“How do I get toned arms?”
We get this question all the time. Sometimes it’s from people who are looking to build muscle in their biceps and triceps. Other times, people are looking to achieve better physique. We’ll answer the question for both crowds.
Here are five things you can do to get the arms you want.
1. Eat Properly
Surprised this one is first? Don’t be: Nutrition is the foundation of everything when it comes to fitness. If you want to build larger muscles, you’ll need protein. And if you’re looking to increase tone and definition, you’ll need to reduce body fat. To drop fat, you must have your nutrition dialed in: You can’t eat excessive amounts of food, and some foods will help you accomplish your goals faster than others.
We have, Laura, our in-house nutrition coach who can tell you exactly how to eat for your goals, but here’s the short, general version: Prioritize protein, and look to whole foods like fruit and veggies before processed, fatty foods with lots of added sugar.
2. Lift Heavy Stuff!
To build some arm muscle, you need to lift enough weight to cause the muscle to grow. That means the last reps in any set should be challenging. If you do a set of 8 biceps curls and the last rep felt very easy, you’re probably not lifting heavy enough.
You need to “feel the burn” and challenge yourself! That safe stress will trigger your body to grow new muscle to adapt to the work you’re asking it to perform. Muscle growth is called “hypertrophy.”
In the past, people often saw bulging bodybuilders and worried that heavy lifting would turn them into behemoths covered in veins. That just doesn’t happen without very hard, very specific training (and often anabolic steroids). So don’t worry that heavy lifting will make you “bulky.” Lifting heavy is exactly what you need to build muscle and achieve great arms.
How heavy should you go? That depends on the movement and the sets and reps you’re doing. A coach can give you an exact plan—and we’ll talk about that below.
3. Do Arm Movements
This seems obvious, but we’ll point out something most people miss: You shouldn’t just focus on the biceps if you want great arms. Sure, the biceps are prominent, but you can’t forget all the muscles of the forearms and the triceps on the back of the arm. Deltoids are considered shoulder muscles, but they still help move the arms, and you should work them, too.
Hundreds of movements can be used to train these specific muscles. You can use barbells, dumbbells, bands, cable stations, body weight and household objects. A lot of times people will use “single joint” or “isolation” movements to train the arms. Think biceps curls, triceps extensions, delt raises and so on.
These movements can be great if you want to target very specific areas. For best results, we recommend you train all the muscles in the arm in isolation and together—read on!
4. Do Compound Movements
Compound movements work many muscle groups at once and involve several joints. Think about a pull-up, for example. It requires the elbows and the shoulders to move, and it trains a host of muscles at once.
Isolation movements are great, but don’t think you aren’t training your triceps in a bench press or your shoulders in a barbell press. You’ll get a huge bang for your buck with compound movements, and we use them regularly in the gym. As an added benefit, compound movements usually involve the muscles of the core and sometimes even the legs. That means you can improve your whole body even if you’re mainly focused on your arms.
A few great compound movements for arms: pull-ups, chin-ups, bench presses, shoulder presses, bent-over barbell rows.
5. Change Your Routine
If you always do the same thing, your body will adapt for a while and then stop adapting. But if you change your routine at appropriate times, your body will keep adapting to new stresses and you’ll get the results you want.
That means you might do 3 sets of 8 reps of barbell biceps curls with 20 lb. for three weeks, then switch to 2 sets of 12 reps of dumbbell hammer curls with 10 lb. in each hand for three weeks. You can adjust the weights you use, the reps, the sets, the movements, the rest and the number of times you train. But it’s not random.
You need to make the right changes at the right time. We could write a huge book on that, and we carefully tailor workouts to our clients so they get results. We’ll just say this to get you started: Change up your routine at least every four weeks to ensure you’d don’t hit a plateau.
Get to Work!
There you have it! With these five tips, you’re well on your way to better arms.
We’ll even give you a simple workout:
2-3 sets of 8 alternating dumbbell biceps curls (rest 45 seconds between sets)
2-3 sets of 8 dumbbell lying triceps extensions (rest 45 seconds between sets)
2-3 sets of 8 dumbbell hammer curls to overhead presses (rest 60 seconds between sets)
2-3 sets of 8 dumbbell bent-over rows to triceps kickbacks (rest 60 seconds between sets)
If you’d like a more specific plan that will help you accomplish your specific goals faster, we can help. Click here to book a free consultation with Coach Joel today!