3 Ways to Build Bigger Arms, Faster

Updated: Nov 23, 2020




How This Arms Training Plan Works

This four-week workout is made up of four sessions a week.

  • Workout one targets your chest and triceps.

  • Workout two targets your back and biceps.

  • Workout three targets your legs and shoulders.

  • Workout four targets your biceps and triceps.

This approach means you directly train your arm muscles twice a week. If you previously worked your biceps and triceps once a week, this strategy will double the amount of training time these muscles get, and it is this significant increase in training volume that will result in bigger and stronger arms.

Each workout is made up of five lifts, which you will perform as straight sets. This means you do all the sets of the first lift, rest as indicated, then move on to the second lift and so on. Simply do the workouts in order, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest periods detailed.

For the first three workouts the sets, reps and rest periods are the same, but in the final session of each week (the biceps and triceps session) the sets and reps are changed to place as much tension as possible on these muscles and elicit the desired growth response. Each week, try to lift slightly heavier than before – but form comes first.


Tempo Training Explained


To get the full effect from these workouts, you need to stick to the four-digit tempo code for each exercise. The first digit indicates how long in seconds you take to lower the weight, the second how long you pause at the bottom of the move, the third how long you take to lift the weight, and the final digit how long you pause at the top.

How To Warm Up For These Workouts


There’s no easing in to the workouts below. Each set and rep of the exercises you’re being asked to do has to be performed at the tempo listed if you want to get the best results. And you want the best results, right? That means you need to warm up before you start, because otherwise you’ll increase your risk of injury and find the first few sets of your session unnecessarily tough.

Your warm-up also needs to be specific to the workout you’re doing. Don’t jump on the treadmill for five minutes just before doing an intense arms session, in other words. Start your warm-up with some dynamic stretching to get your muscles moving – here’s a great seven-move warm-up routine to use – and then move on to some exercise-specific moves.

The easiest way to do this is to run through a round of the exercises in the upcoming workout using very light weights, or no weight at all. For bodyweight moves you can do easier variations – kneeling press-ups or band-assisted pull-ups, for example.


Workout 1: Chest And Triceps

1 Incline bench press


Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2110 Rest 60sec

Lie on an incline bench, holding a bar with an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and arms straight. Brace your core and press your feet into the ground, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.


2 Triceps dip


Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Grip rings or parallel bars with your arms straight. Keeping your chest up, bend your elbows to lower your body as far as your shoulders allow. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.


3 Hammer-grip dumbbell bench press


Sets 4 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 45sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding dumbbells by your shoulders with palms facing. Drive your feet into the floor and press the weights straight up, then lower them slowly back to the start.


4 Dumbbell triceps extension


Sets 4 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 45sec

Stand tall holding a dumbbell in each hand over your head, with arms straight. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows pointing up, lower the weights behind your head, then raise them back to the start.


5 Diamond press-up


Sets 4 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2010 Rest 45sec

Start in a press-up position but with your thumbs and index fingers touching to form a diamond. Keeping your hips up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Push down through your hands to return to the start.


Workout 2: Back And Biceps

1 Pull-up


Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a pull-up bar using an overhand grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.


2 Chin-up


Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a chin-up bar using an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is higher than the bar, keeping your elbows tucked in to your body. Lower until your arms are straight again.


3 Barbell biceps curl


Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 45sec

Hold a barbell with an underhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the bar up to your chest, squeezing your biceps as you go. Lower it back to the start.


4 Reverse-grip bent-over row


Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 45sec

Hold a bar using a shoulder-width underhand grip just outside of your legs. Bend your knees slightly then bend forwards, hingeing at the hips and keeping your shoulder blades back. Pull the bar up towards your abs, leading with your elbows, then lower it back to the start.


5 Dumbbell biceps curl


Sets 4 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 45sec

Hold dumbbells by your sides with straight arms, palms facing forwards. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps as you go, then lower them back to the start.


Workout 3: Legs And Shoulders

1 Back squat


Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and core braced, squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.


2 Overhead Press


Sets 5 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell across the top of your chest with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press the bar overhead until your arms are straight, then lower it back to the start.


