Best Arm Workouts for Mass (7 Exercises for Bulk & Growth)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: April 1, 2024
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As a personal trainer, I always keep an eye out for the best exercises to help my clients achieve their muscle-building goals.

So, recently, when many of them asked me for the best arm workouts, I was ready to help them.

Through years of experience and research, I have crafted a set of exercises that consistently deliver results regarding arm growth (biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles).

These workouts are effective and safe, allowing you to maximize your time at the gym.

Quick Summary

  • The best arm workouts for mass are chin-ups, barbell curls, preacher curls, close grip bench presses, triceps pushdowns, skull crushers, and overheard triceps extensions.
  • The benefits of training arms are improved muscle growth, posture, strength, aesthetics, and heart health.
  • According to PubMed, compound movements are one of the best ways to build bigger arms.
  • Varying your arm training routine and implementing progressive overload are two essential principles for maximizing the benefits of your workouts.

The Best Arm Workout For Mass

Holding kettlebell for arm workout

Based on my years of experience and observation, here are the seven best arm exercises for building mass and strength.

1. Chin-Ups

Chin-ups are one of my favorite upper-body exercises, only second to the bench press.

According to the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, chin-ups target the biceps, making them bigger [1].

Here's how to do them with good form: 

  1. Grasp the bar with your palms facing your body and your hands positioned shoulder-width apart.
  2. Activate your shoulder blades and pull yourself upwards, ensuring your elbows remain close to your body.
  3. Once you reach the top of the movement, pause for two seconds and slowly lower your body.
  4. Repeat until you reach the desired number of repetitions.


  • Use the proper form: keep your back straight and avoid swinging or using momentum.
  • Perform the entire movement in a slow, controlled manner.
  • Keep your wrists in a neutral position.
  • Do not let your elbows flare out.

2. Barbell Curl

Performing barbell curls

I love barbell curls because of their simplicity of movement. This exercise allows you to target the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis.

Here's how you perform them with good form:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Grasp the barbell with an underhand grip, ensuring your elbows remain close to your sides.
  3. Slowly lift the bar towards your torso, engaging your biceps and focusing on the contraction.
  4. Lower the bar to its initial position and repeat for the desired reps.


  • Remember to keep your back straight throughout the exercise to avoid injury.
  • Raise and lower the bar in a slow, controlled manner to get the most out of this exercise [2].
  • Maintain close proximity between your elbow and the side of your body.
  • Don’t engage the shoulders and torso throughout this exercise.
  • Do not allow your hips to hinge.

“The position of your elbows should remain close to the side of your body, and only the lower arm should move until the top end of the movement when your elbows will rise so that you can complete the full range of motion. If you notice your elbows moving away from your torso or swinging behind the body, you are probably lifting too much weight.”

- Paul Rogers, Personal Trainer

3. Incline Bench Preacher Curl

I personally swear by the incline bench preacher curl as an isolation exercise. They're a great way to focus on your bicep muscles and develop more defined arms.

To perform this exercise:

  1. Choose an appropriate weight and adjust the seat so your elbows can rest on the pad.
  2. Begin with your arms fully extended and slowly curl the weight upwards, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement.
  3. Lower the weight back down with control.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Maintain a straight back and avoid using momentum to lift the weight.
  • Be cautious with the weight you choose, and ensure proper positioning to avoid straining the front side of your elbow.
  • Aim for a full range of motion by lowering the weights until your arms are nearly straight to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.

4. Close Grip Bench Press

Doing close grip bench press

Anyone who knows me knows that compound movements, especially the squat and bench press.

This close grip variation of the bench press targets the lateral head of your triceps and can increase your upper body pushing strength [3].

To perform this exercise:

  1. Lie on a bench and grip the bar with your hands closer than in a traditional bench press.
  2. Gradually lower the bar towards your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  3. Push it back up to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Maintain proper form throughout the exercise by keeping your back flat on the bench and your shoulders back and down.
  • Start with a lighter weight until you're comfortable with the movement, and gradually increase the weight as you build strength.
  • Use a spotter or Smith machine to ensure safety during the exercise.
  • Avoid bouncing the bar off your torso, which can lead to injury.
  • Inhale as you lower the bar towards your torso, and exhale during the upward push to return to the starting position.
  • Use a full standard grip on the bar, with your thumb and fingers wrapped around it, to prevent dropping the bar during the exercise.

“Maintain proper body position on the bench for safe and effective execution of the movement. Lifting hips off the bench during a press may be an indicator the weight is too heavy. Reduce the weight as needed and pay attention to good body mechanics.”

- Darla Leal, Fitness Trainer

5. Triceps Pushdown

If you want your arms to look bigger, I highly recommend honing in on your triceps with isolation movements.

Triceps pushdowns are a great triceps cable exercise to add to your routine if you’re looking to get bigger triceps.

These muscles, situated on the backside of the upper arm, hold significant value for gym enthusiasts who want to enhance their aesthetics, especially bodybuilders. 

To perform a triceps pushdown:

  1. Connect a rope or straight bar to a high cable pulley.
  2. Stand facing the cable machine, maintain a shoulder-width stance, and keep your elbows close to your sides.
  3. Hold the rope or bar with an overhand grip and extend your arms downward, contracting your triceps muscles.
  4. Gradually release to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Ensure that your upper arms remain stationary to ensure optimal triceps engagement. Avoid letting your elbows flare outward, as this can place unwanted stress on your shoulders.
  • Apply even pressure to both arms. If you experience difficulty, it may indicate a strength imbalance between your sides. Consider doing more one-armed tricep pushdowns on your weaker side to promote symmetry.
  • Lean forward slightly and allow a slight bend in your knees as you push down.

