We have yet to meet a guy who’s serious about fitness but wants flabby, weak arms. In fact, the mere thought that such a bizarre lifter exists sends terror shivers rippling down our spine.
Yes: We all want strong, defined arms. But to get there, you a) have to take your training routine off autopilot, and b) must be aware of any red flags that could pose a threat to your progress. For help spotting the warning signals, we spoke with ACE-certified personal trainer Franklin Antoian, creator of iBodyFit.com. If your arm workouts aren’t netting you the progress you want, make sure you erase these mistakes from your daily routine.
You’re Too Obsessive About Your Biceps
… but neglectful of your triceps.
Considering your triceps make up two thirds of your upper arm, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot (arm?) by ignoring them.
“Guys especially tend to focus on the muscles they can see—chest, biceps, and quads, and they often forget about the muscles on the back of their body,” explains Antoian. Muscles also like to build in opposition to each other, meaning that developing stronger triceps will pave the way for bigger bicep gains in the future as well.
You Train Your Arms Daily
When building your body, the more you practice the better you get. No news there. But besides lifting routinely, you also need to focus on rest and recovery.
“Training your arms daily is a mistake most likely made by a novice weightlifter,” says Antoian. “That person probably thinks that in order for their arms to grow as quickly as possible, they need to train them as often as possible. However, muscle tissuetakes about 48 hours to recover after it’s broken down.”
Bottom line: Whether you train in traditional chest/tri and back/bi splits or utilize classic push-pull compound sets, make sure you give your muscles time to rebuild before you hammer them again.
You Take Too Much Time Off
Remember what we told you about training too much? You can also make the opposite error: Being too lax with your scheduling.
“Try adding a midweek biceps and triceps workout into your routine,” says Antoian. “Make sure you’re getting that 48-hour rest period, but be sure to prioritize the body parts you want to grow. If nothing else, it’s a fun workout and a great pump.”
You Get Tunnel Vision
Be resolute and consistent with your exercise variety. Don’t stick to movements that allow you to show off your strength or that come relatively easy to you, because then you’re not going to make much progress.
“There are so many variations of the curl: concentration, hammer, reverse drop sets — and that’s just with a dumbbell,” says Antoian. “Don’t just get into the habit of isolating the same parts of your arms. Doing that doesn’t utilize the entire muscle.”
Instead, change up your workout routine so that it’s anything but, well, routine.
Your Reps Are Robotic
Going on cruise control with your rep counts and how fast or slow you execute your reps is a one-way ticket to hitting a plateau.
“There is a lot of misinformation about reps,” Antoian explains. “Guys tend to think you should only go heavy with low reps, and women tend to think you only need to do higher reps. But using a hybrid approach where you switch up your rep count every four weeks or so enables you to incorporate more muscle fibers.”
Your ROM is Bad
When guys go too heavy—because they’re trying to make big strides too fast, or because they just wanna look good at the gym—their form often gets sloppy, and they often truncate their range of motion in a specific movement. Worse yet, “short-arming” an exercise unintentionally creates modifications that can alter its intended focus.
“When you’re standing on your tippy toes and using momentum to try to complete a rep, you’re not under control,” Antoian says. “Instead, aim to use proper form and remain under control while achieving the full range of motion of the exercise. This will ensure that you’re recruiting every muscle fiber for that exercise.”