Top 4 Best Exercises To Build Strong Arms Guaranteed!

Best Exercises To Build Strong Arms

Every time I went to commercial gyms in the past, I saw so many guys working on their arms constantly. It seemed like every day was filled with tons of extensions and curls with no thought of anything else. For most people, myself included, I’m not a huge fan of training arms.

Honestly, I hated the idea of doing biceps and triceps multiple times a week to add half an inch in a year. It sounded incredibly boring to me and not worth my time.

So when I thought to myself, how would I set up a plan to train for the biggest arms possible, guess what I thought of?

Compound Movements!

I’ve gone on an on about compound movements multiple times on this blog and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing it. The reason I harp on it so much is simply because of how effective they are at building muscle mass. If you set up your entire training program for life with just basic compound movements with no variation, you would still be bigger and stronger than 99% of the population.

Sure this sounds drastic but I know it’s the truth and you should too! Just think about it, lift heavier weights while increasing reps over time. Just by doing these two things you’ve already figured out a massive part of the muscle-building equation.

Do more reps with more weight and you get bigger. The 4 exercises that build the most muscle using these guidelines are:

  1. Close-Grip Bench Press
  2. Chin Ups
  3. Dips
  4. Barbell Curls

These are the 4 most effective exercises I’ve found to build the arms up fast. So with that in mind, let’s jump into the article and go into why these exercises are so effective. On top of that, we’ll set up a solid training plan to incorporate these for maximum muscle gains.

Here we go!

Close-Grip Bench Press

kevin hart lol GIF by Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud

As great as the standard Bench Press is for building muscle mass in the upper body, using a close-grip allows you to hammer the triceps like crazy! The reason for this is one known to many, you take a wider grip and you’re going to be using the chest much more to perform the movement. If you use a closer grip, your range of motion increases drastically.

Very basic thinking right? Well here’s the other great thing about it! Think about how much weight you can use on simple isolation exercises like skull crushers and tricep pushdowns. Usually, you’re stuck doing high rep movements for triceps and they don’t usually grow much. The main reason for this is due to the type of muscle fibers running through the triceps.

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Proper Rep Ranges

“Even more so than the pectoralis major, the triceps brachii is a performance muscle. Its fast twitch fibers outnumber their sluggish counterparts two to one with approximately 67% type II fibers. Accordingly, don’t bother with low intensity, high rep work.”

Menno Henselman

Because of the fast twitch muscle fibers, you aren’t going to see much improvement in building the triceps with high rep work. This causes you to waste a lot of time on lighter triceps exercises that only build 1/3rd of the muscle fibers the triceps are comprised of efficiently. With this basic knowledge in mind, Close-Grip Bench Press fits the bill for building massive triceps.

The Close-Grip Bench Press is fairly straightforward technique-wise. You take a narrow, shoulder-width grip; touch the weight down to your lower chest, and press back up to the starting position in an arc. You want to think about keeping your elbows close to your torso without flaring them like the traditional bench press.

Here’s an awesome video from the Buff Dudes on YouTube, they have an amazing channel and I highly recommend you check them out for fantastic workout tutorials. Plus, as the name suggests, they’re Buff Dudes!

As you can see in the video, the Close-Grip Bench Press does an amazing job of overloading the triceps. You can use much more weight for these predominantly fast-twitch muscle fibers because of this.

The best rep range I could recommend for this specific movement are sets of 6-10. You can obviously go lower if strength is the goal but for building fast-twitch fibers up quickly, sets of 6-10 work great.

Long Term Goal

Our long term goal is going to be very similar to the bench press goal I wrote about in this article. We want to do sets of 6-10 with 1.25 times our body weight. So a 250 lb man would want to be knocking out at least sets of 6 with at least 315 lbs.

Definitely try the Close-Grip Bench out with these high-intense sets and let me know what kind of growth you get in the gym. I know this exercise works great for the triceps so try it out. You won’t be disappointed with the results.

