How Squatting Gives You Bigger Arms

Posted: 05.17.10

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A while ago I wrote a post on my birthday called “36 Fitness Insights“.  One of the the Insights I posted that I get asked questions on daily was

# 34 The best way to bigger arms is squatting.

A lot of people email me and say “Rob can yo explain this as it makes no sense”  Some even thought it was a typo.

Let me try to explain.  Most people don’t make good progress on their arm training for a few reasons.  First questions I usually ask are

  1. Their Current Nutrition
  2. Their Current Training Program

There is usually a trend with people who have trouble building their arms.  For the most part it comes down to a few of the following

  • Not getting enough overall calories
  • Doing the same exercises (without enough overload)
  • No Leg Training Focus

See when it comes to building muscle most people can’t see the forrest for the trees.  They want bigger arms so they focus ON their arms.  This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make!

I am going to share with you a quote from one of my favorite strength coaches Charles Poliquin about building arm size

“IF you want to add an Inch to your arm size add 20lbs of muscle”

HUH?  What does that have to do with building bigger arms?

EVERYTHING!

Let me try to explain how this works in a few ways.

The Testosterone Factor.

Testosterone is pretty much King when it comes to building muscle!  No testosterone, no muscle.  Add testosterone and magic happens.

Muscle gets built easier, recovery improves, strength goes up.  Magic.  However what if you don’t want to take testosterone (IE Steroids), how can you get more testosterone so you can get better gains?

The answer is simple. Squatting.

Squatting (or any basic lift for that matter), causes your body to cause stress.  In turn your body has a RESPONSE SYSTEM to overcome that stress.  One of the byproducts of this stress is your body responding and producing more testosterone.  So essentially the “Bang for your buck exercises” Such as Squatting, Deadlifting, Chin Ups, cause a hormonal response in your body, and in turn it produces MORE TESTOSTERONE!  Hence MORE MUSCLE.

So if you are not squatting or not hitting the big muscles, your body has no reason to respond, doing bicep curls in the squat rack (and if I see you do this I will choke you out), isn’t causing enough STRESS for you to adapt.

But IF you stopped doing arm curls and started squatting, YOUR ARMS GROW WITHOUT EVEN TRAINING THEM!

Not a bad deal hey!

Another way in which arm growth limitations occur is due to what I like to call a Bottle Neck Effect.  Essentially your arms won’t grow IF your legs and other muscle groups won’t grow.

Lets go back to coach Poliquin

“IF you want to add an Inch to your arm size add 20lbs of muscle”

Essentially it comes down to this.  For many years now we have been brainwashed with bodypart training.  Chest & Arms, or back & biceps.  Whatever the flavor of the week in Musclemag is telling us the pros are doing.

Even though this isn’t wrong, it isn’t really correct either.  See our body isn’t a bunch of bodyparts thrown together.  It is a SYSTEM that is meant to work in unison.  Together as a FULL SYSTEM.  So our arms cant work as well IF OUR LEGS ARE WEAK.  Get bigger legs, we get bigger arms.  Get a bigger back, get bigger arms.

But remember by training our little muscles (Biceps, Triceps, Calves) we are NOT GETTING THE Overload and adaptive stress and we get very little growth response.

SO TRAIN YOUR BIG MUSCLES, Small Muscles Grow As A Bonus.

Train Small Muscles, No Bonus

So to summarize if you want to increase your arm size and DO NOT TRAIN YOUR ARMS DO THE FOLLOWING

  1. Squat.  Make your program based around Squats & Deadlifts
  2. Don’t neglect lagging muscle groups.  If your biceps suck hit your forearms and grip strength hard, remove that bottleneck in your training
  3. EAT MORE.  Not matter how much your eating if yo are not getting gains you need more food

Now go get yourself some good food, hit the squat rack, forget the bicep pump from high rep training and get strong!  Your arms will thank you for it.

Please leave me some feedback.  I hope you found this helpful.

