What’s The Maximum Arm Size That You Can Achieve Naturally Without Steroids?

| August 5, 2015 by Truth Seeker |

Arm training is one of the simplest things in life. You don’t need more than 2 months to learn the basic biceps and triceps exercises (e.g., curls, close grip bench press, dips, pull-overs and others.) As expected, the industry wants to complicate things and sets many traps on your path. They produce video after video showing people on large doses of steroids trying to reinvent the wheel. The goal is simple – to make you believe that there is a magical routine that’s going to give you lean 18-inch arms or maybe even more naturally.

I believed the fairy tales until I put a measuring tape around my arm. This is when I realized that in order to build 18-20-inch arms, I will have to steal muscle from the bank. In other words, I can’t see this happening the natural way for most average people, especially if we are talking about muscle size. Many individuals eating at McDonald’s regularly have at least 16-inch arms, but we all know why.

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To determine the maximum arm size that you can achieve naturally without playing with steroids, we have to start at the top of the pyramid. Who’s there? Professional IFBB pros, powerlifters and strongmen. I will use bodybuilders as an example because the other two categories are rarely lean. Consequently, their arm size is often inflated.


“I have 25-inch arms,” says the 350lbs/159 kg powerlifter. Cool story, bro. Tell someone who actually cares.

Most professional bodybuilders have arms between 20 and 22 inches in a lean condition. There are some exceptions, but this is the usual “pro arm” range. What do those guys do? They take steroids, insulin, growth hormone and other drugs to keep themselves lean and mean. Therefore, it becomes obvious that you can’t have arms that big naturally unless you are super fat or a mutant with incredibly thick bones which is not the case for the larger human population on Earth.

The difference between Arnold’s era and today’s “gut era” comes from insulin and growth hormone. Those drugs are the reason for the 50-70lbs/22kg–31kg difference between modern pros and those from the 70s.

The arms of the guys from the Golden Era were usually between 18 and 20 inches. One of the smaller guys, Frank Zane, is rumored to have 17-inch arms while Arnold’s alleged 22 inchers turned out to be 19 inches when Arthur Jones measured them. Is this true? I don’t know. One thing is certain, though – if the bodybuilders from the 70s had arms in the 18-20 range, you can’t have that naturally either because those people were eating Dbol and friends like candies.

Surprisingly, or not, this means that most naturals will never have lean 18-inch arms or close to it.

A note on bone structure. The thinner your bone structure is, the smaller your arms will be. A guy with 6-inch wrists will naturally have 2 inches smaller arms than a guy with 8-inch wrists. This fact puts people with skinny wrists at the bottom unless mutant genetics are present. Of course, there’s also the illusion factor – the smaller your wrists are, the bigger you arms look.

In conclusion

Most true naturals will have arms in the 13-16 inches range depending on genetics. I am talking about arm size in a lean condition – a state that’s exceptionally hard for some individuals to maintain. I know that this does not seem like a lot, but I can assure that it looks better than you think.

We have been convinced by the media that unless you have 18-inch arms, you are not training. This is not the case at all. It’s about time we stop falling for manipulations.

Work hard, get stronger and call it a day. There are far more important things in life anyway.

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40 comments

  1. Michael Dozier

    I am 33 6’3″ 218 lbs. Lifted off and on during my army years now I’ve committed fulltime for life. Cold my arms are 17 even. That’s with a 1 inch gain on both from the past 6 months of training. No creatine yet. Gonna start soon. I am probably around 12-13% body fat average year round. I have no doubt I will go into 18″ with another year. Gonna see how far I can go. Goal is 20″ by 2020

    1. Jason Bodi

      Nice 6 1 228lbs and prob about 17% body fat it’s kinda high but I hate cardio I just lift faster but I’m trying to get my arm to 18! 100% all natural just protein intake! Good luck man u got this!

  2. bri

    I don’t think Michael is far off. Not everyone is rail thin. 6′ 3″ & 218. 17″ arms seem pretty typical to me. 4 years to add 3 ” doesn’t seem far fetched at all.

