How to Get Massive Arms as a Skinny Guy: End Your Insecurity Forever

by | Body Image, Building Muscle, Exercise, Weight Gain

Do you feel insecure about your tiny arms? Stop trying to hide them wearing baggy clothes all the time. Here's how to increase arm size and feel great about your physique.

Why Do Some People Have Extremely Thin Arms?

A number of things can affect arms size. The most common explanations are:

  • You just have a slender physique, it’s not only your arms that are skinny.
  • Your arms are longer compared to other body parts which makes them look thin.
  • Your arm muscles are disproportionately smaller compared to other body parts.
  • Most of the fat is concentrated in your midsection and your arms just look smaller.
  • Your arms size and proportions are like that of most people. But the biceps and triceps attachment points and shape make them look smaller.

Following a good workout plan and diet can solve most of these problems. Adding more muscle always has a positive impact on the upper arms. And minimizing excessive fat gain helps balance body proportions.

Reality Check: Maybe There’s No Hope For You

Let’s be real. There are limitations when it comes to body transformations. Fat tissue changes we can easily control. However, when it comes to muscle size, the amount of growth is limited.  Also, we can't change your overall frame (bone structure).

If your limb ratios are massively disproportionate, your arms may always look a bit smaller. Sometimes certain muscles don’t respond that well to training. They may not grow as big as other muscles.

However, this is not always the problem. The real issue may be inside your head. Do you really have lagging body parts? Or you simply want your arms to be bigger? If it’s the latter, you may never be happy with the results you achieve.

The tips in this article will help you increase arm size. It’s fine if you want to focus on this muscle group, even if it’s not really lagging. However, respect your body’s limitations. Be realistic and enjoy the gains you make. Don’t let vanity turn into frustration and insecurity.

How Do You Grow Lagging Body Parts Fast?

As a skinny person, you face a couple of unique problems. Adding muscle mass is generally hard. Bulking up your arms when they are already lagging back is even harder.

Here are a few guidelines to help you maximize bicep and triceps growth. Note that everything in this article is relevant only if you’re training with weights.

#1 How Should You Eat to Get Massive Arms?

It’s much easier to build muscle when eating in a surplus. This means bodyweight should be increasing. You can still improve muscle mass when leaning down. But the process is much slower.

If you’re super skinny you have no reason to lean down any further. Eat enough to be able to gain about 0.5 to 1 lb a week. Use a weight scale to track your progress.

Important: Train with sufficiently challenging weights to stimulate muscle growth. A hypercaloric diet without training stimulus results in pure fat gains. 

Excess body fat may increase arm size. However, most skinny guys accumulate fat mostly in the mid-section. That will make your arms look even less proportionate compared to the torso.

As a skinny dude, you can be very flexible with food choices. About 50% of your diet should consist of whole foods. Ideally minimally processed. This helps maintain good health and avoid nutrient deficiencies. The rest can be almost anything you want.

Though try to avoid processed fats. This includes things like deep-fried foods, bacon, margarine, etc. Also, check the nutrition labels for trans fats. Such items tend to be very unhealthy.

#2 What Lifestyle Factors Affect Biceps & Triceps Growth?

Muscle growth is a slow process. Even if your diet is on point, other factors can severely limit your progress. You also need to pay extra attention to sleep and recovery.

Sleep is a multiplier. When you’re getting enough quality sleep your workouts will be very productive. This means increased muscle growth stimulus. Also, a lot of the hypertrophic processes happen during sleep time. Better sleep, better muscle gains.

  • Try to get about 7-8 hrs of sleep a night.
  • If you’ve been sleep deprived you may need 8+ hours.
  • Make sure sleep time is uninterrupted (no bright lights or noise pollution).
  • If you can’t get 7 hrs of interrupted sleep, take naps during the day.

Proper rest management is also key. Your ability to handle daily stressors is limited. Stress can be physical or mental. However, all stressors tax the body. The more stressed out you are, the slower your recovery is. Muscle growth is limited by your ability to recover.

  • Make sure your sessions are challenging, but not overwhelming.
  • To maximize muscle growth, you may have to reduce involvement in other activities.
  • Reducing mental stress will improve training recovery.
  • Never push yourself to the max. Leave in the 1-2 reps in the tank to avoid burnouts.

#3 How Poor Training Habits Can Decrease Arm Size?

The goal of training is to maximize the training stimulus. But also to minimize fatigue build-up. A bad workout plan will leave you pretty beat up. And you’ll barely make any notable gains.

Important: If you really struggle to grow your arms you need to train with weights. Bodyweight training won’t be enough. Don’t expect to gain a lot of muscle as a skinny guy training at home.

Here a few essential questions to ask yourself when working out:

  • Does it feel like the target area is being stimulated?
  • Do you have a good mind-muscle connection?
  • Do you feel tension mostly in the arms? Not the joints (wrists, elbows, shoulders).
  • Is the target muscle the limiting factor? Other muscles don’t limit performance.
  • Do you get good pumps when doing more than 10-12 reps?
  • Do you get sore after training the target muscle?
  • Does the target muscle get weaker after a session?

The more questions you can answer with “yes”, the higher the chances you’re sufficiently stimulating the target muscle.

#4 What’s the Optimal Upper Arm Training Volume?

Training volume is usually measured in sets. The more sets you can handle, the faster you grow. However, finding the optimal number of sets for your arms can be tricky.

