triceps brachii are the muscles in the back part of your upper arm.
The word “triceps” alludes to the three unique heads to this muscle gathering. The medial and horizontal heads begin in the backside of the humerus and connect on the olecranon area of the ulna bone.
The long head is novel in that it begins on the scapula and then meets with the medial and horizontal heads to connect at the olecranon process.
This is a key bit of data for any arm building program because it should affect how we think about our programs.
While it’s not a significant player like the triceps, the anconeus is habitually lumped in with the triceps; it also helps the elbow to bend.
The biceps brachii is the muscle in the front part of the upper arm.
The term “biceps” alludes to two converging muscle heads: the short head and the long head.
The short head of the biceps starts on the coracoid methodology of the scapula, while the long head begins on the supraglenoid tubercle. The long and short heads converge to embed on the outspread tuberosity.
What’s Your Growth Potential?
Adding an inch of muscle to your arms is not easy for anyone, but there are some people who have a genetic advantage over others.
For example, you could be born with either long or short biceps, people with long biceps bellies (but short tendons) find it a lot easier to build bicep size as the muscles have more growth potential.
Other factors such as natural testosterone levels, age, gender, and arm length can affect how quickly you can build muscle.
But the biggest factor is training experience. If you have been training for decades then it is going to take you a very long time to increase your arm size, because you are already near your genetic potential.
In other words, increasing an arm from 9 inches to 10 inches is a lot easier than increasing an arm from 19 inches to 20 inches.
These timeframes are estimates but roughly it would take up to four months of training for a completely new trainee to increase their arms by one inch.
It could take a year for a regular lifter, and as much as three or four years for a very experienced lifter to increase their arms by one inch.
If we add non-natural ways such as steroid use then we can cut those times down, and if we consider Synthol injections then we can cut that time down further still!
Though please don’t consider Synthol use as it doesn’t actually increase muscle size and can make you very ill. It will also make you look extremely foolish – decide which is worse for yourself.
How to Get Bigger Arms
It doesn’t matter what your potential growth is, if you aren’t training properly. To get those bigger arms you need to train hard.
Remember there are three muscles that make up your upper arm, the Biceps Brachii, the Triceps Brachii, and the Brachialis muscle. These three are all important but the Triceps are key, they make up over 52% of your arm with Biceps taking up 25-30% and Brachialis taking up only 15-20% (rough estimates obviously).
This means that you should prioritise your Triceps over your Biceps and Brachialis, train them in that order.
The best exercises for the Biceps and Triceps are heavy, low rep exercises. So for Triceps, you could perform Close-Grip Barbell Bench presses for 4 sets of 6 reps.
For Biceps you could perform Barbell Bicep Curls or alternatively, you could try some Chin Ups which put the Biceps through the full range of motion.
Training your arms twice or even three times per week is a good idea, and using a variety of rep ranges is also smart. This is because studies have shown that hypertrophy is best achieved by mixing your rep ranges up.
Maybe go high rep with a Tricep isolation exercise such as the Dumbbell Skull Crusher on one day, and then go very low rep with Weighted Tricep Dips the next.
To build bigger muscles you need to be exercising them hard, but you also need to be fuelling growth and allowing time for recovery.
Without all three of these factors, your muscles will not reach their potential.
Try to eat a high-protein diet as this will stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which is required for muscle growth.
Another important factor is rest, if you’re not getting adequate rest between sessions then your muscles won’t be able to fully recover. Meaning that you won’t be able to train them as thoroughly in the next session.
Rest also includes sleeping properly, studies have shown that bad sleep can lower testosterone whilst good sleep can boost growth hormone release. Both of these hormones have a huge influence on muscle growth.
Tips for Bigger Arms
Here are some tips to help you get big arms fast:
#1: Work Your arms Early
The best time to perform those exercises aimed at building muscle in your arms is at the start of your workout.
The reason for this is that your arms are not too tired so you will be able to focus your attention on them.
#2: Lift Big
If you are doing reps of 20 or more then the weight you are lifting is too light and unlikely to give you the gains you desire.
