The best bi’s and tri’s workout that you’ve never done.
By Nick Nilsson
Normal exercises and training techniques will get you normal results. To really maximize your arm size, you need to use unique exercises and techniques that systematically attack your biceps and triceps from multiple angles, focusing on overall mass, extreme stretch, and peak contraction. This taxing eight-exercise arm workout will push your biceps and triceps to their limits, using exercises and training methods that strategically target the muscles for maximum growth.
This workout runs through four unique exercises each for biceps and triceps, and will attack your arms from every angle for maximum growth. It’s time to crush your arm-building plateau and go far beyond normal curls and pushdowns to build your arms. These unique exercises target your biceps and triceps for ultimate hypertrophy by stimulating the muscle fibers from all angles with maximum tension, stretch, and loading.
One-Arm Barbell Curls
Setup: This exercise is going to activate your biceps and forearms by forcing you to curl the bar and balance it in one hand at the same time. This exercise will give you massive growth stimulation right off the bat. Start with just the empty Olympic bar, adding weight only if you can perform at least eight reps with the bare bar. If you need to use a lighter weight, you can use an EZ-bar.
Execute: Start by gripping the bar in the center with one hand so that it’s well-balanced in that hand. Curl the weight up, focusing on squeezing the bicep hard. Because the bar is so long, balancing the bar will place tremendous stabilizing demands on the bicep and forearm while the muscle is also flexing the elbow.
Barbell Incline Curl Holds (or Straight-Bar-Behind-The-Back Cable Curl Holds)
Setup: This is an isometric hold in the biceps’ most extreme stretch position. Using a barbell or straight bar instead of dumbbells, locks the hands into a fully supinated position, maximizing the stretch. This requires either a partner to hand the bar to you, performing the exercise in the power rack so you can set the bar on the rails and grab it from behind you, or using another bench to set the bar on.
Execute: Set your feet on the seat and sit halfway up the back of the bench so that your upper back is hanging off the top end. This will allow you to arch your back over the bench and lean back, allowing your shoulders to get pulled back, which dramatically increases the stretch on the biceps. The key here is the resisted stretch. Don’t let the bar passively hang. You want to be actively contracting your biceps against the resistance at the bottom.
If you can’t or don’t want to use the rack, you can use a straight-bar attachment on a high pulley, holding the bar behind you instead, stepping forward so that the arms are pulled backward into the extreme stretch position for the biceps, similar to the bottom position of the incline curl. (Depends on photos)
Kick-Up Dumbbell Curl Negatives
Setup: After the stretch holds, your biceps muscle will be fully pumped. Now this eccentric-focused exercise is going to continue dealing massive muscle-fiber damage. For this, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells a little heavier than your normal one-rep max (1RM) for the dumbbell curl. Hold the dumbbells in a neutral (hammer) grip at the bottom. Move one dumbbell in front of your body so the end is resting on your thigh.
Execute: To begin, use your leg to powerfully kick that dumbbell up into the top position of the curl with your forearm fully supinated, palm facing up. This method is going to allow you to do what is essentially a self-spotted negative. Perform an eccentric-focused rep from there. The key for successful eccentric training is that it’s not just about lowering the weight slowly. You have to fight gravity all the way, actively trying to curl the weight up as the weight bears down. This active resistance is what causes maximum muscle damage. Alternate arms on each rep and perform four to six reps on each arm. If you can do more than six reps with some degree of control, you’re not using enough weight.
Superset: Supinated Dumbbell Farmer’s Walks and Flexed Arm Hang
Setup: The first exercise of this superset hits the biceps hard with absolutely no curling involved. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells—this should be a weight you’d normally use for heavy curls (though lighter than what was used for the previous exercise)—and hold them beside your hips with palms forward. That supinated position is key, as that is what puts the resistance on the biceps.
Execute: Walk for 40 to 60 seconds or more. Every step you take places constant tension directly on the biceps, putting them under heavy resistance for far longer than you’d normally be able to bear during a set of curls. For the second part of the superset, finish your walk in front of the chin-up bar. Jump up into the top of the chin-up and hold in a flexed arm hang position, squeezing the biceps hard for as long as you can, then fight the negative all the way down.
