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Diakadi Fitness Tips: Six Steps to Build the Arms You Want

By Mike Clausen

Ask gay guys what their favorite body part is—either to workout or to admire—and a big percentage will mention arms. But it's pretty easy to find yourself frustrated with arms, lifting more and more for less and less results. Fortunately, I've got some tips to help you develop bigger and better arms.

First, you need to make sure you target all of your arm muscles, and not just one or two. Arms are made up of three major muscle groups: the brachialis, the bicep brachii, and the triceps. To gain size in your arms, you need to make sure you exercise all three equally. The triceps make up two-thirds of your upper arm, so it's particularly important not to neglect this group.

You don't mean to neglect any of your muscles, of course—but it's easy to get in a rut with the same routine and weights, and wonder why you're not getting bigger or stronger. Just as we can get bored in the gym, our muscles can get bored with the routines we put them through. Instead, you want to shock your muscles into growing. So in addition to working all three muscle groups, you need to make your goal with each workout to fatigue the muscle and walk away feeling pumped and sore the next day. Below are six ways to change things up and build the arms you want.

1. Think Variety
How many different exercises are you doing? Do you always do the exact same routine when you walk in the gym? Do you use just dumbbells or the preacher curl machine? You need to switch it up and get out of your comfort level. Try using Olympic bar bicep curls to start, instead of the fixed barbells or dumbbells. Or just reverse your normal workout regimen. If you ordinarily start out with biceps, start with triceps instead and go backwards. Also, if you always work all your arm muscles together, try moving things around within your program. Lift biceps along with your back, and work your triceps with your chest or shoulders. There's an added benefit here: If you lift biceps after doing back, or triceps after doing chest, your arms will already be a bit pumped from helping lift the larger muscle groups, and will be primed for a tough workout. This will make you work that much harder when it comes time to lift, because your arm muscles will be a bit fatigued from working with the larger groups.

2. Add Intensity
Do you always use the same intensity when lifting—that is, the same speed and weights, with the same rest periods? Changing this up will help to shock your arms. It is okay to lift with speed as long as you can maintain proper form. You can alternate slow and fast sets, either on a given day, or across days. Use slightly lighter weight with the speed sets, so that your form is good, but still go for at least the same number of reps. So, where you might ordinarily lift up for two counts and lower for four counts, instead lift for one and lower for one. This both shocks your muscles and increases your heart rate, helping to get blood flow and nutrients to your arms. You will definitely feel the burn when doing sets more quickly. And when you speed up, do so both for the actual lifting movement and the amount of time you spend between sets. If you generally rest one minute or more between sets, you should cut rest periods to about 30 seconds.

3. Increase Frequency
How many days a week do you work your arms? As with any muscle group, you really want to work your arms at least twice each week. For optimum results, lift for all of your arm muscles on a single day, and then two days later match them up with a larger muscle group. For example, on Monday do both biceps and triceps. Then on Thursday do back and biceps, and on Friday do chest and triceps, or shoulders and triceps. You can find this kind of regimen as part of my 12-Week Muscle Building Workout Program .

4. Learn Anatomy
Different exercises target different muscle groups in your arm. You want to make sure that you work them evenly. Despite their name, bicep curls work both the bicep and the brachialis. But not all bicep curls are the same. Seated dumbbell hammer curls and other hammer curl exercises, for instance, do more to target the brachialis than other exercises. As a rule, when the palms face up, you will work the bicep more; but when your palms face in toward each other as they do with hammer curls, you will work both the bicep and brachialis. The same is true of the triceps. Try switching up your hand positions when grasping the bar or rope—you will feel different parts of your triceps being worked. Finally, remember that if you are doing 12 exercises for biceps, then you should be doing 12 exercises for triceps as well.

5. Do Supersets
If you've read any of my workouts, you know I am big on supersets. Supersets string one exercise after another, with no rest in between. They allow for muscle fatigue without complete exhaustion. And, they allow for creative and flexible workouts. Try supersetting push-ups with your Single-arm alternating dumbbell curls, or doing tricep bench dips with feet on floor after doing a set of cable triceps bar press-downs. Also, if you are lifting arms together, try supersetting a bicep exercise with a triceps exercise. The goal here is to keep your body going and to keep it guessing.

6. Focus on Form
I have saved the most important for last. To build bigger, stronger arms, you must maintain proper form. When working your biceps, think about keeping your arms more in front of your body. There is already a natural resistance when the arm is in the front half of your body, so adding weight will only help increase this effect. This will also help to keep you from swinging the weights when lifting. By the same token, many people get into the habit of rounding their shoulders and standing over their triceps press, basically giving their shoulders a workout and not their arms. Instead, keep a neutral spine and allow for a full range of motion with your triceps doing all the work, rather than your shoulders. Look up the arm exercises on the 12-Week Muscle Building Workout Program for proper form and video on how to do these exercises.

About Diakadi Fitness Tips: Diakadi Fitness Tips is a new series of weekly features and interviews with Billy Polson and Mike Clausen, founders of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want them to answer? Send an email to