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Big arms. A man has big arms. He walks by in his tight shirt. How did he get such big, thick, meaty arms? When he moves his firm muscles change shape.
All that muscle. Think of all the things he could grab. He is a strong and durable man. He can open any pickle jar. How can we be like him?
As a boy, I wanted big arms. I measured my right arm, and even if I moved the tape measure around, it was a mere 14.5 inches. I worried I would never have big arms.
So: I decided to start doing dumbbell curls after school. This helped, but my arms were still too small.
Years later: After eating so many disgusting foods and subjecting myself to thousands of workouts, my arms are a bit bigger.
And: You are a lucky person. I have recorded, in this illustrated arm guide, lots of my thoughts about big arms.
Body fat. Consider this. If you have a high body fat percentage, big arms are less impressive. If fat covers your biceps and triceps, muscle definition is not seen.
Note: I have been at different levels of body fat. My arms have measured between 14 inches and 17 inches.
Also: I have been at different levels of fitness. Some of the difference in arm size is body fat on the upper arm.
Muscle insertion. If you have a muscle insertion near your elbow joint, you have a low insertion. This will make your arm seem bigger overall. But you will have less of a biceps peak.
Tip: The insertion point of the biceps comes near to the elbow joint in some. These lifters are likely to have arms that seem big.
Perception. Some people will consider your arms to be big. But others may not. A child is more impressed with 15-inch arms than is a professional bodybuilder.
And: 15-inch arms are more impressive on a woman. I would be intrigued, impressed.
Big: I consider 15-inch arms pretty impressive on anyone who works out. Good job and continue with your workouts.
Also: The photograph of the arm at the top is around 15 inches when measured. It is not huge but still big.
Proportion. It is important to keep your body's musculature in proportion. I too often see men who seem to work out only their biceps and pectoral muscles.
However: From a functional, sports-oriented standpoint, this style of workout is worthless. Muscle imbalances are a negative.
13 inches. Sadly these are not big arms. When I was just a boy, but after puberty hit, my arms were over 14 inches. I even measured correctly (for a 13-year-old boy).
However: This size arm appear large on some girls with smaller frames (not much more than 5 feet tall).
14 inches. Let's increase by an inch. The lower the body fat level and the shorter and smaller the overall frame of the person, the larger this arm will seem.
Tip: A 14-inch arm appears large on shorter men, around 5 foot 6 or lower. Many photographs of men with 14-inch arms are impressive.
15 inches. These are viewed as larger on shorter and more compact frames than on taller men. If you are under 6 feet tall, 15-inch arms will seem big. They are impressive.
16 inches. If the arm is covered in a thick layer of fat, it will be less impressive. But 16-inch arms with a low level of body fat are considered big arms.
16-inch arms: These are good football player arms. Universally big except when body fat is high.
But: If your gut overhangs your belt on your pants by several inches, 16-inch arms are probably not impressive.
17 inches. At 17 inches and beyond, you should have no concern about whether your arms are big or not. 17-inch arms are probably considered "bigger than big."
Caution: The guy in the pictures is not lean. He is kind of chubby. You will heave to deal with it.
So: His 17-inch arms, which he gets at around 220 pounds, are less impressive than 15-inch arms with less fat.
Note: If you have a high level of body fat, 17-inch arms are more accurately described as 15-inch arms with an extra layer of fat.
18 inches. There is no doubt about it. 18-inch arms are really big arms. A man with low-fat, 18-inch arms has certain arm-related privileges.
And: He always has the biggest arms in a group. He does not need to read websites about getting bigger arms.
19 inches: You are just trying to make me feel bad about my body measurements. Some guy always will have larger dimensions than I will.
20 inches: At this point you can call your arms "pythons." Also you may need a really orange tan.
Ideal. Research has sought the ideal biceps measurement. A study selected 14 bodybuilders with incredibly fit bodies. These men were measured.
Tip: The men were on average 26 years old. They had an average waist size of 31 inches, weighed 162 pounds and were 5 foot 9.
