Hardgainer Arm Workout: COMPLETE GUIDE

By Ire | Workout

Nov 03

Everybody wants huge arms. Having a big biceps and triceps are the most desirable by men among all other muscle groups. Answer to why is that is simple. They are easy to show off and they act like chocolate heroin to girls. But it isn’t so easy to grow those babies is it? If it was, I wouldn’t have been writing this article. Ectomorphs (hardgainers) struggle with growing arms more than any other body type. Many times, it feels like no matter how much we train our arms and eat, they just won’t grow.

Hardgainer arm workout article is a complete guide on how arm workout should be structured. It goes into details on why hardgainer specifically cannot gain arm size and what to do about it.

We will talk about BICEPS, TRICEPS and FOREARM muscles.

small child flexing his biceps

“How is this a workout designed for hardgainers specifically?”

Hardgainer’s hell consists mostly of two types of people. Newbies in the gym and people who have never been properly educated how to lift and are therefore not making any gains.

No matter what group you belong to, I must firstly congratulate you. You are one of the few people who decided to put an end to being stuck in hardgainer’s hell. You decided to get educated on the topic, so you will no longer be wasting time in the gym. You are on a good way to increase, improve your physique and sky rocket your confidence.

Now, what is more, no matter what group you belong to, you probably do not see muscle size gains due to a problem with activating the muscle. What do I mean by that? Due to low muscle mass, hardgainers often do not even know how to properly contract the specific muscle being trained.


By activation, I am talking about mind-body connection. I have gone into details on that in Chest Workout for Ectomorphs, so I will just briefly summarize the problem. If you have never worked specifically on activation before, your body can forget how turn the muscle on. That happens due to how the brain works. Its efficiency decided that since you are not really using your arms, there is no need to send that many electrical signals down its neurons. Lack of those signals means that you will not be able to effectively contract the muscle. Even though you can isolate the muscle with specific exercises (biceps curl), other muscles will turn on in order to compensate for the muscles not working. Therefore, you can be working on your biceps, but your biceps will not be doing most of the work.

male flexing his triceps and showing off big arms in front of a pool


Every hardgainer arm workout should be structured. I structure my arm workouts in the following way.

1. Activation

We start every arm workout with activation. Only after we activate the muscle, then we can guarantee that the muscle will work during the workout itself.

2. Metabolic Overload

Metabolic overload is important for hardgainers to learn how to break most muscle fibers during a workout. By applying it, we keep the most amount of blood in the muscles during an exercises. It forces us to break through many physical and emotional thresholds during workouts. When we get to the point when we can’t perform the movement with correct technique due to fatigue, we need to realize that there is so much more to do. Without any break, lower the intensity/ROM or change the exercise and squeeze in few more reps. That method will keep the blood in the muscle for longer and bring out the biggest burn you have ever felt. That is good! Feeling like your muscle is going to pop is what we are going towards, if you want your arms to grow like the hope of a castaway as land comes into view.

3. Eccentric muscle damage (Heavy weights)

While metabolic overload is mostly done with lower weights, we also need to use heavier weights. That way we add combination of different styles which are proven to maximize muscle growth. Everybody knows that doing the same workout/exercise will only be good for so long. Things need to be changed and combined in order to maximize muscle growth. Eccentric muscle damage is done by focusing on the eccentric part of the movement. We do this by lifting the weight and slowly moving through deficit of the movement. Working on negatives will allow for a massive burn.

two guys with big arms arm wrestling to see who is stronger


Let’s talk biceps first. If you have read any of my previous articles, you should know that I always like to talk about the anatomy of the muscle group first. So, let’s look at that.


Biceps (biceps brachii) is two headed muscle. That is self-explanatory from its name (bi-ceps). It consists of a long and a short biceps head.

1120 Muscles that Move the Forearm Humerus Flex Sin

Short head

Muscle that lies closer to the body (medial).  Its growth is responsible the growth of the width of the biceps. We work on the short head by having the elbows further out from the body when performing the exercise.

