Ripped arms will earn you automatic respect in the gym, heart eyes from girls on Tinder, and “damn, bro” texts in the group chat with the boys.
But how long does it actually take to get ripped arms — weeks, months, years?
Here’s the truth.
Table of Contents
What Do We Mean by “Ripped Arms”?
Ripped arms are the undisputed gold standard of the modern aesthetic physique.
They’re muscular, clearly defined, vascular, and not hidden beneath a layer of body fat. Aesthetically ripped arms have a horseshoe bulge in the triceps, a mountainous peak to the biceps, and impressively thick forearms.
Now, there’s no official Dictionary.com definition for “ripped arms.” But by most standards, ripped arms begin breaking through at around <10% body fat and 15+ inches in circumference.
We’ll break this baby down into three paths depending on whether you need to lose fat, build muscle, or combine the two.
I Already Have Muscular Arms
Strategy #1 is the simplest because — unless you have the world’s slowest metabolism — lame genetics won’t fight you tooth and nail along the way.
If you’re built like a linebacker (strong but thicc), your journey to ripped arms depends on stripping away excess body fat to uncover the dense muscle hidden underneath. Most health experts agree that shedding 1–2% body fat per month is generally safe.
Based on that and the 10% body fat goal for a ripped physique, here’s how long until you can finally brag about having ripped arms:
|Current Body Fat Percent||Min. Time to Ripped Arms||Max. Time to Ripped Arms|
|15%||2.5 months||5 months|
|20%||5 months||10 months|
|25%||7.5 months||15 months|
|30%||10 months||20 months|
|35%||12.5 months||25 months|
|40%||15 months||30 months|
|45%||17.5 months||35 months|
I Already Have Low Body Fat
Strategy #2 is hit or miss for skinny guys. On the one hand, by Lyle McDonald’s theory, newbies with less than a year of consistent training experience can pack on as much as 1.5–2 pounds of muscle mass per month.
Untrained muscles are more sensitive to resistance training, and research from 2015 suggests that protein synthesis is three times higher in newbies post-training. However, if you’re a “genetically screwed” hard-gainer, the 6–12 months of noob gains may not be as mind-blowing.
Based on the goal of 15+-inch upper arms, here’s how long it’ll take to get ripped arms by building lean mass:
|Current Biceps Size||Min. Time to Ripped Arms||Max. Time to Ripped Arms|
|15 inches||0 months||0 months|
|14.5 inches||1 month||2.5 months|
|14 inches||2 months||5 months|
|13.5 inches||3 months||7.5 months|
|13 inches||4 months||10 months|
|12.5 inches||5 months||12.5 months|
|12 inches||6 months||15 months|
I Need to Build Muscle & Lose Fat
Realistically, your journey to ripped arms will require both building muscle and trimming body fat. Human Kinetics suggests that the average young male has 12–15% body fat, while the CDC’s data puts the average 20–29-year-old’s upper-arm circumference at 13.41 inches (unflexed).
It’ll take about 1–5 months to reach the 10% body fat goal if you’re plain average. And, assuming 13.41-inch biceps are about 14–15 inches flexed (which is how most guys measure them), it’ll be about another 0–5 months to meet the 15+-inch size goals.
Ripped, aesthetic arms are somewhere between one and ten months away for the average young guy. However, you’ll begin seeing visible progress — whether that’s fat loss, muscle mass, or both — within 3–12 short weeks.
The Secret to Ripped Arms: The Trifecta
To be honest, all three of these timelines are completely worthless if you’re half-assing it or expecting one single “method” to deliver immediate results. You can’t expect ripped arms with just dieting, supplements, or training.
We call this bad boy the “trifecta” to ripped arms (or even more generally — a ripped physique):
The human body can only build muscle and burn fat (efficiently) under the right circumstances:
Calories provide the cells with the energy they need to survive.
If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll be in a caloric surplus and likely gain weight (both muscle and fat). However, the opposite is also true: burning more calories than you eat will land you in a weight-reducing caloric deficit.
According to a scientific study published in Sports Medicine in 2004, bodybuilders — the undisputed kings of strategic dieting for aesthetic physiques — either add 15% extra calories when bulking or trim their intake by 15% when cutting.
