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Whether you are training either in the gym or for sport, the desire to have a set of thick, muscular arms can dictate how we train and approach our workouts.

But what about those of you who aren’t seeing results?

I know you’re wondering, “Why have I not been blessed by the lifting gods?” thinking the gift of a solid of pythons is not meant to be.

Let me tell you this: your arms are just a few simple training tweaks away from serious gains.

Whether you’ve been struggling in the gym for years or you don’t train, you can turn this around.

Today, I’ll share with you why your arms are so skinny. From there, I’ll give you my best pro tips for building head-turning arms.

Why are my arms so skinny?

Related: Why Are My Legs So Skinny?

Why are my arms-so skinny

Skinny arms can be due to poor nutrition, insufficient recovery, and inadequate resistance training.

These factors are under your control, and that will have the most impact on ridding you of your skinny arms.

Training arms two times per week, increasing protein intake to 1.6-2.2g per kilogram of body weight, and improving sleep habits can greatly improve arm growth.

What are the main body types?

Below is a list of body types.

Skinny/Skinny

This refers to an overall skinny physique that consists of low body fat percentage and low muscle mass. 

If you fit in this category, you may find it difficult to put on mass. However, every bit of lean muscle you pack on will show up on your thin frame.

Fat/Fat

The fat/fat body type refers to being overweight. There is some muscle mass in this frame, but due to the excess weight, the function can be impaired.

What is most dangerous about this build is the fact that it is held around vital organs. 

Visceral fat is associated with both heart and metabolic disorders. This can seriously decrease your quality of life.  

Skinny/Fat (Dad Bod)

Skinny/fat, also known as the dad bod, is when one maintains a relatively skinny build but with a belly.

This build contains little muscle mass with high levels of visceral fat. Of course, again, this is incredibly unhealthy because the fat surrounds your organs.

The added weight to the skinny frame and small muscle mass may result in a lack of functional strength.

Due to the additional weight, common movements such as lifting, bending down, and standing up from the seated position may be more difficult.

Why Are My Arms So Skinny? Common Reasons and Mistakes

Related: 3000 Calorie Meal Plan

To shed some more light on this, I’m going to list nine reasons why your arms are so skinny.

Let’s start with the most important first, nutrition.

1. Lack of Calories

Getting rid of scrawny arms is going to take a lot of fuel. This is something many of us, myself included, never took seriously.

For many of us, as we approach the gym for the first time we see considerable growth due to the new stimulus.

However, when that growth slows down, we scratch our heads and wonder if this is the end of our quest for bigger arms.

Subconsciously, we must know that the answer is nutrition. The trouble is, we don’t want to acknowledge it and address our poor eating habits.

That’s too bad. Muscle growth requires good nutrition and a surplus of calories.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for men is 2,500 calories per day and 2,000 calories per day for women. 

So, with the theory of calorie surplus, we need to increase this number to fuel our bodies for the intense workouts and the growth that follows.

A calorie surplus of at least 15% is recommended for muscle growth. 

This should be done in the form of good quality, nutrient-dense foods that are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

2. Eating the Wrong Foods (Not Enough Protein)

When we think of eating for muscle growth, we might fantasize about smashing cheeseburgers and dirty bulking our way to massive guns.

While this is a method, it sadly is not ideal for maintaining a healthy weight or general health and well-being.

One can dream, right?

This is a mistake that I have seen many of my clients and fellow gym-goers make. 

Some people believe that breaking through their muscle-building woes is just a matter of indiscriminately hitting calorie targets without considering protein intake.

Only to wonder why they weren’t seeing results.

Protein is vital to muscle growth. It’s a major building block for increasing mass and effective recovery. 

If you’re looking to rid yourself of those skinny arms, the RDI for protein should be 1.6-2.2g per kilogram of body weight.

Your aim should be to hit these targets by eating healthy, protein-rich foods such as lean meats, nuts, and greens.  

Below is a table of protein-rich foods (Protein content per 100g).

Food (Meat)Concentration (g)Food (Vegetable)Concentration (g)
Liver21.3Bean Curd50
Beef (Lean)20.3Dried Mushroom38.0
Lamb (Lean)17.3Soy36.3
Pork (Lean)16.7gPumpkin Seed35.1
Pig Kidney15.5gBroad Beans28.2

3. Not Enough Resistance Training

Related: Powerbuilding Program (With PDF)

Training to get rid of skinny arms requires more than just a few sets of curls at the end of a full-body workout. 