Doing too much is not a good idea. You still have to be able to recover from training. Otherwise, your muscles won’t grow. Overtraining can also increase the risk of injury.

General weekly recommendations:

  • Complete newbie: 6-9 sets per muscle group
  • Beginner: 9-12 sets per muscle group
  • Intermediate: 12-18 sets per muscle group.

Note: sets get distributed across multiple training days. A typical beginner workout usually includes 3 sessions. This usually means 2-3 sets of arm work per training day.

As a beginner, you can grow very fast. You don’t need to do a ton of dedicated arm training. Doing more sets will just get you more fatigued. It won’t necessarily improve growth.

Some compound exercises can also train your arms efficiently. Most pulling movements train the biceps. Most pushing exercises stimulate the triceps. These lifts count toward your arm volume.

Let’s say you aim for 9x sets for your arms. If you’re already doing 3x Bench Pressing and 3x Push-Ups, just add 3x Triceps Extensions to reach your triceps target.

Monitor your performance. Don’t forget to apply progressive overload. Add more weights or do more reps. Make sure training remains challenging. You should get at least a bit sore after a session. But not overwhelmed to a point where your next workout is negatively affected.

#5 Which Are the Best Biceps & Triceps Exercises?

Everybody is different. There are no universally great exercises. Try a few of the exercises included here. Use the question checklist in section #3 to figure out what works best for you.

If you’re new to training you don’t need to be super picky. It makes little difference what you’re doing. The novelty of the stimulus will be enough to cause muscle growth.

As you get more advanced you can get more specific. You’ll notice some exercises produce better results than others. Start experimenting. See which exercises you feel the most. Weed out those that cause issues or you just find ineffective.

General Upper Arm Resistance Training Options

In terms of weights and resistance you can be using:

  • dumbbells
  • barbells
  • cable machines
  • dedicated biceps machines
  • resistance bands

You can also use different grips, such as:

  • underhand (palms pointing up)
  • hammer grip (palms towards the midline of the body)
  • overhand grip (palms pointing down)
  • twist grip (rotating your wrist and changing grip as you move the weight)

Note: some options allow you to alternate between both arms or train them simultaneously. However, the movement remains the same. You’re only changing the rest time of each arm.

Bicep Exercise Variations

When it comes to bicep isolation movements, arm position makes a difference.

Elbow position at the top (end) position, when you’ve curled the weight up:

  • pointing directly down (e.g. standard standing or seated bicep curls)
  • in front of the body, pointing slightly forward (e.g. preacher curls, spider curls, etc)
  • behind the body, pointing back (e.g. incline curls, drags curls, etc)
  • pointing slightly to the sides (e.g. concentration curls, W biceps curls)

There are numerous potential combinations of different equipment, arm positions, and grips. You don’t have to include all.

Just make sure you do at least 2 different variations that are not too similar. For example, combine dumbbells, hammer grip, and “elbows down” one day. Next session, go for cables, underhand grip, and “elbows up”.

Having more variety also helps you train the other 2 elbow flexors (brachialis and brachioradialis). By changing grips and elbow position you can shift the focus to the other muscles. This way you improve overall front arm growth.

Compound exercises that also train the biceps: pull-ups, chin-ups, lat pulldown variations, all (horizontal) rowing movements. Note that straight arm pulldowns don’t train the biceps.

Triceps Exercises Variations

Triceps training follows the same logic as biceps exercises. Though there are no other muscles that extend the elbow. So most exercise variations only affect triceps growth.

Elbow position at the top (starting) position, when you initiate the movement:

  • pointing directly down (e.g. cable triceps pushdown variations)
  • in front of the body, pointing forward or up (e.g. tricep extensions, skull crushers, etc)
  • behind the body, pointing back (e.g. tricep kickback variations)
  • pointing slightly to the sides (e.g. close grip push-ups or press variations)

Apply the same logic discussed in the previous section. Mix a couple of combinations of equipment, arm positions, and grips. The more advanced you get, the more exercises you can include in your workout. Hence you can have more variety.

Compound exercises that also train the triceps: push-ups, horizontal and vertical press exercises, especially close grip variations. Note that flyes don’t train the triceps.

Bonus: Forearm Training

You don’t have to worry too much about forearm training. Any exercise that challenges your grip will directly hit the forearm muscles. This includes all pulling exercises. Also, some leg exercises where you’re holding a barbell or dumbbells (e.g. deadlift or dumbbell lunge variations).

If you like (and have the time), you can add direct forearm work at the end of your session. Any kind of wrist curl will do the trick. Or just do static bar holds. Hang from a bar and try to last as long as you can.

How Long Does it Take to Get Big Arms?

How big your arms look is not directly correlated to the actual size of this part of your body. If you gain a lot of arm fat you’ll definitely grow in size. But you may look very impressive.

Adding lean muscle while minimizing fat gain may not lead to any crazy size gains. But your biceps and triceps will certainly look way better. Defined muscles look visually more impressive. That also creates the illusion of size.

However, muscle growth is a slow process. Also, starting point does make a huge difference. If your arms are really tiny, it may take several months to grow them notably bigger.

It usually takes at least 6 months to see good results. If you maintain good fitness habits you can go from skinny to athletic in 2-3 years. And if you’re serious about training you can achieve an amazing physique in 3-4 years.

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Until next time!

~Niki, Fitness Mastery Coach

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