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Build up those skinny arms and legs.
Big muscular arms and legs suggest considerable power and physical prowess. But getting bigger arms and legs involves much more than simply working your leg and arm muscles. Big arms and legs generally come from a structured muscle-building program consisting of multi-joint exercises that make you stronger and target your main muscle groups. This includes exercises such as pullups that simultaneously work your upper back and biceps, and barbell squats for all your lower body muscles.
Generally speaking, you need to gain approximately 15 pounds of muscle mass evenly distributed over your body for every inch of muscle you aim to gain on your arms, according to strength coach Charles Poliquin. You can gain muscle with a variety of workout routines, but a three-day-per-week full-body routine offers you a time-efficient method of building muscle while reducing the risk of overtraining.
Multi-joint pushing exercises help you build muscle on your chest, shoulders and triceps. Exercises such as the barbell bench press, dumbbell press and bar dips build muscle on your chest, anterior deltoids and triceps. The military press and dumbbell shoulder press target your shoulders and triceps. Close-grip bench presses shift the focus from your chest and anterior deltoids to your triceps. Your triceps, located at the rear of your upper arms make up approximately two-thirds of your upper arms. Big triceps significantly increase the size of your arms.
Multi-joint pulling exercises build muscle on your upper back and biceps. These include exercises such as bent-over barbell rows and pullups. Pullups are of particular significance if you want big arms. According to strength coach and neurophysiologist Chad Waterbury, your biceps are designed to work in conjunction with your forearms and upper back. Therefore, exercises such as pullups or chinups that simultaneously challenge your upper back, biceps and forearms induce faster growth in your biceps.
The barbell squat is often called the king of all exercises. Squats work your hips, butt, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Focus on proper technique to reduce risk of injury. With the barbell balanced across your shoulders, keep your back straight and lower yourself into a controlled squat by pushing your hips back as you bend your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor and stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Straighten your knees and push up to your starting position.
Isolation or single-joint exercises that focus primarily on the targeted muscles also play a role in building up your legs and arms. These include exercises such as barbell and dumbbell curls for your biceps, together with lying triceps extensions and triceps pushdowns. Isolation exercises for your legs include leg extensions for your quadriceps, leg curls for your hamstrings and calf raises for your calves.