3 Barbell split squat


Sets 4 Reps 6-8 each side Tempo 2010 Rest45sec

Stand tall with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a bar across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up, take a big step forwards with your right foot, then lower until both knees are bent at 90°. Drive back through your right foot to return to the start. Repeat for six to eight reps, then switch legs and do another six reps with your left foot forward.


4 Barbell high pull


Sets 4 Reps 12-15 Tempo 1010 Rest 45sec

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip and straight arms. Keeping your chest up and core braced, pull the bar up, leading with your elbows, until it reaches chin height. Lower it back to the start.


5 Lateral raise


Sets 4 Reps 12-15 Tempo 2011 Rest 45sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides, palms facing each other. Keeping your chest up, your core braced and a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to the sides until they’re at shoulder height. Turn your thumbs down at the top and lower them back to the start.


Workout 4: Biceps And Triceps

1 Triceps dip


Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Grip rings or parallel bars with your arms straight. Keeping your chest up, bend your elbows to lower your body as far as your shoulders allow. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.


2 Chin-up


Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a chin-up bar using an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is higher than the bar, keeping your elbows tucked in to your body. Lower until your arms are straight again.


3 Barbell biceps curl


Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a barbell with an underhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the bar up to your chest, squeezing your biceps as you go. Lower it back to the start.


4 Dumbbell triceps extension


Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall holding a dumbbell in each hand over your head, with arms straight. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows pointing up, lower the weights behind your head, then raise them back to the start.


5 Dumbbell biceps curl


Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold dumbbells by your sides with straight arms, palms facing forwards. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps as you go, then lower them back to the start.


How to Get Bigger Arms: 18 Top Tips

Want T-shirt-filling arms? We thought so. That’s why we asked the world’s leading trainers and coaches for their proven knowledge on the very best ways to build better arms. So for bigger biceps and thicker triceps, all you need to do is follow their advice and make some small changes to your workout – big improvements guaranteed.


1. Lift heavy

It’s not about ego. The key is to focus on the eccentric (lowering) phase – a University of Florida study found that neglecting this phase could cut gains in half, so try overloading it. On your final set pick a weight you struggle to lift fully, have a spotter help you raise it, then dig in and lower the weight as slowly as you can. Take a breath and repeat, five times minimum.


2. Ton up

Strongman Derek Poundstone was renowned for his pain tolerance. He’d do 100 curls with a 20kg bar, learning to handle the searing lactate in his biceps so he could work harder on other lifts while sparking serious hypertrophy in his arms. What can you do? Pick a weight that forces you to fail at 60 reps. Repeat weekly until you hit the 100-rep jackpot, then add 2kg and repeat.


3. Be still

Fly through your reps and you’re missing out on 5% more muscle through sheer haste, according to a study in the Journal Of Applied Physiology. To recruit the maximum amount of motor units, pause in the middle of a curl or triceps pull-down at the point of maximum tension and hold the position as long as you can handle. Best to save it for the final rep.


4. Go early

Pre-exhaust your bis and tris with big-boy moves first. So do multi-joint compound lifts like chin-ups and bench presses to fatigue, then immediately following up with lighter single-joint lifts like curls and skullcrushers. It’s a method advocated by Matt Brzycki, co-ordinator of recreational fitness and wellness at Princeton University. Brawn plus brains equals gains.


5. Contract the antagonist

That’s the muscle that’s working against the movement you’re doing. “If you flex your triceps at the bottom of a curl, the biceps will fully lengthen, and vice versa during any triceps extension work – meaning that you’re hitting full ROM [range of movement],” says trainer Joel Dowey. “It also stops you from cheating and cutting the movement short, and ensures a pause at the end of the eccentric phase.”


6. Don’t let your wrists move

“Something I notice in a lot of novice trainees is they tend to ‘break’ at the wrists when things start to get hard,” says Dowey. “Don’t let this happen. For extension movements, push the cable attachment away from your body with the edge of your hand. For curling movements, keep them locked in place and don’t let them move. As the wrist breaks, you’re taking tension away from the desired muscle group.”


7. Fix your dips

Dips are, or at least should be a staple of any upper-body pushing programme,” says Dowey. “To target your triceps more, keep your elbows super-close to the body and your torso upright. Any variation from this and more and more emphasis will shift towards the anterior deltoids and pecs. Be relentless in your execution here – nothing but perfection for pure triceps tension.”