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Building up Lagging Arms – What REALLY Works and Why

I’m writing this article not as someone who has huge arms, or even very nicely shaped arms for that matter, but as someone who has taken their worst bodypart and brought it up significantly. Most people don’t want to hear this – but certain body parts, how they’re shaped and the development they will receive regardless of training and nutrition, is primarily determined by that persons genetics. This is why, unfortunately, it’s not a good idea to ask someone for advice on how to work their arms JUST because they have good arms, because that could be a genetic component that they would have had regardless of what they will you, and you might get bad advice!

The most important fundamental, above all else, is:

#1 Change it up

This applies not only to weak bodyparts, but your entire muscular development in general. When you give your muscles the same stimulus, they will recover until the muscle can fit the needs of the exercise. By changing it up, I mean incorporating not only new exercises, but doing different rep schemes, angles, and anything that creates new VARIABLES that overloads the muscle. Now this is where we set it apart from every other article out there. When I mean change it up, think about every way you’ve trained your arms, and redefine what an “arm workout” is. Is your arm workout an hour long, 3-minute rest time, triceps followed by biceps routine? Think how many variables within that you can change. Make it a two hour workout, instead of doing the entire triceps workout first, do a tricep exercise, then a bicep. Do two tricep exercises and then ONE bicep. On that one bicep exercise, do twice the reps you’d usually do. Then do the entire workout again, these are just one of many ways that are unconventional, but are DIFFERENT and will cause growth. Most likely, you have nothing to lose, and this will only benefit you, so we’ll continue to dig deeper into “changing it up” in this article and how important that is for your arm development.


#2 Stimulation

When you change up your exercise selection, focus on stimulating the muscles of the arms. Stop worrying about weight. Get it out of your head how much resistance is going to be used. You will make the resistance feel heavy and will get the overload needed in order for muscular growth of your arms. TRUST ME. Your arms are a small body part and are used for very fine motor skills as well as for assisting the larger muscle groups for heavy lifting.


The triceps head will maximally contract – meaning you will get the most fiber recruitment, when the elbows are behind the body. This is why exercises like a kick-back cause your triceps to knot up so hard. Focus first on exercises that allow you to work in this range of motion. Using long rope attachments are a great way to keep constant tension on the triceps (since kick-backs are limited by gravity) and allow you to bring your elbows behind your body.


To maximally contract the biceps, the hand must come behind the head while the elbow is extended outward. Think of it as if you were going to hit a double-biceps pose, but instead of keeping your arms at a 90-degree angle, you curl your hand downwards and behind your head while your elbow extends upwards. Focus on this as the primary addition to your biceps routine. My personal favorite way of doing this is taking a smaller bar, attaching it to the lat-pulldown machine, and curling it behind my head while the elbows remain extended and stationary.

Now that you’ve found the two PRIMARY ways to maximally stimulate the triceps and the biceps, incorporate similar exercises that allow you to use more resistance and on a platform that your arms have not encountered yet. If it feels different, and you feel the muscle contracting, TRY IT!


#3 Rep Schemes and Overload

Overloading your arms via performing new exercises that contract the muscle are one thing, but if you’re in too low of a rep range, your arms will NOT be the prime movers! You will be using momentum or secondary muscles to leverage-up the weight. Because the arms are generally smaller compared to the legs or back, try higher reps. Don’t be afraid to do a few sets in the 15-30 range.


The concentric part of the movement is when your muscle is shortening, or essentially, the effort it takes to move the weight. For a bicep curl it would be curling the weight up, and the eccentric would be the resistance on the way down. This is often an underutilized technique (the eccentric). Keep in mind, there is much more resistance placed on the muscle in the eccentric part of the lift, and the eccentric (or negative) is still a form of contraction! Negatives DO WORK! Use a weight that you can hoist up to a locked out or finished range of motion, and focus on negatives. As stated earlier, further that addition by changing it up. 5 negatives followed by 5 partial- reps. The next set? 10 negatives. Because why not!

#4 Workout Frequency

Since you’ve probably tried everything already mentioned in every single arm-building article that just tells you to do heavy skull crushers and close grip bench presses, you’ve probably also heard people say to either increase the amount you train arms by an extra day per week, or vice versa. You should not be slamming weights so hard that your elbows are in agony, because this will not possibly induce muscular overload on your triceps or biceps since the load will be demanding extra work from secondary muscle groups, so since you should only be sore from muscular damage, it is encouraged to train much, much more often! Again, this comes with trying new things. Do the unconventional – train your arms for 5 days one week, and then only one time the next week. This technique is called overreaching and over recovering, and brings us back again to rule number #1 – changing it up. Believe me, it’s hard to drop habits and fundamentals we’ve learned about bodybuilding and training to try new things. But once you begin to really dig into your arm routine and make it “weird”, so to speak – is when results start to come!

Article Written By: Billy Blackwell

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