This post was last updated on October 5th, 2016
So you want big arms eh?! Boy have you just landed on the right article.
I literally had the worst genetics for building a good set of arms.
…Actually just muscle in general.
I lifted weights and trained arms consistently for 4 years, but I still had spaghetti arms.
Then after doing endless amounts of research and experimenting in the gym I managed to get them jacked!
Here’s my 3 year before/after picture:
My arms are 2.5 inches bigger in the after photo. For a natural these are some serious gains, especially when you consider that I wasn’t even a newbie in the before picture.
In this article I’m going to reveal 7 tricks that I implemented during these 3 years so your arms can get swole too, even if you have crap genetics!
1. Use FatGripz
I never train without my FatGripz. It’s almost compulsory for me to bring them to the gym – like my water bottle.
Sometimes I even cuddle them in my bed at night…but I’ll leave that for another post.
People in my gym always associate me with these rubber attachments, because I simply never train without them.
Quite a lot of people ask me about them in the gym, wanting to know how they work etc. Then after a 5 minute conversation they’ve gone online and bought them. And later tell me about their unconditional love for their rubber companions.
Fat gripz aren’t just for building big arms, but adding more strength and muscle in general.
2 main benefits to Fat Gripz:
- Increases grip strength
- Increases muscle activation
Increased Grip Strength
FatGripz are rubber attachments that you slip onto a barbell or dumbbell to increase the thickness of the handle.
So you can use them on any dumbbell exercise such as bicep curls, lateral raises, tricep extensions etc. And any barbell exercise such as deadlifts, bench press and so on.
As you might imagine this increased thickness has a dramatic effect. It causes exercises to become more difficult to perform, simply because it’s harder to grip the weight.
As a result you’ll have to lower the weight when you initially start training with FatGripz.
Gains > Ego.
However because your grip strength will improve significantly, after using them for a few weeks you’ll be much stronger than when you started using them.
Remember, bicep curls and tricep pushdowns require strength from your grip and forearms, as well as your biceps/triceps.
Thus FatGripz will eventually help you lift a lot more weight during these arm exercises, helping shocking your arms into growth!
For example, if your lats and legs are able to deadlift 700lbs, but your grips fails at 300lbs, then you only deadlift 300lbs.
Thus your back and legs won’t be getting as good of a workout or fulfilling their strength potential, compared to if your grip was stronger.
Increased Muscle Activation
When training with a thick bar it increases muscle activation, improving muscle strength and size.
This increased muscle activation was obvious within my first session of using FatGripz.
I’ve always had pretty big pumps in my arms after a workout, because I only rest for around 20-30 seconds. However, when I started training with FatGripz my pumps were noticeably bigger.
So, if I was doing curls, my biceps would literally blow up! And if I was doing bench press my chest would also get a massive pump.
Fat Gripz Reviews
And apparently the rest of the weightlifting world also adore them – with excellent reviews on Amazon and Bodybuilding.com.
94% of people either gave Fat Gripz a 5 star or a 4 star review on Amazon.
An almost perfect 9.5 out of 10 score on bodybuilding.com. And just under a thousand people are even happy to recommend FatGripz to their friends on Facebook.
This shows you that other people (as well as me) are really happy with their purchases.
Amazon and Bodybuilding.com also have a reputation for unbiased reviews, because they show have feedback from verified buyers. This ensures reviews are legit, as opposed to a company who’s just paid random people to leave these reviews.
4x Mr Olympia legend, Jay Cutler, also says Fat Gripz are “AMAZING for building big arms” (1).
Who’s gonna argue with this big boy?!
Browsing on Amazon looking through some of the negative reviews, some people say that FatGripz are quite expensive and that’s why they haven’t rated them as 4 or 5 stars.
I agree that when you initially look at the price, you think they could certainly be cheaper.
However there are thick bars and dumbbells that are specifically designed to give you more strength and muscle and here’s what they cost:
- Thick bar: $300-800
- Thick Dumbbell: $10,000-$25,000 (2).
So actually FatGripz costs peanuts for the function it gives you. And (assuming you don’t lose them or they don’t get stolen) you’ll be able to use FatGripz for the rest of your weightlifting days.
When gym rats are spending hundreds of dollars on supplements each and every month, FatGripz is certainly affordable and inexpensive.
The cheapest place to get FatGripz is from IllPumpYouUp.com.
- IllPumpYouUp.com: $29.95
- Amazon: $38
- Bodybuilding.com: $38.95
- FatGripz.com: $39
You can also get your own name personalized on your FatGripz for a total of $54 on the official website.
I didn’t do this personally but it could be a good investment as it’ll reduce the chances of someone stealing them.