Typically, when training for muscle hypertrophy, we get stuck thinking that one session should be enough. Any more is probably overdoing it.

So, let me say this. 

You aren’t training your arms enough.

When it comes to muscle non-responders such as skinny arms, we have to hit them with a little more than a couple of weekly biceps curls. 

Increasing training frequency and volume of your arm training is essential to packing on size.

Aim to train arms two to three times per week. This can be done by targeting the biceps on back days, and triceps on chest days.

From there, add a dedicated arm day at the end of the week to focus on areas of weakness. 

This way, we can effectively train these muscles of the arms in close succession without overdoing it. 

Ultimately, this method allows adequate recovery and huge gains.

4. Performing the Wrong Exercises

Related: Bodyweight Workout Plan PDF

Exercise choice can play a huge role in muscle growth. When we aim to get rid of our skinny arms, we can get tunnel vision and just smash out as many curls as we can.

While this may be part of the solution, there are some more effective ways to stimulate muscle growth.

Structuring your workouts carefully can go a long way to increasing your overall mass, arms included.

Additionally, building your workouts around both compound lifts and isolation exercises is a better way to train arms for longer and stimulate greater muscle growth.

Research has indicated that performing both multi-joint and single-joint exercises can both assist in hypertrophy.

An example of this would be chest day.

Here you could begin by performing two to three multi-joint exercises targeting the chest, followed by two exercises on the shoulder. 

Finish off this workout with two to three single-joint exercises to target the triceps.

By performing your workout in this way, you can target the arms the entire session and really push them to finish.     

5. Wrong Rep Ranges

When we train for muscle growth, it’s essential that we train within the right rep range. 

Often, when I would speak to new clients, they would tell me they trained high repetitions with light weight, or even worse, no planned rep ranges at all.

Crazy, right?

When training for muscle hypertrophy, the ideal rep range is 8-12 repetitions at 60-80% of 1RM for three to six sets. 

At this resistance level, we can effectively, progressively overload our muscle tissue and stimulate new growth. 

6. Too Much Cardio

While a structured cardio routine can help to lean you up, doing too much can damage your quest for muscle growth. 

When performing that post-workout cardio session, aim for a short session with high intensity. Longer stints have been connected to negatively affecting muscle growth

If you want to maintain that cardio fitness while still chasing those arm gains, do some HIIT and aim for a heart rate around 80%. 

Not only will this help keep your cardio up, but it’s capable of improving and supporting muscle growth. 

7. Poor Recovery

When training to pack on muscle, we must make recovery a priority. This is the time we rest the muscles and allow them to heal and grow.

When training to get rid of skinny arms, take advantage of your recovery windows.

To do this, consume 20g of high-quality protein post-workout during a four-hour recovery. This will maximize rates of muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

During this window, adequate sleep and protein intake are essential for the 24-48 hours window post-workout.

In initial post-training windows, elevated rates of MPS indicate great protein remodeling of contractile and structural proteins.   

8. Lifestyle Factors 

Training for effective muscle hypertrophy can require a level of dedication, especially when you’re trying to break through plateaus.

And while we may not like to hear this, your lifestyle can impact your gains.

Poor sleep, stress, and excessive alcohol can all have a negative effect on your results in the gym.

Alcohol has been noted to increase cortisol levels while decreasing testosterone and MPS decreases.

Elevated stress has also been linked to negatively affecting muscle tissue. 

Fortunately for us, hitting the gym is a great stress reliever. Reduce alcohol and increase good quality sleep to help further improve those gains.

9. Poor Training Habits (Inconsistency)

One of the biggest factors I see with building muscles is people’s impatience. It leads them astray, off-plan, and worse, away from the gym altogether. 

Building quality muscle takes years, and being human and completely impatient doesn’t mix.

It’s this lack of understanding that sees many of us scramble around the gym for a solution, trying different styles and different diets only to yield terrible results.

Much muscle growth can be attributed to consistency. It’s the food we eat, the rest we get, and the reps we pump out.

Rapidly changing not only impairs this but it can also add to the frustration.

To remedy this, you should set goals and regularly check in with your progress. 

This is a great way to stay grounded in your journey and motivate yourself when you hit your milestones.

