Overcoming the Challenge of Arms that Won't Grow

July 4, 2012

By Joel Stubbs, IFBB Pro

[Q] Long arms mean long muscle bellies. How do you give your arms that nice, full look as a big man?

[A] Well, to give your arms that nice full-muscle-belly look, you have to bust up your arms whenever you train them. When you have longer arms, as with legs, they require plenty of attention to grow. For some guys that’ll mean higher volume; for others it’ll mean more weight. Find out what works for you, but make sure each arm workout provides adequate stimulus for growth. Don’t forget the forearms, either! They’ll help ensure your upper arms and lower arms maintain balance.

[Q] How do you choose the variety of exercises you’ll use in your biceps routines?

[A] You need to have a basic understanding of how the biceps works. Your biceps consist of the biceps brachii, which is a two-headed muscle group, and the brachialis. Both muscles run along the front of the upper arm. The biceps brachii is responsible for the ball-like “head” on your biceps; the brachalis runs under the biceps. For overall mass I do straight-bar or EZ-bar curls, which allow me to use heavier weight to stimulate growth. I do both wide-grip and close-grip curls to target the inner and outer heads, respectively, and always go through a full range of motion. To target peak, I do a lot of incline dumbbell curls and close-grip barbell curls.

[Q] I know my triceps make up most of my upper-arm mass. What’s your favorite triceps exercise to add mass in a hurry?

[A] My favorite triceps movements for mass are the close-grip bench press and weighted bench dips. Both of these exercises are compound movements that allow you to use heavier weight to target the triceps because more than a single set of joints are at work (elbow and shoulder joints, not just the elbow joints). Despite the support from other muscle groups these two movements allow you to bombard the triceps with heavy weight, building those three heads in a hurry.

[Q] I have some elbow problems so I can’t train my arms very heavy anymore. Can I still add size using other techniques?

[A] You need your elbows for any kind of pressing movement. Having injuries or problems to your elbows will ultimately limit your growth, so you want to prevent as many wear-and-tear injuries as possible by training smart. However, you can blast your triceps with other techniques like giant sets or supersets using lighter weight. Most of my arm work takes place above 10 reps. The pump produced not only makes you look bigger, but it can also help to trigger pathways that increase protein synthesis. Always train as heavy as you can within the proven growth rep ranges (6-12). Then use higher-rep, lighter-weight training to add to your development.


Joel uses this high-volume, triceps-first program to build mass during his offseason.


 Triceps Pressdown   5 15
 Reverse-Grip Pressdown   4 12
 Close-Grip Bench Press   4 12
 Seated Overhead EZ-Bar Extension   4 12
 Weighted Bench Dip   4 15


 EZ-Bar Curl   4  12
 Alternating Dumbbell Curl   4  12
 Cross-Body Hammer Curl   4  12
 Preacher Curl   4  12