  3. nick

    Most men will hit their natural limit after 2 years of lifting, all this crap about in 4 years I’ll be this or that is wrong, The most common case is “I have 16 inch arms, your telling me that if I lifted for 10 years and I added a a quarter of an inch every year I can’t get to 19’s or 20’s?” Naturally
    Yeah, you really can’t

  4. nick

    Lol at 20 inches naturally. If you really get it you’ll understand how rediculous it is. Say if you get your 20 inches, then you stop lifting for 2 years… what do u think will happen, you’ll go back to your 15.5 inch arms you started with then if u start lifting for 6 monthes ull get to 20’s again? Or will it take u “10 years” to get it again

  5. Joseph

    I think a small number of genetic elite people would be able to achieve 18 in arms naturally.I consider myself to have well above average genetics and i hope one day i will get my guns to the 18 inch mark.I currently have 17 in arms so one more inch to go.

  6. Petar

    I don’t know why most of the people use creatine ot other supplements i am 19 years old i had 13-14 inch arms, trained for 1 year an 2 month’s and got to 16 inch only eating and training now i havent train for year and half and dropped to 15 if i take stuff like that will it stay the muscle gain more or what?

  7. Bob

    I’m 40 been lifting since I was 14.When I started I was 5’9 135 with 11″ arms now I’m 6’2 240 with 21.25″ arms.I eat 3 meals a day and train hard as hell.Bodyfat Is 16% and its fine with me as I don’t care to be ripped.My arms won’t grow anymore unless I gain weight but I don’t want to.So yes train hard and you will get there.

  8. Charles Thomas Denham

    Most of you guys are just shit talkers! It’s hilarious! The ones talking shit about other people’s dreams! Grow up! By the way I am all natural at 5’8″ at 245 lbs and don’t quite have 19’s but for two years now I’ve been trying to get out of the 18-1/2″ range but seam to only gain a couple of millimeters a year. Anyways. Good luck to the natural people like myself.

  9. ironvikingfit

    32 years old, 6′ 205lbs 17″ arms 12% BF, waist size 33″. I’ve been lifting steady for 2 years and gained 40 lbs during that time. 100% lifetime natural and I plan to keep it that way. I know this isn’t generally normal but I believe good genetics are part of the equation.. as my brother is 240 lbs and 15% BF and doesn’t lift.. at all. Genetics is everything!!… Almost

      1. David

        I’m 5’9″, 187lbs and 17.5″ arms. I am 63 years old and have been natural for the entire 48 years of lifting. I was 19″ arms and 215 at 22 years old, but could also bench 425 and had a 1250 power lifting total. I was 178lbs at contest(bodybuilding) and 7% bodyfat. Today, I am 12-14% and 185-190, depending on lifting routines and eating.
        All it takes is decent gentics, hard work and appropriate diet.
        There is no mystery. I have a large bone structure, which helps.
        I believe I could have achieved 21″ arms naturally with another few years of fuocus in my 20’s.

    1. Genetics with Hard Work

      Agreed with Genetics, hard work will change your body but where you start is huge. Started lifting at 18 and by 22 I weighted 218 lbs at 7% body fat and 18.25″ arms and 5′ 11″, and yes 100% natural. People would get angry with me when I said natural. Yes there are lots of steroids out there, many people I knew used them. I couldn’t compare with the amount of weights used but I could keep up with lean muscle because of my genetics. My friends using would ask what I was on because of my gains but I would tell them look at the 20 lbs I have on them but they put up more weight. Most of the people that were angry didn’t go to the gym 1.5 to 2 hours a day, 6 days a week neither, or prep food like I did. Everyone starts at a different place and yes, not everyone is honest. At 33 years old I still was 220 lbs and 17.25″ arms but 18 % body fat with no exercise and a 12 hour a day computer job. Keep up the hard work and don’t hate everyone, lets motivate each other.

  10. Your mama

    That’s great ppl. I’m a natty 6’6″ 275 lbs with a 28″ waist and maintain 7% BF year-round. My arms are 22″ and I’m aiming for 25″ by year-end so I can enter some contests. See you at the pros!

