A common body insecurity is having skinny arms.
There’s a lot of cultural pressure and emphasis on having muscular, sculpted arms, particularly for men (although many women also find that they want to get rid of stick arms or skinny arms!).
The good news is that, like any area of the body, it is possible to build muscle in your arms for a more toned, defined appearance.
Therefore, if you’ve been looking in the mirror and asking yourself, “Why are my arms so skinny?“ keep reading to learn how to get rid of skinny arms fast and build the strong, muscular arms you are looking for.
We will cover:
- Why Are My Arms So Skinny?
- How to Get Rid of Skinny Arms
Let’s dive in!
Why Are My Arms So Skinny?
When you want to get rid of skinny arms, it’s important to first try to troubleshoot why your arms are skinny in the first place.
Are you doing arm exercises and arm workouts regularly, or are you not consistently training your arms?
If you are training your arms but are not seeing the results you are looking for, the arm workouts you are doing are clearly not effective, and they need to be adjusted.
On the other hand, if you haven’t been spending time in the gym or lifting weights at home, there’s a pretty obvious solution for how to get rid of stick arms: start training your arms. (Don’t worry! We have you covered for that at the end of this article.)
In the case of someone who is already doing arm workouts but not seeing results, there are two main areas to consider when trying to troubleshoot the issue: your workouts and your diet.
In order to build muscle effectively, you need to have both of these factors dialed in correctly. Therefore, issues with your exercise plan, diet, or a combination of both can be at fault for having skinny arms despite doing arm workouts.
We will address both of these, but before delving into the specifics of how to get rid of skinny arms through diet and exercise, it is important to mention that there is also a genetic component to your physique.
Although everyone should be able to build muscle in the arms through the right workouts and the right diet (unless you have certain muscular or metabolic disorders like Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy), the extent of your results is so much dependent on your personal genetic makeup.
For example, there are different body types—primarily ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph—which can affect your body shape and build.
Your body shape is largely determined by your genes.
Additionally, some people have an easier time building muscle than others because of a genetic predisposition to have a higher percentage of type II muscle fibers.
Type II muscle fibers are more responsive to hypertrophy training (resistance training workouts geared towards increasing muscle size) than type I muscle fibers, so the higher the relative percentage of type II muscle fibers you have, the faster and more notably you will see gains from your hypertrophy strength training workouts.
With that said, again, even if your genetic makeup isn’t going to give you arms that look like The Rock or The Incredible Hulk, with the right training and diet, you should be able to get rid of skinny arms and see some real muscle growth.
How to Get Rid of Skinny Arms
Although technically, you can get rid of skinny arms by just eating a lot more calories than you need so that you gain fat, most people who are looking into how to get rid of skinny arms want to build muscular, toned arms.
Increasing the size of the muscles in your arms requires consistent resistance training with the right exercises performed the correct way with the right training volume, along with a diet that supports muscle growth.
Let’s look at each of these:
The Best Arm Exercises to Get Rid Of Skinny Arms
There are several different muscle groups in the arms, but the primary ones are the biceps, which are the muscles on the front of your upper arms, and the triceps, which are the muscles on the back of your upper arms.
The deltoids, which are the shoulder muscles, are sometimes also grouped together with the arm muscles.
The biceps flex the elbow, and the triceps extend the elbow.
- Exercises that target the biceps include any type of bicep curls, such as concentration curls, hammer curls, or preacher’s curls, along with chin-ups.
- Examples of exercises that target the triceps include dips, tricep extensions, push-ups, pull-ups, and straight-arm pullbacks.
- There are quite a number of exercises that target the deltoids in the shoulders, including forward and lateral raises, overhead presses and military presses, pull-ups and push-ups, and bench press, among others.
Your arm workout routine should include several exercises that target each of these major muscle groups each time you train your arms.
The more variety you can do in terms of the arm exercises you perform, the better.
For example, perform different types of bicep curls from workout to workout in a week. Focus on dips in one workout versus push-ups and tricep extensions in another workout.
Similarly, use different forms of resistance, such as resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, and strength training machines during different workouts to subject your muscles to a slightly different training stimulus.
This will help prevent your body from fully adapting to the arm workouts that you are doing, which will help prevent any stagnation in your progress or fitness plateaus.
The Best Arm Workouts to Get Rid Of Skinny Arms
In addition to performing targeted arm exercises with proper form, in order to effectively build muscle to get rid of stick arms, your resistance training program has to be geared towards hypertrophy.
The key to increasing muscle size is to have an adequate training volume to stimulate your muscles to adapt.
Most likely, if you are currently doing arm workouts but not seeing results and not building muscle in your arms, you are not using a heavy enough load, or you are not training with enough volume.
In terms of the weight or resistance that you should be using, hypertrophy training typically requires loads that are 65-85% of your 1 RM.
So, for example, if the maximum weight that you can use for a single-arm biceps curl is 20 pounds, you should be using 13 to 17 pounds per arm during your workouts.
However, you need to think about your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for every exercise and scale accordingly.
For example, the same person who has a 1RM of 20 pounds for the single-arm biceps curl may have a 1RM of 60 pounds for the barbell biceps curl. As is often the case, the load for bilateral exercises is significantly more than just doubling the 1RM for a unilateral exercise.
When your muscles work together, the total force generation is usually higher than the sum of the parts.
In our example, this person would need to use 39-51 pounds for the barbell biceps curl in order to induce hypertrophy.
Just doubling the single-arm weight to 26-34 pounds would be well below the necessary load to stimulate muscle growth.
The second factor to consider with hypertrophy training is your overall training volume, which is the product of the number of reps and sets you do.
Training frequency can also factor into training volume and is important here.
Typically, to increase muscle size, you should perform 6–12 repetitions per set, and at least 3 sets per exercise, with 30-60 seconds of rest in between sets.
You should be training your major muscle groups a minimum of 2 to 3 times per week.
Therefore, whether you are doing total-body workouts or split workout routines, make sure you are doing targeted arm exercises 2-3 times per week, with heavy enough loads and enough reps and sets for hypertrophy.
The Best Diet to Get Rid Of Skinny Arms
Even the best arm exercises performed the right way using a well-designed hypertrophy training plan will fail to yield significant gains in the size and definition of the muscles in your arms if you are not supporting muscle growth through your diet.
The process of muscle growth is energy-intensive, which means that you need to be consuming enough calories, and it requires adequate protein intake.
Most evidence suggests you need to be in a caloric surplus to build muscle, typically suggested to be about 10% above your total daily energy expenditure.
For example, if you burn 2,000 calories a day between your BMR, exercise, daily activity, and digestion, you should consume 2,200 calories to support muscle growth.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes consume at least 1.2–2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
In sum, although not necessarily a “quick fix,” to get rid of skinny arms, you need to consistently perform exercises that strengthen the arms using enough resistance and training volume, and consume enough calories and protein in a nutritious, supportive diet, to cause hypertrophy or muscle growth.
Looking for an all-around upper body workout for your next trip to the gym as a supplemental workout on how to get rid of stick arms? If so, check out our complete upper-body workout routine.