After years of training, working with some of the worlds top experts and experience with over 500 clients here are the top 10 arm training tips:
10 Commandments for Big Arms
- Train Them Often: They won’t grow when you only train them once per week or just do 6 – 9 sets after a big muscle group like chest or back.
- Prioritize Them: If you only train them after other muscles chances are you’ll be tired, fatigued, short for time or ready to leave the gym. If you want to them to grow you should prioritize them, train them first and give them their own workouts.
- Change The Movement: Sticking with the same exercise is sub-optimal and limits your growth. Alter the joint angles and emphasis on different parts of the strength curve.
- Work All Parts Of The Strength Curve: Linked with above, most people do not work the arm muscles in the shortened or lengthened range. Because of the joints function and gravity, 95% of the common exercises all work the mid range. Unless you are purposely overloading the shortened and lengthened portion chances are you rarely train it.
- Give Them Volume & Frequency: Just because they are smaller muscles doesn’t mean you can do 6 sets twice a week. At some point you will need to train them 2 -3 times a week with a high amount of volume to overcome plateaus.
- Use Advanced Techniques: BFR, Rest / Pause, Intra-Set Stretching, MILO, Giant Sets, Dropsets are all needed as you become more advanced.
- Eat To Grow: Because they are smaller muscles most people fail to emphasize their diet on arm days like they would on chest or leg days. Although I’m not saying they do require as much fuel as a full leg workout, you still need to be eating sufficient calories and protein to optimize growth and recovery.
- Work Through a Full Range: Most people fail to get the muscle fully lengthened and shortened, just pumping through the mid range and not recruiting all the muscle fibers within the bicep and tricep.
- Be Strict: It’s very easy to start cheating when training the arms, going heavy and shifting your torso position so you actually only create small amounts of flexion and extension at the elbow joint.
- Pick The Right Weight: Going heavy is a big mistake with arm training, as it’s smaller and only works through one joint it’s very easy for the shoulders and upper body to take over. For arms, ensure everything is fixed and the only movement occurs at the elbow joint.
- Bonus: If your not sure how to select exercises and advance techniques I’ve designed 3 awesome arm workouts applying all the principles above. If you want to optimize whole body muscle growth read some more articles on the website or if you want a done-for-you plan take a look at the famous 20 Week Rapid Mass Protocol.
Example Arm Workouts
Exercise Pair 1 (12 reps, 4 sets, 60 seconds rest):
1a. Spider Curls on the opposite side of a preacher bench. Tempo: 2:0:1:2
1b. Dual Cable Cross Over (stand 2 steps back from machine). Tempo: 2:0:2:2
Exercise Pair 2 (15 reps, 4 sets, 60 seconds rest):
2a. Incline Supinated Curl (keep chest lifted and elbows back). Tempo: 2:2:1:1
2b. Single Arm Overhead Tricep Rope Extensions (Keep elbows high behind head, lower so forearm touches biceps). Tempo: 4:2:1:1
Exercise Pair 3 (8 – 10 reps, 3 sets, 60 seconds rest):
3a. Seated Upright Hammer Curls (keep elbows forward throughout exercise). Tempo: 2:0:1:1
3b. Incline Bench EZ Bar Spider Curls (face the bench with chest on pad, arms either side holding EZ bar). Tempo: 2:0:1:2
Exercise Pair 4 (10 reps, 3 sets, 0 seconds rest):
4a. Single Arm Tricep Ext (set cable at top, no handle, take steps 2 back and lean forward slightly. Only raise 70% of the way up). Tempo: 2:0:2:2
4b. Single Arm Overhead Tripce Ext (move cable down to mid stomach, no handle, face away from machine, hand behind shoulder). Tempo: 3:2:1:1
Perform both exercises on one arm then switch arms without rest. After finishing the 2 sets on both arms (4 sets total) rest for 20 seconds and repeat 2 more rounds.
If you are not familiar with the 4 tempo numbers it describes the speed in seconds for 1 rep.
Number 1: The eccentric or lowering part, on a bicep curl this would be lowering it back down to your waist.
Number 2: The pause at the bottom (Often 0 seconds) before lifting the weight back up.
Number 3; The concentric or lifting part of the movement. For a bicep curl this would be lifting it up from your side to chest height.
Number 4: The pause in the short contracted position (where it’s hard), remember to keep squeezing as hard as you can!