Note: Because these men were 162 pounds and five foot nine, their 14-inch arms looked strong and muscular.Optimum Anthropometric Criteria
Ideal man minimum biceps size: 35.30 cm 13.90 inches Ideal man maximum biceps size: 35.78 cm 14.08 inches
Triceps. At first it seems that the biceps muscle is the largest one. We flex our biceps to show off. But another muscle group, the triceps brachii, is actually larger.
Triceps shape. After working out for months to years, your arms become larger and more muscular. And the triceps shape reveals itself when you lose enough body fat.
Tip: It is fun to flex this muscle. As the muscle contracts, the back of the arm changes shape. It becomes a ridge or horseshoe shape.
And: You can feel this even with smaller muscles. For ways to develop your triceps, please see the section further down this page.
Stretch mark. If you have big arms, one sign is that you have stretch marks on them. This is not generally thought of as a positive thing. People dislike stretch marks.Stretch Marks
Note: Stretch marks (striae) are complicated. Some bodybuilders develop them more easily than others.
Cuffs. Consider this. Doctors often take your blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff is adjusted to fit the arm. The standard-size cuff only fits arms up to 33 cm or 13 inches.
And: You need the large cuff if your upper arm measures more than 13 inches. A doctor will consider your arms to be big.
Note: This is an unflexed measurement of the upper arm. Remind your physician to use a larger cuff if you are a bodybuilder.
Incorrect cuffing of a muscular arm leads to significant errors in the measurement of [systolic blood pressure] and [diastolic blood pressure], similar to that observed in miscuffing of nonmuscular arms.Medium and large adult cuffs
Insertion. Men like to measure their body parts. You can see if you have near or far biceps insertions. Place two fingers between you biceps and your elbow.
With a near insertion, you may have good muscle size potential. If only one or two fingers can fit between your muscle and the joint, then you have close insertion points.
1. Position arm at 90 degree angle. This is a right angle. You probably want to use your dominant arm for measuring.
2. Measure space. Use your fingers. Measure between the inner joint of your elbow and muscle.
Measure. How can you measure your biceps? Consider whether you want to measure muscle girth when flexing. If you are measuring for clothes, the flexing size is not important.
1. Flex. Choose the same arm each time. Usually right-handed guys have bigger right arms, so they choose to measure that side.
2. Wrap tape measure around flexed arm. With your other hand, attempt to wrap the tape measure around your flexed biceps.
3. Tighten tape measure. But don't make it too tight or stretch it. If you ruin the tape measure, your arms won't get any bigger.
4. Record your measurements. And possibly repeat these steps as many times as necessary until you get consistent measurements.
5. Optional: Make something up. Many men exaggerate all their physical measurements. If you do not, you may look inferior to them.
Forearms. Big forearms are probably rarer to see than muscular biceps. Muscular forearms are a combination of genetics and certain exercises.
Note: Instead of training your forearms specially, consider focusing on full-body workouts. These involve squats or deadlifts.
Note 2: Doing isolation exercises for the forearms could cause injuries. The movements are not natural.
Biceps versus bicep. Please remember the muscle is your biceps, even if you are talking about one muscle. There is no "bicep" muscle. You can be both smart and strong.
Bigger arms. What should you do if you want bigger arms? The best strategy is to lift weights. If you are already lifting weights, lift heavier ones. Do squats.Barbell Squat
Info: Muscle protein synthesis is complex. Lifting weights does not directly make your arms bigger. It changes your hormonal status.
At night: Extra growth hormone is released. This will cause your entire body to become more muscular.
Arm exercises. There are many great arm-muscle building exercises. The bench press is useful. I like parallel bar dips—and weighted dips. These fill out your chest.
Average size. What is the average biceps size, on men, on women, and by frame size? Researchers do not measure this. They instead measures the mid-upper arm circumference.
Survey. I took an informal survey of my friends and family members to determine their biceps size. I only asked males. My sample size was five people. Two were at my gym.
Info: In the survey, the right or left biceps muscle was measured while flexing. The person's dominant side was measured.
Note: The first two results were taken from gym members. The final three were taken from untrained males.
