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Big Arms Workout for Mass: Superset These Arm Exercises!

by Elliot Reimers, CNC, M.S. Candidate | Reviewed by Advisory Board

Big Arms Workout for Mass: Superset These Arm Exercises!

The signature mark of someone who has paid their dues in the iron asylum is sleeve-splitting arms. Nothing says, “Wow, they must be a badass!” like having tennis-ball biceps and horseshoe triceps. So, what’s the best arm workout for mass?

Among the best arm exercises are barbell curls and dips. However, incorporating more variety into your arm workout for mass will prevent monotony and spur new muscle growth

Though, we’re not talking about doing endless variations of triceps pressdowns and dumbbell curls when building big arms is your primary fitness goal. Instead, you need some unconventional, yet highly effective, tricep and bicep exercises to reinvigorate your arm workout for mass! 

What's the Best Arm Workout for Mass?

Having big arms (or “guns”) is a desire for countless gym-goers, but basic exercises like the barbell curl and cable pressdown only go so far. As the adage goes: variety is the spice of life. Changing up your arm exercises can help stimulate new biceps and triceps growth.

Are you ready to build big arms and take a ride on the "gainz train"? Read on to learn all about some of the best arm exercises for mass.

    The Tate Press 

    Targets: Triceps

    This unconventional triceps exercise comes from Dave Tate, a respected powerlifter and owner of EliteFTS. At first glance, this movement looks somewhat awkward and counterintuitive, especially if you regularly do close-grip bench presses. But once you try this triceps exercise, you’ll see why it’s an integral component of the best arm workout for mass. 

    How to Perform the Tate Press: 

    (Click for Instructional Video)

    • Lie back on a flat bench (or the floor) with dumbbells in each hand. 
    • Extend your arms over your chest, much like you would when performing a flat dumbbell press. 
    • Point your elbows out and bring your forearms towards your chest by flexing your elbows; your arms should form an L-shape as the dumbbells approach your chest
    • Raise your forearms back to the starting position by extending your elbows, making sure not to bounce the dumbbells off your chest. Repeat as necessary.

    Spider Curls

    Targets: Biceps

    Spider curls are essentially “reverse” preacher curls — they target the biceps from a slightly different angle and with a longer range of motion than regular preacher curls. Focusing on form is especially crucial for this bicep exercise to be effective. Use a slow, controlled rep tempo, and don’t be afraid to reduce the weight if it helps you concentrate on the mind-muscle connection better.

    spider curls

    How to Do Spider Curls: 

    • Using an elevated preacher-curl platform (or an incline bench), grab an EZ curl bar or pair of dumbbells and rest your elbows on the flat/vertical side of the apparatus. Lean your torso forward so the bottom of your chest is against the opposite side of the padding.
    • With your arms “hanging down” fully extended, curl the weight up towards your chest by flexing the elbows, just like you would with conventional preacher curls. 
    • Pause briefly at the top for maximum contraction, then slowly lower the weight back down until your arms are fully extended again. Repeat as necessary. 
      • Note: Do not lift your chest off the padding/bench when curling the weight. Only your elbows should move during this exercise.

    Swiss Bar Bench Press

    Targets: Triceps

    These are a superb barbell bench press variation since the Swiss bar (aka football bar or multi-grip bar) increases triceps activation and reduces strain to the shoulders and wrists. 

    Avoid flaring your elbows out during the eccentric (lowering) phase; rather, think about “tucking” them towards your lats; this ensures the tension stays primarily on the triceps. For even greater triceps emphasis, pause the bar for a 2-second count once it reaches your chest, then explosively press up. 

    How to Do the Swiss Bar Bench Press:

    (Click for demonstration video)

    • On a flat bench, lie back and grip a Swiss bar at the interior handles. 
    • Using the same form you would for a barbell bench press, unrack the bar so it’s directly over your chest, arms straight.
    • Slowly lower the bar towards your lower chest, being mindful to keep your elbows close to your body.
    • Hold the bar briefly at the bottom of the eccentric phase, then explode the bar off your chest by pressing upwards through the palms of your hands. Repeat as necessary. 
      • Note: Do not bounce the bar off your chest as this simply reduces the amount of tension you place on your triceps and increases the risk of injury. 

