How to Build Muscle if Your Arms Are Skinny

An ectomorph is somebody with a naturally thin frame and a metabolism that helps keep the weight off easily. If you're only worried about weight loss, this body type is an absolute blessing. For those who want to build muscle mass, it's exactly the opposite. The same physiology that keeps fat off also makes it a challenge to put muscle on. The basic method for building muscle on skinny arms is the same for putting it on burly arms -- you just have to work harder and more faithfully to see the results you want.

A woman does arm curls with a hand weight at a gym in a natural setting. (Image: hamburguesaconqueso/iStock/Getty Images)

Diet Plan

Step 1

A man on a mountain bike eats an energy bar. (Image: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images)

Eat more. Extra calories provide your body with the basic building blocks of muscle. According to Dr. Melina Jampolis at CNN Health, your body can put on at most 1/2 pound of muscle per week. This equates to eating about 250 to 500 extra calories per day in addition to the extra calories from your workouts.

Step 2

Salmon in a skillet with peas, pinenuts, green beans, and cherry tomatoes. (Image: AGfoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Comprise your extra calories of lean protein sources such as lean meats, legumes and nuts. The amino acids in proteins are the raw materials your body uses to construct muscle.

Step 3

A woman drinks a glass of orange juice at a cafe. (Image: Russell Duparcq/Hemera/Getty Images)

Eat foods rich in B and C vitamins. B vitamins are vital to the process of building muscle, while C vitamins accelerate healing between workout sessions. It doesn't hurt to take a multivitamin to round out your nutrition, especially when you're already making alterations to your diet.

Step 4

A scoop of protein powder next to a dumbell on an exercise mat. (Image: gvictoria/iStock/Getty Images)

Consider dietary weight gain supplements, available in any sports nutrition store. The landscape of sports supplements changes so rapidly that your best plan is to ask the staff at a local outlet about the best available products for your needs.

Arm Workout

Step 1

Women working out in a class at the gym. (Image: LuminaStock/iStock/Getty Images)

Schedule two sessions per week of dedicated arm work. Working out less often can slow your progress, and working out more risks overtraining and injury.

Step 2

A woman does a lunge and a bicep curl in front of machines at the gym. (Image: Roi Brooks/iStock/Getty Images)

Do three to four exercises for the biceps and triceps during each session. Most biceps exercises are some kind of curl using equipment like barbells, dumb bells, cable machines or kettlebells. Some examples of triceps exercises include lying triceps extentions, behind the head presses and cable extensions.

Step 3

A man does push-ups with one arm on the floor at the gym. (Image: Andreas Rodriguez/iStock/Getty Images)

For each exercise, perform three sets of three to five repetitions each. Set the weights so that you struggle with the last half of each set, and need help with the final repetition more often than you don't. This kind of high weight, low repetition weight lifting is best for developing large muscles.


Limit your cardio training during this phase of your exercise plan. Cardio burns a lot of calories, and can reduce the muscle-building effectiveness of your arm work.

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