I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was downstairs in my basement and I had decided to curl the sand weights of my fathers for the hell of it. I was only 14 years old and I knew nothing about weightlifting. But I knew how to do a curl. In fact curls were about all I did or cared about for the first 8 months of my weightlifting career. All I wanted was big arms. I didn’t care about anything else.
Now eventually over time I learned more and more about weightlifting and nutrition principles that helped me to eventually get big arms. Now I’ll admit it, my arms grow. They are my best body part by far and they have always responded well to training. However, I don’t believe I got big arms by a genetic fluke. Genetics helped but I think that hard work and the proper routine were instrumental in helping me reach my goal. When I first started training my arms were only 12″. Now they measure in at 18.5″ and for an all-natural bodybuilder I’d say that’s not too bad.
How Did I Build 18.5″ Guns?
So how did I build them you ask? Well it’s really a bit strange. I’m not a big advocate of extreme high volume training or HIT I believe both work well for small percentages of the population while the majority of us respond best to a mid range of sets. I have found this to be the case with me with all body parts except for my biceps and triceps. Now some people will disagree with what I have to say. Hell I don’t quite understand it myself; all I know is it worked and I got results. Thus I feel obligated to convey it to you. My arms thrive on high volume. I do about 8-10 failure sets for biceps and 8-10 failure sets for triceps. I don’t know why but my arms have always responded better when I worked them on a separate day from everything else and when I used high volume. When I began college my arms were 16.5″. By the end of that year they were 17.25″. I had been using high volume training that entire year up until my contest. After my contest I switched to lower volume training and did not work them on a separate day. My arms did not grow a single centimeter for 6 months. I then decided to revert to my old arm routine and low and behold, they grew. In 4 months I added over half an inch to my arms and they now are 18.5″.
My Two Favorite Arm Workouts
Note: All exercises are preceded by 1-2 warm-up sets.
- Seated overhead French curls (aka overhead triceps presses)-2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- Super-set with Standing barbell curls-2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- Overhead cable (using rope) triceps extensions- 2 failure sets of 8-15 reps (Super-set with)
- Cambered-bar preacher curls- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- Single arm reverse grip cable press downs- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps (Super-set with)
- Braced (against a bench) leaning over concentration curls- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- Single arm dumbbell kickbacks- 1 failure set of 6-12 reps (Super-set with)
- 1 set Barbell curls using the 21 method
- Skull crushers on decline bench- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps (Super-set with)
- Barbell Curls- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- Cable (using rope) press downs- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps (Super-set with)
- Alternating dumbbell curls- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- Reverse grip cable press downs (using cambered bar)- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps (Super-set with)
- One-arm dumbbell preacher curls- 2 failure sets of 6-12 reps
- One arm cable kick backs- 1 failure set 8-15 reps (Super-set with)
- Cable curls- 1 failure set 8-15 reps
Advice and Notes
My advice is to use workout number one until you stop seeing gains and then switch to workout number two. Do not use this workout if you are dieting as this workout will certainly cause you to overtrain if you are in a calorie deficient state. A note about performing some of these exercises.
When doing skull crushers or French curls:
Keep your elbows narrow, if you widen them too much you will be using more of your shoulders to lift the weight than your triceps.
When performing barbell curls:
Do not bend your back or move your elbow to lift the weight. DO NOT bend your back, lean, or move your elbow in order to lift more weight. The elbow is a fulcrum and should not move the entire time! In order to keep constant stress on the biceps I recommend bending at the waist a bit while doing barbell curls. When you use this method you are keeping constant stress on your biceps, as opposed to normal curls where the tension is reduced when you are in the contracted part of the lift.
When performing any triceps exercise with a rope and cable:
you should also push the ends of the rope out away from one another as you reach the contraction point of the exercise.
21′s are preformed the following way:
Start by only doing the top half of a barbell curl rep and do 7 of those half reps. Then do 7 full curl reps. To finish up the 21′s do 7 half reps of the bottom half of a barbell curl. Tip- use a light weight and go for a burn.
Tips While Working Arms
- Use any part of your body other than your arms to lift
- Perform a fast eccentric (negative)
- Sacrifice form for weight
- Work Slowly
- Move your elbows when performing a curl or extension.
- Use proper form
- Use a slow eccentric (negative)
- Get a pump
- Flex hard for a peak contraction on triceps and biceps
- Use a full range of motion
- Keep your elbows in the same position
- Work quickly
- Train intensely
Now get ready to load those guns up with some muscle!
Author: Layne Norton