3 Reasons Why Training Arms Only is a Waste of Time

I know. The title kind of pisses you off. It would’ve upset me too, a few months ago. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that training arms only is a waste of time.

I’m going to give you three reasons why arm workouts are a complete waste. I’m also going to show you how to make your workouts more effective.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t train arms directly. But is it necessary to spend an entire workout on just arms?

My short answer is no. Let’s breakdown why training arms only is a waste of time.

After that, I will give you two workouts to do instead (the second one is what I do every Friday on what used to be my arm day).

Reason 1: Big Muscles vs. Small Muscles

  • Do you remember when you first started lifting weights?
  • Did you know anyone that spent a ton of time training chest and biceps?
  • A better question is were you one of those people?

As much as I’m ashamed to admit it, I was one of those people. It took a few years of working out consistently until I learned to focus more on the bigger muscles and less on smaller muscles.

If you spend too much time training arms without focusing on your bigger muscles, you’re going to look dis-proportioned.

If you have a day to spend on arms only, I would rather see you throw in a second back or leg workout. Those are your muscle mass and strength builders. And those types of exercises are going to give you far greater results than training arms only.

Reason 2: Arm-Only Workouts Do Not Build Strength

I’m not going to get into the powerlifting versus bodybuilding argument here. Regardless of which gym path you’re taking, strength is always a factor.

Do you really want to be the guy that looks like a 250-pound bodybuilder yet can only squat 135? Let’s be real here. No one wants that.

Even if you’re just working out for cosmetic purposes, you still want to be strong. Why? Because the only way to get your muscles to grow and look better is to put them under stress.

  • This doesn’t mean you have to max out every time you’re in the gym.
  • But you still want to progressively grow in either the amount of weight you can lift or the number of reps you’re getting.
  • Again, strength is always a factor.

If you’re doing arm only workouts, you’re not going to build core strength. Sure, you may be able to curl a little more weight.

But you will be weak in on the lifts that really count. And we’re going to get to those soon.

Reason 3: Training Arms Only Will Not Give You Bigger Arms

This may sound ridiculous, but let’s think about this. When you do curls or tricep extensions, you’re not lifting a lot of weight. This means you’re not putting the muscle under a great amount of stress.

I’ll use biceps for example. Let’s say you can do barbell curls with 95 lbs (with good form and no swaying). That’s a pretty decent amount of weight for curling.

But guess what? You can probably do reverse grip barbell rows with 185 lbs.

Although barbell rows is a back exercise, you’re also heavily recruiting your biceps.

So which exercise do you think will give you bigger biceps? Curls or barbell rows?

Let’s talk about triceps. A few popular exercises for triceps are cable pressdowns, rope extensions, and dumbbell extensions. Think of how much weight you can do on those exercises.

Now think about how much weight you can lift on exercises like bench press, overhead press, and any type of dumbbell press. Anytime you perform a pushing exercise like these, you’re working your triceps.

The point is you can lift more weight with compound exercises than you can with exercises that isolate your biceps and triceps. True muscle gains are going to come from putting your muscles under stress.

**If you want to jump to a full mass building program read my post FST-7 Mass Gaining Workout Routine.

Why Arm Only Workouts Are a Waste of Time in the Gym

Biceps dumbbell hammer curls finish

If you’re spending 45 minutes on training arms only, you’re missing out on both strength gains and the potential for burning more fat.

“What…burning more fat? But that’s not my goal, bro! I wanna get jacked and have big arms!”

I want you to think about the amount of effort you put into exercises like squats and deadlifts. Same for bench press, barbell rows, and other compound exercises that allow you to lift more weight.

Now think about how winded and how tired you are after a grueling set of one of those exercises. No arm exercise is going to do that to you.

When you’re lifting heavier weights and performing those compound movements, you’re increasing your heart rate. And if you’re doing multiple sets exerting that much effort, you’re kicking in the fat-burning process.

Now I want to give you some other options as opposed to training arms only. Remember, I’m not saying you should never perform exercises that target your biceps and triceps directly. But there’s a specific method I want you to grasp here.

Workout 1 with Arms

compound exercises for muscle gains barbell rows

The first type of workout I’m giving you includes exercises that target your biceps and triceps. I’m actually going to give you two workouts that you can do.

Rather than spending an entire workout training arms only, I want you to add some arm exercises at the end of one of your heavy workouts.

Here are two examples:

Powerbuilding Chest and Triceps Workout

  • Bench Press: 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Incline Bench Press: 4 sets x 10, 8, 6, 6, reps
  • Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Cable Pressdowns: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Dips: 3 sets x 10 reps

Powerbuilding Back and Biceps Workout

  • Deadlifts: 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Barbell Rows: 4 sets x 10, 8, 6, 6 reps
  • Weight Pull-ups: 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Barbell Curls: 3 sets x 10 reps

I call this style of training powerbuilding. You’re starting out using the 5×5 strength training method for a compound lift. After that, you’re moving on to more of a bodybuilding style workout.

You’re working your arm muscles in both workouts above. Once you finish the workout for your larger muscle group, you move on to some direct arm training. You could essentially do the two workouts above on Monday (chest with triceps) and Tuesday (back with biceps).

Workout 2 with Arms

deadlifts with arms workout - friday workout

The workout I’m going to give you now is one of my favorite strength training workouts that include arms. I had mentioned above that I just started doing this in place of my old arms-only day.

This is a simple formula for building overall strength and muscle. It’s also effective for building big arms. If you have a day that you can spare for training arms only, do this workout instead.

Choose a compound exercise that you want to get better at. For me, it’s deadlifts. I want to get better at them and add more weight. I suggest that you choose a major lift that you’re the weakest at.

Start your workout by doing multiple sets of your compound exercises. Remember, this should be the second time of that week that you’re performing this lift.

For example, my heavy deadlift day is on Mondays. I train my entire back that day. So my second deadlift day, along with training arms, is Friday.

Compound Exercise with Arms

  • Deadlifts: 5-7 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Barbell Curls: 4 sets x 8 reps
  • Cable Pressdowns: 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 3 sets x 10-12 reps

In theory, this should be a shorter workout. When you get to your arm exercises, you don’t need a lot of rest between sets. Remember, biceps and triceps aren’t major muscles. You only need to rest 40 or so seconds between those sets for arms.

Deadlifts are just an example. If you’re wanting to bring up your squats, then do that instead of deadlifts. Or you could alternate them every other week. Maybe you want to do bench press or overhead press. Just pick a compound exercise that you want to progress in.

Doing this type of workout prevents you from wasting an entire workout on training arms only.

Make the Most of Your Time in the Gym

The point of this article is to help you make the most of your time in the gym. I want you to get the best results possible for every workout. I just don’t feel like training arms only is effective.

I encourage you to try my alternate workout methods above. Either add arms to the end of your chest day or back day or even shoulder day. Or train them after doing a major compound lift for the second time that week. Or do both!

These methods I have given you are going to help you get faster results and your workouts will be far more effective.

Here are some more workout programs for you to try:

Train with Passion,

Jason