How to Get Rid of Skinny Arms? Pro Tips for Building Your Arm Muscles 

Eat a Surplus of Calories

When training to put on size, you must eat enough fuel for training and to build lean muscle.

If the recommended calorie intake for men is 2,500 calories and 2,000 calories for women, we must eat above that to fuel our bodies.

Aim for a 15% increase to 2,875 kcal for men and 2,300 kcal for women as a minimum to grow more muscle. 

Increase Protein Intake

Whether we’re playing sports or just building lean mass, protein plays a vital role in the recovery and building of muscle tissue.

To get rid of your skinny arms, you should be consuming 1.6-2.2g per kilogram of body weight. 

This can be done through healthy protein-rich foods and supplements such as shakes and bars.

Increase Training Volume

If you’ve been training for a while and you aren’t seeing a gain in those skinny arms, it’s likely you aren’t training them enough.

For considerable muscle tissue growth, increase the volume of your training to give your arms that extra push and promote muscle hypertrophy.

Progressive Overload

To grow lean muscle, continue to challenge your muscles with every session. 

Too often, we approach our workouts with a comfortable weight only to be disappointed that we aren’t getting the result.

Tracking your lifts and pushing yourself incrementally can be a great way to grow over time.

Those small amounts do not feel like much now, but they’ll pay dividends when the time comes to check in with your goals and progress. 

Train Consistently

One of the big mistakes that we’re all guilty of at some point is inconsistency.

To build quality muscle tissue, we need to consistently train, eat, and recover. 

Sticking to this religiously may not seem like a lot of fun while you’re doing it, but when the results come, you’ll be glad you did.

How to Get Big Arms? The Best Workout Plan to Get Rid of Your Skinny Arms

Lifting to get rid of skinny arms requires an increase in frequency and volume. 

A great way to increase training volume is to split your routine into separate days. This way, you can work different parts of your arms on back-to-back days.

Below is a weekly 4-day split routine for all levels. 

For the sake of this, we will only cover the days that we’ll be training our arms.

4-Day Split Schedule

MonTueWedThursFridaySat Sun
LegsBack + BicepsRestChest + Shoulders + TricepsShoulders + Biceps + TricepsRestRest

Back + Biceps

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Deadlift38-1245 – 60 secs
Chin-ups (Assisted if needed)38-1245 – 60 secs
Lat Pulldown38-1260 secs
Cable Row38-1045 secs
Dumbbell Bicep Curl38-1245 secs
Dumbbell Hammer Curl38-1245 secs

Chest + Shoulder + Triceps

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Bench Press38-1245 – 60 secs
Cable Fly38-1260 secs
Seated Overhead Press38-1045 secs
Dumbbell Lateral Raises310-1245 secs
Tricep Dips (Bench if needed)38-1245 secs
Tricep Cable Pushdowns31230 secs

Arms (Shoulders + Biceps + Triceps)

ExerciseSetsRepetitionsRest Time
Barbell Standing Overhead Press38-1245 – 60 secs
Dips38-1245 – 60 secs
Dumbbell Lateral Raises38-1260 secs
Dumbbell Bicep Curls38-1045 secs
Dumbbell Hammer Curls38-1030
Tricep Cable Pushdowns33-1230

What are the best exercises for bigger arms?

Targeting all fibers from all different angles and hand positions is essential to building bigger arms.

Below, I’ve listed two excellent dumbbell exercises to get you started. One targets the biceps and the other triceps. 

Cross-Body Dumbbell Curl

The cross-body dumbbell curl is a simple and effective bicep exercise that covers all the heads of the bicep. This helps us build a massive peak.

Target Muscles

  • Biceps long head
  • Biceps short head

Benefits

  • Target both heads of the biceps
  • Can really focus on biceps contraction

How To Perform Cross Body Dumbbell Curl

  • Start in the standing position with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep arms relaxed at the sides with palms facing forward (supinated).
  • Curling one dumbbell at a time, lift the weight toward the midline of the body.
  • As you curl, focus on rotating the wrists outward (supinating) and squeeze the bicep muscle.
  • Once you reach the top, gradually lower. Repeat with the opposite side.

Pro Tips

  • For beginners, use a lighter weight and focus on technique and muscle contraction.
  • Aim for controlled curls and avoid using momentum to perform the movement.

