Many of you guys who started training did so for many reasons but I can take a good guess which was at the top of your lists.
You want big and muscular arms.
We all want that skin-tight feeling of a t-shirt wrapped around your upper arm. Or better yet, who needs sleeves?
The issue is what to do after you start out. You can make so much progress out of the gate but what do you do when you gain experience and are more advanced in the weight room.
If this describes you, keep reading because your arm workouts are about to go up a level.
1. Get a Grip on Your Warm Up
Here’s a quick question. What does every bicep and tricep exercise have in common? The answer is that you’re holding something or supporting something with your hands.
So shouldn’t it make sense to prepare for those arm workouts by performing grip exercises? To get the most out of your training, you should be holding whatever you’re using with the tightest grip possible – like you’re trying to crush it.
Commit a couple minutes to using a hand grip or to hold a moderately heavy object for as long as you can up to a minute. This shouldn’t affect the rest of your training and if anything, will help you get more out of it.
2. Start by Working Each Arm at a Time
You’ve likely read time and time again about the importance of the mind/muscle connection. That’s because it really is that important and this applies to arm day.
If you warm up with barbell movements, the stronger arm may carry more of the load which means one arm won’t reap the benefits. Pick exercises for bis and tris that allow you to isolate each arm.
Concentration curls and single arm pushdowns are great choices but there are other options. If you feel one arm is weaker or smaller than the other, then start with that arm so you can give it extra attention. You can also do more reps for that arm. If your plan calls for 10 reps each, go for 12-15 with the smaller arm.
3. Hit Them Twice a Week
Devoting one day a week to arms is great but you don’t have to stop there. The triceps are somewhat involved when you train chest, and the bis can play a role in your back training. So since they’re already working, why not show them some love at the end of the workout?
Choose one or two isolation exercises and add them to your bigger workouts. Isolation movements will be better for you here for two reasons.
- You’ll be tired from training the bigger muscles and isolation movements take less energy.
- You can focus on the bis and tris better with isolation movements.
It might be only 5-6 more sets for each but this extra volume could eventually mean more size where you want it…on the arms.
4. Go Heavy but Not Too Heavy
It might not make much sense to do singles for arms but taking your sets to the 3-5 rep range can offer you great benefits. There is a saying in many lifting circles. “A stronger muscle is a bigger muscle.”
You might not want to do this every week but perhaps once a month you should take your barbell curls and close grip bench presses to the heavy side of iron by doing a couple sets of 3-5.
As with any other lift you go heavy on, have a spotter to assist when necessary and don’t put yourself in a position to get hurt.
5. Use Bar Grips or Go Thicker
Bar grips provide both blessings and curses. The bad news with them is you likely won’t be able to use the same weight you would if you were holding the normal handles. Since your hands will have to hold something thicker, the weight will be more difficult to control.
The good news is your biceps and triceps will work overtime which can kick start new muscle growth. You can use them on any barbell, dumbbell, or machine exercise.
Of course there are different types of grips you can buy but there is another option. Take towels and wrap them around the object you’re wanting to use. It won’t be quite the same as using bar grips but it will serve its purpose.
6. Flex the Triceps When Working Biceps
When you’re training biceps, there should be two goals. You want a quality contraction and a deep stretch with each rep you do. So how do you get that deep stretch in the biceps? When you perform the negative portion of your rep and reach the bottom, focus on flexing your triceps.
This simple trick will stretch the bicep that much more which can help with flexibility and allow more blood to get into the muscle when you perform the next rep.
Want proof? Take an arm and straighten it out. Flex your tricep as hard as you can. Now feel your bicep. You should feel a slight stretch in that area. Now imagine that stretch with weight in your hand.
7. Perform Tricep Extensions on the Decline Bench
Whether you do traditional skull crushers, lying extensions with dumbbells, or any other version of this classic move you like, they’re great for triceps. Want to make it better? Go to the decline bench and try them.
With your back and shoulders on the decline bench, you can take your arms a little further back than you would on a flat or incline position. What this means for you is better stretches at the bottom of the movement and better isolation of the triceps.
8. Do Strict Wall Curls for Biceps
Cheating on a couple of reps at the end of a set is ok but you shouldn’t take it to the extreme by using momentum on every curl you do. One way to combat this temptation is to do strict curls against a wall. CT Fletcher has made these famous in recent years but it’s a classic lift from the old days.
You hold your bar and lean against a wall. Keep your butt, back, and head against the wall at all times. Perform your reps without coming off of the wall. You can rest assured that you’re going to use lighter weight here than you would by doing normal curls but the extra focus will eventually result in bigger and stronger arms.
9. Alternate Biceps and Triceps
This is something a lot of pros and top amateurs have done in recent years. The theory is that alternating between biceps and triceps movements will allow one to rest and recover while the other is working.
The end result is that you can go heavier and add more volume to the workload of each. It can also help you achieve an epic pump since blood is going into the entire upper arm area. If you’ve never tried this before, give it a go on your next arm day.
Start with whichever you feel is weaker, let’s say triceps, do all of your working sets, and then perform a biceps movement in the same fashion.
Put the Tips to Practice
It’s one thing to read these tips but putting them to action is what will help you achieve success.
This sample workout can help you master these tricks so you can get the most out of them.
Use this workout for a few weeks and get your measuring tape out because you’ll need to see the numbers for yourself.
|1. Hand Grips||2||20|
|2. Concentration Curl||2||15|
|3. Single Arm Cable Pressdown||2||15|
|4. EZ Bar Strict Wall Curl||3||3-5|
|5. Close Grip Bench Press||3||3-5|
|6. Alternating Dumbbell Curl||3||8-10|
|7. Decline Dumbbell Tricep Extension||3||8-10|
|8. Thick Grip Cable Bar Curl||3||10|
|9. Thick Grip Straight Bar Pressdown||3||10|
Triceps 2nd Workout (After Chest)
|1. Single Arm Overhead Extension||3||12|
|2. Rope Pressdown||3||15|
Biceps 2nd Workout (After Back)
|1. Preacher Curl Machine||3||12|
|2. Hammer Curl||3||15|
Rest 60 seconds between all sets.