This controlled caloric intake results in gradual gains and losses.
The body also needs a strategic supply of all three macronutrients:
|Macronutrient||Recommended (Percent of Daily Calories)||What It Does|
|Proteins||25–30%||Rebuilds tore muscle tissue post-workout|
|Carbohydrates||55–60%||Fuels the body by converting into glycogen for energy|
|Fats||15–20%||Absorbs nutrients and ramps up hormone production.|
If you really want ripped arms, you’ll need to monitor your serving sizes (with a food scale and measuring cups), choose cleaner foods, and avoid wasted calories — like alcohol.
Supplements will never (ever, ever) replace a clean diet and progressive training. However, these four supplements could shorten the time it takes to build aesthetic, ripped arms:
- Creatine is a wildly popular amino acid powder known to increase strength, muscle thickness, and athletic performance.
- Protein powder, which a 22-trial review links to boosted muscle size, fat-free mass, and 1RMs when added to a diet of 1.2g/kg (plus 50g of supplement protein)
- Fat-burners, are a blend of metabolism-boosting ingredients like yohimbine, caffeine, or green tea that can slightly increase caloric burn at rest (study, study)
- Beta-alanine is another amino acid that can reliably increase maximum power, 1RM power, and strength (research)
Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn: Creatine Phospate
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That being said, you should know that not all supplements are worth taking. In fact, you might be surprised to discover that most supplements are junk.
Now, for the fun part — we can break the training aspect down into two pieces:
Resistance (or weight) training is as much about following a workout routine to enhance definition as it is to build lean mass. So whether you’re bulking or cutting, sculpting ripped arms means targeting these three muscle groups with weekly training:
The biceps are the bulging, rounded muscle at the front of the arm and the unofficial poster child for ripped arms.
To build rounded, wide, and tall biceps that peak while flexing, add the biceps curl (biceps brachii), incline dumbbell curl (biceps brachii – long head), preacher curl (biceps brachii – short head), and reverse curl & hammer curl (brachialis) to your routine.
The triceps make up two-thirds (or more) of the upper arm’s total mass, and inflating them is the easiest way to add inches to your upper arm.
Building triceps with the infamous horseshoe shape is possible with exercises like the overhead extension (long head), skull crusher (medial head), and cable pushdown (lateral head).
The forearm muscles also add to the overall ripped arm appearance (and girls apparently love it when a guy has thick forearms and rolls up his sleeves).
To sculpt thick, vascular forearms, don’t overlook exercises like the wrist curl, reverse wrist curl, or farmer carry.
Even more important than the choice in exercises is manipulating your workouts to increase hypertrophy (or muscle growth). In a review study aptly titled “Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy,” researchers determined that hypertrophy routines should include:
- 3–6 sets per exercise
- 6–12 reps per set
- 60 seconds of rest between sets
- 60–80% 1RM
- 12–28 sets per muscle group per week
- 48–72 hours of rest between workouts
Remember: no single resistance training routine will give you ripped arms. It doesn’t matter if you use our very own Aesthetic Arm Workout or some sort of home workout – it can give you results if you’re willing to commit to the process.
If you’re already a big guy and simply need to curb body fat, adding cardio to your routine is one of the best ways to widen your caloric deficit for fat loss.
Although this 2012 study from Obesity proves that diet or diet and exercise are more effective for long-term weight loss than just exercise. (The exercise group lost 2.4% of their body weight in a year, while the diet and diet and exercise groups shed 8.5% and 10.8%, respectively.)
High-intensity interval training can efficiently burn calories by alternating between max-effort and “rest” periods. Studies show that it can also spike your EPOC (or afterburn effect) for up to 14 hours post-exercise — similar to resistance training — to slightly increase caloric burn.
Really … How Long Does It Take to Get Ripped Arms?
Honestly, it depends (and we hate that answer, too). Ripped, flaunt-worthy arms are possible in 1–10 months for the average guy.
However, if you need to shred a considerable amount of body fat or have no muscle mass to speak of, you’re looking at closer to six months to a few years.