    High-Pulley Cable Curls

    Targets: Biceps

    This overlooked biceps exercise allows you to target the peak of your biceps from a high-angle, and the motion mimics a front double biceps pose. You won’t need much resistance for these to really challenge you. 

    cable curls

    How to Perform High-Pulley Cable Curls: 

    • Attach two single-hand grips to each side of a dual-pulley cable machine. Elevate the pulleys so they are just above shoulder height on each side.
    • Standing in the middle of each pulley, grab both handles (one in each hand) —  similar to what you would do for the cable fly when training your chest. 
    • With your elbows nearly parallel with the floor, flex your biceps towards the side of your head, much like you would when doing a front double biceps pose.
    • Hold the contracted position for 2 to 3 seconds before extending your elbows and returning to the starting position. Repeat as necessary.

    Lying Overhead Dumbbell Extensions

    Targets: Triceps

    Most people perform this triceps exercise with an EZ bar or a single dumbbell with two hands. However, by using one dumbbell per hand you can achieve an even deeper stretch of your triceps and focus on the mind-muscle connection in each arm. These can be done with both arms at the same time or in a unilateral fashion.

    tricep extensions

    How to Do Lying Overhead Dumbbell Extensions:

    • On a flat or incline bench, lie back with a dumbbell in each hand. 
    • Extend the dumbbells over your shoulders with palms facing each other. 
    • Lower the weights just behind the top of your head by flexing the elbows. 
    • Complete the exercise by extending the elbows and straightening your arms, so the dumbbells are back above your head/shoulders. Repeat as necessary. 

    Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl

    Targets: Biceps & Forearm Muscles

    Reverse-grip barbell curls are a perfect complement to standard curls as they primarily target the biceps brachialis (the long head of the biceps) and brachioradialis. You will notice these are much more challenging than regular bicep curls, and your grip strength contributes a good amount to the amount of weight you can lift. Start with about 60-70% of the weight you can lift for conventional barbell curls.

    How to Perform Reverse-Grip Barbell Curls: 

    • Hold a barbell (or EZ bar) with an overhand/pronated grip, hands about shoulder-width apart and arms relatively straight.
    • Keeping your upper arms against your sides, flex your elbows/biceps to bring the bar towards your sternum, holding briefly at the top of the movement. 
    • Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position by extending the elbows. Repeat as necessary. 
      • Note: Try not to swing the weight up, your torso should remain relatively static throughout the exercise.

    The Big Arms Workout: Superset Arm Exercises for Mass

    This “big arms workout” features antagonistic supersets to keep the pace and intensity high, and maximize blood flow to both the triceps and biceps for a gnarly arm pump. This means you will be performing the arm exercises in paired supersets that target opposing muscle groups (i.e. biceps and triceps). 

    The primary role of the biceps is to pull, while the triceps push; hence, they are antagonistic to one another.

    Completing one set of both a biceps and triceps exercise in succession constitutes one “superset” or “round” of those two arm exercises. The only “rest” between the paired exercises is the time needed to change positions/weights, which shouldn’t be much longer than 10-15 seconds given the way this arm workout for mass is setup. 

    Rest about 60-75 seconds between each round/superset of paired arm exercises. Remember, this big arms workout is designed to be relatively time-efficient and intense.

    Finish all of the prescribed reps/sets for the exercises in each superset before moving onto the next. Use a weight that gets you about one rep shy of failure within the specified range for each exercise. 

    Note: The listed number of sets does not include warm-up sets. Perform 2-3 supersets with very lightweight (i.e., something you lift for 20+ reps fairly easily) on the first pair of exercises for biceps and triceps. 

    Arm Superset 1:

    1. Barbell Curls — 3 sets of 8-10 reps, followed by 1 set of 4-6 reps
    2. Swiss Bar Bench Press- 3 sets of 8-10 reps, followed by 1 set of 4-6 reps

    Arm Superset 2:

    1. Spider Curls —3 sets of 8-12 reps
    2. Tate Press — 3 sets of 8-12 reps

    Arm Superset 3:

    1. Reverse-Grip Barbell Curls — 3 sets of 12-15 reps
    2. Lying Overhead Dumbbell Extensions — 3 sets of 12-15 reps

    Arm Superset 4:

    1. High-Pulley Cable Curls — 3 sets of 12-15 reps
    2. Triceps Rope Pressdowns — 3 sets of 8-12 reps

    Forearm Finisher:

    1. Behind-the-back Barbell Wrist Curls — 3 sets of 20-30 reps
    2. Weighted Wrist Roller — 3 sets of 1 full roll, up and back down

    If big arms are your priority, perform this workout twice per week (3-4 days between each arm workout). Be sure to hit your other muscle groups throughout the week as well, to keep everything proportional.