  11. Swede

    This will earn me a lot of hate. But a lot of it is genetics. I am scandinavian and built like a brick. 178 cm or 5’10 tall. About as wide. Always been square. Also given the fact that I had a full thick beard by age 14, I guess I am not quite normal. My lean mass index says I use steroids. A lot of steroids. Never have. Not even seen steroids IRL. The closest I have gotten is googling and reading about them. Been bodybuilding a bit over 2 years now and while I am not in contest shape, I am around 12-13% BF. My abs show a little, veins pop out here and there. My arms measure 50 cm (19,6 inches) when pumped and 48 cm when not. My arms were already a bit over 40 cm when I started lifting, though, from many years of eating enough protein/calories and hard manual labor. And no, I have not stopped gaining muscle yet. I slow plateau but then I just deload and change training split/exercises. I have absolutely nothing to gain by lying. I have never taken anything beyond perfectly legal supplements. BCAAs, creatine, pre-workout, protein powder, glutamine, ZMA and multivitamin. I have never owned or taken insulin, anabolic steroids of any kind, growth hormones etc and I am most definitely not injecting fucking oil.

    The major differences are that I have always worked with my body. From childhood. Always ate a LOT of food cooked from scratch. Lots of meat and milk. I barely ever drank water until I got in my late twenties, almost entirely organic whole milk. Always did some form of sport. Swimming, MMA, weight lifting, bodybuilding etc. And I train the arms with over (20 is lower end, when I lift heavier weights) 20 sets of 10-12 reps per muscle group once per week. Usually a bit over that. Averaging around 300 reps or just below per group (bis, tris and forearms, i.e. 900 all told). Add in secondary work from back day, chest day and working and it is quite a bit of stimuli. I eat accordingly. Which is four full meals and a few eggs in the evening. Food box maniac, I always carry food. Most lack heavy bones, most lack muscle shape required for girth, most don’t attack training with enough intensity and most don’t know how to eat or take supplements. Which combined makes the number of people with small arms quite large and the number with big arms naturally quite small. I am GOING to take steroids, however, the same damn week as my measuring tape starts saying I have lost lean mass in my arms even if I have kept up training. I reckon it will be in my late 30s somewhere. I am 30 years old now. That said. Few people on earth have scandi upper body genetics and meat/milk-heavy countryside work/food. Hell, most non-nordics don’t even tolerate lactose. Also, I have thrown away career for having a calm but lower paid job that I do not lose any sleep over and that does not stress me out in the least. I live minimalistic. I work, I eat, I rest, I train, I spend time in the forest, I food shop, I cook, I spend time with my wife who is also a lifter and I don’t stress. I plan so that I do not have to.

    Someone who is not large by nature will not be able to be large and lean without steroids. It is as simple as that. You will find a bunch of slavs, balts, scandinavians, finns and west africans who are rather broad by nature, on the other hand. Some neanderthal heritage perhaps. I am certainly hairy enough and my brow ridges, while not quite as extreme as arnolds, are large. Same with finger thickness etc. Which is also why somr of this may be misspelled, since it was written on my mobile screen.

    So if yiu want to get large naturally, go back in time and choose to be born as a northerner with the right genetics and grow up on a farm doing heavy and dirty things from childhood, eat like a crazy person several times per day, start lifting early in life and train through the pain instead of giving up as soon as you think another rep will kill you. Which it won’t. Also, Arnie is not lying. You have to visualize what you want to build. Mind is over matter, given the right circumstances.

    Now, hate all you want. Living a modern city lifestyle? Not born fairly large? Go buy some roids if you want to be big. It is the only way unless you possess the prerequisite conditions for natural growth.

      1. gangster warrior

        At least you had the patience to finish reading “essay ” comment but you don’t need PIC the guy is posting BS. I have to say 14+ inches arms are quite amazing in my observation …I don’t see a need to obsess getting to pro level…

        1. Js

          14″ is amazing? Really?
          I’m a slim hardgainer and have 15″ with minimal work out. I’m sure I can go to 16″ if I was to eat and sleep like a bodybuilder.
          I’m not surprised that the Sweddish guy is telling the truth.
          Well done him to chose the rural life to modern sh* t that we are all craving and slowly poisoning ourselves.

