By: Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Arms are wonky. That’s probably the best way to describe them. They’re one of those body parts you don’t think about until someone remarks on their lack of mass, making you want to throat-punch them. But then after further investigation, you start to realize just how unusually puny your arms are. Well, it’s time to change that.
Everybody wants big arms. That’s why every gym has a section with arm machines. And that’s also why most people are usually disappointed when they cannot grow their arms. With so many tools at their disposal, they’d think their arms would be amazing.
So, what’s causing your arms not to grow and respond to the stimulus you’re providing through your training program? While it’s doable to train regularly and maintain a healthy nutrition plan with low calories, there are some things you may (or not) be doing that can prevent your arms from growing. It’s often about careful planning. Many people lack an effective training program, which prevents them from achieving the best results possible.
In this article, we will lay out the various reasons why your arms aren’t growing to help you diagnose the issue and then explain various ways you can fix it to spark some new growth with your arms.
Disclaimer: It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program.
5 Reasons Why Your Arms Aren’t Growing
Below, we will break down the top five reasons why your arms aren’t growing so that you can pinpoint some areas to improve upon and understand what needs to be done to fix each issue.
1. You’re not eating enough
If you want to gain muscle, you need to eat more calories than you burn. Your body needs fuel and essential nutrients to build muscle. Without putting yourself in a caloric surplus daily, your arm gains will be minimal — but that’s not to say you can slowly add some size over a longer duration while being in a caloric deficit (it’s just a harder and slower process).
2. You’re not hitting all three heads of the triceps
The triceps had three heads: long, medial, and lateral. The long head is the largest of them all, which really makes your overall arm look big. The long head helps give you that “horseshoe” look on the back of your arm.
The lateral head makes your arms look broad and meaty. Many people have this head well-developed because they do a lot of bench pressing (which involves the lateral head).
The medial head is harder to build and is often lagging behind the other heads of the triceps. Although it’s not as visible as the other two heads, it’s still an important muscle to work on if you want big arms.
3. Poor recovery
There’s no point in training hard if your nutrition and rest aren’t on point. Your muscles grow when you rest, so paying attention to your recovery is just as important as your training sessions, if not more! Be sure you’re hitting around 1g of protein per pound of body weight, and focus on getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.
4. You’re not training with enough volume
If you want bigger biceps and triceps, increasing the volume of your workouts makes sense. However, many people think they can just keep increasing their weight and forget about the importance of training with volume. If you want to put on size, you need to increase the number of sets and reps you do for each arm exercise to achieve hypertrophy and add the size you demand with your arms.
5. You’re resting too much between sets
A high-intensity arm workout does not need to involve a lot of rest between sets. When you perform a set for high reps, it should take at least 45 seconds for your muscles to recover before performing another set with the same weight. In fact, keeping the rest periods as short as possible may help keep your intensity up and allow you to get effective results.
Choose Effective Exercises to Grow Bigger Arms
You’ll want to do a few sets of 8-12 reps for each arm exercise you choose. It’s also good to mix up your program using different exercises, sets, and reps so that your muscles don’t get used to the same routine and stop responding to it. Strive for around nine total working sets for both your biceps and your triceps to really provide them with enough stimulus to break down the muscle fibers.
Related Article: 3 Principles of Exercise — Move Your Results Forward
Something else you want to pay close attention to is progressive overload. Each workout, try to improve upon where you ended the previous week. That can mean adding a little more weight, pushing for additional reps, etc.
Here are some basic arm exercises for bigger arms:
Dumbbell Bicep Curls
This is a common arm-building exercise, and for a good reason — they work! Use dumbbells for biceps curls so you can use both arms at once and really focus on the squeeze. You can do standing curls with the weights at your sides or seated curls so that you don’t use any other body parts to help with the movement. Start with your hands at your sides and palms facing your body. As you curl the weight up, twist your wrist so that it faces straight up while contracting the biceps. Then slowly reverse the movement and bring the weight back down to your sides.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
To perform dumbbell hammer curls, stand with your arms hanging straight down at your sides and palms facing toward your body. Keep your torso rigid as you bend at the elbow, bringing your hand toward your shoulder. Once you’ve curled the weight up, hold it there for a second before lowering it back down. Think of the dumbbell in your hand and the movement looking as if you were hammering something.
The barbell curl is probably the most common exercise for the biceps, as you have the ability to load up a bar and squeeze the biceps. In this arm exercise, you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell at waist level with an underhand grip (palms facing away from you). Keeping your upper arms close to your sides, you lift the bar toward your chest by bending at your elbow. Then lower the bar back to its starting position.
Triceps pushdowns are another excellent exercise for building muscle in your arms, specifically targeting your triceps or the backside of your arms. Do this exercise using either a cable machine or resistance bands by extending your arms straight down from shoulder level and then bending them at the elbow to work for the triceps muscle group. The key is to keep your elbows pinned to your sides, allowing the emphasis to stay on the triceps.
Don’t knock chin-ups for your biceps! This exercise works your back as well as your biceps. Make sure you’re leading with your chest and not your head whenever you’re doing chin-ups. Touching your chest to the bar (or as close as possible) each time can help ensure you get a full contraction of the muscles.
Bring the Intensity Each Training Session
I shouldn’t need to tell you this, but you get out of your training session what you put into it. If you sandbag your session, you’re delusional thinking you’re going to see any sort of arm gains. You need to bring the intensity each time you step foot in the gym.
Sure, there are days that you don’t feel energized or even motivated. But those are the days you need to double down and put in the work. And to help you get the most out of your training sessions (even the ones you lack energy and motivation), there’s MuscleSport Rhino BLACK V2. Available in more than a handful of mind-blowing flavors, you’ll look forward to taking your daily pre-workout.
This high-stim, high-performance pre-workout utilizes three powerful and unique complexes to maximize your strength, energy, focus, and muscle pump, and allows you to push yourself harder and further than ever before. With patented ingredients like S7™, Beta-POWER® Betaine, GlycerSize™, Creatine MagnaPower®, and Infinergy™, if this formula doesn’t get you going and send your training sessions into overdrive, you may not have a pulse.
If your arms aren’t growing, implement the strategies found in this article and add MuscleSport Rhino BLACK V2 into your regimen to help support your full muscle growth potential.