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Benefits of More Muscle—and Big Arms

Whenever I meet a goal, I reward myself with positive things like a vacation or a new piece of equipment. When I get something better, I make the choice of giving away the old piece to someone who will appreciate it. Living a clutter-free life makes for more growth.

Q: My arms have been at a sticking point for a long time. What do you recommend?

A: I would put your arms in jachère. That’s a French word used in agriculture that means to put to rest for a brief period. A long time ago, farmers figured out that crops grew better if you rotated them on a plot of land. So when a piece of land was not sowed, it was called terre en jachère—in other words, “land resting.”

I’ve found that one of the best ways to make arms grow is to abstain from doing direct work for them about four months out of the year. That’s right, not one single set of curls or extensions for 16 weeks. During that period you should concentrate on improving your poundages on pressing, rowing and chinning exercises.

Don’t freak out. Yes, you may lose some size on your upper arms, but it will be no more than one-quarter to a half inch. Most individuals, however, actually experience a growth spurt in upper-arm circumference during the rest period.

If you want to try a four-month layoff from direct arm training, set yourself a poundage goal for six reps maximum for one flat-bench pressing exercise, one incline or overhead press and one chinup exercise.

A sample goal profile for an intermediate 195-pound bodybuilder might look like this:

• Flat-bench presses, 260 x 6

• Incline dumbbell presses, 115s x 6

• Chinups, bodyweight + 30-pound dumbbell x 6

If you have a goal for those lifts, you’re going to be more committed to your training plan. Also, your arms may actually reach new heights of development.

Once you return to direct arm work, cut back your chest and upper-body training volume by 40 percent in terms of total sets and do eight to 12 sets each for the elbow flexors and the triceps. That will definitely send your arms into a new growth spurt.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit  IM

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