FatGripz vs Grip4orce
Grip4orce is an alternative product you can use for a thicker grip, that works slightly different.
Jim from BeastSkills made an interesting post comparing these two products.
He points out that FatGripz stays firmly in place once it’s attached, whereas Grip4orce requires you to actually squeeze the grip to keep it on.
This can be a benefit as it requires further grip strength and muscle activation.
However, on the flip side Grip4orce could potentially be dangerous, because if your fingers/grip start to fatigue, the attachment could come off.
And when you’re a newbie using these attachments, fatigue is inevitable.
Whereas the FatGripz attachment stays firmly locked onto the bar/dumbbell, ensuring maximum safety.
Also you can focus on not just holding the FatGripz, but actually squeezing it during the exercise to get the same effect as Grip4orce, without the safety risks.
Start with the blue FatGripz and use it on every barbell/dumbbell exercise for a few months. Then upgrade to the FatGripz extreme (this is the one I use now).
I gained 1/4″ on my arms after the first month of using the blue standard FatGripz.
The FatGripz extreme is 3/4 inch thicker than the blue attachment! It costs $42 and can be ordered from:
Note: You may have guessed, you can’t use FatGripz on leg exercises.
…Trust me, that’s a good thing.
These little rubber attachments are brutal.
2. Prioritise Triceps
Triceps make up 2/3’s of your arm. This is a surprising fact because when you flex your arm, you’re flexing your biceps – making them look like the bigger muscle group.
However, when you hold your arms out straight you will see that actually your triceps do make up a larger portion of your arm.
Arnold had some of the biggest biceps in the history of bodybuilding, yet even when he holds his arms out straight in the picture below you can see that his triceps are still the bigger muscle.
So if you want big arms, building bigger triceps is the fastest way to do this.
I always make sure I train my triceps before my biceps. This kind of prioritization is the reason why my triceps have become my biggest and best muscle group.
Here are some of the best tricep exercises you can incorporate into your arm workout:
- V bar pushdowns – demo
- Diamond pushups – demo
- Reverse bar pushdowns – demo
- Close-grip bench press – demo
- Dips – demo
I do 6 sets on each of these exercises: lifting heavy one week (6-8 reps) and light the next (20-35 reps). Changing it up like this will keep your muscles guessing, and shock them into growth.
Rather than them adapting to one routine and not growing because they have no reason to.
3. Do Higher Reps
“Low reps for mass, high reps for toning”
That’s a big fat myth.
It’s been the opposite in my experience. Actually my biggest muscle gains have been when I’ve lifted lighter and completed 30+ reps per set.
Eugen Sandow also adopted a high repetition philosophy when trying to build big arms.
Eugen Sandow was a victorian strongman who became famous for being the first man to build a ripped, muscular physique. Now he is nicknamed the ‘father of bodybuilding’ with the Mr Olympia trophy modeled on his body and named after him.
Freddie from EvilCyber.com summarizes some of Eugen Sandow’s training methods in Eugen’s book – Strength and How to Obtain it.
As it was written in Victorian times you could say Freddie helped translate it!
He says Eugen believed in performing as many as 50 reps per set on his arms, with exercises consisting of dumbbell bicep curls, reverse barbell curls and pushups.
…And I thought I did a lot of reps!
4. Increase The Volume
Meaning to increase the duration of your arm workouts, or to increase the frequency of your arm sessions. I.e. going from 1 arm day a week, to 3.
“What?! Anything over 30 minutes is overtraining!?”
“EH?! My arms will be fried! Won’t they be sore and overtrained?!”
Nope, in fact the opposite will happen…
The reason your muscles become sore is because either:
- Your body isn’t used to the exercise i.e. when you train for the first time
- Your recovery isn’t optimal.
Actually by training a muscle group more often you’ll find that your body adapts to perform this exercise more efficiently. It does this by speeding up your recovery. Thus you’re less likely to be sore if you add more arm days to your weekly split.
Obviously there’s a balance to this. If you do 50 hours of hard, heavy lifting in a week – you’ll almost certainly overtrain.
But from my overtraining post we know that it’s almost impossible to overtrain a muscle, but you can overtrain your nervous system.
There’s a strong correlation between people who do a crazy amount of training volume and those who build an exceptional amount of muscle.
I mentioned gymnasts who practice their routines engaging their arm muscles for minutes at a time, such as on the rings.
Their training sessions last up to 6 hours, (totaling 30 hours a week).
And their arms are BIG.
This is especially impressive when these Olympic gymnasts have tiny, little ectomorph frames.
I also gave the example of how extremely high volume and frequency cause prisoner’s to get big in prison. Muscular inmates such as Charles Bronson complete as many as 2,000 pushups every day.
