Let me try and guess your arm routine. A workout filled with endless variations of bicep curls and tricep extensions, a ridiculous number of sets and reps constantly searching and more than likely finding that skin tearing pump. Does this sound like you? More than likely yes if you have found yourself taking the time to read this article. What if I told you that you are actually doing so much that it isn’t really doing anything major in terms of increasing the size of your arms?
Just like you I found myself carrying out the typical “bro” workout of curl after curl and a ridiculous number of rope pull downs. But one day I was approached by this towering figure in my local gym with a physique that looked like it’d been carved from stone and arms the size of tree trunks but not only massive they were cut, with striations and definition. He said to me, “You’re doing it all wrong, in terms of arm training and any training in general it has to be quality over quantity, less is more”. From that day on I have taken this advice and applied it to all areas of my training and it has been incredible the difference I have noticed in terms of the size of my overall physique, vascularity, and in reference to this particular article the sheer thickness and definition in my arms.
Below are the very principles I applied to my arm training.
1# Choosing the Right Exercises
I am going to cut right to the chase and tell you endless curls will not give you bulging biceps just like endless tricep extensions will not give you massive horseshoe triceps. That’s not to say that curls should not be a part of your arm workout nor should extensions it just means they should be limited to a certain number of sets/reps. You must be sure to choose the correct exercises in order to effectively hit both biceps and triceps efficiently. In order to do this we must pick the correct exercises, and I’m going to make this as simple as possible and list them for you!
Biceps: Chin Ups, Barbell Curl, Hammer Curl, Concentrated Curl
Triceps: Close Grip Bench Press, Weighted Dips, Skull Crushers
These are the only exercises you need to create those arms that you have longed for. Whether you know it or not every time you step in the gym and work a certain body part with the obvious exceptions of legs and abs you are indirectly hitting your biceps or triceps. Think of it this way: you’re doing back so that’s a lot of rows and that incorporates biceps as a secondary muscle, just like when you’re doing chest that means a lot of pressing therefore using your triceps. As a result of many of us failing to see that and me included a few years back has resulted in our arm workouts being filled with 12 different exercises with ridiculous reps and sets! When all you need is listed above, pick two exercises from each list and that’s your arm workout.
#2 More Weight, Less Reps!
Yes, there is a time for those massive supersets every so often but when you’re looking for size as your main focus you want to limit these supersets and opt instead for lower reps and a heavier weight. This does not mean a weight so heavy that your form begins to suffer, but we will get onto that topic in the next principle. What I mean by “More Weight, Less Reps!” is sticking to the 6-12 rep range – this is the range I found best for adding layers of muscle to my arms.
For example, let’s say you are looking to do three sets of barbell curls, this would mean on the first set you aim for 12 reps, second set 10 reps, and on the final set 8 reps. Simple!
#3 Proper Form
I cannot emphasize this point enough, if you are going to completely forget everything from this article but have to remember one thing remember this: as soon as you enter any gym you should be willing to leave your ego at the door. Look at it this way, your body has absolutely no idea how much you’re lifting – whether it be 45lbs or 145lbs – it only knows when it’s being put under tension and to do this correctly and target your desired muscle you must pick a weight that you can perform the exercise correctly.
The amount of times I have seen people curl while rocking back and forth frantically trying to get the weight up or cheating on chin ups by coming down a couple inches from the bar then back up. Little do they know that this is in fact doing very little for them apart from increasing their risk of injury. So keep your ego at the door and lift to grow not to impress.
#4 Rep Timing
Another important principle that can really make the difference in terms of how hard you work your desired muscle. As many of you will know the whole point of lifting weights is to cause tiny tears in the muscle fibers, your body will then repair these tears but with an increase in size to the muscle cells allowing them to better cope with the reason to which they were torn in the first place, this is simply known as “hypertrophy” or muscle building. In order to ensure you are effectively doing as much “tearing” as possible you need to ensure you are causing the right kind of tension to the desired muscle. A rule of thumb for every rep that I found most effective is the 3-1-3 method, this is basically three seconds to carry out the first part of the exercise, 1 second for the middle part, then 3 seconds on the final part of the exercise.
For example, let’s take close grip bench press. You lift the bar from the rack and lower it to your chest for a count of three hitting your chest on the 3rd second, then you pause for one second, and then push the bar up for a count of 3 locking out on the 3rd second, then rack the weight.
#5 Eat More!
I know this is not a diet article but I couldn’t resist getting this principle in, as it was a huge part of why my arms were able to grow so much. I’ll make this quick, in order for you to grow you have to eat more but not just more, more of the right stuff. I’m not going to go into any real depth for this but some basic pointers would be as follows:
- Calculate your daily calorie needs using the Harris Benedict Formula
- Add 500 calories to this number and you have the calories you need to aim for per day
- Track your calories with an app or old school on a notepad
- Aim for between 1.25g-1.5g of protein per lb of bodyweight
- Get the majority of your carbohydrates from complex carb sources such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal etc
- Get your Fats from such sources as nuts, flaxseed, cottage cheese etc.
- Finally my personal favorite that is optional but I found extremely effective – Have a micellar casein shake before bed to feed your muscles while you sleep
There you have it, follow these 5 principles and I guarantee you you’ll be well on your way to getting those arms you have long desired.