In the history of the world, no one has ever said, “I wish I had smaller arms.”
By Jay Ashman
There are two types of people who train at gyms: those who want arms that are big and jacked and those who are lying about it. You can argue this point by saying, “Stronger is better” or “Being fit is better,” but at the end of the day if your arms fill your sleeves out, you actually start to look like you lift weights. Of course this is debatable, but go ahead and tell me you can look at someone whose arms are muscular and defined and not immediately assume that they lift hard.
There is one issue with many trainees in gyms when it comes to wanting bigger arms: They simply don’t train them smart enough. Going too heavy, not training them enough, focusing too much on the biceps, or using bad form will all cause your arms to lag behind in development and size. It goes without saying that you can’t expect to have 19-inch arms if you want to stay 180 pounds and ripped. Arm size generally follows overall muscular size. A few sets a week will not be enough. If you want them to grow, you have to go after the arms like you go after international chest day.
There are several ways to train arms. You will often see triceps and chest paired on the same day, along with biceps and back on their own day. The following program is for a stand-alone arm day, meant to be the second training stimulus of the week. This workout is challenging and high volume. You can do this for four to six weeks, changing up sets and reps slightly each time, or keep them the same for the entire period. Your arms will explode with a pump after this session, and you will catch yourself walking by random car windows, mirrors at work, and other reflective surfaces while you flex and admire your pump. IM
1A: Close-Grip Bench Press: Work up to a heavy six reps in four to five sets.
1B: Rope Hammer Curls: Between each set of bench presses, do eight reps of rope hammer curls.
We start off this day by using the king of triceps exercises, the close-grip bench press. This exercise packs the most mass on your triceps. Do I have a study on that? Not a single one, but I do have years of experiential evidence to back up that claim.
Begin with the inside of your hands on the inside edge of the knurling on a barbell. Lower the bar to your chest with your elbows tucked in—using this form will maximize triceps activation. When you’re finished with this exercise, immediately move to rope hammer curls. Pump these for eight reps with a flex at the top of the movement. You will perform the curls between every set of close-grip bench press, from warm-up to finding that max set of six reps. As with all bodybuilding-style exercises and movements, control over the tempo is critical. Don’t throw the weight. Instead, move it with control through the entire range of motion both concentric and eccentric.
2A. Triceps Bench Dips: 3 sets of 6-8
2B. Zottman Curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
The second superset starts off with an old-school exercise called triceps bench dips. Set up two benches parallel from one another so you can splay out between them. Your hands will be on one bench and your feet will be propped up on the other side. With your hands and feet on the bench, lower your body in between the benches until your upper arm reaches about parallel and then press to the top, flexing your triceps forcefully when you reach the end of the movement. This flex is critical. You do not want to rush through these. Make each rep count.
When finished with this exercise, grab a pair of dumbbells and perform eight to 10 Zottman curls. Zottman curls are performed by curling the weight up with your hands supinated, pronating at the top, and lowering it while continuing to keep your hands pronated. Repeat this sequence for eight to 10 reps. It’s important to flex at the top of each rep and hold that flex as you rotate your hand to a pronated position. This superset is for three working sets.
2A. Overhead Triceps Rope Extensions: 3 sets of 10 reps
2B. Incline Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 6 reps
2C. Incline Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 3 sets to failure
This is a tri-set where you will start off with overhead triceps rope extensions. Set up the rope on a cable stack machine, face away from it, and pull the rope to a full flex. When you’re in the eccentric part of the exercise you want to hold the end stretch for about one count before you move the weight concentrically. Flex the triceps hard for each rep. Do eight to 10 reps of this series before moving on to the next part of the tri-set.
The second and third part will be on an incline bench set up at about a 45-degree angle. Use the same weight for both parts of this. The first part is incline dumbbell curls; let your arms hang down at your side and lift the weight using your lower arm. Your upper arm should not be a part of the movement other than the activation in your bicep. If you’re swinging the weight, you’re going too heavy. You will do about six reps with this exercise. After performing these, immediately do hammer curls on the same bench until you fail. Use the same weight you used for the incline dumbbell curls. You can use a little swing as the reps start to get difficult, but if you choose to do that, be sure you lower the weight under control and don’t allow yourself to speed up the eccentric part of this exercise. This tri-set is to be done for three total working sets.
4A. Close-Grip Push-Ups On Bench: 2 sets to failure
4B. Spider Curls With An EZ-Curl Bar: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
For the final superset we’ll start off with close-grip push-ups. Your hands will be on a bench for the simple reason that you’ll be doing these reps very slowly. Set up with your feet on the floor, hands on the bench slightly closer than shoulder width, keep your elbows pinned back for the duration of the exercise. Lower yourself very slowly to the bench, and push yourself very slowly back up to a full lockout with a triceps flex. Take each set all the way to failure.
After the push-ups, grabs an EZ-bar and move to a preacher curl bench. Sit backward so you have your arms draped over the vertical side of the pad, keeping your armpits lodged on the top of the pad. The proper way to perform spider curls is to lower the weight to a full stretch and curl it to a full flex. Do not go too heavy on these or you’ll make this exercise unnecessarily difficult. Sacrifice some pounds and use the correct form: stretch, flex, repeat. If you don’t have a preacher curl bench, you can do these off of an incline bench. Set it up at about a 30-degree angle and perform the exercise with your body facedown on the bench. It is exactly the same in execution without the preacher curl pad to brace your upper arms. This last superset is for two sets only. Finishing the day off strong with these two exercises will flush your arms full of blood.