Whether you want to add size or develop shape, these advanced movements will help you maximize your arm-building potential. Sample workout is also included!

There is a common expression that is used in all aspects of life - “keep it simple.” However, another popular phrase is “variety is the spice of life.”

When it comes to training, it's no different. Simple movements can always be effective, but there are times that change can be necessary to kickstart progress and development. One of the most common areas that people want to improve is the upper arms

Whether you want to add size or develop shape, these advanced movements will help you maximize your arm-building potential. If you’ve been in the iron game for a while and are tired of doing the same old movements, then keep reading because we have a program made just for you.

If you're a beginner, there are several great programs available here on M&S to help you make those foundational gains, but learning proper form and knowing how to train muscles are a must to perform these movements. Give yourself time to learn the basic exercises and get acquainted with the proper form. Then, come back and give this one a go.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

What to Know About These Exercises

I don’t want to make it appear that these movements are very difficult to perform. They’re really not. But knowing what you’re feeling is a must. That’s why these exercises are a part of an “advanced” program. You should know to take your time, not push the limits with weight, and make the most out of each rep you execute. 

These aren’t exercises that should necessarily be performed in supersets or giant sets, either. Focusing on quality contractions, isolating the muscles to the best of your ability, and being patient are all components of this type of program.

Finally, don’t go for one rep maxes on these lifts. The strict curl was known as the “fourth powerlift” because there are competitions for that. Other than that, none of these movements are meant for single rep strength. Moderate weight for higher reps will be what helps you stretch the tape measure.

Related: Bench Press Calculator: Calculate Your 1 REP MAX (1RM)

Shirtless muscular man flexing biceps in the gym


1. Reverse Grip Bench Press

This is similar to the basic bench press, except your hands are holding the bar with the opposite grip. Your palms should be facing you. Doing this takes the chest out of the movement, and it will minimize the shoulder involvement as well.

Do not do this movement without a spotter. A spotter is necessary to help you unrack the bar properly so you can perform the reps properly. Un-racking a bar with a reverse grip will be much more challenging than a traditional grip.

Lie on the bench and place your hands on the bar with an underhand grip that is slightly wider than your shoulders. Place your feet flat on the floor, and make sure your shoulders are flat on the bench. After the spotter helps you unrack the bar, hold it over your chest at arms’ length. Lower the bar down until it touches your chest. Try to keep your elbows tucked in as you do this. Pause the bar on your chest when it touches.

Using force in your triceps, press the bar back up until your arms are locked out at the top. This is one rep. Perform the desired reps in the same fashion. Have the spotter help you rack the bar at the end of your set.

2. Cross-Body Dumbbell Tricep Extension

You may know this one as the dumbbell tate press. The only difference is that you’re going to perform it one side at a time. This helps you isolate each arm better than if you were to perform them together because you’re only concentrating on the working side.

While lying on a bench, press one dumbbell up at arms’ length like you would a single-arm bench press. Bending at the elbow, lower the weight down until it touches the pec on the opposite side of your body. If the weight is in your right hand, it should touch your left pec and vice versa.

Keeping your arm stationary, extend the arm and lift the weight back up to the starting position. This is one rep. Perform the desired reps in the same fashion. When you finish, switch sides and repeat.

3. Single Arm Rope Pressdown

The only difference between this and the one-arm cable triceps extension is that you’re using a rope instead of the traditional straight handle. The rope allows you to twist the wrist and get a greater contraction than the normal handle. 

Using a cable instead of a dumbbell offers tension throughout the entire movement, which makes the triceps work harder. Since this is the last movement for this area, make the most of it.

When you’re doing these, the only part of the body that should be moving is the arm when you bend and straighten the elbow. If you have to jerk the weight to start, you’re using too much. Hold the contraction at the bottom for a two count before allowing the pinned weight to move back towards the stack.

Muscular man doing bicep curls in the gym


4. Strict EZ-Bar Curl Against a Wall

If you follow C.T. Fletcher, then you know what this is. Yes, it’s a basic EZ-Bar curl, but being against a wall prevents you from using momentum. The biceps are on their own, and you will not be able to use as much weight as you would the normal version.

Why an EZ-Bar instead of a barbell? Using the curves in the EZ-Bar will make it easier on your wrists and elbows. If a barbell is all you have, you can use it. 

When you curl, lift the bar up until you begin to lose tension. Don’t completely curl the bar up to your shoulders. This will ensure that the biceps are working from start to finish.

5. Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curl

The difference between a normal preacher curl and a hammer version is that the forearms and lower biceps will work more with the hammer grip. You can do these with both arms at once, but here’s an even better way to perform these.

Sit on the bench or seat sideways and lean one arm over the preacher pad with the weight in the hand. This offers an even greater stretch and also decreases the likelihood of you using momentum. 

Don’t jerk the weight up or let it fall. That’s an easy way to get hurt. Control the weight, don’t let it control you.

6. Zottman Curl

This is popular as a warm-up exercise, but it’s very effective as a finisher. After the first two movements, you may have to reduce the weight you use, but it will be worth it. You can do this one seated or standing. 

When you curl the weight up, squeeze the biceps for a moment before turning the dumbbells to the palms down position. Don’t let the elbows go behind the body. This isn’t a drag curl. Try to keep your shoulders stationary as well.

Sample Advanced Arm Workout

Perform this workout once a week on its own day for eight weeks. You should approach failure within the recommended rep range on the final set. Start by using a weight that allows you to learn the proper execution of each movement. Once you feel comfortable, start focusing on increasing the weight you work with. Rest 90 seconds between sets for all exercises.

Exercise Sets Reps
Reverse Grip Bench Press 3-4 8-10
Cross Body Dumbbell Triceps Extension 3-4 8-10
Single Arm Rope Pressdown 3-4 8-10
Strict EZ-Bar Curl Against a Wall 3-4 8-10
Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curl 3-4 8-10
Zottman Curl 3-4 8-10
1 Comment
AA-Ron Myers
Posted on: Sun, 12/12/2021 - 01:32

Thanks for the article, Rock. I'm 46 and once again am all in after a nearly decade hiatus. I started in my teens and, because of a party lifestyle that caused my training to be inconsistent over the decades, I'm now 3 years sober and have put that shit in the rearview.
I've never done reverse grip, at least not on any sort of regular basis, but absolutely loved regular close grip bench presses, which blew up my triceps and consequently my arms to 18 and some change and, having such a wide chest (large frame at 6'1), that close grips were also a contributing (but never a primary) factor to further developing my inner chest.