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Chinups

Image result for olympic gymnast biceps
These biceps are bigger than my future. With peaks grander than I could ever hope to attain!

I’ve gone over Pullups and Chinups multiple times in the past. As a result, you should know that I’m a huge fan of them and what they can do for building up the grip and back musculature specifically. What I haven’t gone over much, is how the Chinup specifically can be one of the best mass builders for the biceps.

When you look at male Olympic gymnasts what do you notice? They pretty much all have massive biceps! They spend so much time practicing Pullups and Chinups and because of that, the amount of bicep mass they’ve built over time is absolutely insane!

Proper Rep Ranges

If you think Pullups and Chinups are just for building up the lats you’re sorely mistaken. Here’s how we turn this into a fantastic biceps builder as well!

By focusing on Chinups specifically, we bring the biceps into the movement much more than a typical Pullup. On top of that, by adding weight over time, we can improve the biceps musculature much quicker than just focusing on low-intensity curls.

From the same article by Menno Henselman, “regarding the number of reps to use, while the biceps is fast-twitch dominant, it’s only dominant by approximately 5%, so medium to low reps work best.”

This tells us sets of 8-12 works best for building the biceps, so we’ll focus on keeping the Chinups sets in this rep range. If you can do more than 12 reps it’s time to start slowly adding weight. I’ll go over more in the training program below.

For the Chinups, because we use a supinated (underhand) grip, the biceps activate much more than a Pullup using a pronated (overhand grip). Imagine building up from 0 Chinups to sets of 10-20 and then sets of 10-20 with 100 lbs added around your waist. Don’t you think your back AND biceps are going to be much bigger?

That’s what I thought!

Long Term Goal

Our main goal with the Weighted Chinups is half our bodyweight for 8-12 reps. A 150 lb woman should be aiming for 75 lbs for sets of 8-12. If any woman can do this already I’d love to see it! It sounds like a fantastic feat to feature on the blog so let me know!

Make sure to hang out until the end, I’m going to go over how to use Chinups as part of an Arm Specialization program designed specifically to grow your arms fast!

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Dips

I’ve gone over Dips in my Top 10 Exercises To Get Stronger Article. When doing dips for maximum muscle gain in the triceps, we want to focus on heavier weight and lower reps. We’ve gone over why in the Close-Grip Bench section above!

Because Triceps are comprised of 67% fast-twitch muscle fibers, focusing more on lower rep training is going to grow the triceps much better than higher reps. With this key factor in mind, we still want to focus on slightly higher reps to help build the triceps slow-twitch muscle fibers as well.

Proper Rep Ranges

What I recommend for Dips specifically, is a mix of both, moderate reps with heavier weight. You don’t want to do super low reps on Dips. The risk of injury is much too high since your shoulder is in a precarious position.

Unless you’re Jeremy Hoornstra and you’re training for Powerlifting of course. Jeremy has gone on to Bench Press All-Time World Records in the 242 and 275 lb weight classes at 675 lbs. He has insanely strong triceps because of this! Here’s a video of him doing 255 lb dips for sets of 5.

I would only recommend heavy sets of 5 like Jeremy if you’ve been training for a while and have no shoulder issues whatsoever. If not, you should be focusing on slightly lighter poundage’s to prevent injury.

As soon as you manage over sets of 12 it’s time to start adding weight. We want to hang out in the 8-12 rep range where most of the benefits for tricep growth will be gained without increasing the risk of injury. The main goal when doing Dips is to keep the form strict, lower under control, and explode from the bottom position.

This ensures you’re keeping the shoulder safe while also training the fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire quickly. This should be your main purpose in general for maximum muscle growth but for performance muscles like the triceps, it’s even more important.

Long Term Goal

Our long term goal for Dips is half our bodyweight for reps. If you weigh 200 lbs you should aim for 100 lbs of added weight for sets of 8-12. If you get to this level, I guarantee your triceps will be much stronger and bigger as a result.