          1. gangster warrior

            14+ read carefully. That means anything from 14 upwards is great by normal standards so yeah forget about getting to 18 inches without usage of drugs…it happening.

    1. Claus Lindemann

      Scandinavian genetics – what’s that? I am from scandinavia, Denmark actually. I was a competition swimmer until I turned 24. My stats were 6 feet, 167 lbs, body fat around 7%. My arms were 12.6 inch, my chest 43 and my waist 32. At this point I trained 10 – 16 hours a week. Weight training was a part of the training rutine since I was 16. From 24 to 28 I committed myself to weight training, doing between 6-8 hours a week. My source of inspiration was Arnold and I used his encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding as a training guide. From 24 to 28 I gained 7 lbs landing at 174. My arms landed at 13.4 inches and my chest increased to 47.2. My legs did grow a lot compared to the rest of my body. I have consistently trained since I was 28 – sure some breaks once in a while due to work and children, but overall I have been training since then. I am 47 now has been lifting intensely for the last 4 years focusing on shorter sets and higher weights. My arms have increased and astounding 0.3 inch moving me close to 14 inch arms.

      Being Scandinavian I have trained with a lot of Scandinavian guys. Both in the pool, at the track field and in the weight room. We all pretty much ended up at the same size. I don’t have any practical experience with steroids, but when we wen’t away on training camp to eastern Europe we always wondered how the hell those girls and guys got so big. Our coach laughed it off with “steroids”. So the Scandinavian genetics seems to be pretty much average, and while I have trained hard as hell I have never really seen anyone surpass some of those guidelines posted elsewhere on this site (max weight = height in centimeters – 100) – just a couple of thoughts from a guy who trained hard and ate whatever he liked

  12. Bro Freedom

    I’m 39 y/o 5’6″ wrists are 7″ – small frame.
    My arms are currently just under 16″ and I’ve been training on and off for many years. Within the last 3 years of solid training I started taking Testosterone and Trenbolone at low levels, I’ve doubled my dose past 2 weeks (600mg Test, 200mg Tren) and will keep it like that for approx 4 months, then back onto cruising dose. I expect to gain at least 1/2″ on my arms within that time.

  13. Tom

    I started working out when I was 18 years old. I am now 65 and still have an 18 inch upper arm cold. I’ve never used any steroids or anything else I did everything totally natural. When I was younger I had a 19 inch upper arm at my best. I am in pretty lean condition at 5 feet 10 -192 pounds. I have a 7 and a quarter inch wrist. People say I’m the one and only and No One Believes me being 65. I’ve done all this naturally and have always been a dedicated weightlifter and can prove everything I said.

    1. Tom

      I have a lot to say but I’ll try to make this as short as I can. In my experience and I have been working out for 50 years naturally. I probably know more about this than most. To develop an 18in inch plus arm naturally in very very lean condition is extremely rare in fact almost impossible. Most people that have this are not in lean condition but they don’t wan itt to admit to that. If you even have 15 or 16 inch arms in lean condition you will look much more impressive then the person who has 18 plus inch arms that is not in lean condition. In fact your arms will even look bigger then there’s in proportion with the rest of your body. So if you want to have these massive arms and it’s not in proportion with the rest of your body it doesn’t mean much. Be satisfied with what you can get and you will look much more impressive than you really think. If you are very very tall with a large frame and big bones you might be in a different category but I’m not totally sure of that. Train right and train smart and you will get a lot more out of it. And you’re doing it naturally the healthy way. Remember I have 50 plus years experience about this.

      1. Tom

        Remember people will do anything to cheat to make their arms bigger. You have to measure your arm cold without a pump a day or so after a workout. Flex your bicep without touching your body put the tape measure around straight and you should get the proper reading if done right.

  14. AnonymousLifter

    When I read about certain bodybuilders in the old days building arms bigger than 20″ naturally, I find it pretty hard to believe. Of course, studies have proven that our grandfathers had higher testosterone levels. So who knows?

