7 Ways to get Bigger Arms

As a former Olympic and world champion rower, Toby Garbett (www.tobygarbett.com) knows, powerful arms are vital in contributing to a winning performance…

Get A Grip

Whether you’re just starting for the first time, or pushing on to Popeye proportions, changing the way you hold those dumb-bells during curls is one of the simplest ways to make a major impact on muscle size. “Apart from the standard grip, holding the middle of the handle which targets the biceps specifically, try mixing things up. Use the reverse grip, with palms facing backwards, which works the forearm (brachioradialis muscle) hardest. Or alternatively think back to when you last did a bit if DIY and go for my favorite, the hammer grip.”

Include a Warm Up

A great warm up will help you prepare for the weight room as it gets your body and nervous system ready for a hard work out, improving your movement quality. “At the beginning of every session include an effective warm up, which features dynamic stretches that actively move your joints through a full range of motion. These enhance muscular performance and increase blood flow, helping to prevent injury,” says Garbutt. “Deep Heat can come in very handy here, as applying it prior to exercise helps to warm up the muscles and increase blood flow.”

Put Down Those Weights

Lifting heavy dumb-bells certainly gets those major arm muscles moving in the right direction, but what’s really impressive is being able to shift yourself – as in using your own bodyweight - as the lifting challenge,” says Garbutt. “Underhand grip pull-ups and parallel bar dips will target biceps, lats and forearms as well as triceps and shoulders.” If you’re struggling at first with either exercise get yourself to the top of the dip or the pull up bar. Then very slowly over 5-10 seconds lower yourself down. “Working the muscles eccentrically like this will actually give you very quick strength gains and soon enough you will be lifting or dipping yourself, which really is the best test of strength.”

‘Tri’ To Become Super Man

Supersets – consecutive sets of two exercises performed without rest – work your muscles intensely with the effect of ‘pumping’ them full of blood and enhancing that size increase you’re after. Perform sets of supersets with short, 1-2 minute breathers in between. “Create supersets working different muscles such as hammer curls that build biceps – lying back on a 45 degree bench performing a high number of reps, alternated with dips on the parallel bars – again high reps to test the triceps, chest and shoulders.”

Feed The Frame

Big arms demand as much attention to detail in the kitchen as they do the weights room. “For maximum muscle growth look to feed on nutrients that rapidly repair torn tendons and build new tissue. Micro-nutrients in the likes of porridge, peanut butter, fresh fruit, eggs, avocadoes, grilled fish fillets and steamed vegetables will form a supply line to those growing guns without piling any undue poundage on around the waistline.”

Go into Decline

Adapting your weights workouts to marginally increase the challenges the muscles face can have a great overall effect on bulk building. “Setting the gym bench into the decline position for straight up drills like the triceps extension means that as you lower the weight, the forearms drop lower than parallel to the floor, hitting those triceps at the sweet spot,” says Garbutt. “Decline dumb-bell bench press and barbell triceps extension will also create a greater, gravity-induced challenge.”

Avoid Cold Shoulders

Without a strong set of shoulders your arms don’t stand a chance of taking on t-shirt stretching dimensions. “For your biceps, triceps, forearms and beyond to realize their full potential, treat the deltoids to regular shoulder sessions using free-flowing cable machines to perform raises, barbells and dumb-bells for a variety of press drills and your own body weight for Hindu push-ups.”


Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your GP before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.