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Just like the other exercises on this list, I’ll go over how to set this up in a complete training program for maximum muscle growth in the arms.

Barbell Curls

I know what you’re thinking, I’m harping on and on about compound movements being the best for building muscle mass. And here I go recommending an isolation exercise.

In my mind, however, we can consider the Barbell Curl as a compound movement for these reasons:

  • You’re using a barbell. Because it’s a barbell movement, we can consider it a compound exercise. Anything that loads a barbell up with heavy weight compared to other movements can be considered a compound exercise.
  • You’re technically training your forearms, biceps, and core/low back. Because of the nature of a barbell curl, when the weight gets heavy enough, other muscle groups will be taxed as well. Your forearms, abs and low back specifically.

Here’s what I mean by that. This is Dan Green Barbell Curling 135 lbs for a set of 6. And not that spastic, cheat Curling that most people do. He’s completely in control of every rep, he contracts hard, lowers under control, and there’s no sign of swinging at all. Plus, because of how heavy this movement is in front of his body, his low back and abs have to work hard to keep him from moving forward.

See compound movement!

Also Dan Green has giant biceps and he’s doing heavy curls with great form. Maybe there’s a correlation between strict reps, heavy weight, and big biceps perhaps?

Proper Rep Ranges

Now that we know what the Barbell Curl is all about and why I think it’s great for developing the biceps, we need to know what rep range we should be hitting. Luckily, we’ve already figured that above in the Chinup section above. (It’s almost like I knew what I was going to write about before I started. Amazing how that works right?)

We know that the biceps are split between fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. This means we want to hang out in the middle range with lower and higher reps. Sets of 6-15 to be exact. This gives us a nice mix of both heavy reps in the 6-10 rep range and the light reps in the 10-15 rep range.

If you’re one of those people that only do light weight pump style bicep curls, you’re missing out on a ton of potential growth. Up to 55% even!

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Long Term Goal

Our long term goal for the Biceps Curl is going to be at least half your bodyweight for sets of 6-15. If you’re 300 lbs, aim for 150 lbs for that rep range and see what happens! Of course, only count the reps if you’re performing the same quality reps that Dan showed us above.

I’ll show you how to build toward this goal using a total training program very soon! (I promise It’s coming…)

Oh wait we’re finally here. My mistake! Without further ado, let’s set up the training program!

Setting Up The Training Program

When thinking about this training program, I had an easy time thinking about which exercises I wanted to do for the arms. As you know, they’re part of this article for a reason so it only makes sense they would be used in the training program itself.

When deciding which movements to use for the rest of the body, I went with tried and true basics. The goal with those movements is to maintain lean muscle tissue and even grow a little in the process.

Our main goal, however, is building the biceps and triceps. That is all.

It’s a 4 Day training program where you’re training full body every day. The main biceps and triceps movements will be performed at the beginning of the session since they are our focus.

Week 1
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
Close-Grip
Bench Press
3 Sets of 6-10
@RPE9
Squat
3 Sets of 5
@RPE8
Press
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE8
Deadlift
3 Sets of 5
@RPE8
Dumbbell Rows
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE 8
Chinups
3 Sets of 8-12
@RPE9
Barbell Curls
3 Sets of 6-15
@RPE9
Dips
3 Sets of 8-12
@RPE9
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Pull
25-50 Reps

As you can see from the program, our main movements: Close-Grip Bench Press, Chinups, Barbell Curls, and Dips are scaled at a higher RPE. I’ve gone over RPE briefly but basically what it refers to is Rate of Perceived Exertion. An RPE 9 means you only have 1 rep in the tank, RPE 8 means you have 2 reps in the tank.

Using this scale, the other main movements: Dumbbell Rows, Squat, Press, and Deadlift are all set to 2 reps in the tank. We don’t want to push these too hard simply because our main goal is building up the arms musculature. We need to back off on those other intense movements because they’ll fatigue us too much and steer us away from our current goal.

