I started a 30-day experiment to grow my arms and forearms just over a month ago. Even though I had been training my arms with compounds for years and increasingly directly with bodybuilding techniques, my arms and forearms were still sitting at just 15" and 12.25" respectively, and decided I wanted to change that as quickly as possible. The premise was simple. Build as much size as possible in one month while simultaneously improving the symmetry between my biceps, triceps, and forearms, and to do that I dramatically increased my arm training frequency and exercise selection.
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Background - Having a 77.5" wingspan at a height of 72.5", I have found it very difficult to ever "build" my arms. Strength was never a limiting factor except in tricep-heavy pressing movements. I've been able to row and pull-up as much as my back can handle, and grip (mixed) more than my deadlift, but I always have had issues adding arm mass. I've tried BFRT, the "chin-ups & compounds = big arms" approach, a dedicated arm day. I saw limited progress from those methods, but my arm size never increased dramatically over a short time frame.
Having started a lean bulk a few days prior, I made my arms a major focus, rather than my typical lagging muscle groups: upper chest, lateral deltoids, and quads. Every day for a month, I did five weekday morning workouts exclusively targeting the arms. Other weekly regular workouts also included direct arm training scattered between two bodybuilding workouts, four weekday full body workouts, and a Saturday strongman workout. The full workout protocol is below.
30-Day Before and After Results
In the span of 30 days my left and right arms increased from 15 1/8" to 15 1/2", an increase of 3/8"! To gain that much size naturally in a month is phenomenal. Additionally, I started to do a lot more direct forearm work, increasing in size my left and right forearms from 12 1/4" to 12 3/4", a whopping increase of 1/2"!
Arguably my forearm gains are the more impressive of the two results from the 30 day arm challenge, but my arms have been commented on being larger, are much tighter on the sleeves, and my forearms in a rolled-up dress shirt look great.
Symmetry approved across the board. My forearms are now more symmetrical with my upper arms, and I was able to add some size to the long head of my triceps, which forms the coveted “horseshoe”. All measurements were performed upon waking up in the morning, flexed with no pump.
You’ll notice that I actually put on 1/4” on my upper arms in the first 10 days of the program, and then there was a 20 day plateau until I hit my first 15 1/2” measurement. If you’re fine with slightly less overall progress but over a shorter time-frame, run the below workout protocol over 15 days instead of the full 30.
30 Day Arm Challenge Protocol
In order to push new arm growth, this program will push your limits and requires dedication and consistency. Quick 15-20 minute morning arm workouts keep muscle protein synthesis elevated locally in the biceps, triceps, and forearms, and the nightly workouts push the myofibrillar hypertrophy with heavier, higher recruitment exercises.
For muscle growth to occur you need to eat in an overall caloric surplus. Since the arms are already a smaller, more difficult muscle group to grow, I would keep calories on average about 300-500 over maintenance. I stacked my calories and carbs around my workouts. I drank this muscle building shake containing eggs and hydrolyzed whey protein after every morning and night workout, and that helped tremendously. Meal timing is only useful though if the rest of your diet is cleaned up and on point.
I was also running my Cistanche and Cholesterol Protocol (CC Protocol) during this 30-day arm challenge, and I definitely think that positively contributed to my success of adding 3/8” to my upper arms and 1/2” to my forearms.
With this much intensity, frequency, and volume applied to such small muscle groups, sleep and recovery need to be prioritized. Aim for 7-9 hours of high quality sleep per night, and supplement with naps as necessary. I also used the sauna 3-4x a week for 20 minutes. While in the sauna I massaged my arms and forearms, driving blood-flow to the area and breaking up any tight tissues I encountered. By massaging my fascia I allowed my arms to stretch the fascia and therefore, room to grow.
These workouts are performed in a circuit fashion, with each exercise proceeding the last. Rest for 60-90 seconds in-between. If 5 rounds is too long of a workout to perform in the morning, perform 3 rounds instead.
Ring Tricep Extensions 5x20-30
This exercise is easy on the elbows and hits the triceps long head very effectively. Sit deeply into the stretch at the bottom and engage with your triceps to drive out of that position. Keep the tension constant.
Ring Curls 5x20-30
Ring Curls are a great exercise which overloads the biceps safely. Your bodyweight provides a good stimulus, but the force curve of the exercise ensures relatively even resistance throughout the curl. If you don’t have rings perform them later at the gym on a smith machine.
DB Wrist Curls 5x10
Wrist Curls are one of the best ways to build forearm mass, and the Dumbbell variety is no joke. Start counting reps once you can feel the burn.
I like to superset these exercises. Hang two bands off of a pull-up bar, one more resistive than the other (I use the Serious Steel 50-120 lbs green and 25-80 lbs blue bands for the extensions and overhead extensions respectively). Focus on improving you mind muscle connection with your triceps on each rep, and hold the top of each contraction for a couple seconds
Hammer Curls 5x20
Hammer Curls are a fantastic dumbbell exercise which evenly builds the biceps and forearm muscles. Keep your elbows in front of your body to place more strain on your biceps and to limit the amount of movement “cheating”. If you perform this exercise correctly you’ll discover it’s one of the best arm and pump exercises.
