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The two body parts every one is motivated to work is their chest and arms.
Everybody that starts lifting weights wants a bigger chest and arms.
We had an article on chest workout routine,
This article will give you an idea of anatomy of arms, best exercises for arms and workout routine for arms. That includes biceps, triceps and forearms.
Let's first look into the anatomy of arms
Your biceps are one among the three muscles in your anterior compartment of the upper arm. Brachialis, coracobrachialis are the other two muscles.
Your biceps brachii or simply biceps muscles contain two heads that originate from the scapula and insert into the radial bone of the forearm.
The primary function of biceps brachii is flexion at elbows, supination of the arm.
Brachialis lies beneath the biceps brachii. It originates from the mid-portion of your upper arm and inserts into the radial bone of the forearm. It is the prime mover in elbow flexion.
During elbow flexion, more than 50% of power is generated by brachialis.
Triceps brachii enables extension at your elbows. Your triceps have three muscle heads. The long head originates from the scapula, it is made up of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles.
The medial head originates from the rear surface of the upper arm. It's made up of slow-twitch muscle fibers( type I).
The lateral head originates from the rear surface of the upper arm. It's made up of fast-twitch muscle fibers(type IIb).
The three heads converge into one tendon and insert into the ulna of the forearm.
Taking into account the mechanical and physiological heterogeneity of the triceps brachii, our findings suggest that each fascicle may be considered an independent muscle with specific functional roles.
Your forearms contain pronators and supinators and other muscles that carry out extension and flexion of digits and elbows(Brachioradialis muscle does flexion at the elbows).
The posterior part of your arms contain extensor muscles and the anterior part contains flexors.
Your forearms position (pronation, supination, neutral) determines the involvement of forearm muscles during flexion at elbows.
When your arms are pronated, the flexion is carried out by brachialis, brachioradialis, and while biceps brachii has limited involvement.
This study shows that the muscular activity of biceps brachii remains the same irrespective of hand position; the effort of brachioradialis changes with position.
Muscles fiber type
Your biceps muscles are fast-twitch dominant by 5% only. They respond well to low and medium reps.
Your triceps muscles are fast-twitch dominant so train them heavy with low reps.4-6 reps
Your brachioradialis is fast-twitch dominant so go heavy and low reps with training them. 4-8 reps
Your forearms are slow-twitch dominant thus high rep range of 8-10 reps will be best for forearms.
Your arm position determines the involvement of your muscles.
Your biceps muscle works best in supination.
While the neutral and pronated position will bring brachioradialis into work.
Overhead triceps press is required to work your triceps long heads.
Workout tips for bigger arms
Overhead press in triceps
Your muscles can shorten up to a certain length (nearly 50% of its resting length). So if a muscle is flexed at one joint, it cannot produce force to cause flexion at other joints, it's called active insufficiency.
Your triceps are one of those muscles that cross more than one joint. The triceps act as an extensor at both elbows and your shoulder joint.
When your arm is extended and to the sides of your body, the triceps long head will be in active insufficiency and cannot produce enough force to extend arms at elbows.
Triceps long head will be in active insufficiency when you do lying triceps press, extension, or dumbbell kickbacks. So the muscle head worked will be medial and lateral heads.
The overhead press is a must-do workout for the overall development of triceps. We need to consider this while designing workout routine for arms.
Preacher or spider curls for targeting Brachialis
The active insufficiency is also seen in biceps brachii as it crosses more than one joint. Its main function is elbow flexion and also is a weak shoulder flexor.
Eg: Spider curls
Hand position and muscles heads while doing biceps exercise
Hand position and muscles heads while doing triceps exercise
Start building a thicker forearms
If you want to build huge biceps or triceps you have to lift heavy weights. For this, you need a strong forearm.
In every upper arm exercise your wrist flexors and extensors and brachioradialis act as stabilizers. So a thick forearm is necessary to curl or press heavyweights.
Sets: 3-4 sets. It doesn't include the warmup sets. So 2-3 sets of warmup set before starting your working sets.
Reps: to train arms you do 4-8 reps. Start with low rep range and increase the reps towards the end of the workout (last exercise).
Frequency: Frequency is the number of times you train your muscles each week. It's good to train your arms once every week. Your arms act as synergists while you train your chest, shoulder, and back.
Rest in between sets: 60-90 s rest is best for muscle hypertrophy. Your energy stores will be restored during this time.
Don't train for the pump:Don't be happy when your muscles are pumped with blood. Get a nice stretch in your arms. This will happen when you do high rep training.
The muscle pump as a result of high rep training is not enough for your muscle growth. You have to lift heavy weights at low reps to induce muscle growth.
Progressive overload: Increase the weight lifted if you do your target reps. If your target rep is 6; increase the weight lifted if you have done six reps.
Progressive overload is the key to muscle growth.
There is a good chance of overtraining your arms. Your arms get some work during chest, back and shoulder training.
At most times, if you are lifting heavy weights your biceps and triceps get its work even if you don’t train them individually.
Equipment needed for your arms training
- SOLID CHROME STEEL CONSTRUCTION: PEXMOR 5ft Olympic bar at 28mm diameter grip, compatible with 2...
- UPGRADED ROTATION SLEEVE PROVIDE PERFECT SPIN: This 60" Olympic Barbells is upgraded with brass...
- PRO-GRIP KNURLING : With a medium depth knurling, the lifting bar has plenty of knurl for your heavy...
- 【Rugged & Durable Structure】Our bar is made of high-quality Q235 steel with cold forging and...
- 【Knurling & Curve Design】Made to facilitate for easy workout sessions, this workout bar features...