He says he does 1,000 pushups in just 1 hour.
So if we multiply that by 2 for the day. Then by 7 for the week. That’s 14 hours of just triceps per week, instead of the standard 1!
And Charles Bronson weighs a “solid” and “lean” 14 stone (3), at 5 ft 10″.
…That’s one unit!
I completed 1 arm day a week in my first 4 years of lifting weights. I gained some strength and a little muscle, but I remained skinny.
When I started doing more arm sessions per week (3-4) I started to grow like a weed and my arms blew up!
Have more arm days and see what happens.
5. Slow Reps
If you only train at the same lifting tempo, you could me missing out on gains.
There was a study that compared the muscle growth between 3 groups (4):
- Group 1: They lifted a light weight (50% of 1 rep max) at a tempo of: 3 seconds for the concentric movement, and 3 seconds for the eccentric movement. Concentric is when the working muscle is contracting. And the eccentric part is when the muscle is resting. Each set took 56 seconds to complete.
- Group 2: They lifted a heavy weight (80% of 1 rep max), 1 second for the concentric, 1 second for the eccentric. They took 24 seconds to complete each set – less than half the time of group 1.
- Group 3: Light weight with normal lifting tempo (identical to group 2).
Group 1 and 2 built a significant amount of muscle. Thus by switching up your lifting tempo from normal one week, to slow the next, you can expect big arm gains.
6. Train your Biceps and Triceps Together
If you want your arms to grow don’t be nasty and shout at them like C.T…
Be nice to them, give them special treatment by dedicating a day soley to them.
The science behind having an arm day, instead of training triceps with chest and biceps with back is that you’ll maximise the pump in your arm.
By getting a bigger pump you’ll stretch your muscle fascia even more.
What the hell is fascia?!
Fascia is a very tough tissue that surrounds the muscle, which can hamper your arm gains.
This is because when your muscle attempts to grow bigger, fascia acts as friction to this.
Thus if you can stretch your fascia, enabling it to becoming more flexible, it will create less friction, allowing you to add more size to your swans!
And getting a huge ass pump is one of the best ways to stretch your fascia.
Here are some tips to maximize your pump:
- Supersets (doing a tricep exercise then a bicep exercise with no rest inbetween)
- Do higher reps
- Use FatGripz
Another thing you can do to stretch the fascia even more is to actually STRETCH post workout or inbetween sets. You don’t see many people stretching in gyms these days, but if you do, you’ll create a more anabolic environment for your arms to grow.
Here are some arm stretches you can do:
Stretching for just 5-10 minutes after your workout is enough to make your fascia more elasticated.
7. Time to Cut!
Now this won’t help you get ‘bigger’ arms, as you’ll actually be losing size due to fat loss.
However, stripping fat off your arms will make them appear bigger, because you’ll have more muscle definition and vascularity – making them look impressive as fuark!
It doesn’t matter how big your arms are… nobody is ‘mirin FATceps!
Also your guns can appear bigger after a cut because of the tiny waist effect.
If you’ve got big arms and a big waist, it doesn’t count for much. It’s like a fat girl with big tits!
But if you’ve got big arms AND a tiny waist – you’re going to look jacked!
The amount of people who have said to me “Wow your arms are looking BIG, you been bulking?”, only for me to reply “Nope, I’ve been cutting lol”.
Here’s a cut I did a couple of years ago. This is a good example of how your arms can look more impressive/bigger when at a lower body fat %.
I would say I was around 17% body fat in the before pic (epic bulk!).
And 7% in the after picture.
Imagine you’re looking at 2 mountains. If you were to strip out the valley in-between them, the mountains would look much bigger. This is the same concept as losing fat on your biceps.
See the image below:
See how in the after picture my bicep has more of a peak and is almost popping out. This makes it look bigger than the before picture, even though my arms were actually smaller after my cut.
Somebody’s opinion on whether you have big arms or not is determined by what they see with their eyes. Not what the number is on the measuring tape, so don’t worry about losing ‘size’ when cutting.
Big Arms Checklist:
- Get Fat Gripz
- Train arms together
- Increase training freuency: 3 arm workouts per week (minimum)
- Do super slow reps
- Do high reps
If you implement these 7 tricks continuously for a month you’ll be able to add some quality size to your guns. As a rough guess, I’d say you can expect to gain around a quarter to half an inch of lean muscle on each arm (after a month).
After you’ve gained some decent size, if you’re above 10% body fat, I recommend you start cutting (getting leaner). The leaner you are, the better your arms will look.
If a guy’s arms are shredded, they don’t even need to be very big for heads to turn.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. As always, let me know what you think to these tips by leaving a comment below