Long Head

It lies right next to short head, further away from the body. Its growth is responsible for giving the biceps that peak appearance. Long head gets worked out more during when elbow is closer to the body while going through the exercise.

Function of Biceps:

SUPINATION: Turning thumbs out, when palm is faced up
FLEXION: Flexing the elbow and shoulder

Therefore, it makes sense that every time we perform biceps exercise, we focus on both supination and flexion. Mostly, people often just overemphasize flexion without mentioning supination. In example, we should focus that at the end of biceps curl we also turn the thumb away from our body (supinating).

big biceps flexing in front of the forest

1. Activation

With activation, we need to make sure to target both long and short head. We do this by completing next three exercises before every workout.

LONG HEAD ACTIVATION: 1 inch up/down at (90-degree elbows)
LONG HEAD ATIVATION: Spider curl – 1inch up/down (120 degree)
SHORT HEAD ACTIVATION: Cable curl – 1inch up/down (60 degree)

2. Metabolic Overload & Eccentric Muscle Damage

After performing activation, we can progress to other two exercise styles. It does not matter too much of what exercises you do for which. However, it is important to do both in the same workout.

Choose one exercise which focuses on a long head and one which focuses on targeting a short head. You can pick one from the list below.

a guy performing biceps curls in the gym. Creating better mind body connection

3. Biceps Exercises

Long head: Biceps curl, Cross Body Curl, Incline Curl, Drag Curl, Chin ups
Short head:
Preacher curls, Spider curls, Chin ups

4. Extra Biceps Stuff

Excessive ROM kills gains:

Performing full range of motion means resting at the top and resting at the bottom. There is no place for that if we are working on maximal muscle hypertrophy. So, perform enough rep that you are finished with it, without going into resting position of the motion. What that means is that you will most likely have drop your ego and reduce the weight.

Shutting off forearms:

For a maximal biceps isolation, we do not want forearm to be involved in the motion. To do that, we can turn our wrist out in order to relax it during performing biceps exercises.


Brachialis is actually a forearm muscle, but it lays in the same area as a biceps. It lies just underneath the biceps. Increasing a size of the brachialis will push biceps up and add to arm size. Brachialis is an elbow flexor. That means that by keeping the hand in a neutral position will allow us to specifically target brachialis.


Exercises like: Hammer curls, cross body hammer curl,  close grip pull up


There is no talk about big arms without big triceps. Triceps muscle group is bigger than biceps. You will rather get an appearance of “huge arms” by having a big triceps as oppose to bigger biceps.


Triceps brachii muscle06

Based on its name, we know that triceps has three heads.

  1. Lateral Head: “Horseshoe”, it is the one that pops out when your triceps flexes.
  2. Long Head: Originates from scapula, which means you need to stretch your arm up and over to target it.
  3. Medial: Provides stability to overall triceps group. It mostly lies underneath the long head which means that only a small part of it can actually be palpated.

Function of Triceps

All of them insert on to olecranon process of ulna (back of the elbow). That means that all of them regardless of what you do will extend the elbow. Any exercise we do will work all three heads, however there is a way to isolate one more than the other.

squeezing triceps. a guy doing dips in the gym

1. Activation:

Just like biceps, we first need to activate our triceps. With that we are learning to feel how peak contraction feels like. We activate triceps by performing:
Triceps kickbacks
Cobra Push up

2. Metabolic Overload & Eccentric Damage:

Pick one exercise for each head of the triceps from a list below. Training should consist of combining both metabolic overload and eccentric muscle damage. It does not matter which style you do for a specific head, as long as you combine both styles.