- 【Sufficient Length & Weight】This bar is 47’’ long, weighs 19lbs, 28mm grip and has a maximum...
- A WORKOUT BENCH ADJUSTABLE FOR YOU - Adjust this curl bench for the best arm curl blaster for your...
- HEAVY DUTY- Constructed from 2” x 2” solid steel for a strong and sturdy frame. Includes Rubber...
- HIGH-QUALITY PADDING- Provides ultimate comfort and support for your arms while performing curls....
- Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds; adjusts in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25...
- Lets you rapidly switch from one exercise to the next
- Combines 15 sets of weights into one, using a unique dial system
- Construction – Made of Solid Cast Iron With a Machined Center Hole and a Gray, Baked Enamel...
- Features –The Gray Baked Enamel Coating Ensures a Durable, Reliable Weight That Will Last Through...
- VERSATILE – Weight plates can be used to perform muscle strengthening exercises and endurance...
Let's look at some of the best exercise for bigger arms
How to do Biceps curls with a barbell?
- exercise for bigger arms
Load the bar with weight plates. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
Lift the bar from the rack and keep your arms straight. Keep your chest up and your lower back neutral.
Take a big breath and raise the weight by flexing at your elbows.
Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position and exhale. Repeat for the required number of reps.
Biceps curl with dumbbell
-arms exercise with dumbbells
Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip( palm facing each other) and it out to your sides. Raise the dumbbells by flexing your biceps.
While curling, turn the palms so that it faces up. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position.
Repeat for the required number of reps.
Tip: This is about the supination during the curls lot of people supinate their arms at the bottom portion of reps.
The supination function of biceps will only work while the elbow is in a flexed position. At other times your supinator muscles take over the work.
So it's best to turn your arm when it's near midway to a full curl.
You can further increase the tension in biceps if you grab the dumbbells to one end.
It will cause an imbalance and will exert a force to rotate your arm. So you will need to put in more work to supinate while doing a biceps curl.
Thus your biceps will get extra stimulus for growth.
-best exercise for your brachialis
Sit on the preacher bench, place your arms on the pad. Adjust the pad so your armpit rests on the top of the pad.
Grab the barbell with a shoulder-width grip. Curl the bar towards shoulders. Pause when your forearms are vertical.
Then slowly lower to the starting position.
In preacher curl, the primary targeted muscle is brachialis.
Your biceps is less involved as it will be in active insufficiency in the position (shoulder flexed).
Dumbbell Hammer curls
-targets your brachioradialis
Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip( palms facing each other) and it out to your sides.
Raise the dumbbells by flexing at your elbows. Don't change the hand position; it must remain in a neutral grip, i.e., facing each other.
In hammer curls, your brachioradialis will act as the elbow flexor while biceps brachii and brachialis will work as a synergist.
The primary muscle targeted is brachioradialis.
EZ bar reverse curl
Grab the EZ bar with a pronated grip (palms facing down) and keep in front with arms fully extended.
Raise the bar by flexing at elbows. Pause at the top, then lower to the starting position and repeat.
The primary muscle targeted is brachioradialis.
Overhead triceps press
-best exercise for hitting the three heads of triceps muscle
To work your triceps long head, you must include overhead work in your triceps routine.
You can use the EZ bar if available; it will reduce the stress on your wrists and elbows. Grab the bar on the diagonal section.
Raise the bar above your head and keep your elbows locked.
Lower the weights by bending at your elbows. Pause at the bottom and return to the starting position by extending at your elbows.
Close grip bench press
-best triceps exercise for size
Lie on the press bench, grab the bar with grip closer than shoulder width. Don't go too narrow as your shoulder and wrist will risk injury during the workout.
Lift the weight off the rack by straightening your elbows.
Keep the weight above your shoulders. Lower the weight to your mid-chest until it touches.
Pause and press towards the starting position. During the movement focus on the triceps and keep your elbows close to your body.
Neutral grip cable pushdown
Stand in front of a cable machine and attach the rope to the cable.
Grab the rope and with your palms facing each other( neutral grip ).
Push the rope downwards by extending your arms. Keep your elbows close to your body.
Squeeze your triceps at the bottom then return to the starting position slowly.
-triceps exercise without equipment
Place a bench behind you. Extend your arms backward and place it on the bench. Keep your feet on another bench in front of you.
Lock your knees and tighten your core muscles.
Lower your body by bending at your elbows. Lower it till your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Return to the starting position using your triceps and repeat.
If you can do your target reps easily, add weight plates on your lap to provide added resistance.
This requires a spotter to place and take the weight off your body.
Workout routine for arms
Barbell curl / Dumbbell curls 4* sets 4-7 reps
Overhead triceps press 4* sets 4-7 reps
Preacher curls 3* sets 6-8 reps
Close grip bench press 3* sets 6-8 reps
Hammer curls 3* sets 4-6 reps
Bench dips 3* sets 4-6 reps
*Does not include warm-up sets, do 2-3 warm-up sets with light weights before doing working sets.
Rest for 60- 90 s between sets, suitable for muscle growth.This gives your muscles enough time to restore the energy stores.
Do this workout once every week.
A good workout is not enough for building big arms; you have to get proper nutrition and rest.
Muscle growth happens outside the gym. So take care of your nutrition and get enough sleep.
Image credits: https://github.com/everkinetic/data
- Study 1 Lucas-Osma, A. and Collazos-Castro, J. (2009). Compartmentalization in the triceps brachii motoneuron nucleus and its relation to muscle architecture. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 516(3), pp.226-239.