Survey results: 14.00 inches (35.6 cm) 15.25 inches (38.7 cm) 13.25 inches (33.7 cm) 13.50 inches (34.3 cm) 13.00 inches (33.0 cm) Average: 13.8 inches (35 cm)
13 inches—or 33 centimeters—is the most common figure I have seen reported for the average biceps size when flexed on men. A larger arm may be due to fat, not muscle.
Scientific studies have measured biceps muscle size. This is actually done with an MRI machine. These are expensive medical imaging machines.
Magnetic resonance imaging measured the biceps muscle cross sectional area (CSA).Muscle strength and size response
Pump. After a heavy workout, bodybuilders experience a "pump." The muscle becomes filled with blood. This alters the exact measurements of the biceps.
So: When measuring your arms, make sure to measure them always before, or always after, a workout—and at similar levels of hydration.
Body fat. Men who have a high level of body fat will have larger upper arms than those at lower levels. Some big arms are fat arms.
Bodybuilders. It is possible that bodybuilders exaggerate their biceps measurements. Men often exaggerate anything related to money or their body parts.
Show off. How can you show off your arms? We live in a society where appearances are important. Our bodies become objects. One thing that is easiest to display for men is their arm muscles.
Tank top. A sleeveless shirt is one way to show off your physique and arm muscles. But sleeveless shirts are not always appropriate in public. Avoid them at formal events.
Tip: At the beach, at the park, at a stadium: these are appropriate locations for a muscle shirt.
But: In other locations, I have found that a shirt with an athletic-cut fit is a good way to show off one's arms.
Shirt fits. Some clothing retailers call athletic cut shirts "muscle fit" or "muscle cut". The waist size of the shirt is smaller. The chest is larger and the sleeves are shorter.
Buying shirts. Some stores may not carry many shirts of this sizing. Retailers that emphasize style—such as those in malls—are also likely to carry athletic cut shirts.
Comfort: Sleeveless shirts are more comfortable to wear with big arm muscles. The triceps seem to rub against my sides a lot.
And: If you like excess attention in public, a sleeveless shirt is a good choice. You might turn some heads.
Sizing is complicated. It depends on the retailer you buy the shirts from. I suggest you keep different sizes of clothes. As a bodybuilder I tend to rapidly change body size.
Stereotypes. If you wear sleeveless muscle shirts and have a shaved head, you will get stereotyped. This is true even if you are a mathematician or an accountant.
Do you even lift? Often the guys I see showing off their arm muscles are lacking in that department. Perhaps the more you need to show off your muscles, the less noticeable they must be.
Tip: The best way to show off your arm muscles is to have big arm muscles. This makes sense I think.
My story. I still remember that day. I was in high school and a girl told me I had big arms. The only problem was that I didn't. They were 14 inches.
I lifted and lifted and my arms got bigger right away. I also pulled on some things. I knew in those days that some day would come and I would be a muscle man.
As a young boy, I had a nagging pain on the inside of my left forearm. After a couple months of dumbbell curls in my early teens, that nagging pain went away.Curls
Now: As a grown man, a muscle man, I get those head turning, double takes throughout life.
And: I wear normal shirts, nothing too tight, nothing too revealing. I put on my short sleeve shirts and I am the star of the show.
Big arms make a man more interesting to observe. Every man's muscles are different, even among bodybuilders. They are unique. They connect and bulge and move and twitch.
Then when winter comes, I put on a sweater. And suddenly no one pays any attention to me anymore. It's like that sweatshirt turns me invisible, like an invisible man.
But: Those shapely arms, that rock-hard masculine strength and dominance. I have no regrets.
And: It is something to experience. Lift heavy stuff. Put it down: lift it again.
A personal note. In our lives we create our private legends. One of the things everyone knows about me is how strong I am. I enter into legend.
Expensive cars and houses. These things send you into massive debt. Big arm muscles are cheap. An Olympic barbell is not expensive. I hope you too can live your personal legend.
Big arms are important. People will notice. Measuring arm size is complex—there are many considerations here. But regular exercise, for health, is good regardless of arm size.