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For the assistance movements in the Push, Pull, and Single Leg/Core movements you can pick anything you like but keep it lighter. Sets of 10-15 on things like pushups, pulldowns, and ab work is totally fine.

How To Progress

After week 1, the only thing you will change is bumping up your main movements 1 set per week. So instead of 3 sets, you’ll be doing 4 sets on the Close-Grip Bench, Dips, Barbell Curls, and Chinups. Week 3 you’ll advance to 5 sets and then Week 4 you’ll take a deload week.

Here’s how that will look!

Week 2
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
Close-Grip
Bench Press
4 Sets of 6-10
@RPE9
Squat
3 Sets of 5
@RPE8
Press
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE8
Deadlift
3 Sets of 5
@RPE8
Dumbbell Rows
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE 8
Chinups
4 Sets of 8-12
@RPE9
Barbell Curls
4 Sets of 6-15
@RPE9
Dips
4 Sets of 8-12
@RPE9
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Pull
25-50 Reps
Week 3
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
Close-Grip
Bench Press
5 Sets of 6-10
@RPE9
Squat
3 Sets of 5
@RPE8
Press
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE8
Deadlift
3 Sets of 5
@RPE8
Dumbbell Rows
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE 8
Chinups
5 Sets of 8-12
@RPE9
Barbell Curls
5 Sets of 6-15
@RPE9
Dips
5 Sets of 8-12
@RPE9
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Pull
25-50 Reps
Week 4-Deload
Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
Close-Grip
Bench Press
3 Sets of 5
@RPE7
Squat
3 Sets of 5
@RPE7
Press
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE7
Deadlift
3 Sets of 5
@RPE7
Dumbbell Rows
3 Sets of 10-15
@RPE 7
Chinups
3 Sets of 5
@RPE7
Barbell Curls
3 Sets of 8
@RPE7
Dips
3 Sets of 8
@RPE7
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Single Leg/Core
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Push
25-50 Reps
Pull
25-50 Reps

As you can see, we go from 3 sets to 5 over a 3 week period. In week 4, we have a scheduled deload where we back off the reps and sets, as well as the RPE scale. This allows us to bring down the fatigue and get us ready for our next 3 weeks of hard training.

After we’ve finished with the deload, we start with 4 sets and increase to 5 and then to 6 before deloading once again. This allows us to increase our volume as well as the growth response from the higher intensity every week. I recommend only increasing the weight by 5-10 lbs per week. If you increase the weight too quickly you’ll stall quickly. I’ve seen it too often to consider it a coincidence.

If you have any questions on this let me know! I’ve gone over this table to make sure everything looks correct but if you notice any mistakes feel free to call me out!

Conclusion

And with that, we’ve gone over my top 4 recommended exercises for building the arms; Close-Grip Bench Press, Chinups, Barbell Curls, and Dips. You can progress for a very long time on these 4 basic movements.

Remember to pay attention to the different fiber types the triceps and biceps are composed of when determining your rep ranges as well! Biceps are an even split between fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers, so sets of 6-15 work great! However, don’t forget that the triceps are composed of 67% fast-twitch muscle fibers, this means lower rep sets of 6-10 work great.

Make sure when focusing on the arms to back off on other major movements so you can put all your effort into these heavy compound basics. If you do that, you’ll be able to build the arms up much faster than focusing on everything at once

Let me know what your favorite arm exercises are in the comments below! Also, if you learned something new or had any questions feel free to drop those as well. I can’t wait to build this community with you all!

Until next time,

-Dante Redgrave

danteredgrave

danteredgrave

I'm a Strength Coach and Content Creator with freedom on my mind! Without strength training, I hate to think of where I would be without it. What kind of person I would be, what kind of shape I would be in. It scares me, and that's why every day is a new chance to better myself. Anybody that's interested I am taking online clients now! Just shoot me an email and know you won't find a better deal online or offline. Guaranteed:)

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