What Are Good Size Arms To Impress Your Bros?

February 5th 2020

It’s easy to think that bigger always equals better; and, when it comes to bodybuilding and lifting, that’s certainly the case—up to a point, that is. 

Everyone has a healthy ceiling to which to aspire, beyond which might be hurting your body. But where is that limit? 

How can you make sure you get as close to that as possible without going over? 

Let’s talk about specific goal measurements for your arms, muscle mass, and the relationship between size and strength. 

What are Good Size Arms to Aim for in Training? 

The simple answer is: it depends. However, that’s not very satisfying. A less simple answer is to aim for an inch or two more than your current arm size if you’re just starting out with a bodybuilding routine. However, getting close to 20-inch arms will be very impressive for any lifter with years of training experience.

However, if you’re looking for specific measurements to which to aspire, read on. 

Men's Health cites the average guy’s biceps to measure in at about 13 inches. 

If you want to look big, you’ll have to go bigger than that! Therefore, if you decided to do a bodybuilding-style training routine as a beginner, your first goal should be around 14 inches. 

Each inch after that will look more impressive (and tell more people that you’ve been clocking time at the gym!), and if you get anywhere near 20 inches, that is getting seriously near peak bodybuilding territory. 

If you’re looking to have the biggest possible arms, you may be in for a wait — and a ton of work. 

LA Muscle details some of the biggest arms which have ever existed, from Olympian Sergio Olivia’s biceps clocking in at 20.5 inches to bodybuilder Moustafa Ishmail, who holds the Guinness World Record for enormous biceps, at 31-inch arms. 

You definitely don’t have to get anywhere near that to consider yourself built up! Start with 14 inches, and work up from there if you so choose. 

The Cost of Getting Great Arms

Know that you’re going to have to put in some serious time and energy to get to that point, however. 

BJ Gaddour, the author of Your Body is Your Barbell, says that “In order to make your biceps grow to their max potential, you'll need the right combination of exercise volume, intensity, and time under tension.” 

Make hitting those three things consistently and constantly your goal, and you’ll see results—but it won’t be easy. 

There will be other physical ramifications as well. 

Charles Poliquin of T-Nation notes this, saying that “A good rule of thumb is that for every inch you want to gain on your arms, you need to gain roughly 15 pounds of equally distributed body mass.” 

This means that you have to face one crucial fact: If you’re building, you’re going to be gaining weight. 

This doesn’t have to be a problem—but it’s something you should know. 

Do You Need Big Arms to be Strong? 

When you think of a strong person, you probably envision someone who has massive arms. 

But is this necessary to be considered ‘strong’? 

Greg Nuckols of Stronger by Science weighed in on this, saying that for beginning lifters “…there’s a very weak relationship between gains in muscle and gains in strength.  Gains in muscle mass may explain as little as 2% of the variation in strength gains for new lifters.” 

After you have been lifting for a while and have built up more muscle, there will be more of a correlation, and having more muscle mass will help build up your upper body strength. 

Says Nuckols, “Training style has a big impact on the ratio of strength you gain relative to size, with heavier training generally producing larger gains in strength.” 

What does this mean for the beginner? 

If you are just starting out, just train for your goals. Exclusively at first.

Have a narrow-minded focus while you dive deep into training.

Know that anything you do will produce results but having a goal and aligning that goal with a customizable beginner program will get you to your goal in the shortest time.

Usually, many beginners can choose to train for both strength and size. Some can even focus on building strength first and they will see that your body will grow as a result of lifting heavy weights.

What are some training styles to help you gain strength? 

In order to specifically gain strength as well as inches, you may already be doing weight training — but rounding out your exercise portfolio will go a long way towards ensuring that there’s sufficient power behind your future massive biceps. 

Outside of what you can do with weights, there is more than one way to grow your arms to a good size.

Some creative, outside-the-box examples of different ways to get your strength training in are: 

  • Circuit training - cycling through intense moves targeting different muscle groups taxes your muscular strength. 
  • Isometric exercise - These are exercises that exert the muscle without actually shortening or lengthening it. 
  • Gymnastics - Bodyweight exercises can go a lot further than you think! 
  • Parkour - Aside from being a funny stunt fitness movement, Parkour is an ultra-effective way to incorporate strength training via effective, natural movements. 

Do keep in mind that while these alternative training styles can work, almost all beginners will see faster and better results with good old fashioned resistance training.

This means training with barbells, dumbbells, and weights.

This means lifting heavy and actually working hard in the gym.

This means you will do what is necessary and what is most optimal for you to achieve your results.

Rounding out your exercise routines will help you see some benefits you may not be expecting! 

Do some research into any of the above exercise routines to see what might be best for you. 

Keep an open mind; there may be a style of training which you’d been previously dismissing which might be perfect for you! 

Can You Maintain a Good Arm Size while Cutting? 

Initially, that can be arranged. However, the longer you are on a cut, the greater chance you will not be able to maintain your arm size for long.

Picture a car that you only put 25% of the total gas required. This is your body on a cut.

Sure, you can still function but you won’t be as effective if you had a full tank.

And once your tank hits 0%, you shut down. 

The only difference between the car and your body is that your body is a very dynamic system that responds to any changes. Meaning that even though you are cutting, you will still be able to function. 

The same cannot be said about maintaining your physique, especially your arm size.

What is Cutting? 

According to Alyssa Razmus from Generation Iron, cutting is simply the opposite of bulking — trying to lose weight thought calorie deficits and intensive workouts. 

However, you definitely don’t want to do that at the expense of your carefully built muscles. 

Is there a middle ground where you can maintain your arm size while cutting to your ideal shape? 

Can You Cut and Build at the Same Time? 

Unfortunately, the biomechanical processes which underlie cutting just aren’t compatible with bulking up — or staying bulked up. 

The experts behind put it this way: “During periods of reduced caloric intake, the body must compensate for this lack of energy.” 

How does the body so compensate? 

“By breaking down fats in adipose tissue and proteins in muscle tissue.” 

Let’s delve a little more into what cutting and building are. 

  • Building is an anabolic process. This means, when you’re building, you’re literally knitting muscle tissues and building up more fibers in your muscles. 
  • Cutting is a catabolic process. This means the exact opposite: when you’re cutting, the muscles in your body are being broken down to help your body compensate for the lack of energy you’re taking in.

However, all hope isn’t lost. Once you’ve achieved your cutting goals, you can always start building your arms up again

What is best for your arms?

Ultimately, the best size arms for you and your body are arms that contain muscles that help you live your life healthily. 

Know that if you want bigger arms, you’re going to have to work for it — and if you have weight to drop, understand that you may have to prioritize your goals. 

Remember to always go about your exercise goals thoughtfully, and just take it healthily—and one day at a time.

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