The muscles in your arms are the gateway for just about any enjoyable activity you want to do. The more intense the activity, the more strength you’re going to need. Building muscle mass in the arms is tough for anyone, especially women who don't have the testosterone boost that men have. Pushups alone won’t get the job done. You need to hit the free weights and eat a balanced diet with enough protein to get strong and toned.
Biceps, Triceps and Forearms
There are many muscles in your arms, but you’ll only have to worry about three of them: the biceps, the triceps and the forearms. As far as muscle-mass training goes, you’ll actually only have to worry about the first two, because most common exercises for the triceps and biceps also work the forearms. To build muscle mass in your arms, you’ll need to hit both of these muscle groups almost exclusively. Also, most arm workouts also work your deltoids, giving your shoulders a boost both in strength and appearance, so make sure to account for that when setting your workout schedule.
To build muscle mass, work out your arms several times a week. You have two broad options, depending on your weight-training experience level. You can do split routines or complete routines. With a split routine, you’ll focus on triceps for one session, then biceps for the next session. This reduces the amount of complete rest time, since your rest day from a triceps workout will be spent working your biceps. The main drawback is that you’ll spend a lot more time in the weight room, so it’s only recommended if you have the time to devote to a split routine. In a complete routine, you’ll work both muscle groups in the same session with a complete rest day in between.
The way you structure your sets and reps is crucial to your success for building muscle mass. To bulk up, you’ll need to lift heavy weight in sets with a low number of reps. You can choose standard sets, for example, three sets of 10 reps for hammer curls, or you can go progressive. Progressive sets, such as super sets and pyramid sets, overload your muscles in a targeted way. A super set combines one set of an exercise with a second set of a different exercise. Each of the two exercises work opposing muscle groups. For example, you could do a super set of biceps curls and triceps extensions back-to-back with no rest period. Pyramid sets start with a low weight and high reps, progress to a high weight with low reps, then reverse course back to the original weight and number of reps. For example, start with eight reps of barbell curls at an easy weight. For the next set add 5 pounds and do six reps, then add another 5 pounds and do four reps, then add a final 5 pounds and do two reps. Then work your way back in reverse order to eight reps at the original weight.
Exercise and Diet
To build mass in your arms, both men and women need to fuel their weight training. This means you’ll need a balanced daily diet that includes at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, no more than 2 grams of complex carbohydrates per pound of body weight, and no more than 0.25 gram of healthy fats per pound of body weight, according to James Orvis, author of "Weight Training Workouts and Diet Plan That Work." Choose a variety of exercises targeting both the triceps and biceps. Combine seated exercises that help you perfect your form with standing routines that work in stabilizer muscles.
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.