Hardgainer arm workout. Guy performing cable pulldowns in the gym

Triceps Exercises:

Long head: Triceps Pushaway, lying triceps extension
Lateral Head: (Forearms Pronated, turned in):
Triceps pushdown, Diamond pushups
Medial Head: (Forearms Supinated, turned out): Reverse grip triceps pushdown, close grip bench press


Finally, we can talk about forearms. Many people believe that extra forearm work is not needed, due to forearm being activated through other free-weight exercises. Now, that is only partly true. Forearms will be activated through any use of free weights. HOWEVER, we are not here just for activation. We are aiming to build Popeye’s forearms. Therefore, we should want to maximize forearm size through targeting them separately.“subjects performing additional forearm training with a lifting routine led to better forearm strength gains than resistance training alone”.


Forearm muscles are complex, consisting of both superficial and deep muscles. For the reason of simplifying everything, we will just divide them in two groups. Flexors and extensors.


Flexors: (anterior side of the hand)
– flexion of fingers and wrist
-pronation of the hand (palm face forward)
-wrist adduction and abduction

Extensors: (posterior side of the hand)
-extension of the fingers and wrist
-supination of the hand (palm faces behind you)
-wrist adduction and abduction

Due to complexity of the forearm muscle group, we will approach our forearm training in a different way. Firstly, hardgainer forearm workout will consist of static holds, which will train our grip strength. Secondly, dynamic exercises will have to be added to the training. Dynamic exercises create muscle growth.

Forearm Exercises:

STATIC EXERCISES:Dead pullup hang, Farmers walk carry

FLEXORS: Standing wrist curls, Wrist flexion rollers (forward)
EXTENSIONS: Wrist extension, Wrist extension rollers (backwards)

tattooed woman holding a plate, working on her isometric exercise for better grip


Since this is a complete hardgainer arm workout guide, we must talk about number of repetitions. I am sorry to say that, but there is no golden rule of how many sets and repetitions we should do for maximal hypertrophy (muscle gain). At the end of the day all that really matters is to maximize time under tension. We do that by focusing on right technique, intensity and mind control we put every single repetition

“Are you really feeling the burn and working through thresholds, or are you just performing biceps curls while scrolling down Instagram feed? Only way to gain muscle is that you feel like you just went to war with yourself after every single set.”

All that being said, we should follow some guidelines when it comes to counting reps and sets. For maximum hypertrophy, we should be somewhere around 2-4 sets range and 8-12 repetitions. For every muscle group in the arm, we should be around 40-50 of total repetition (excluding activation exercises).

Repetition should not apply extra repetition you do during a drop set. My recommendation is to follow the sets and rep ranges and add a drop set for your last set of the exercise.

Need help designing your workouts and diet?

If you need help structuring your diet and receiving a workout perfect for your body type, check out of online coaching opportunities here!

Coach Ire will be able to help you to structure your workouts and diet for your own body type. This will go way beyond just a structured arm workout. Get an online coach to finally put some flesh on those bones.

majestic hulk with incredible big monster arms


Activation: 30 – 45 sec each exercise
MO (Metabolic overload) short head: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps
EMD (Eccentric muscle damage) short head: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps
EMD Brachialis: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps

Activation: 30 – 45 sec each exercise
MO short head: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps
EMD long head: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps
MO medial head: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps

Static exercises: 3 x 30-45sec hold
Dynamic exercises extensors: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps (rollers exercise: 30-60 sec)
Dynamic exercises flexors: 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps (rollers exercise: 30-60 sec)

a guy with big arms standing in front of the wall, posing


Here you have it. A complete, extended guide for hardgainer arm workout.
With activation, you will create strong mind muscle connection and learn how a true contraction really feels like. With eccentric muscle damage and metabolic overload, you will break through physical and mental thresholds that will allow you to become more confident person with hulk-like looking arms.

This article provides you with all the tools you need to structure your hardgainer arm workout. With applying all the principles, you are on a good way to escape hardgainer’s hell. Remember to EAT, SLEEP, TRAIN, REPEAT and LET THE GAINS BEGIN.

About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

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  • BlackJack says:

    Nice. Very informative and it really shows a different kind of way to approach arm training. I will try activation thing tomorrow and see how it feels

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