How to get big arms fast – 6 essential arm workouts to build biceps and triceps

Here's how to get big arms fast! Get bulging biceps, toned triceps and firm forearms with the best workouts and gear

How to get big arms fast: Pictured here, a young bodybuilder wearing a GymShark tank top holding holding two dumbbells in his hands
(Image credit: Gymshark)

Most men will search 'how to get big arms fast' come 1 January. Those who won't probably already have big biceps, triceps and forearms and don't need beginners arm building tips and advice, which we're about to dish out to you. Fancy having guns as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Chris Hemsworth? Come right this way.

Big, toned and defined arms (particularly bulbous biceps) have long indicated that an individual takes care of his or herself in the gym, perhaps because they tend to poke out of t-shirts and are generally on display more than, say, abs or legs. Because of this, many individuals fresh to the gym or new to the whole fitness game tend to focus on building big arms, which is fine if incorporated into a well-rounded workout routine.

"Probably every guy I've ever trained has wanted to build up their arms," explains Keith McNiven, founder of London-based personal training company Right Path Fitness. "From the forearms to the biceps, triceps and shoulders, these are the muscles that are right out on show when you've got your t-shirt on and the ones that shout strength and power," he adds. Well, you're in luck because Keith is on hand to teach you how to dish out tickets to the gun show. 

Keith McNiven author picture
Keith McNiven

Keith is originally from Leeds and moved to London in 2010 to follow his passion for all things health and fitness. He's been involved in sports and training for over 18 years and was a successful freestyle wrestler – previously winning both British & English Championship titles. He now works as a personal trainer at Right Path Fitness which he founded.

How to get big arms fast – A word on nutrition

The bottom line is that building muscle is an energy-consuming process, and your body will need the correct fuel to get you through the workout and repair and heal the muscle fibres so they can grow. "If you're not taking in the right foods, then you can do all the arm exercises you want, but you won't get bigger arms," explains Keith, "What your body will do is grab onto your carb reserves. The result can be an actual loss of muscle mass and probably the opposite result that you want," he adds.

Getting nutrition right is key to fuelling your workouts and building muscle, so Keith recommends aiming for around one gram of protein per pound of your body weight and 1.5 to 3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of your body weight per day. Eating the right foods is one way of achieving this, or you can supplement your diet with protein shakes (check out the best protein powders), bars and snacks (here are the best protein bars), which make it easier to get the correct numbers on board. You could also try mass gainers, especially if you consider yourself a so-called hard-gainer (best weight gainer).

"With your nutrition right, you have the fuel you need for an intense arm training programme. Of course, if you've never trained before, jumping right into a muscle-building programme might not be for you, so always ensure you're working at a pace and level that's right for you and your fitness experience," he adds.

So, how can you get big arms fast?

To achieve impressive appendages, you'll have to lift heavy weights, which will likely mean investing in a gym membership or procuring a good set of dumbbells for use in the home, so you'd better pressure T3's best dumbbells and best adjustable dumbbells guides. Some of the most effective arm exercises are best performed sat down, so you should also consider investing in one of the best weights benches.

"You can start with a weight you are comfortable with and increase this as your muscles get stronger," explains Keith. "But the low number of repetitions in this programme means you should be able to lift a heavier weight than you would with a higher number of reps," he adds. 

But don't go mad with your choice of weights, please. It needs to be something you can lift 30 times without failing or doing yourself a mischief. Allow yourself 2 to 3 minutes between each set of reps, take at least one rest day after each workout, and work up the weight you're lifting oh-so-gradually. Also, work gradually to do all the exercises and sets in the following list. And don't worry if you never manage to do the whole lot in one go. 

The BIG ARMS workout

Bodybuilder curling an E-Z bar in a gym

(Image credit: Other)

1. Barbell Curls

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

This exercise is for your biceps, the muscle that ‘pops’ when you do the classic power stance. Grab a barbell, stand upright and hold the barbell with your knuckles facing upwards. Start with the barbell against your thighs, knees slightly bent and slowly lift the barbell up towards your chest before taking it back down to your thighs in another controlled movement. 

Bodybuilder admiring his arms in a gym

(Image credit: Grenade)

2. Hammer Curls

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Another good bicep exercise is the hammer curl. Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand, and stand upright with your arms against your sides and the dumbbells against your thighs pointing forwards. Then you’ll keep your upper arm completely still as you raise the dumbbells up to your chest, keeping it at the forward-facing position. Return the dumbbells to your sides in a controlled movement, and that is one rep down, nine more to go (and then two more sets – hey, we didn't say this would be easy).  

Bodybuilder using a multi-gym for triceps push downs

(Image credit: Other)

3. Tricep Pushdowns

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

This exercise is great for developing the triceps, which are the muscles at the back of the arms and the ones that generally get wrongly overlooked when building bigger guns.

You can use the cable machine at the gym for this (or perhaps invest in a suitable home multi-gym if you're flush). Get the weight set on the machine that you’re comfortable with and grab that bar with elbows bent and knuckles facing upwards. Then you’re going to use just the triceps to lower the bar down to your thighs. Keeping your elbows close to your body can help to ensure it’s your triceps that are taking the strain here. Then slowly return the bar from your thighs back up to your chest and the starting bent elbow position. 

Bodybuilder doing bodyweight dips using parallel bars in the gym

(Image credit: Other)

4. Tricep Dips

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

Building bigger arms doesn’t only involve lifting weights, as bodyweight exercises can be very effective for training the triceps. Use a pull-up machine and take your weight by lifting your legs behind you and using almost fully extended arms to hold yourself in position. From this starting position, you’re going to keep your elbows tucked in to isolate your triceps and lower yourself further down so that your almost straight arms bend at the elbow, leaving a 90-degree angle. Then lift yourself back up. 

You can also work the same muscles outside the gym by incorporating a workout bench. Stretch your legs in front of you, arms behind, with palms flat on the bench surface. Lower the body keeping the same form as above and explosively push back up to complete a rep.

Young man in t-shirt lifting dumbbells in a gym

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Dumbbell Reverse Curl

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

This exercise covers the all-important forearms, another important element of well-rounded, balanced arms. Start standing upright with a dumbbell in each hand and flat against the front of your thighs, the dumbbell should be in a horizontal position, and your knuckles should be facing upwards. Keeping arms quite close to the body, you will use your forearms to lift the dumbbells from your thighs and up towards your chest. Ease them back down in a controlled movement. That’ll be one rep, then. 

Young bodybuilder using a cable machine for forearm curls

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Cable Reverse Curl

Sets: 3 Reps: 10

You can also train your forearms with the cable machine at the gym. Again, set up the weight in a low position. With a straight back, hold the bar against your thighs with knuckles facing upwards. Then, slowly bring the bar upwards, contracting your biceps and using the forearm muscles to perform the exercise. Keeping elbows in close ensures it’s your forearms doing the work. You could also do this exercise with a barbell. 

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.

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