Are your arms not growing as much as you’d like? In this article, I cover how to build bigger arms by avoiding the 4 most common arm day mistakes I see people make all the time, that are killing their potential gains.
I’ll be honest with you. Back in the day, as shown in the picture below, you can see that my arms had no chance whatsoever of filling up my sleeves. I didn’t know how to build bigger arms properly.
And I made these exact 4 mistakes that I now see many people making in the gym. I do wish I fixed these mistakes earlier because it would have helped speed up my arm growth to where they’re at now.
So, to prevent you from making the same mistakes I did, I’ll go through each error in detail. I’ll also show you what to do instead so that you can apply it to your next arm day. Or, just your arm training in general.
Read on to learn how to build arm muscle effectively.
1) Not Varying Arm Angles
What This Mistake Looks Like
The first mistake is not varying your arm angles enough when training. For example, pretty much all of my biceps and triceps exercises followed the same following formats back in the day:
- Biceps – Some variations of curls, where I had my elbows to my sides.
- Triceps – Mostly a mix of some form of triceps extensions, where I – again – had my elbows to my sides.
And I believe this is a mistake that a lot of others commit. But you have to realize that the biceps and triceps are composed of multiple heads. This means that these heads can each be selectively emphasized based on your arm angle when you train them.
This is a crucial concept I’ve explained in my past articles as well:
Research Says You Need To Vary Your Arm Angles
So, when it comes to how to build bigger arms, you need to incorporate exercises that mix up your arm angles on arms day. This enables you to better activate and develop the biceps and triceps muscles as a whole as you’ll be ensuring that each head gets their required attention.
And to further back up this point, when a recent 2019 paper compared between the following two conditions:
- Performing a biceps workout with all 9 sets done with a traditional biceps curl with the elbows by the sides.
- A biceps workout where subjects performed 3 sets of curls at 3 different arm angles, with all other workout variables held identical.
And the results? Well, the researchers found that the varied arm angle group was able to achieve the same amount of volume as the control group. But – here’s the critical part – their biceps experienced significantly higher overall activation from the session!
Although the researchers didn’t explicitly test it here, this increase in activation of the biceps would also likely lead to faster growth over time.
How To Build Bigger Arms By Varying Arm Angles
So, if your arms are not growing, here’s what I’d recommend for your next arm day or your arm routine in general, so you (finally) gain mass in your arms:
For your biceps:
- Pic 1 curl where your elbows are behind your body, and
- 1 curl where your elbows are by your sides, and
- 1 curl where your elbows are in front of the body.
Then, for your triceps:
- Pick 1 exercise where you hold your elbows overhead, and
- 1 exercise where your elbows are by your sides, and
- 1 pressing movement, for example.
By structuring your exercises this way, you’ll hit your arm muscles a lot more effectively. This also helps ensure that you emphasize each head appropriately.
2) Not Paying Attention To Exercise Order
What This Mistake Looks Like
The next arm day mistake killing your gains has to do with your exercise order. Now, what most people do (and what I used to do as well) is do perform all biceps exercises first, then follow up with triceps exercises after on the same day.
Research Says You Need To Vary Your Exercise Order
But this can become a problem over time. Why? Well, because research has consistently shown that lifters get better gains in the muscles that are trained early on in their workout.
Now, I used to put all my effort into biceps training at the beginning of my workouts, and that’s precisely what happened to me in the past. My biceps started to overpower my triceps in comparison.
I’d put all my effort into the biceps training at the beginning of the workout. And then, since I’d be a little more fatigued, I’d slack off on the triceps training. Which was obviously detrimental for my arm growth, given that the triceps make up such a big portion of the arm.
How To Build Bigger Arms By Varying Exercise Order
So, unless you do actually want to prioritize your biceps more than your triceps or vice versa, here’s what I suggest. Alternate between the muscle you start with every week. Maybe biceps this week, then triceps the next.
This allows for a more balanced development of both muscles overtime.
Or, you can also perform your biceps and triceps exercises in a superset fashion. But, you need to make sure that you know how to perform supersets before doing so. If you don’t, be sure to check out my past article on supersets – it’ll help you out greatly.
3) Sacrificing Form For Weight
What This Mistake Looks Like
Next, is the all too common mistake of sacrificing form for weight. Using a weight that you can’t control and have to resort to momentum to move does more harm than good. Here’s why using momentum is not helping you build bigger arms:
- It shifts tension – and, therefore, gains – away from the arms. And the tension goes to other muscle groups, like the upper traps, that takeover.
- Over some time, you won’t be able to tell if your biceps have actually gotten bigger and stronger or if you’ve just gotten sloppier with your form.
So – when it comes to how to build bigger arms, you need to put the ego aside. Worry less about how heavy you’re lifting. Instead, concentrate on actually using and fatiguing the biceps and triceps. You’ll best be able to do so with proper form.
And don’t think that by lightening the weight you’re not going to build muscle as effectively, because that isn’t true.
Research Says You Need To Focus On Your Form
A 2016 study had subjects perform unilateral bicep curls on one side of their arms with no weight for 4 sets of 20 three times a week. They were only instructed to focus on contracting the biceps as hard as possible throughout a full range of motion.
After 6 weeks, researchers measured the growth in that arm. They then had them do the other arm for 6 weeks. But, this time with a weight equivalent to 70% of their 1 rep max and a rep range of 8-12 reps.
Guess what? Both arms experienced the same amount of biceps growth!
How To Build Bigger Arms By Concentrating On Form
Now, these were untrained subjects. I’m by no means recommending you to start curling with no weight and get all sorts of weird looks at the gym.
But when it comes to how to build bigger arms (and muscle growth in general), activating the target muscle and placing it under sufficient tension during your sets is more important than the weight you’re lifting. And that is always most effectively accomplished by using a weight that you can control.
4) Not Resting Long Enough Between Sets
What This Mistake Looks Like
And the last mistake you need to avoid when it comes to how to build bigger arms has to do with your rest times between sets. I’ll admit – back in the day, all I cared about was the pump. This is why I’d do a set of curls and only rest for maybe a minute, before going in for another set. And this is what I thought was best because I’d get the biggest pump in my arms and it felt like it was working.
Research Says You Need To Rest Sufficiently
But we now know that this actually isn’t the best approach. A 2016 systematic review showed that on average, resting at least over a minute between sets led to almost 40% greater muscle growth when compared to resting just under a minute.
More specifically though, a couple of recent studies (this, and this) actually indicate that for single-joint exercises, like most arms exercises, you want to aim for roughly 2 minutes of rest between sets.
That’s because 2 minutes seems to be the sweet spot to maximizing your workout volume, your muscle growth, and your strength.
How To Build Bigger Arms By Resting Sufficiently
So, when it comes to how to gain arm mass, I’d recommend that you rest for roughly 2 minutes in between sets. But another option you have is to incorporate antagonistic supersets for your arm days. This allows you to get that 2-minute rest period in a more time-efficient manner.
And again, you can refer to my past article on supersets for how you can do so.
Alright, that’s all I have. I hope this article was useful to you. Also, I hope you’ve learned how to build bigger arms by avoiding some of the mistakes I made in the past. Making sure that you steer clear of them is truly the fastest way to build muscle mass in your arms.
For a step-by-step program that applies the science and helps you avoid making crucial mistakes like these before they happen so that you can build muscle and add size as quickly as possible, just like Kevin over here did in 9 months:
Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you: