There’s nothing better for Spring Break than rippling abs and big arms. Sleeve-busting arms is something just about everyone hitting the gym wishes to achieve. Sure, curls and pushdowns will build some great biceps and triceps, but there’s more to it than that.
There is a science to it – knowing rep ranges for purely muscle gain is the name of the game. A strictly hypertrophy style (muscle-building) workout consists of reps ranging from 8-12 throughout all exercises within the workout. So the next time you reach for the curl bar and try to muster up 4-5 sloppy reps just because you think more weight equals more muscle – think again.
How To Build Big Arms
This workout will be based on one of the greatest golden era bodybuilder’s arm routine, Serge Nubret. Serge believed in hypertrophy-style training for not just muscle gain, but also because he felt it contributed to his extreme conditioning due to the sheer volume of the workouts.
There’s not a lot of different exercises but the sets and reps are higher and rest time is lower. He also believed that super-setting antagonistic muscle groups (such as biceps and triceps) was best to stretch and flex the muscle as with all pushing and pulling movements.
The workout itself may not look like much, but it will pack a punch like you’ve never experienced.
Superset #1 For Big Arms
Exercise A: Biceps Cable Curl
The cable curl is an excellent exercise because of the constant tension it keeps on the biceps throughout the movement. By choosing the cable curl over the barbell curl, you will be able to better isolate and contract the bicep muscle only.
- Begin the movement by hopping on a low pulley cable machine
- Stand up and with a straight back curl the weight up to the top of the movement around chin level
- Squeeze the muscle hard for a 1 second count and slowly lower the weight back down to the start position
Sets and Reps: 5 x 8-12
Top Tip: Focusing on the squeeze and contraction at the peak of the movement is the key. Don’t go too far up or too far down to where you lose tension on muscle- make it hard on yourself!
Exercise B: Cable Triceps Pushdown
One of the greatest overall triceps mass builders is the cable pushdown. Like the cable curl, the pushdown forces you to keep the triceps under constant tension to really break down the fibers within the muscle. A lot of exercises like skull crushers and close grip bench press are great mass builders, but these compound movements involve other muscles and do not isolate the triceps. Really smoke your triceps by super setting them with the previous curl exercise and get an awesome pump.
- Start with cable setting at or around eye level and attach straight bar or v-bar
- Press the weight down while leaning slightly over the top of the bar so you can fully contract your triceps
- Keeping the shoulders back, squeeze the triceps at the bottom of the movement
- Slowly return the weight to the top but not past 90 degrees and repeat
Sets and Reps: 5 x 8-12
Top Tip: Change up your hand placement with a closer or wider grip on the bar and activate different parts of the triceps.
Superset #2 For Big Arms
Exercise A: DB Alternating Curl
Struggling to gain that peak of your biceps? The DB alternating curl is here to solve you peak-less problem! By curling the weight up to the top of the movement and really turning your pinky inward will help peak your biceps to the fullest. Although this can be seen as a strictly isolation exercise, it’s an awesome mass builder.
- Hold dumbbells that you can normally do for around 12-15 reps (due to high volume you might even have to drop the weight down lower)
- As your curl the weight rotate your hands so your palms are facing your body at the peak of the movement (see picture)
- Squeeze intensely and lower the weight back to starting position while rotating hands back as well
Sets and Reps: 5 x 8-12
Top Tip: Over exaggerating at the top of the movement is necessary for that big, round peak. It might look and feel a little different at first, but you’ll definitely feel it the following day.
Exercise B: DB Overhead Triceps Press
The overhead press is a great exercise to finish with because of its increased range of motion it places on the muscle. Your arms might be so pumped that you can barely bend your arms. Grab a heavy dumbbell and rep out this last exercise to create that image of arms you’re looking for.
- Seated on a bench, start with dumbbell behind your head with arms as far stretched behind torso as possible
- Engage the triceps and press the weight up to the top
- Contract at the top of the movement with a slight bend in the elbows to avoid damage to the elbow joint
Sets and Reps- 5 x 8-12
Top Tip: To get into the starting can be a little tricky- especially with heavy dumbbell as the last exercise. Put the dumbbell on knee to start and kick the weight off and up onto shoulder until you get your hand positioning down. From there, move the weight back into starting position.
Take Home Message
The biggest things to take away from a workout as basic as this are intensity and rest time. By forcing yourself to squeeze the muscle every rep and every set, you will see results like never before. Pairing this with a super-set style workout will create an intensity that is unrivaled to other workouts you may have performed in the past. By keeping the rest periods short, this will keep the blood and pump alive- creating further break down of the muscle. Try this workout your next arm day and you’ll be glad you did. There’s no excuse to not get those arms ready for Spring Break!