Instead aim to complete sets of no more than 8 reps, which means you may have to substantially increase the weight you are currently lifting.
Just remember that your form still needs to be good while lifting big as you don't want to risk injury.
#3: Change Your Routine
If you are performing the same workout routine every week your muscles are going to get used to it and your progress will halt.
By changing your routine every now and then will keep your muscles guessing and will ensure you see the best results.
Try out new machines, add more weight, or completely switch up your schedule so that you can start to push toward your goals.
#4: Learn What Your Limit Is
With any muscle-building program, you need to learn to understand how far you can push yourself.
Pushing yourself to your limit will give you the greatest reward, but pushing too hard or not getting enough rest between workouts can be detrimental to your journey.
Of course, the occasional ache is to be expected, you are breaking your muscle tissue in order for it to grow after-all, but your muscles still need rest in order to grow.
#5: Learn Some Patience
Building muscle takes time, it will not happen overnight. Some people take months or even years to get anywhere near their ideal physique, some are never going to be happy.
The rule is to never give up on your goal, continue to go to your training sessions and make sure not to skip them unless you absolutely must.
If you want to have big arms, you have to pay the price and push yourself to your limits – we all have to pay it, no matter what our body type is.
You have to understand that the way to bigger arms is more than simply a checklist of activities, and boosting each one of those elements puts you on the road to success to development.
It may take a while for you to really get into the routine, and it may be hard for you to push yourself on occasion, but in general, the effort that you put into building your arms will be worth it. The more you push yourself, the faster it will come.
#6: Diet Is Key
Most skinny guys say that they are eating enough, and that diet isn’t the problem. It’s their metabolism that is the issue. But if they actually tracked their diet they’d almost certainly see that they were a) under-eating, or b) not eating regularly enough. This is just simple science.
If you are eating more calories than you are expending you will gain weight. If you are not gaining weight then you are not eating enough calories.
Sort this out fast. Get a calorie tracking app and find out what you are actually consuming per day, then increase this number. Also, ensure that your protein intake is high.
This calorie increase should create a surplus. It is this surplus that will help you to build bigger arms, you can’t grow bigger muscles while in a deficit.
#7: Don’t Neglect The Shoulders
Think of a good double bicep pose, what does it show? A big bulging bicep, the outline of some serious triceps, big forearms (more on that in a bit), and huge shoulders.
If you fail to train your shoulders your arms will not look complete. Biceps look bigger when you have boulder shoulders, but you will also work your triceps during most shoulder exercises.
#8: Build Big Forearms
Nothing looks sillier than huge arms and tiny forearms, so don’t forget to add some forearm specific exercises into your routine.
Hammer curls are a great choice because they work the biceps and the forearms in one movement.
Farmer’s walks are also a great idea, shrugs, plate pinches, and exercises such as pull-ups and dips will also help.
#9: Go For Compound Movements First
What’s the best exercise for triceps? 400 reps of tricep pushdown using a 10kg setting on the cable machine? Or could it be 100kg bench presses using a narrow grip? Yes, it is the latter.
Both your triceps and biceps actually benefit from a mix of heavy weights/low reps and light weights/high reps, but if you only had time for one, go big!
Close grip bench presses for triceps and bodyweight or weighted dips should be a part of your session.
While pull-ups, chin-ups, and rowing movements (bent over row, single-arm dumbbell row, seated cable row etc) should be there for biceps.
These exercises will also strengthen your chest and back and shoulders, which will help prevent you from being a skinny guy with out of proportion arms!
#10: Concentrate On Triceps More
Most guys think that building bigger arms is all about increasing your bicep exercises, but actually, the tricep muscles take up more surface area than your biceps do.
So if you are going to spend more time on either, it should be the triceps.
Start with some close grip bench presses, then add some dumbbell skull crushers (much better than EZ bar skull crushers), before finishing off with some tricep pushdowns (high reps).
#11: Optimise Your Recovery
There’s no point in training if your recovery is poor because it is through recovery that your muscles will grow.
Make sure that your daily protein intake is high enough to fuel protein synthesis.