Want to maximize your bicep growth? Check out 11 Top Long Head of Bicep Exercises for a Massive Peak 

Skull Crushers

Target Muscles

  • Triceps long head
  • Triceps (Lateral head, medial head)
  • Deltoid (Shoulder)
  • Core

Benefits

  • Great for building the long head (takes muscle to full stretch)
  • Requires the whole body to stabilize

How To Perform Skull Crushers

  • Using a flat bench and a pair of dumbbells, lie on your back.
  • Position your arms vertically, straight in the air with dumbbells and arms directly above shoulders.
  • To begin the movement, gradually lower dumbbells by bending the elbow. Lower them toward your head.
  • Once your elbows reach 90 degrees, return dumbbells back to the upright position. Repeat.

Pro Tips

  • Beginners should start with a lighter weight as the movement can be uncomfortable for first-timers.
  • Don’t elbow beyond 90 degrees during the lower phase until you get comfortable with the movement.
  • Once you are comfortable with the movement, change the starting position by having the arms slightly over your head. 

Need to kickstart your tricep growth? Check out 13 Effective Tricep Exercises (Pictures) to Maximize Muscle Growth

The Best Diet Plan for Bigger Arms

Building bigger arms takes big calories and a structured eating plan to increase that protein intake. 

Below I will break this down into an easy-to-follow routine to get you on track to getting rid of those thin arms.

Try to eat balanced meals throughout the day, all with a source of protein. 

This helps you reach those targets easier without having to stuff your face.

For the sake of this article, I am going to give you some general target numbers for calorie intake. 

The number below contains our base 15% increase in calorie intake for muscle growth. 

To reach your protein goals, a supplement such as a shake may be required. 

These are great as they are easy to organize and slip into your daily meal plan while providing a much-needed boost toward those protein targets. 

Recommended calories

GenderCalorie Intake
Men3000
Women2500

Macronutrients

Research indicates that for maximal muscle growth, we should aim for the following macro percentages.

MacroPercentage
Carbohydrate55-60%
Protein25-30%
Fat15-20%

Sample Meal Plan

MealCalories (M/F)Protein Target (M/F)Food
Breakfast400/40045g/38gOats, protein, nuts
Mid morning200/20045g/38gProtein shake
Lunch1000/60045g/38gLean meat, rice, salad
Afternoon400/20045g/38gProtein shake, apple, tuna or chicken breast
Dinner1000/60045g/38gLean meat, rice, pasta, vegetables

If are looking for a complete physique overhaul check out Complete Guide To The Greek God Physique: Workout and Diet Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my arms stay skinny?

Arms can stay skinny due to factors such as inactivity, lack of resistance training, and poor nutrition. 

Scrawny arms can likely be due to being underused by under-stimulated muscle fibers and an insufficient calorie and protein intake.

How can I fix my skinny arms?

Fixing skinny arms requires a calorie surplus, increased protein intake, and resistance training with a focus on progressive overload.

Aim to train your arms two to three times per week as a part of a balanced split-week routine.

This should be combined with a calorie surplus of 3, 000cal for men and 2,500cal for women, containing a protein intake of 1.6 2.2g per kilogram of body weight for best results. 

How can I thicken my skinny arms?

To thicken skinny arms, you must target the different muscle fibers of the arms. With biceps, triceps, shoulders, and various other stabilizers, there are many different fibers we can target for growth.

To maximize results, attention should be paid to contracting both the long and short head of the biceps and the long, short, and middle head of the triceps.

Do this with different curl and extension-based movements. Adjust your hand and arm positions to target specific areas of the upper arm. 

Can skinny arms get big?

Skinny arms can get big, they just require the added attention to appropriately stimulate the muscle fibers for growth.

Resistance training arms two to three times per week, eating a calorie surplus, and consuming enough protein will increase overall arm muscle mass.

How long does it take to get bigger arms?

The length of time it requires to build bigger arms can vary depending on the individual. Factors such as training frequency, volume, and consistency with programming all play a role.

This means that if you want them to grow faster, stick to your nutrition and training and prioritize recovery.

Final Thoughts

Skinny arms can feel like a curse that just won’t go away. And with them right under our nose all day, every day, they can be frustrating to look at.

But just know that you are not the first person to have scrawny arms. And many people before you have turned bony arms into built biceps. 

Remember to start small, by increasing your calorie and protein intake and training volume you can be on your way to a strong set of head-turning arms.

So, is there anything you are going to try from this article? Have a story about your own skinny arm transformation?  

Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to share this with someone who needs it.