I try to find time for 45 - 60 minutes, 2 - 3 times a week for resistance training, where I follow a circuit-training routine. Sometimes, I don't manage, but would manage to squeeze a short one of say 15 minutes. My main aim is to get bigger arms rather than strength (forearms, biceps, triceps, ...) - Does it make sense that if I don't manage to find time for the full circuit, I do 3 - 4 of the circuit exercises which focus mainly on the arms? In general, I tend to build up quite well in chest, shoulders and legs area, however I've never seen a good noticeable increase in arm size, and would like to know if it makes sense that if rather than skipping it when I don't have time, I try to fit in just a few exercises.

Any general suggestions how to get the best of your time at the gym would be greatly appreciated!

  • 1
    My arms have grown 3/4" over the past few months just on Bench, Dumbbell Bench, and curls. Size was my secondary goal. For curls it's 5x20, for DB Bench it's 3 sets to failure with a goal of 50 reps before increasing. Bench is just a lot of volume. Of course I do the back exercises as well. Heavy loading and lots of reps help build up the size. Jun 6, 2013 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


There are tons of articles online that will give you bigger arms in just X weeks (tm). But the general gist is this:

  • Work your biceps and triceps at least twice a week each, but not on the same day.
  • For biceps, curls using dumbbells, hands pronanted will provide maximum stimulation for your biceps.
  • For triceps, close grip push-ups, triceps extensions, skull-crushers
  • Aim for lots of volume, 12-15 reps per set, 3-4 sets per exercise.

That last point is key, aim for the heaviest weight you can lift for the high volume. If you can complete the reps, drop the weight.

If you are doing a traditional push/pull split in the gym, biceps are considered a "pull" exercise and triceps a "push" exercise. Even if you want to continue your current plan with the same circuit every day, alternate days between biceps and triceps at the end of a workout.

High reps with high weight, and rest between workouts, combined with good nutrition, supplemented with creatine and extra protein should grant you size. But imporance is in that order; reps, rest, food, supplements.

As a personal anecdote, my approach was after a chest or shoulder day, I'd do 4 sets of 12 Lying Triceps Extension with rest between. Aiming to be able to complete the last rep and no more, after the last rep, I'd immediately do Close Grip Bench Press until failure.

After a pull day, which usual consisted of lots of rows and pullups (which already work your biceps quite hard), I'd do 4 sets of 12, but continue the last set until complete failure.


Instead of a circuit, you might consider doing some days that focus on arms, and some days that focus on legs. Working on your legs is really important for overall health (balance, posture, etc). Some research also suggests it can stimulate muscle growth across your whole body (though this isn't proven with 100% certainty). I would not skip leg workouts altogether.

However, since you have been seeing general gains and now want to grow one specific muscle group, you could try adding some extra sets of bicep curls and tricep extensions during your upper body workouts. And yes, if you continue circuit training, you'd be better off doing only arms if you're short on time rather than skipping all together.

Also, you mentioned that your main goal is to gain size, not strength. In general, it's hard to gain one without the other. But, you can gain a bit more size pretty quickly by taking a creatine supplement. This will cause your muscles to retain more water, so they'll appear bigger. Don't bother with this if you're not also putting the time in at the gym, but as part of your overall plan, it can be helpful.

  • I will try to alternate between a circuit training on one day which is basically a full-body workout, and one which focuses on arms / upper body. Also for example, I rarely feel 'muscle ache' in my arms whenever I train - Unlike my chest or legs, which sometimes after a good workout I feel relatively sore the next day! Regarding the creatine supplement - I would like not to take such supplements as am quite worried about any possible side effects they might have in the long run. I'd prefer going the 'natural' way. Jun 11, 2013 at 9:39
  • Do you have a source for your claim that "Working on your legs is really important, because it will stimulate muscle growth across your whole body"? This is oft-claimed but under-cited, and I've yet to see evidence to back this up.
    – user2861
    Jul 7, 2013 at 23:22
  • McGuff and Little explain the science of why training legs/large muscle groups helps overall gains in "Body by Science".
    – LightBox
    Dec 25, 2013 at 14:52
  • Thank you Xavier. @Legostormtrooper, do you have evidence for your claim that high volume provides bigger gains than lower volume with more weight? I would comment on your answer, but I don't have enough reputation…
    – bwyan
    Apr 15, 2014 at 23:55

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