Sporting big, muscular arms tells the world that you are strong, athletic and fit. Yet, there’s always that one guy in the gym – he’s been curling the dumbbells three times a week for the last two years, and hasn’t added any size on his arms. Should he give it up and blame his ‘bad genetics’ or it simply the case that he isn’t optimizing his training for arm growth.
In this article I’ll give you 15 tips to pack some punch into your arm training. If you’re wanting to add some mass onto your arms, then give this a read.
#1. Give your arms their own training day
indirect training through compound exercise just isn’t enough for most people. Additionally, try completing an arms session prior to compound training like back or chest. Pre-exhausting them before moving on to compound lifts will provide an additional point of attack and overload strategy.
#2. Train across the full strength curve
By loading up at a variety of rep ranges you’ll maximize the effects of all hypertrophy mechanisms. Whilst research might suggest that loading parameters are not a primary variable in gaining mass, you soon find which rep range works best for you.
#3. Include overhead triceps work
Overhead work hits the long head of the triceps brachii. This is an often neglected movement- it’s not all about rope extensions and press downs.
#4. Change your grip for bicep training
Not only in terms of position on the bar (underhand, neutral, overhand), but the type of equipment as well. Thick bar training is great for hitting the forearm and brachialis.
#5. Lightly grip the bar for triceps training
Better yet use a suicide grip if the exercise allows. By doing this you’ll reduce brachialis activation and allow the triceps to work harder.
#6. Front raise for bicep activation
During barbell curls, target the biceps long head by ensuring that you drive the elbows out and up at the end range (imagine a front raise type movement). As the long head attaches above the shoulder you’ll ensure you maximize tension through a greater range
#7. Incorporate the triceps reflex
Use the TREM effect to your advantage (triceps reflex extensor manoeuvre). When you perform the triceps extension (cable straight bar or band works well) rotate the arm 5° so that pressure is predominantly through the ulnar surface of the hand (towards the little finger). This will trigger a reflex arc in the triceps that causes a heightened contraction.
#8. Focus on contracting the target muscle
Being conscious of allowing the muscle to hit peak contraction helps to stimulate growth. It increases mechanical tension as well as strengthening the neuromuscular connection between your nervous system and target muscle. It’s what many bodybuilders refer to as ‘muscle intent’.
#9. Use your pinkie
When performing supinated biceps exercises (palms facing upward) focus on lifting the pinkie finger up and towards the palm
#10. Add advanced training methods
When progression start to stagnate think about adding more challenging systems like drop sets, stretch overload, clusters and eccentrics to get you back on track.
#11. Variety is key
Whilst ‘muscle confusion’ might be a bullshit term, there are a surprising number of elbow isolation exercises. Use them.
#12. Plan rest and recovery.
Periodize your training to allow growth. It’s also important to avoid elbow tendinitis
#13. Think about your elbow position when training biceps
Keeping the elbows behind the trunk isolates the long head of the biceps more, and in front stresses the short head better. Superset the two opposing positions such as a drag curl to behind the head curl for an additional stimulus.
Make sure you add concentration curls into your biceps training. Electromyography studies suggest this exercise gets the highest activation patterns.
#15. Train your arms regularly
Train your arms regularly if you are an advanced lifter. Aim for twice a week (not including indirect training such as back or chest day) for 4 weeks. Then have a rest week.
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