When you start thinking about lifting weights, what is the first thing that goes through your mind?
The answer is likely a dude with big arms.
How many people have used the power of their pythons to inspire us to start training?
Anytime you see any of these dudes hitting an arm shot, you want to do the same thing. There’s only one small problem and that small problem is your small arms.
Are you someone who wears bigger shirts to hide your arms so you don’t feel embarrassed? Are you afraid to wear a tank top in public?
There are two things you should know right now.
First, even the guys I mentioned above had to start somewhere. It isn’t like they were born with those cannons hanging out of their onesie.
Second, you can start working today to build your own set of guns that you can be proud of.
Get in your car and upload this article onto your smartphone, because we’re going to blast your biceps and thrash your triceps.
The Armergency Workout Overview
The first priority that we should address is warming up and preparing the muscles for what’s about to happen. We are going to start this workout with an isolation movement so we can work each arm individually and make sure we feel the muscles working.
If you want to build those arms, you need to know they’re working. Don’t simply lift weights for the sake of moving them. Since the triceps have three heads and the biceps only have two, let’s start with triceps.
1. Single Arm Pressdown
The goal here is to warm up the triceps and feel them working so you can maximize the effectiveness of exercises later on. Your single grip handle should be attached to an upper cable pulley. Grab it with an underhand grip and pull it down.
Keep that upper arm tight to your side. Straighten your elbow and lower the handle until your arm is completely straight and your tricep is contracted. Squeeze and hold this position for a second before allowing the handle to go back up to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Once you finish with the first arm, do the same with the opposite arm. Perform 2 sets of 15 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets.
2. Standing High Cable Curl
The goal here is the same for the biceps as the pressdowns were for the triceps. Attach single grip handles to each upper pulley at a cable station. Take a handle in each hand and stand in the middle of the station.
Your upper arms should be stretched out to your sides. Bend at the elbows and bring the handles in like you want them to touch your ears. Keep your upper arms parallel to the floor. You should feel your biceps contract.
In simpler terms, do a double bicep pose while holding the handles. After holding this position for a second, return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Perform 2 sets of 15 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets.
3a. Lying Triceps Extension
We’re warmed up and we know how the muscles should feel when they’re working. It’s go time. Since we’re trying to make those arms bigger, we want to hit them as hard as possible. So we’re going to alternate between triceps and biceps so they have maximum time to recover and we can hit them harder than if we targeted one first and then the other.
This is a basic but important tricep building exercise. Use a barbell here so you can handle more weight. As long as you don’t sacrifice your execution of the movement and use the right amount of weight, you’ll feel it all up and down the backs of your arms.
Lie flat on a bench or on the floor. Take an overhand grip of a barbell or EZ Curl bar with a grip a little closer than shoulder width. Hold the bar at arms’ length pressed up. Keeping your upper arms vertical and stationary, bend at the elbows and lower the bar until it is around an inch above your forehead.
Using force in your triceps, straighten your arms and press the bar back up to the starting position. Maintain straight wrists throughout the movement. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
3b. Barbell Curl
There is no better movement for big biceps than barbell curls. As with the lying triceps extension, you can use more weight with a bar and you can swap it out for an EZ-Curl bar if you prefer.
Stand straight and tall with a shoulder width underhand grip on a bar. Keep your upper arms locked in to your sides and hold the bar at arms’ length at the bottom. Bend at the elbows and curl the bar up while keeping your upper arms in place.
The bar should approach the chest area when it’s fully curled. Squeeze the biceps and slowly lower it to the starting position. Feel the biceps stretch at the bottom before resuming the next rep. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
Perform 4 sets of each exercise in a superset fashion, aiming for 8-10 reps with 90 seconds of rest between supersets.
4a. Reverse Grip Incline Dumbbell Press
For the next two exercises, you will need an adjustable bench and some moderate dumbbells. We could keep this workout simple but it wouldn’t be a M&S article if there wasn’t something interesting, right?
This is a unique exercise to target each arm individually, but since you can work both arms at the same time, it will save you a few minutes.
Sit on the incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Lift the weights up to shoulder level like you would for an incline dumbbell press.
Turn the weights so your palms are facing you using an underhand grip. Keeping your elbows as close to you as possible, press the weights straight up until your arms lock out. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
4b. Spider Dumbbell Curls
When your upper body is against a solid object like a wall or bench, it becomes more difficult to use momentum. At this point in the workout, we want to make sure that the biceps are doing the work. Like the reverse incline presses, you can work each arm one at a time or both at once.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Position yourself on the incline bench so that your chest and abs are on the bench and your arms are hanging off. Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor. Hold the dumbbells at arms’ length with your palms facing away.
Bend the elbows and curl the dumbbells as high as you can without moving your upper arms. Squeeze the biceps before lowering the weights back to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Perform 3 sets of each exercise in a superset fashion, aiming for 10-12 reps with 60 seconds of rest between supersets.
5a. Kneeling Rope Pressdowns
Now the goal is simple. We want to get as much blood into the muscles as possible to maximize that pump which we hope will lead to long term growth. Machine or cable movements are best at the end, because it’s a fixed path and you can focus on isolating the area while minimizing the risk of injury.
Doing these on your knees will help you isolate the triceps and prevent you from using momentum.
Take hold of a rope attached to an upper cable pulley. Get down on your knees in front of the stack. Keep your back straight and look straight ahead. Upper arms should be at your sides.
Straighten your arms and press the rope down to squeeze your triceps. Separate the rope at the bottom to place emphasis on the triceps. Slowly allow the weight to return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
5b. Lying Cable Curls
Same principles apply here as they did with the rope pressdowns. There’s a fixed path for lifting, you can’t cheat on the movement, and you isolate those biceps. You might want to tap out before you finish but stay strong. You have biceps to build.
Attach a straight bar handle to a low cable pulley. Sit on the floor with your feet toward the stack. Take an underhand grip of the handle and lie back on the floor. Your arms should be straight while holding the handle. Keep your head and back on the floor.
Curl the weight up and squeeze the biceps at the top. Slowly lower the weight to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Armergency Superset Workout
|1. Single Arm Pressdown||2||15|
|2. High Standing Cable Curl||2||15|
|3a. Lying Tricep Extension||4||8-10|
|3b. Barbell Curl||4||8-10|
|4a. Reverse Grip Incline Dumbbell Press||3||10-12|
|4b. Spider Curls||3||10-12|
|5a. Kneeling Rope Pressdown||3||20|
|5b. Lying Cable Curl||3||20|
*If you’re a beginner you should perform that workout in straight set fashion until you become more familiar with all the movements and feel confident in your ability to do them.