5 Must-Do Arm Exercises: Shock & Grow Your Biceps And Triceps

Alex Savve from Pharmafreak® and SD Pharmaceuticals™ reveals his arm growing arsenal: five potent bicep and tricep exercises you may have never tried.

Arm Anatomy 101

Your arms are the first part of your body that people notice. Ripped arms demand respect and prove your training and dedication to passers-by. That said, most are content with swinging barbell curls and half-ass tricep extensions - moves that are more about ego and less about building quality muscle. This article will give you an in-depth look at arm anatomy and reveal my 5 must-do exercises for arm growth and development.

Biceps Brachii

The biceps brachii has several functions, the most important being to flex the elbow and rotate the forearm. The term biceps brachii is a Latin phrase meaning "two-headed (muscle) of the arm," and consists of two bundles each with its own origin, joining together at a point near the elbow. It is important to note that upper back exercises such as rowing and pulling movements will also incorporate the biceps brachii due to the elbow flexion required.

Arm AnatomyBrachialis

The brachialis is a muscle in the upper arm that flexes the elbow joint. It lies just beneath the biceps brachii, and is a more powerful flexor of the elbow. Unlike the biceps, the brachialis does not insert on the radius, and therefore is not capable of pronation/supination of the forearm.

Brachioradialis

Brachioradialis is a forearm muscle that flexes the forearm at the elbow. It is also capable of both pronation and supination, depending on the position of the forearm. This muscle is highly visible in a flexed hammer curl position.

Triceps Brachii

The triceps brachii muscle (Latin for "three-headed muscle of the arm”), is made up of three bundles of muscle, each of different origin, joining together at the elbow. The triceps make up approximately 60 percent of the upper arm's muscle mass.

It is important to note that compound exercises involving elbow extension such as pressing movements and dips incorporate the triceps brachii. Close grip movements target the triceps more than wider grip movements.

Muscle Origin Insertion Function
Biceps Brachii Short Head Coracoid process of scapula Radial tuberosity Flexes elbow and supinates the forearm
Biceps Brachii Long Head Supraglenoid tubercle of scapula Radial tuberosity Flexes elbow and supinates the forearm
Brachialis Anterior surface of Humerus (near insertion of deltoid) Coronoid process and ulna Flexes elbow
Brachioradialis Lateral supracondylar ridge of humerus
(lower part of humerus)
Distal Radius Flexes and rotates elbow
Triceps Brachii Long Head Infraglenoid tubercle of scapula Olecranon process (elbow) Extends forearm
Triceps Brachii Lateral Head Posterior humerus Olecranon process (elbow) Extends forearm
Triceps Brachii Medial Head Posterior humerus Olecranon process (elbow) Extends forearm

Must-Do Arm Movements

Watch this video to see all exercises in action:

Seated Lying Overhead Triceps Extension Combo

Why: To overload the triceps with 2 mass-building exercises back-to-back. This technique will provide different overhead angles to attack the triceps in one intense super set.

Execution: Seated Overhead Triceps Extension (first 6-8 reps)

Sit on a bench, brace your core and hold a barbell overhead. Keep your elbows tight and slowly bend them to lower the barbell back and behind your head until you reach a 90 degree bend at the elbow joint. Contract the triceps as you lift the barbell back up to starting position, repeat 6-8 reps and move right into the lying triceps extension.

Lying Overhead Triceps Extension (last 6-8 reps)

Lie on the bench and move the barbell back so it is over your forehead with your arms straight (starting position). Bend your elbows and resist the weight as you lower it down and over your forehead until you reach a 90 degree bend at the elbow joint.

Tip: Keep your elbows locked in position and concentrate on only moving your forearms down and up during each rep to maximize triceps stimulation.

Overhead Kettlebell Triceps Extension

Why: To shock the triceps by offering a different challenge, with the weight hanging below the handle unlike with traditional dumbbells. This also improves functional power and grip strength, which is especially useful for sport specific conditioning.

Execution: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent, brace your core and hold a kettlebell overhead with the weight hanging below the handle. With your elbows locked in position, slowly bend them to lower the kettlebell back and behind your head until you reach a 90 degree bend at the elbow joint. Contract the triceps as you push the kettlebell back up to starting position.

Variation: Try this with one kettlebell in each hand to target the triceps individually, which will recruit more stabilizers and require greater coordination/control.

Zottman Curls

Exercise Prescribed: V-Dip

Why: To use each repetition to focus on one tricep at a time by shifting your bodyweight to one side.

Execution: Start at the top dip position with your arms fully extended and your body perpendicular to the floor. Lower yourself until your shoulders are lower than your elbows, or you feel a good stretch across the chest. Listen to your body and don't push through shoulder pain.

Push yourself up and completely to the left by extending your elbows to 180 degrees for a full range of motion. Lower yourself again to the bottom of the dip and this time; push yourself back up and to the right side.

Variation: Increase the challenge of this move by adding weight via chains or a belt.

Kettlebell Hammer Curls

Why: To engage the forearms, biceps and brachialis more than a basic dumbbell hammer curl. The kettle bell makes it harder to grip and perform each repetition.

Execution: Grab a pair of kettle bells and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Lock up your wrists and hammer curl the kettle bells by keeping your palms facing one another. Slowly resist the kettle bells back to starting position.

Tip: Keep your elbows tight to your sides and resist the temptation to move/raise them as you hammer curl the weight up.

Zottman Curls

Why: To take advantage of both the supinated and pronated grip in one movement. This allows you to target more muscles in the arm by combining elements of a regular and reverse curl.

Execution: Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Turn your palms up (supination) and move your dumbbell grip in towards the body. Curl the dumbbells up, pause at the top and reverse your grip (pronation) so your palms are now facing down. Lower the weight to full extension and reverse your grip back to a supinated position.

Tip: Select dumbbells that are about 50-60% of the weight you would normally use for standard curls in order to execute this exercise with proper technique.

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About The Author
Alex Savva is a bodybuilder, author and strength and conditioning expert who co-founded the best-selling nutritional supplement brands PHARMAFREAK® and SD Pharmaceuticals™.

6 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sat, 04/19/2014 - 18:27
Dan Turner

Thanks for the tips, nice! At Irfrin, normally you would do more triceps sets because the tricep is a bigger muscle.

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Posted Sun, 04/13/2014 - 23:35
Josh

With respect to the overhead tri exercises, the guy uses a different piece of equipment (I don't know it's not name) to a barbell, yet the instructions refer to using a barbell. A barbell, however, means the hands are in a different position to the guy's hands when he demonstrates. Surely this creates tension in a different area.

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Posted Sun, 04/13/2014 - 15:23
S Rogers

I have been using this workout for 30 plus years and it WORKS- limit rest time to 30 seconds between sets to get maximum benefits.

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Posted Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:04
Gary Fisher

I'm just starting about 6'1 240. I have worked out before so do have some muscle memory. I'm curious how to get my pecs looking nice and symmetric and the quickest way besides hard work to gain mass. What would b the best supplements for all over muscle mass I realize the harder I work now the more it pays off down the road there's no quick fix unless u know one I would love any tips if u have time. I miss my high school foundation

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Posted Mon, 04/07/2014 - 14:47
irfan

I Don't see alot of bicep exercises here, more of triceps..
I usually do more of Biceps .. :s

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Posted Sun, 04/06/2014 - 16:19
Dave

Do u do all at once with just reps and no sets. Or do 6-8 reps and 3 set of each exercise.