6. Skull Crushers

Doing skull crushers in gym

This exercise, also known as the lying triceps extension or French press, is an excellent isolation exercise targeting the triceps muscle group.

In my personal fitness journey, skull crushers have helped me get over tricep growth plateaus, so I highly recommend them.

To perform this exercise:

  1. Lay on a bench or floor while holding a barbell or dumbbell above your torso.
  2. Flex your elbows to lower the weight towards your forehead.
  3. Reverse the movement until the weight is back above your chest
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Start with a lower weight and progressively add more as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
  • Keep a firm grip and maintain a slow and controlled movement to prevent injury.
  • It's essential to keep your elbows steady and close to your head throughout the movement to fully engage the triceps.

7. Overhead Triceps Extensions

The overhead triceps extensions are an isolation dumbbell exercise for your triceps muscle that can significantly enhance its strength and definition.

To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with one dumbbell cupped in both hands.
  2. Extend your arms to raise the dumbbell above your head.
  3. Flex your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head while keeping your elbows in close proximity to your ears.
  4. Once you reach a 90-degree angle, return to the starting position and repeat for several repetitions.


  • Maintain a tight core and a straight back to avoid strain on your lower back.
  • Keep the elbows tucked in so that this exercise targets the triceps.

“If you haven't worked the triceps often, you may notice that they are weaker than some other muscles in the body. As a result, you might try to make the range of motion smaller than it should be. That is, you drop the weight just a few inches and then lift it back to the starting position.”

- Malia Frey, Certified Health Coach

What Are the Benefits of Training Arms?

Dumbbell curls inside the gym

Going back to the first time I trained arms, I noticed the benefits of training them within the first month.

If you're still wondering why you should train arms, here are seven reasons to convince you.

1. Increased Strength

You can boost your upper-body strength by training your arm muscles, particularly your biceps and triceps.

This can enhance your everyday activities like lifting heavy items, carrying groceries, or moving furniture with ease.

2. Improved Athletic Performance

Athletes in various sports, such as baseball, tennis, basketball, and swimming, can benefit from strong arm muscles.

Arm strength is vital for tasks like throwing, catching, hitting, and pulling.

3. Aesthetics

Well-toned and defined arm muscles can significantly contribute to an appealing physical appearance, which is highly sought after amongst gym enthusiasts.

4. Accelerated Metabolism

Just like any other muscle, training your arm muscles boosts your metabolism. This increases calorie burning, even at rest, aiding overall weight loss.

5. Improved Posture

Showing improved posture

Adding biceps and triceps exercises will help you support your shoulders and upper back, improving posture.

This reduces the risk of developing back pain or strains.

6. Enhanced Heart Health

Research suggests that maintaining muscle tissue volume could serve as an effective method of preventing the occurrence of heart attacks in the future [4].

Bilateral biceps curls have significantly raised heart rates compared to exercises like bilateral knee extension and barbell rows [5].

7. Prevented Injury

Insufficient upper body strength increases the risk of injuries and unexplained pain, especially in the lower back.

The arms play a critical role in providing overall stability and support. Strengthening them helps prevent such issues.

Tips for Building Bigger Arms

Flexing big arms on yellow backgroudn

As someone who's trained many hard gainers to achieve their physique, I recommend these five tips to enhance your arm gains.

1. Use Progressive Overload

One of the critical principles of muscle building is progressive overload, meaning gradually increasing the duration, weight, or number of reps you lift during your workouts over time [6].

This practice promotes growth and results in more muscular arms by imposing greater demands on your muscles over time.

“The Principle of Progression states that increases in time, weight or intensity should be kept within 10% or less each week to allow for a gradual adaptation while minimizing risk of injury. Without this progressive overloading, muscle growth will plateau.”

- Andre Adams, Professional Athlete

2. Combine Compound and Isolation Exercises

Holding two dumbbells for arm workout

According to a study in PubMed, compound exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, dips, and rows are excellent for developing overall strength and mass in the arms [7].

To further target specific arm muscles, include isolation exercises such as bicep curls and tricep extensions.

In my experience, this combination ensures a well-rounded approach to arm training.

3. Use Proper Form

Maintaining proper form during your exercises is crucial for effectively targeting the intended muscle groups and minimizing the risk of injury.

4. Correct Rest and Recovery

Showing bicep muscles

Allowing your muscles ample time to recover and rebuild after a workout is essential [8].

This involves prioritizing sufficient sleep, consuming a well-balanced protein-rich diet, and incorporating rest days between workout sessions.

By adopting these practices, you support the rejuvenation and growth of your muscles.

5. Varying Your Routine

Your muscles quickly adapt to the same exercises, so incorporating variety is vital to keeping your workouts challenging and effective.

Research has demonstrated that incorporating different exercises that vary the position of the upper arm and shoulder can train the arm muscles in unique ways, helping to prevent muscle imbalances [9].

6. Nutrition For Bigger Arms

I've found that most people who start training begin on the wrong foot. They tend to ignore these three key nutritional principles:

  • High protein intake: To maximize arm muscle growth, prioritize a balanced diet with ample protein (1.6–2.2g/kg body weight) from sources like lean meats and legumes.
  • Balanced nutrition: Plan your meals to include complex carbohydrates for energy and healthy fats for hormonal balance.
  • Supplementation: Supplements through a high-quality protein powder can enhance your muscle development, apart from being a quick protein boost after a workout.


What Are the Best Arm Exercises for Mass?

The best arm exercises for mass are the dumbbell curl, the overhead tricep extension, the close-grips bench press, the chin-up, and the tricep pushdown.

How Often Can You Train Arms?

You can train your arms up to three times a week. Alternating the muscles you focus on during each workout, such as training biceps and triceps on separate days, allows for proper rest and recovery time, preventing overtraining and reducing the risk of injury.


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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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