Forearm Club Raises 5x25-20
Find an offset weight such as an Indian club or a thick piece of metal piping. This movement trains forearm adduction, and is a very balanced forearm builder.This also makes for a good burnout exercise after the other two upper arm movements.
Wednesday’s workout is one of the easiest to perform at home, only requiring a doorway pull-up bar. I also like this workout because it improves body-weight movement patterns and strength. The arm pump I got from these workouts was always the weakest.
Close-Grip Push-Ups 3x30-40
Place your hands close together but neutral (diamond push-ups can aggravate your shoulders). Perform push-ups, keeping your core tight, scapula in proper positions, and direct all your focus to the triceps. Be sure to lockout each rep as that is where the triceps are activated the most.
Close-Grip Chin-Ups 5x10-15
Grab onto a chin-up bar with a supinated grip, hands just a couples inches apart. Perform a chin-up but lay slightly more horizontal and place all your focus on your biceps. Squeeze at the top and slowly go back down to a dead hang. Done properly these are a fantastic bicep mass builder.
2-3” Bar Hangs 5x Hold As Long As Possible
Bar hangs are a great way to build forearm strength and endurance, and I like to do them for less time on thicker handles. Wrap your thumbs around the bar and If getting a thick bar setup is too difficult, perform towel hangs instead, which is just as challenging of a movement.
Upper and lower arm exercises for the night workouts were more varied than the morning exercises, in both exercise selection and in set and rep schemes. Below are 3 example mini arm workouts you can add onto your routine over the course of a week.
Arm Workout 1
Barbell Curls 4x8
The classic bicep building exercise, the key is to keep your elbows in front of your body in order to place most of the strain directly on your biceps. Jeff Nippard has a good video on how to properly perform this exercise. Use an E-Z bar to reduce wrist strain if that’s an issue you encounter.
Two variations include performing this exercise on a flat bench with a smith machine, and using a Slingshot. The smith machine takes the small shoulder stabilizers out of the exercise, allowing the triceps to be focused on easier this way. The slingshot helps to reduce the weight of the bar off of the chest, therefore reducing the activation of the chest and placing it onto the triceps.
With arms behind the back, it’s really easy to activate the forearms. Don’t count reps until your forearms are already burning, and then push through the pain. Use short rest periods for this exercise.
Arm Workout 2
DB Zotterman Curls 4x12
Zotterman Curls are one of my favorite bicep exercises, very similar to hammer curls in the muscles they target. The zotterman curl brings the arm across the body, and by doing so you’re able to contract the top of the movement better than a hammer curl due to a move protected shoulder joint position. You’ll have to alternate reps here, so it makes for a good finisher when the biceps and forearms are already fatigued.
The Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension is a classic tricep exercise, and one that’s easily performed at any gym. Standing or seated, I like this exercise less for the contraction at the top and more for the deep stretch I can achieve on my triceps at the bottom. Sink into that stretch, feel your triceps, and then use your triceps to drive the weight upwards.
Reverse DB Curls 4x20
Reverse Dumbbell Curls are a very flexible exercise, and they can be performed from heavy to very light with a variety of reversed grip positions.
Arm Workout 3
I like to use machines every once in a while as a way to take the stabilizer muscles out of the movement in order to fully target the desired muscle, in this case the biceps. I like to hold the stretch, the contraction, and keep the MMC my focus during the movement itself.
Same concept as above with the Triceps Extension Machine. I find it difficult to contract the triceps compared to stretching the muscle (both can help grow a muscle), and this machine makes it really easy to get an amazing contraction on your entire tricep muscle. Hold the contraction and use a slow controlled tempo in-between.
Plate Pinches 4x Hold As Long As Possible
Plate Pinches are a semi-unconventional grip exercise, but one that is easily performed at any gym. The two ways to perform this exercise is to increase the width of the pinch with 10 pound plates, or to pick up a single 35 or 45 pound plate and hold for as long as possible. Both methods have a large carryover to grip strength.
GROW BIG ARMS
Follow this routine diligently for 30 days and I can guarentee you’ll see results hypertrophy results. In fact, if you have a shorter wingspan with long muscle bellies (two things I don’t have), you’ll probably see even better results than me! If you follow this routine, please share your results with me via email or my Instagram account @stefanburnswellness.
Stefan Burns is the creator and main author of Wild Free Organic. A swimmer in high school, soon afterwards he discovered a passion for the health, wellness, and fitness fields. Stefan is a jack of all trades, expertly knowing how to use all the different wellness “tools” available to radically and permanently transform one’s health, from fasting and sauna usage to calisthenics and powerlifting.