As the weather gradually begins to warm here in the northern hemisphere, the signs of the impending summer season are all around us.
Birds chirping, the smell of freshly manicured lawns, and the amazing vibrancy of the landscape that was missing has returned.
Other than the lush spring vegetation, Mother Earth brings something else out of retirement as she awakens.
In a perfect world, you will have ripped abs to show off at the beach or pool side, but in any real lifters mind those abs are no good if you don’t have some guns to go along with them.
How many times have you seen someone sporting a 6-pack with not a lot of muscle up top and thought, “genetics… They’re just lean, not strong”? I’ve been guilty of that line of thinking myself.
So, what is the plan to maximize tank top season? It’s time to concentrate on those guns and make sure they are bursting with size and definition when it’s time to unveil them this summer.
Here are 5 of my toughest arm workouts that are guaranteed to help your arms grow and send you to an evening cookout with a day-long pump.
1. Backyard BBQ Biceps
|1. Barbell Curls (Misdirection Method)||4*||8, 5, 5, 3|
|2a. Dumbbell Curls||5||5 each arm|
|2b. Kneeling Concentration Curls||5||8|
|3a. Hammer Curls||3||3|
|3b. Incline Dumbbell Curls||3||5 each arm|
|3c. Band or Cable Curls||3||25|
*The Misdirection Method utilizes a 1/4 rep, 1/2 rep, and full rep as one complete repetition.
When you got that new tight sleeved polo for your birthday last year, you didn’t imagine wearing it at home. You probably imagined rolling into your buddy’s backyard BBQ with guns-a-blazing. Time to make that dream a reality.
This workout starts with what I call the “Misdirection Method” on barbell curls. Start with a light barbell, raise it 1/4 of the way then pause for 2 seconds. Raise it a little more to the half way point and pause for another 2 count, then lower all the way and complete a full rep, up all the way and lower under control. That pattern equals 1 repetition. Move up in weight each set.
Next, grab a heavy set of dumbbells and complete 5 reps on each side. Be sure to keep the dumbbell fully twisted with the biceps engaged on the way down. Immediately grab a light curl bar and squat down, resting your triceps on your knees. Keep your arms perfectly perpendicular to the floor as you curl the weight to your forehead, pausing for 1 second at the top. Complete 5 supersets.
To finish out this work out grab a heavy set of dumbbells (ideally 5-10lbs heavier than the ones on the last superset) for 3 Hammer Curls. Drop down to about half of that weight for some strict incline dumbbell curls, twisting at the bottom in between reps. Burn out with either a band or cable attached to a bar for 25 curls. After 3 rounds you’ll be stretching the sleeves of that polo while you refuel at the BBQ.
2. Tank Top Triceps
|1. Pushups||-||100 total|
|2a. Overhead Tricep Dumbbell Extension||5||5|
|2b. Iso-Kick Backs||5||5 each arm|
|2c. Tricep Press Down||5||12|
|3. The Skull Crusher Gauntlet||2*||5/10/20/40|
*The Gauntlet is comprised of two rounds of dropsets performing 5 reps, 10 reps, 20 reps, and 40 reps.
Everyone thinks of biceps when it comes to arms, but did you know that your triceps are up to 2/3 of your upper arm? It’s time to take your tricep training seriously, unless you want to sport some stick arms hanging out of your tank top.
Start by warming up with 100 total pushups (multiple sets). To begin the first circuit you will need a heavy DB for overhead tricep extensions for 5 reps. Try to keep your elbows in as close to your head as possible, don’t let them flare out.
Next, grab a light set of DBs and lay face down on a bench. Bring your arms up to your sides and extend the dumbbells, locking them into place. Alternate sides as you perform kickbacks, with one tricep completely flexed as you rep the other side. End with 12 strict reps on a cable tricep press down. Perform 5 rounds.
Next you will need to line up 4 sets of dumbbells on the floor, starting with the heaviest weight you can possible use for 5 dumbbell skull crushers (example: 1 set of each - 50b, 40b, 30b, 20lb).
Start with 5 reps with the heaviest set, then immediately drop to the next set for 10 reps, then 20 reps, before grinding out 40 reps with the lightest set. This is my (slightly shorter) version of CT-Fletcher’s legendary arm gauntlet that he destroyed our arms with a few years ago at The Old School Gym.
Rest 3 minutes before doing your second round. It’s key to start with a heavy enough weight. It should be a dumbbell that is your true weight for max reps of 5.
Warning: when sporting a tank top you will now feel the unresistible urge to lean against things to “accidentally” flex those stolen triceps.