Decline Close-Grip Bench Press
Setup: This exercise is one of the single best overall mass-builders for triceps. The angle of your body allows the use of maximum weight while the position and leverage is easier on your shoulders than the flat-bench version. If you don’t have a decline bench, put a plate under the end of a flat bench to get at least a slight decline. Go relatively heavy on this exercise, aiming for four to six reps per set.
Execute: Take a shoulder-width grip (no closer) on the bar and unrack it. Lower the bar under control to your lower rib cage. On the way down, keep your elbows tucked in fairly close to your body. They don’t need to be tight up against your side, but they shouldn’t flare out wide either. Pause briefly at the bottom to reduce the elastic tension on the triceps so the muscles perform more of the actual work. As you press up, focus on pushing with the heels of your hands to maximize the loading on the triceps.
Bodyweight Triceps Extensions
Setup: To really develop the long head of the triceps (the biggest head that makes up a substantial portions of the mass of the triceps), you need to work with your arms in an overhead position. This exercise puts a massive stretch on the triceps in that overhead position and only requires your bodyweight.
You’ll need a bar set about two to three feet off the ground (a Smith machine bar or Olympic bar set on the rails in the power rack work well). Set your hands on top of the bar with a false grip (thumbs on the same side as fingers). Set your feet about three to four feet away from the bar.
To maximize the stretch on the triceps, once you have your hands set on the bar, externally rotate your shoulders. This means rotating your arms so that the insides of your elbows are facing up. This prevents your elbows from flaring out to the sides during the exercise and reducing the stretch.
Execute: Keeping your body stiff and slightly bent at the waist, bend only at the elbows and lower your head under the bar. Hold that stretch position for a few seconds, then extend back up. You can adjust the difficulty by moving your feet closer in, which will make it easier, or further away, which will make it harder. Moving the bar up also makes it easier, while lowering the bar makes it harder.
In-Set Superset: Lying Triceps Extensions and Close-Grip Bench Press
Setup: This is a combination exercise using a method I call “In-Set Supersets.” For this combo, you’ll alternate reps of lying triceps extensions and close-grip bench press. The two exercises share the same top position, making it very easy and natural to switch between them. (You’ll the same EZ-bar for both exercises.)
Execute: Select a weight you could get at least 10 to 12 reps with on the extension. Lower the weight to your forehead, then extend back up. Don’t let your elbows flare out to the sides. Once you’re back in the top position, lower the weight to your chest in a close-grip bench press, then press back up. After that, return back into the extension. Repeat these alternating reps for five to eight reps on each exercise (10 to 16 reps total).
Since the extension is the weaker exercise, end the set once you get near failure on the extension. Once you can’t do any more extensions on the last set, rep out with as many presses as you can. It’s a stronger exercise and will allow you to get a few more reps with the same weight.
Facing-Away Incline Cable Pushdowns
Setup: To finish off your triceps, this final exercise is going to put a massive peak contraction on them. Attach a straight handle to a high pulley and set an incline bench facing away from the pulley.
Execute: Reach back up and bring the bar to the top position of a pushdown, with your elbows fully flexed. Extend your arms and push down until the bar contacts your thighs. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides through the entire push. Hold the contracted position and squeeze the triceps hard for several seconds at the bottom of each rep. Your triceps will get no break and will be under constant tension for the entire exercise. As well, the facing-away position forces your body down onto the bench, so there is no cheating via body movement, which can be a tendency with the standing pushdown.
[Box:] The ARMageddon Workout
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
One-Arm Barbell Curls 3 6-8 90 seconds
Barbell Incline Curl Holds 2 holds 40-60 seconds 60 seconds
Kick-Up Dumbbell Curl Negatives 3 4-6 (each arm) 90 seconds
Supinated Dumbbell Farmer’s Walks 1 60 seconds zero
Flexed Arm Hang 1 to failure n/a
Decline Close-Grip Bench Press 3 4-6 2 minutes
Bodyweight Tricep Extensions 2 8-12 90 seconds
Lying Triceps Extensions/Close-Grip Bench Press* 3 10-16 total 90 seconds
Facing-Away Incline Cable Pushdowns 2 10-12 60 seconds
*Perform as an In-Set Superset, switching the exercise every rep. On the final set, go to failure on the Close-Grip Bench Press.