How to Get Big Arms At 50+ – BoomerMuscle

How to Get Big Arms At 50+

Brian Patterson biceps

Still building muscle at 65 in 2021.

Can you still build big arms after 50? Hell yes, you can. The workout routine I’m going to share is not based on theory. It’s the one I’ve used for several years, once a week, to train my arms. This is how to get big arms at 50 and older.

Here are some basic ground rules:

  1. You can’t over-train. You’re not 20 or 30-something anymore. Your body and joints can’t handle heavy weights and big cheating reps. If you’re still trying to break personal records, knock it off. Once a week focused on arms is the plenty. If you do go twice, space it out by several days of rest.
  2. Don’t get caught up in trendy methods. Forget about doing Beachbody, Insanity, Bootcamps, Cross Fit, tire-flipping, rope swinging and box jumping. This is an old school workout for older people.
  3. Do eat properly. If you want, you can supplement with a quality protein shake and creatine, the only two supplements in my book that work and will help you build muscle.

If you follow those basic guidelines and a workout like the one I’m about to show, you will build those arms. The key is to really focus on those biceps and triceps and take them to complete exhaustion on your arm workout day. You can do this in surprisingly short periods of time: 30 – 45 minutes if you keep rest periods between sets brief.

If you do a search and read a number of articles, you’re going to see information that is all over the place. Lots of it will get highly technical with academic descriptions of anatomy and claims that certain movements trigger specific results in particular places.

Hooey, as my old man used to say. Muscles don’t think. They respond to tension. Period. The basics are what is important here. The best bicep exercises are easy to define. It’s how we do them that makes all the difference.

The fastest way to get from here…

To here…

… Is to focus on the Basics. A reminder on the 2 essentials for all muscle building:

1. Hypertrophy

This is the process of causing microscopic damage to the target muscle fibers and allowing them to heal with rest and good nutrition. Lots of quality protein. Once a week is plenty of work for biceps. If you do twice weekly, space it out so you give the muscles plenty of rest and recuperation time between workouts.

You’ll know this is happening if you feel the Pump in your target muscles. The Pump is that legendary feeling Schwarzenegger first talked about more than 40 years ago. It’s a real feeling caused by blood rushing into the muscle with nutrients to repair and grow it, while flushing out toxins.

2. Mind/Muscle Connection

This is an intense mental focus on the target muscle as you’re working it. You want to feel the constant tension in the muscle as hypertrophy is happening.

Here’s the formula:

You can’t maintain a Mind/Muscle Connection if you’re using body english to swing weights around that are too heavy. You want to select a weight you can handle cleanly for 8 – 12 reps per set.

You want to take the muscle to “failure” in each set you do. Failure means you cannot do another clean rep without cheating. Don’t cheat. You might get 12 reps in the first set, but 8 or even fewer in the last set.

Feel the Pump.

The right way: focus on a continuous movement, not jerky stop and start. This is about exhausting the muscle, not how much weight you’re using. You want to continuously move the weight. Don’t rest it on your thighs and then swing it up. Keep it moving in a smooth motion till you can’t do another rep.

Volume is important to reach failure in each set. Failure simply means exhausting the target muscles. If you’re just starting out, you will have to work up to this level. If you have to start by only doing 1 -2 sets of each movement, then start there.

3 – 5 Sets, 8 – 12 Reps per Set (to failure)

Work up to 5 sets of 3 different curling movements for a total of 15 sets. Work up to it if you’re just starting out. Start with 1 set per workout if you need to.

A lot of people would be horrified by this workout. It is especially not trendy in today’s world of functional cross fit blah blah blah. But it works and it will get you the fastest results.

I suggest doing these consecutively — in a row. Remember, we’re trying to exhaust those biceps.

Ideal rest time is 30 seconds between sets. A minute or two max between different types of movements. Again, work up to it if you’re just starting out.

Using movements that can be done with a simple barbell and dumbbells, here’s an example routine:

3 – 5 Sets Barbell Curls – Straight or Curling bar

3 – 5 Sets Dumbbell Hammer Curls

3 – 5 Sets Dumbbell Concentration Curls

Feel Free to Substitute:

Rope curls on a cable machine are a great alternative to any one of the above. You could also do a set using Resistance Bands, which are great at keeping constant tension on the muscle. Any isolation move that targets the biceps can be substituted.

If you really want to feel a biceps pump:

And a great, classic finishing movement with Curls is a set of 21’s with a barbell or bands. Goes like this, without stopping do 7 full reps, then 7 partial reps from bottom to midway, then 7 partials from midway to top. You will exhaust those Bi’s.

Next, focus on Triceps: the rest of the upper arm

This is actually the bigger part of your arm and plays huge role in how those guns of yours appear when flexed. Tri = 3. Bi = 2.

3 – 5 Sets Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks (repeat other arm)

3 – 5 Sets Standing One-arm Triceps Extensions (repeat other arm).

3- 5 Sets Close Grip Bench Press (“skull crushers”)

Feel Free to Substitute:

Triceps dumbbell extensions can also be done in a seated position with both arms at once. Hold the dumbbell above and behind your head, lower it and raise it up above your head again. Pushups and Dips are other great alternatives, as are tricep pushdowns on a cable machine using a rope or a bar. Any isolation move that really targets the triceps can be substituted.


Finally, it’s great to finish this workout with some work on your forearms. You can do wrist curls with a barbell or dumbbell or bands.

Wrist Curls:

While seated, rest your forearms on your thighs with your wrists hanging over your knees. Curl the resistance (bands/barbell or dumbbells) with your wrists facing up for 3 sets. Then curl the weight with your wrists facing down for another 3 sets. Adjust the amount of resistance or weight so that you can do the sets in the 8 – 12 rep range.