3. The Beach Pump
|1a. Barbell Curls||5||5|
|1b. Chin ups||5*||10|
|1c. Dumbbell Skull Crushers||5||5|
|1d. Diamond Pushups||5*||10|
|2a. Dumbbell Curls||3||3|
|2b. Inverted Underhand Rows||3||10|
|2c. Tricep Pressdowns||3||8|
*Max out on the last round of bodyweight exercises.
This is one of my favorite arm workouts since it supersets heavy isolation movements for the biceps and triceps with high rep bodyweight exercises for an incredible all over upper body pump. The key to the bodyweight exercises in this workout is to focus on the target muscles.
During chin ups, go all the way up and squeeze the biceps at the top. Make sure to lock out completely on the pushups and dips to really emphasize the triceps. Rest 2 minutes between rounds of the superset and on the final round of each, do max reps rather than the prescribed number.
4. The Yard Workout - aka Playground Mayhem
|1. Pull ups (any overhand variation)||-||100 total|
|2. Dips||-||100 total|
|3. Chin ups||-||100 total|
|4. Diamond Pushups||-||100 total|
|5. Underhand Inverted Rows||-||100 total|
|6. Bodyweight Skull Crushers||-||100 total|
|7. Bench Dip "Tri-Frys"||-||100 total|
|7. Plank (switching variations)||-||6 min total|
I call this one the Yard Workout, because it’s perfect to do outside on a beautiful day. If you haven’t built dip and chin up bars in your back yard like I have (obsessed, maybe?), then it’s time to head to the nearest park or playground for this tremendous bodyweight beat down.
I’m a huge believer in bodyweight exercises for gaining upper body mass and definition, and this one will give you an incredible pump.
Start by supersetting overhand pullups and dips, doing as many sets as necessary until 100 total is reached of each. Next switch your grip to underhand and rep out 100 total chin ups, interspersing your sets with narrow “diamond” pushups. Next is a circuit of inverted rows, bodyweight skull crushers, and bench dip tri-frys.
On the rows and skulls it is crucial to keep your core engaged and your body perfectly straight. During the “bench dips” only perform the top 1/4 on the movement, concentrating on the squeeze to “fry your tris”. End it all with a 6 minute plank, changing to side planks when necessary.
5. Saturday Swole for the Pool
|1a. Chin ups||3||10|
|2a. Dumbbell Curls||4||3|
|2b. Dumbbell Curls||4*||6|
|2c. Dumbbell Hammer Curls||4*||9|
|2d. Tricep Press Downs w/ Rope||4||8|
|2e. Tricep Press Downs w/ Bar||4||15|
|2f. Tricep Band Push Downs or Bench Tri-Flys||4||25|
|3a. Dumbell 1/4 Curls||3**||30-60 secs|
|3b. Kick Backs||3**||30-60 secs|
|3c. Concentration Curls||3**||30-60 secs|
|3d. Overhead Tricep Extension||3**||30-60 secs|
|3e. Pummel Curls||3**||30-60 secs|
|3f. Bodyweight Skull Crushers||3**||30-60 secs|
*Perform next exercise in circuit as a drop set stripping 10lbs of weight after set.
**Start with sets of 60 seconds. On the 2nd round of the circuit, perform sets of 45 seconds. Finially, finish with sets of 30 seconds.
It’s Saturday, your day off from work, and I bet you would like nothing more than to head to the nearest swimming pool to cool off. Even more vital than sunscreen is a serious arm pump.
Related: 48 Different Ways To Do A Bicep Curl
Warm up with 3 sets of chin ups and dips. Next up is a killer drop set for curls and push downs. Start with as heavy of a dumbbell as possible for 3 curls each arm, drop down 10lbs for another 6 each side, and then another 10b drop for 9 strict hammer curls.
Immediately go to a cable for 8 tricep press downs with a rope attachment, and another 15 reps with a bar attachment. Burn out with 25 push downs using a band or bench tri-frys instead. Complete 4 grueling rounds.
For the final circuit you will need a couple of light sets of dumbbells (anywhere from 8-20lbs depending on your strength). Start by doing as many reps as possible for each exercise for 1 minute. Rest 1 minute, then complete a second round of 45 seconds on each exercise. On the final round, because the sets are only 30 seconds you may need to use slightly heavier dumbbells.
Grab a towel, your shades, and some sunscreen, and take those swole guns to the nearest swimming pool.
So there you have it - 5 of my toughest arm workouts that will have your arms looking chiseled out of granite this summer. Pick two of them to work into your programming each week. If you decide to work arms more than that, I won’t hate on ya…after all, it's tank top season! Stay tuned to Muscle and Strength for more of my craziness!