 

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14 Responses to “How Squatting Gives You Bigger Arms”

  • I follow AthLEAN-X by Jeff Cavaliere. He says that single leg exercises are more effective and more safer than squats. Should I still do them??? And I follow his bicep workout; 4 exercises, slow movements. Standing barbell curl, bicep chin-up, tubing curl, and dumbell curl in a fielder position..

  • is andro shock a good supplement for musle growth I’m also starting legs but I also do 20 to30 mins of cardio after my workout to lose body fat% . Because I know my legs are going to be killing me for aday or two. Then should I start back on the cardio if you don’t like andro shock or if it don’t work couid you tell me something that does help in the aid to build musle growth . I tryed something called bang it has liquid crentine in it .it did give me a good pump .thanks for thanking I time to read this and for your advice .

  • Hey Jay

    When i started training most of my base for training was squats. But as it got heavier and heavier the smaller muscles stopped working and it led to more and more injuries.

    Here is the answer. both are beneficial.

    Do 6 weeks of regular squats, 6 weeks of split single leg squats, then say 6 weeks of no squatting at all. There is no right or wrong, it all depends.

  • I am not familiar with Andro shock (so many supplements out there).

    To reduce leg soreness get some BCAA’s!!!! Way better than 90% of the supplements out there! Add in some light cardio after leg workouts and your soreness should be really reduced.

    What helps muscle growth? Heavy basic lifts, protein, good food, bcaa’s, proper rest. Notice i didnt mention any supplements. Cover your BASICS FIRST Then supplement

  • Hey Rob you couldn’t have made more sense by writing this article. To anybody who is reading this Rob got me onto squats and deads when I was 21 and I gained 20 pounds in a few months and before that I couldn’t gain a pound. Everybody thought I was on a big cycle but nope just added the 2 greatest lifts ever and I got huge in a hurry. I was one of those arms and chest training teenagers and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting huge, well I wasn’t squatting and deadlifting. Add those 2,lift basic, old school and overload your muscles, eat big and rest and watch yourself grow like Chia Pet. GreatBigHeavyweight, over, out and damn big ;)

    GBH

  • If you’re a hard gainer and want solid gains in minimal time try:
    squats
    Deadlifts
    Good mornings
    Hang cleans followed by push press
    Skipping
    Chins
    dips
    Doing cardio hit the stationary bike but set up the workout like a tempo or sprint workout. 30 seconds hard with 30 seconds easy but fast.

    It’ll work like a champ :)

    Rob, I still remember us training at the Y back in 91 :)

    Cheers,
    Chris

  • Oops, should add those exercises should be hit over various workouts not all at once. ie: 4 sets x (
    Squats
    Deadlifts or good mornings
    skipping)

    4 sets x (
    Hangcleans followed by pushpress
    chins
    dips)

  • Awesome Chris, thanks for the reply and the helpful info!!

    Good to hear from you.

    Rob

  • Thank you for addressing this…

    I am a huge advocate of squats and deadlifts. I believe that every program, no matter the goal, should contain some type of squat and deadlift variation!!!

    Great post!

    Mike Arone

  • Hey Rob I’am 41 will it be hard to put on a few pounds of muscle at that age.

  • Hi James

    There is no doubt that putting on muscle gets harder as we get older. Im 36, its not easy by any stretch! But just pay MORE attention to Nutrition, Smart Training, Shorter workouts, good supplements and make the best of it!!

    I know i cant make gains the same way I did at 20, but that doesnt I cant make gains and have fun along the way!

  • this is great! i’m glad you pointed all that out.

  • Couldnt agree with you more Rob, Im 5’11 240 to 245 my thighs average 27 in. my heaviest squat in compition is 680 clean no drugs Im a raw lifter kids , my heaviest gym is 724 yey aswell as my deadlift lol anyway the more i work my legs the more I gain or keep my upper body and arms I cant stand flamingos sorry it just doesnt look right though I love ya all .. LIFT WELL LIVE WELL

  • Thats awesome thanks for the feedback!

    CRAZY lifts man! Shit i miss that stuff lol! Great hearing from ya!

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