How to get bigger arms: How to get bigger biceps and triceps

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Kevin Mangelschots

Most men want to know how to build bigger arms, while most women want theirs leaner.

Whether your goal is toning or increasing your arm size, the exercises remain the same. The only thing that changes is a higher amount of reps for toning, while a low to medium amount of reps is better for building big arms.

Today, we’ll be talking about how to get bigger arms, which involves knowing how to get bigger biceps and triceps.

Upper arm muscles anatomy

A man flexing his right arm in front of a wall.

The upper arm is made up out of 3 muscles in the anterior segment, also called the front:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachialis
  • Coracobrachialis

The function of the three muscles in the anterior segment is flexion of the elbow.

In the posterior segment, also called the backside, we have the:

  • Triceps brachii

The function of the Triceps muscle is extension of the elbow.

Which muscles make our arms look big

Picture of a man in a tank top performing a biceps curl.

Before we go into “how to get bigger biceps and how to get bigger triceps”, we need to know which muscles are anatomically the largest and what their primary function is.

Triceps brachii

The Triceps brachii and the biceps are anatomically the two biggest upper arm muscles.

The Triceps brachii makes up for about 2/3 of the upper arm’s volume. This means that, contrary to popular belief, it’s more beneficial to train the Triceps muscle than the Biceps in order to get big arms.

Biceps brachii

However, although the Triceps brachii is larger, this doesn’t mean that the Biceps brachii should be neglected. In order to create a strong, well-balanced look, we can’t have any muscle lagging behind.

That’s why we should also be training our Deltoids in order to get bigger shoulders. Because what good are large arms when our shoulders remain small? Proportions are important indeed.

compound vs isolation exercises to build big arms

In order to build big arms, the main routine should always mainly be made up of compound exercises.

Isolation exercises should only be added as accessory work and to specifically target the muscle(s) that’s lagging behind. Like for example, a dumbbell biceps curl would isolate and target only the Biceps bracchii.

This can be perfectly viable as accessory work or for the rehabilitation of an injury or weak spot.

Compound exercises such as bench press and dumbbell shoulder press to target the Triceps muscles and Barbell rows and pull downs to target the Biceps brachii should make up the bulk of the workout program.

The reason we want the largest part of our workout to be compound exercises compared to isolation exercises is because we can move a lot of weight with compound exercises.

Isolation exercises such as triceps extensions for the triceps muscle and dumbbell biceps curls for the biceps should be added in order to target one muscle and to train them to fatigue.

Training to fatigue regularly will increase protein synthesis, which will lead to building bigger arms and hypertrophy in general.

Workouts for bigger triceps

Bench press

Picture of a man lying on a bench and bench pressing.

  1. Lie down on a flat bench. Use a medium width grip. This means positioning your hands on the bar so that your elbows are bent at about 90° in the middle of the movement.
  2. Lift the barbell from the bench rack and lock your elbows. This is what we call the starting position.
  3. Breathe in and slowly lower the bar in a controlled manner to your chest. The bar should touch around the middle part of your chest.
  4. Breathe out while pushing the bar back up towards the starting position. Lock your elbows again.
  5. Repeat for as many repetitions as necessary. When you are done, lock your elbows and place the barbell back in the bench rack.

     

    → The concentric part of the bench, this means pushing the barbell upwards should be done around two times as fast as the eccentric phase, which is lowering the barbell to your chest.

    → Make sure not to bounce the barbell off your chest. This means you are cheating on the exercise, and it’s most likely a symptom that you are using weights that are too heavy for you.

  • Dumbbell shoulder press

     

    Image of a man shoulder pressing with a barbell.

  1. Stand up or sit down on a bench. Keep your back straight.
  2. Take a dumbbell in each hand and lay them down on your upper legs.
  3. Raise both dumbbells until they are in front of your shoulders. Your palms should be facing forward, away from your body.
  4. Push both dumbbells upwards in a straight line by extending your elbows.
  5. Lower both dumbbells in a controlled manner until they are back in the starting position. (In front of the shoulders.)
  6. Repeat for as much reps as needed.

Workouts for bigger biceps

  • Barbell row

Picture of a woman performing bent over barbell rows in the gym.

  1. Stand with both of your feet at shoulder width.
  2. Place both of your feet under the bar. The bar must be above your mid-feet.
  3. Bend over with a straight back and grab the bar with a full palm medium grip. Make sure the palms of your hands are facing down.
  4. Unlock your knees. This means slightly bending your knees.
  5. Tense your abs in order to keep your back straight.
  6. Pull the bar upwards towards your lower chest.
  7. Lower the bar again in a slow, controlled manner.

    → Keep your back straight, you can do this by tensing your abs.

    → Make sure your knees are unlocked, so you can lift the weight upwards better. It’s also better for joint health and decreases the stretch placed on the hamstrings, which could otherwise hamper your lift.

  • Lat pull downs

     

    Woman wrong and right lat pulldown posture, illustration

  1. Set up the pull down machine and choose a weight to train with. Use a wide grip.
  2. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip. Your hands should be positioned a little wider than shoulder width.
  3. Hold the barbell in your hands and take a seat.
  4. Keep your back straight and watch forward.
  5. Pull the barbell down towards your chest.
  6. Slowly, let the barbell go upwards again.
  7. Repeat for as many repetitions as necessary.

Triceps isolation exercises as accessory work

  • Triceps extension

  1. Take a dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Put your feet at shoulder width.
  3. Lift the dumbbell above your head until your elbow is fully extended. The palm of your hand should be facing towards your body.
  4. Keep your upper arm close to your head and bend the elbow slowly until your forearms touches your biceps. Only your forearm should move, your upper arm must remain stationary.
  5. Return to the starting position by extending your right elbow again.
  6. Repeat for as much reps as much reps as necessary, and do the same with the left arm.

Biceps isolation exercises as accessory work

  • Dumbbell biceps curl

A woman performing dumbbell curls in the gym.

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Keep your arms close to your body. Rotate your hands until the palm of your hands are facing forward.
  3. Keep your upper arms stationary and bend your elbows until the dumbbells are at shoulder height.
  4. Lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner.
  5. Repeat for as much reps as necessary.

Conclusion

A workout program should always be made out of mainly compound exercises in order to build a solid base.

Isolation exercises surely have their place in a workout regimen in order to work on specific weak points and in order to work a muscle to exhaustion. Isolation exercises can also effectively be utilized in rehabilitation.

Both compound and isolation exercises can be used to learn how to get bigger arms at home.

Many people make the mistake of relying solely on isolation exercises to build big arms. Reasoning that because isolation exercises target solely one muscle which in this case is the Biceps or Triceps they must be more effective at increasing muscle size.