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Big Arms

If you’ve been piling weight on for curls and struggling to eke out just a few reps, maybe your arms would be better served with less weight, more reps and a hellish pump.


You’d have a pretty tough time finding someone with biceps bigger than those of ’08 NPC National Overall champion Ed Nunn. At his off-season weight of 280, the newly minted 6’1” pro has guns that measure just over 23 inches. How much weight would you expect to see a behemoth like that curling? If anyone would be expected to slap a couple of big 45s on each side of the bar, it would be Ed, aptly nicknamed the “Big Show.” You’d probably be surprised to learn that he usually uses just a humble quarter, or 25 pounds. That’s because his absolute favorite technique for biceps training, one that he credits with the majority of his astounding development, is 21s. 

“I think a big part of the reason they’re so effective is that they force you to use a lot less weight than you would normally,” he explains. “As big as I am, 25 pounds on each side of the bar is all I need for three sets of 21s.” 

You’re probably familiar with 21s. The order of the first two series of seven reps can shift. You can do reps from either the bottom or top half of the range of motion first and the other half second, but the final seven reps are full ones. “Another reason I think 21s work so well is that they give you such a ridiculous pump,” says Nunn. “The FST-7 training system by Hany Rambod that I use is based on the principle that pumping a muscle to dimensions beyond what it’s used to will expand the fascia and enable growth to take place. If you go too heavy and cheat with biceps training, you’ll never get that sick pump, and your biceps will never grow the way they should.”

If you’ve been piling weight on for curls and struggling to eke out just a few reps, maybe your arms would be better served with less weight, more reps and a hellish pump. Give 21s a try and see if your biceps don’t start thanking you in the form of new growth. IM

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