Why Are My Arms So Skinny? 7 Most Common Bulking Mistakes

After months or years of intense training, you may ask yourself, “why are my arms so skinny?”

It’s a frequent problem and one that you can tackle with the right advice.

When you struggle to add weight to your arms, it’s often due to one of several common mistakes.

Maybe you’re not eating enough or performing the right exercises. People also often set unrealistic expectations.

These problems may keep you from adding more mass to your muscles.

To help get to the bottom of the issue, let’s review the most common mistakes that skinny guys make when trying to bulk up.

1. You’re Not Eating Enough Food

The most common reason for not achieving the results you want is a lack of calories. You need to eat more food to gain more muscle.

If you’re not eating more calories than your body uses throughout the day, you won’t gain muscle. To start bulking, try eating a surplus of 200 to 300 calories per day.

First, you need to know how many calories you’re eating.

Start tracking your calorie count each day. Use a journal or a spreadsheet to track the total for two weeks. If you’re not noticing any growth, add the calorie surplus.

You could also use a standard formula to determine your calorie needs. 

The most used is the Mifflin – St Jeor BMR formula. It includes separate formulas for men and women:

  • Men = (4.536 x weight in pounds) + (15.88 x height in inches) – (5 x age) + 5
  • Women = (4.536 x weight in pounds) + (15.88 x height in inches) – (5 x age) – 161

That result is the base number of calories you should eat each day to maintain your current weight. 

After you start adding calories, continue to track your results. If you don’t notice any muscle gain, add another 100 calories per day.

2. You’re Eating the Wrong Foods 

The type of food is as important as the quantity. Without the right combination of nutrients, you may start adding fat instead of muscle.

One common problem is eating too much protein. 

Research suggests that excess protein intake increases your risk of damage to the liver and kidneys if you already have impaired liver or kidney function. It may also harm your bones.

Your body needs amino acids in protein for muscle development, eating too much offers no real benefit. 

The general dietary guidelines for adults recommend a protein intake between 10% and 35% of your total daily calories.

Each gram of protein contains four calories. With a 2,500-calorie diet, you’d need to eat between 62.5 grams and 218 grams of protein per day.

When choosing your protein, look for options that contain additional nutrients. For example, eggs contain healthy fats and B vitamins

Other healthy sources of protein for lean bulking include:

  • Shrimp
  • Soybeans
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken breast
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Turkey breast

You don’t need to follow a strict diet, but you should pay attention to what you eat. Try to include healthy proteins and a good variety of carbs and fats.

3. You’re Not Performing the Right Exercises

A lot of skinny guys make the mistake of using isolation exercises for muscle growth. Unfortunately, targeting one muscle at a time isn’t efficient. 

You’re not going to experience faster results when isolating a muscle group. 

Curls, raises, and extensions tend to focus on one major muscle at a time. Bicep curls, lateral raises, and leg extensions are common examples.

However, isolation exercises provide a few advantages. 

After adding bulk, you may notice that some muscle groups didn’t develop equally. You can use isolation exercises to target smaller muscles, creating more symmetry. 

When you’re trying to bulk up, you’ll want to focus on compound exercises. These exercises target multiple muscle groups, allowing you to get more out of your workout. 

Examples of compound strength training exercises include:

  • Rows
  • Lat pull-downs
  • Dips
  • Bench presses
  • Overhead shoulder press
  • Deadlift squats

These exercises involve pushing, pulling, or deadlifting and typically require multiple major muscle groups. As these exercises require multiple muscle groups, you can also lift more weight with each exercise.

The benefits of compound exercises lead to faster results compared to isolation exercises. So, if you’re not happy with your results, replace the bicep curls with dumbbell rows or bench presses.

4. You’re Not Lifting Enough Weight 

Besides using the wrong exercises, you may be using the wrong amount of weight. You need to continually push yourself to experience more muscle growth.

First, determine your ideal starting weight. Decide how many repetitions you want to perform for each set and then try different weights. 

Choose the maximum weight that you can lift while maintaining perfect form for the entire set. 

For strength, you typically want to use fewer reps and focus on heavier weight. To build muscle size, you’ll want to aim for 6 to 12 repetitions and heavy to moderate lifting.

With the 6 to 12 repetition range, you can lift a lot of weight, but not enough to cause you to burn out too quickly.

To find the right weight, pay attention to your energy after 8 or 12 repetitions. If you’re not tuckered out, you need to add more weight. 

You should also add more weight to continue building strength and size. Aim for an extra five pounds every two weeks, especially during your first few months of training.

5. You’ve Reached a Plateau in Your Training

When you first start lifting weights or hitting the gym, you’ll likely experience great results early on. Beginners benefit from faster gains.

You’ll eventually start to notice slower results and potentially reach a plateau. 

Some people give up when they hit a plateau. You don’t see any new results, so you go back to your old lifestyle.

If you want to bulk up, use these tips to break through your strength training plateau:

  • Use different exercises
  • Increase the intensity
  • Switch up the order

To get over the plateau, start using different exercises. Find one or two new exercises to squeeze into your workouts or adopt an entirely new routine.

You could also try using different exercise machines or focus on different muscle groups. Adding more variety or switching the order of your exercises helps work an entirely new set of muscles or uses the same muscles in new ways.

Boosting the intensity may also work. Instead of working out more, work out harder. Increase the weight used for bench presses and other strength training exercises.

6. You’re Not Allowing More Time for Recovery

Your body needs to recover after a workout for the muscle tissue to repair itself – creating larger muscles.

If you don’t get enough time for recovery, you interfere with the normal muscle development process. You’ll limit your growth.

Don’t work out if your muscles are still sore from the previous workout. According to research, muscle pain peaks between 24 to 72 hours after the workout.

Based on this research, most experts recommend a 24-hour break between hard workouts. This gives you three to four days per week for your strength training exercises.

During your off days, try incorporating active recovery to continue utilizing your muscles and shorten the recovery period. As with stretching, active recovery works your muscles but doesn’t overwork them.

With active recovery, you perform simple forms of exercises throughout the day. For example, you may go for a light jog or walk around the block. 

You could also spend more time on your feet, park further away from entrances, and take the stairs instead of elevators. Yoga, bike rides, and stretching are also suitable options.

7. You’re Setting Your Expectations Too High

If you don’t get results fast enough, you may assume that you’re doing something wrong. In most cases, you’re just setting your expectations too high.

People overestimate how quickly they can grow muscle. 

It’s the same problem with weight loss. You’ll see diets claiming that you can lose over 30 pounds in just 30 days. 

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t gain muscle as quickly as it can burn fat. 

With a solid workout routine, the average person can expect to gain about 1 to 2 pounds of muscle per month

Last Thoughts on Bulking for Skinny People

Bulking up shouldn’t require years of fitness experience or the need to hire a personal trainer. If you want to get bigger, you need to follow a simple, sustainable plan.

Without a suitable plan, you’re more likely to stray from your workout routine and meal plans. You may find yourself skipping the gym or ordering takeout. 

Your plan should include workouts and a basic dieting strategy.

Remember to use the tips discussed. Make sure that you eat enough food, with a diet that includes a lot of variety and a good balance of nutrients. 

You should also make sure that you’re lifting enough weight and using the right exercises. Start using compound exercises to target more muscle groups and continually add more weight to your sets.

If you stick with it, you should start to gain one to two pounds of muscle per month.

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