baeBig ARMS explained

To get the arms you’ve always wanted you need to put your entire body to work. It’s the firm foundation that guarantees an impressive build.

Remember, when it comes to your arms, a little knowledge goes a long way. So while you may be itching to hit the weights, a few final words of advice to take to the gym with you. You won’t find a single person who trains regularly who hasn’t felt that their arms could do with being a bit bigger. And they’ve probably tried every bicep curl and tricep extension going. So why isn’t every gym user furnished with blood-restricting tight sleeves?

The surprising answer is it’s your upper back, and your core. And your glutes-yes, the muscles you’re sitting on one part of the reason why you haven’t got the arms you want. “When these muscles are weaker than they should be, they act like brakes on the size and strength of everything else, especially your arms,” says top strength coach and gym owner Alwyn Cosgrove, author of The New Rules of Lifting and designer of MH’s Big Arms Workout.

You have to think of your body in terms of construction: if the foundation are weak, then what’s built on top will never be as strong as it could be. In the same way that you can’t burn fat from one specific body part, you can’t spot-build muscles. A strong body will get a strong pair of arms, not the other way around. The plan over the next two pages identifies areas of potential weakness and offers solutions to improve them. It’s worth bearing this information in mind, before you start baring your arms.



Face a mirror with a 15kg dumb-bell in your non-dominant hand (your left, if you’re right handed) and do a set of curls. Watch your body closely, especially as you tire.

“Notice how your upper arm moves in against the side of your torso after a few reps,” says Cosgrove. “That’s caused by muscles in your shoulders t called external rotators. They’re pulling your arm into a more stable position.” Deeper into the set, you’ll need more momentum to start each lift. Your shoulder blade will rise up and drop down as you curl. That’s your trapezius-the diamond-shaped pair of muscles that run from your neck to your middle back and out to the edge of each shoulder-helping your biceps do their job. Finally, as your biceps near exhaustion, notice how you squeeze your glutes and lean backwards to complete your last two or three reps, “That’s the action of the muscle on the back of your body, including your glutes, hamstrings and spinal creators.”

You won’t find this mentioned in standard bodybuilding books, but these are the muscles that  can help or hinder the potential growth of your biceps and triceps.

If these muscles are weak, you won’t be able to lift nearly as much. Lifting less means smaller arms. Here’s how you can eliminate such weaknesses from your quest for more arm muscle.


Your biceps and main part of your triceps originate on your shoulder blades, the triangles of bone at the corners of your upper back. The actions of your shoulder blades are largely controlled by your trapezius muscles, or ‘traps’.

“The stronger they are, the more solid the platform you have to build everything else attached to your shoulder blades (that is, your arm muscles),” says Cosgrove. By adding farmer’s walks , deadlifts and inverted rows. You can build strength needed to add weight when you train your arms directly. You’ll also boost your grip strength so you can hang onto the weights for longer, making sure your arm muscles tire before your grip does.


So how are your glutes connected to your arm muscles? Your glutes are part of a chain of muscles and other tissue that also include your lats (the large muscles that run down the sides of your back).

“They work together to stabilise your spine when you move,” says Cosgrove.”So when you do an exercise like pull-ups, your biceps and lats work to move your body while your lats and glutes protect your spine and prevent sudden twists that might cause an injury. That’s why lat pull-downs are a mediocre substitute for pull-ups.” Standing and lifting your body (or free weights) trains your core to work harder to stay stable. When your glutes and lats are strong and your spine is safe, pull-ups help your biceps to work as hard as you want to push them. That’s why the prone cobra, which strengthens your glutes and back (among other muscles) is another key exercise for building great arms.



Next time you hit the gym, try this test. Go to the tricep pushdown station, select the heaviest weight you can use for 10 reps and do a set. Rest a few minutes and then repeat the set…standing on one leg. You won’t be able to knock off 10 reps. The reason is obvious: your triceps haven’t become weaker; they’ve simply lost some of their support base.

“ A weak or unstable core limits how efficiently your central nervous system controls your muscles. This can raise your injury risk and  makes almost all your muscles weaker,” says Cosgrove. “So even though your triceps aren’t part of your core, their performance is affected by it. A weaker or less balanced base of support limits the strength and power your arm muscles can generate while a stronger core enables all your muscles to work harder, longer and more productively.”

That’s why the exercises in The Big Arms Workout challenge and strengthen your core as well. It’s a wo for-one bargain. You develop better abs while creating the base that allows you to build bigger arms.


Your upper body assigns two of its biggest and strongest muscles, the lats and the pecs, the task of turning your upper arm inward, as in arm wrestling. To rotate in the other direction it assigns much smaller muscles, your external rotators (infraspinatus and teres minor, In case you’re wondering).

“If your external rotators are weak compared with your internal rotators, your body will be reluctant to increase your upper-body strength and power, as this would set you up for injury,” says Cosgrove. Your solution? Exercises such as the Y,T,W and L raise, which directly target your  external rotators, balance your strength and allow you to lift more weight. It might seem like a mouthful, but the arm gains are worth the tongue twisting.


Your work your biceps with curls. Chances are you did a curl the very first time you picked up a dumb-bell and have been doing them ever since. Now ask yourself : when did you last increase the weight?
“If you want your arms to grow, you need to create an overload and challenge them with progressively heavier weights,” says Cosgrove, ”They’ll  adapt by growing bigger and stronger, “If you haven’t increased your weight on this exercise in the last month your arms aren’t getting the overload they need to get bigger.

Rectify this with the pull-up. “This move forces you to lift your entire body on each repetition, “says Cosgrove. Your biceps must work as hard as they can. Target your triceps the same way with dips.

Enough explanation. Now it’s time for you to pull out the workout grid, take it to the gym and put your backside into gear. Along with your traps, core and all the other muscles. All you have to lose is the empty space in your shirt sleeves.