Also, ensure that you are sleeping sufficiently, athletes require more sleep than sedentary people – so eight hours is your new minimum sleep time.
Whey or casein protein before bed is also a good idea, this will increase protein synthesis and lead to bigger muscles.
#12: Be Consistent
We’ve already talked about the benefits of being consistent with your diet, but being consistent with your training is also vital.
We’re not just talking about short term consistency either. Anyone can be consistent for a month, but what about a year? Or five years?
Building muscle is a long process, and it’s not something that you can just hit and quit.
Establish a routine, train often, and don’t neglect your triceps, biceps, shoulders, or forearms.
#13: Use Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is a complicated sounding term, but all it means is that you need to keep either increasing the weight or increasing the volume of an exercise to build bigger muscles.
Without progressive overload, your muscles will never grow.
If you are tracking your training properly then this is an easy step. Just record your weights each session, and look to see whether you can increase the weights or the reps this time.
#14: Use Proper Form
While training consistently is of paramount importance, training properly is also vital. You could be wasting a lot of time if you are training with sloppy form.
The problem with this tip is that nobody ever accepts that their form is poor. It’s all about how much they can lift, rather than how well they can lift it.
Keep your elbows by your side during bicep curls rather than throwing them around to increase momentum.
Lower the weights slowly during the eccentric phase as this can produce better results.
Use a full range of motion so that you are recruiting the maximum amount of muscle fibres.
#15: Do Push-Ups And Pull-Ups On Your Day Off
What’s the use of bigger arms if you can’t do anything with them?
You want to get to the point where you can knock out 30 push-ups or 10 pull-ups in a row with perfect form. Not only will this look badass, but it will help maintain and even grow your triceps and biceps.
Once you can knock out ten pull-ups without breaking a sweat, you will be able to perform weighted pull-ups for low reps and really grow some seriously big arms!
#16: Arms Should Have Their Own Training Day
If you want to see those huge gains in your biceps, triceps and forearms then you need to set aside one training day just for your arms.
Forget about doing those arm exercises at the end of your workout, research suggests that you will see better results focussing on your arms alone.
The reason for this is that your arms will not be fatigued after a tough workout as your glycogen stores will be full, which will allow you to work out that much harder.
#17: Use A Thick Bar
Using a thick bar will be more difficult than a thin one so will give you a much harder workout.
Obviously working harder will ensure you see better results.
#18: Don’t Forget Your Forearms
When training your arms it is easy to focus purely on your biceps and triceps. Well, you must not forget your forearms as this will round out the look of your arms.
This is another reason why a thicker bar should be used as it ensures you work your forearms.
#19: Get A Pump
When you train hard you will experience what is known as the ‘pump’, which is very important for building big arms.
The pump will bring extra blood and nutrients to your muscles, which is essential for growth.
This pump also helps to stretch your fascia, a tight sheath that surrounds your muscles.
For some, this sheath will be tight, therefore restricting muscle growth. However, by getting a pump you will give your muscles room to grow.
One tip to achieve this pump is not to do too many reps. The aim is to do between 8-15 reps with little rest in-between.
#20: Get Lean
There is a reason why bodybuilders try to get as lean as possible before a show; the leaner you are the bigger your muscles will look.
Definition and vascularity (your veins showing) will make your arms look much bigger than if they were covered with a layer of flab.
#21: Focus On Just The One Body Part
While you should continue to train your entire body you need to focus more on one body part at a time. Be more intense with your workouts on your arms and you will see the results.
If you focus on all your body parts at once you will find that your recovery times and results will be slow.
Try working out at 100% on your arms for 2-3 months, with the rest of your body at 70-80% and you will soon see a difference.
So there you have it, you now know what you need to do to get bigger arms, even as a skinny guy.
If you’re a complete novice and have just started you can expect growth within the next 12 weeks or so (provided you follow the exercise advice and nutrition/rest).
If you’ve been training a while then you’ll need to be more patient, but by now you’re used to being patient and being consistent so this probably doesn’t matter. For those of you who are very experienced, you’ll have to be even more patient, but you already knew that didn’t you?