Tip: Can Anyone Build 19-Inch Arms?

Is there a secret to building big arms? Well, kinda. Here's what you need to know.

Reality Check

Here's a question we received recently:

"How often do you have to train each week to get 19-inch arms?"

Let me offer some hard-earned perspective. I've been lifting for a long time. I was always cursed with crappy arms. The late Charles Poliquin used to call me some German term that translated to "Asparagus Tarzan." Whether he meant I was a half-naked savage raised in the jungle by a tribe of asparagus or that I had arms like spears of asparagus, I'm not sure, but I think it was the latter.

Anyhow, I've tried every program, every training style, every trick known to bodybuilding, but my arms are still my worst body part. Part of it's because my arms are long. Want that box of cereal on the high shelf? No problemo. But filling in that long vista of space between my shoulders and elbows with muscle? Sigh.

The only thing that ever worked, remotely, was a piece of advice from again, Charles Poliquin. In his experience, he said that you had to gain roughly 15 pounds of bodyweight for every extra inch you added to your arms.

True enough, when I went from my usual fighting weight of 215 to 220 pounds to 235 pounds, my "biceps" (more accurately, my arms) grew about an inch.

Still, by his reasoning, I would have had to gain another 15 to 25 pounds to get even close to 19 inches. Wasn't gonna' happen. Wasn't the look I wanted, anyhow. And when I went back to my fighting weight, I wasn't able to sustain the added size for long, which probably means that some of the added arm size was blubber.

What I'm trying to say is that the size of your arms is largely genetically determined. I fully realize that right now there are a bunch of genetically gifted guys reading this that are hollering all kinds of synonyms for bullshit, but these guys know nothing about being a hardgainer.

They might suggest that someone like me needs to train more, and if that didn't work, I need to train less. They might say to lift heavier, lift lighter, do drop sets, work them once a week, work them twice a week, eat more, sacrifice a heifer to the biceps god, and so on. Eff 'em. I've tried it all. Most of these guys, however, could fold laundry and still grow giant arms.

What I'm saying is that if you're regular folk and want big(ger) biceps, follow the regular rules of bodybuilding:

  • Train the whole body.
  • Get good at the big lifts.
  • Consistently eat more calories than baseline.
  • Do lots of pull-ups and close-grip bench presses.

After all that, if it's in your genetic cards, you'll get your 19-inch biceps.

If not, focus on less stubborn body parts. But if having huge guns means that much to you, there are always steroids, in which case the old "gain 15 pounds rule" goes out the window.