Additional forearm work can be done with grippers and commercial wrist rollers. These are pieces of specialty gear. You can actually make a home-made wrist roller with a dowel rod and a strap of sturdy material if you’re handy.

Some specialty items you should consider:

The Wrist Ripper is a wrist roller that is great for building forearms. It uses standard size weight plates. You can perform rolls with wrists up and down for a full forearm workout.

There are a wide variety of wrist rollers like this available, using either standard or Olympic plates. You need to supply the weight. In addition, there are numerous hand gripper devices you can consider, as well. Both will strengthen your grip and forearms.

Ultimate Pro Gym Resistance Band Set by Go Fit is another great alternative for all of these movements. If you don’t own much gear and can’t afford a gym, look into a set of bands. They’re also a great add to any gym setup and inexpensive.

The beauty of the bands is that they apply that constant tension we’re looking for. With weights, you can give in to a tendency to let gravity lower the bar. Constant tension is good.

Go Fit bands are great for guys. They are heavy duty. You can double and triple them up for quite a bit of resistance. Even if you’re already pretty strong, you’ll feel the pump with these bands.

I own and use both products above and believe they are solid, high quality.

Get my 5 Keys to Feeling Stronger – Right Away! Click the button and you’ll get immediate access to a video intro and a couple e-books completely free with no sales pitch. Follow these keys and you will feel your muscles building right away. 

These are the keys to building muscle using lighter weights at higher reps. Science has proven this is the most effective method to build muscle – at any age.

Me just after turning 63 in 2019

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Brian Patterson

I've been resistance training for nearly 50 years. As a younger man, I used to believe in using ever-increasing amounts of weight. Until one day in my mid-50's, my aching joints could not take the punishment any more. I had to develop a new way of working out that was effective, but free of pain. I found it. It works great. I'd like to share it with you.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Brian Patterson - October 5, 2022 Reply

Hard to say. My metabolism is slow. I eat twice a day but lots of protein and watch the carbs. But everybody is different. I’d focus on quality protein but also practice clean nutrition. Hope that helps.

rob - October 5, 2022 Reply

What about diet at 50+? Are the calories increased/decreased due to slower metabolism?

Brian Patterson - June 1, 2020 Reply

Check out the Boomer Facebook page. Lots of articles relative to building muscle at an older age.

Brian Patterson - June 1, 2020 Reply

Hi Richard,
You can build muscle at any age, so don’t get too down on yourself. Takes a little time, dedication and effort.
On your rotator and back issues, I would suggest you talk to your doctor. I’m not qualified to give any medical advice. In my own case, I’m 64 and have my share of aches and injuries to work around. My rule of thumb is to limit the range of motion on any exercise so that it does not cause any discomfort to a tender joint. If it causes pain – STOP. Not worth it. You can try to explore a variety of movements that gets you to select ones that work for you and your sore spots.
As for supplements, I go with only those that have some backup on their effectiveness. This is an area that is overrun with hype and BS. Check out this post for my 2 cents.
You might consider getting a decent set of resistance bands to use instead of dumbbells or barbells. The nice thing about bands is that the tension is smooth and fairly constant versus wrestling gravity with weights.Check this post for more:
In general, I suggest going with lighter resistance and doing more reps to cause the muscle to exhaust itself. Lighter is easier on the body and safer, in my opinion.
Hope that helps. There are lots of free workouts on the site you can scan for ideas on particular exercises to try.
Good luck!

Richard - May 31, 2020 Reply

Hi Brian. I am 67, 6ft 2and 175. I was a gym rat in my 20’s and 30’s, loved it. I could bench 210, and was great at weighted dips on the dip bar. now, i look at myself and wonder what the heck has happened, . i know Im older, but dont want skin hanging off my arms. I have a torn rotator on right side, and serious recurring lower back issues. I am not going to have the rotator repaired, Ive seen up close what can happen if it goes wrong. I am not afraid of the work to build arms back, it just seems like I get stuck .. pain in the shoulder, etc. i am also not afraid of supplements, but dont know which ones would work for me. Can you help me? thanks, Richard Collier

Brian Patterson - October 16, 2018 Reply

Hi Tim,
The short answer is: it definitely can be.
Anything that creates enough tension on the target muscle to cause failure in the 8 – 12 rep range will cause hypertrophy. One type of equipment is not necessarily better than another at doing this. It really comes down to personal preference.
I like to use a variety of devices. I use a machine with cable attachments for several of the exercises in my workout routine. I also use a curling bar, dumbbells, resistance bands and a variety of equipment for lower body.
I’ve been working out a long time and have collected lots of gear. I like what I like.
You should use the type of equipment that works for you. The machine does an excellent job of getting you to hypertrophy as long as, as with any piece of equipment, you use it right and work to ‘failure’ in each set.
Hope that helps.
Good luck in your workouts!

Tim - October 16, 2018 Reply

Is a functional trainer machine with cables and continuous tension a better way to achieve hypertrophy?

Brian Patterson - September 26, 2018 Reply

Hi Mike,
If that routine is working for you, it’s great. Stick with it.
I used to go heavy for lower reps until my shoulder joints refused to cooperate.
In my mid 50s, I’d bench heavy, curl heavy, etc.
For curls, I’d do 5 declining sets: 155 x 4-5, 145 x 5, 135 x 5, 125 x 5-6, 115 x 6-8 reps.
Got a great pump and solid growth from it. But as I said, the shoulders said no more and I had to change.
I found that going lighter for higher reps really works just as well to build muscle mass, and is better in terms of joint health.
So… to each his own. Whatever works to get you to a pump and hypertrophy (muscle growth) is a valid approach.
Good luck going forward

Mike - September 26, 2018 Reply

what about 3 sets of 5 reps for mass and power? Thanks!

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