    All I know is that I’m a little over 6′ tall, been training hard in the gym for almost four years, and I have done a few “bulk up” routines where I trained arms three times a week and ate like crazy. I have even used pro-hormones a few times. And I have barely managed to get to fifteen-inch upper arms even when pumped! It’s pretty frustrating, especially considering all the baloney from the fitness industry about how easy it’s supposed to be to build humongous arms.

  15. Niall

    I’m not sure how you measure the biceps is it flexed or just around the arm unflexed because I’ve just been left completely confused.

  16. Big I

    I have been training naturally for 30 years. Probably at 15-20% Bodyfat? Height 5’10” Weight 255/260lbs.
    Can bench press around 490, deadlift over 600 and squat over 600lb (all RAW) Measurements as big as most ’70s/80’s pro bodybuilders. 53-56″ Chest, arms around 19.5″, calves similar, Thighs near 30″. Its possible to get big naturally but to be ripped and big is a different story. I prefer strength over size but am happy with my natural gains in both areas.
    90% of people would need steroids to achieve this but 10% can reach an excellent level with perseverance. Good luck and don’t listen to the naysayers! You know in your heart if you have the potential…

  17. Josh

    Have 20 inch arms, not 100% lean but almost and has never and ever drank steroids, drugs and nor even protein powder, never nothing, 100% natural. Has quitted from Gym 1 year and returned 2 weeks ago, hope to never quit again and get to 22″ natural in a year or perhaps a couple.

  18. Steven steele

    Follow me on Instagram @stevensteele45. I have the biggest arms that I can obtain naturally. I’m 6’2 225 right now.. 18.5in cold. The biggest I’ve been is 235lb 19.5 in cold. I definitely have great genetics for arms, I never train them heavy.

  19. Tom

    I’m not sitting here doubting Steve’s word but if he did this all natural he’s one of the very few but I don’t know about the 19.5 inch arms that’s questionable and you must be in very very lean condition for it to matter

  20. ricky Wright

    On my 61st birthday I will have lifted for 50 years . I did cybergenics total body in my 30’s 4 times and had trememdous gains naturally/ got to 18,5 inches less than 12% bodyfat . All natural lifted 6days a week 2+ hrs a day, alwatys in morning before eating , every excersise to negatives, 1,5 million lbs or more a month, In the end was able curl 50 lbs each arm 25 times. Only way to get this big is hard work and pain, Made sure I ate for growth after every session, (protein and carbs) Also do not rest more thab 60 seconds between reps,,,still have 17,5 inch arms after 20 years . Had not measured in years but the painter mentionred I had really big arms and thought I would take a look, took 10 years to get to 16 inches and 2 years of super hard work to get to 18.5 …

  21. Ace

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself. The only way to find out what is achievable naturally is to put the work in yourself. I’m 6’6″, 260 lbs, and have 19 inch arms. My DEXA scan put me at about 13% body fat, and I’ve been powerlifting for five years now. I don’t take any suppliments, steroids, etc. I achieved that naturally. That’s my natural limit as far as I know. Maybe I have good genetics. I don’t know, since I’m not a geneticist. I have a couple friends who are in the lower 5′ range with bad genetics who can only obtain 14 inch arms naturally while lean. I have a cousin who is 7’4″ and he has 22 inch arms naturally. He’s not super lean, but he’s far from fat since his abs are clearly visible. It really all depends on your genetics, and nobody knows your genetics better than yourself. What is obtainable naturally is different for everyone. Yeah, if you see a 5’9″ guy with 25 inch arms, it’s safe to say he’s on steroids. However, 18 inch arms just don’t seem like that big of a deal to me.

  22. Mr. Master

    im all natural 20 year old that has 22.5 inch arms and 4 % body fat! veins are popping out of my arms like crazy! all the ladies love me and I am hot! by the time I am 25 I will have 25 inch arms with a pump 26 inch arms! you sissys that way 20 inch arms can be achieved naturally are just losers that dont know the meaning of hard work! keep eating twinkies on the couch toolbags!

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