    Want Big Arms? Follow These Tips

    arm training for mass

    Control the Tempo of Repetitions

    The tempo at which you perform repetitions ultimately determines the total time under tension (TUT) for the biceps and triceps. Longer TUT is not necessarily correlated with more muscle growth, but it does undoubtedly make lighter weights more challenging and increase the work performed by the target muscles. 

    Start by using a 3-1-2 tempo on all repetitions during your arm workout for mass — meaning 3 seconds to lower the weight (eccentric phase), 1-second pause at the bottom, and then 2 seconds to lift the weight (concentric phase). 

    Leave Your Ego at the Door

    “Go hard and heavy in the gym!” — a great mantra when performing arm workouts for mass, but only if you leave your ego at the door. You should be pushing yourself and lifting heavy for big arms, but not unless you can do it safely and with proper form.  

    We’ve all seen those gym bros with huge arms and toothpicks for legs, yet they load up the bar with 315 lbs. and “squat” down a quarter-inch, thinking it’s actually doing something useful. Rest assured, that’s a fantastic way to keep your legs nice and scrawny while also putting yourself at risk of a serious injury. 

    When in doubt, using a weight that’s a little too light is better than using one that’s too heavy. You can always do a few more reps if the weight is lighter than you want. If it’s too heavy, however, you could be caught between a barbell and a hard place (quite literally).

    Mass-Building Nutrition is Key for Big Arms! 

    Naturally, you need to be in a calorie surplus and consume plenty of protein to grow big arms.

    In fact, the amount of food (and energy) that you ingest is ultimately the main factor for building muscle and big arms, not necessarily the specific types of foods you eat. 

    For example, cage-free eggs are “healthy” in the sense that they provide complete protein, essential fatty acids, and a range of micronutrients, but this doesn't mean you can't overeat eggs. By the same token, eating a small slice of "junk food," like pizza or a cookie won’t inherently make your waistline grow.  

    Don’t misconstrue this as advising you to eat nothing but Twinkies, Oreos, and Ben & Jerry’s for building big arms. In most cases, the less processed a food is and the less added sugar it contains, the better (even for muscle growth). Natural and whole foods are usually much richer sources of micronutrients and fiber than pre-packaged and processed foods. 

    If you're struggling to gain mass, a weight gainer supplement like Transparent Labs Mass Gainer can help you meet your calorie and macronutrient needs. 

    Elevate Your Arm Workout for Mass with a Pre-Workout Supplement

    Being physically and mentally prepared for your workouts is critical if you want big arms. If you’re constantly dragging in the gym and can’t perform at peak capacity, and you won’t be putting as much tension on your biceps and triceps as you should. 

    Transparent Labs Bulk Pre-Workout is formulated specifically for those who want to maximize their focus, blood flow, and muscle pumps in the gym, allowing for optimal performance and recovery. Just as important, this pre-workout powder contains absolutely no harsh stimulants, artificial junk, fillers, or added sugars.

    If you’re looking to change up your routine and incorporate the best arm exercises, the superset arm workout for mass mentioned above is a great place to start. As always, don’t be afraid to try different bicep and tricep exercises to see which give you the best results. 




    Elliot Reimers, CNC, M.S. Candidate
    Elliot Reimers, CNC, M.S. Candidate

    Author

    Elliot is a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC) and M.S. candidate in the Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology program at Michigan State University. After obtaining his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Minnesota in 2013, Elliot began freelance writing and has since written 100s of articles pertaining to nutritional science, dietary supplements, exercise physiology, and health/wellness. As an inveterate “science nerd,” he loves helping people understand how nutrients, supplements, and exercise work on a cellular and molecular level so they can be smarter about what they put in - and do to - their bodies. When he's not busy writing or studying, you can find Elliot pumping iron, hiking the mountains of beautiful Colorado, or playing the piano.



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