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Getting Bigger Arms


Q: I’d like to try a training cycle to bring up my arms, which are lagging behind my other bodyparts. I’ve been training for two years. Can you give me some ideas?

A: Try a five-day cycle in which your arm workout falls on the first or second day. The program would look like this:

Day 1: arms; day 2: legs; day 3: rest; day 4: chest and back; day 5: rest

The next cycle would change to this:

Day 1: legs; day 2: arms; day 3: rest; day 4: chest and back; day 5: rest

Repeat that sequence twice (so you will have trained arms six times), and then change programs. To continue the workout for a longer period would result in a case of diminishing returns, and you’d make little or no progress.

A great training system you could start with is uni-angular tri-sets, which I learned from the late Don Ross, a bodybuilder and bodybuilding writer. Many bodybuilders who had the best arms in the 1970s, such as Ehrling Wahlgren and Larry Scott, used this method. Most of you know Larry Scott as a two-time Mr. Olympia winner. Wahlgren placed fifth in the NABBA Mr. Universe in 1971 and ’73; he had tremendous arms and was also extremely strong, having done 780 pounds in the reverse deadlift.

Tri-sets are effective because they extend the stimulus to a wider pool of motor units along with increasing the total time under tension—TUT—for the associated muscle fibers. In a tri-set you perform three different exercises performed in the same plane for the same muscle group in a superset format, with no rest between exercises. For uni-angular tri-sets you simply add a 10-second rest between exercises, which makes a world of difference in the results.

Hypertrophy depends largely on how much weight you can lift for how long—load x TUT. If you move immediately from one exercise to another, the reduced loads produce a suboptimal training effect. Adding a 10-second rest after the first and second exercises in a tri-set makes it possible to use significantly greater loads than if you took no rest, which in turn increases muscle tension. Here’s an example of a uni-angular tri-set workout for the arms:


A1) Lying dumbbell extensions, 3/0/1/0 tempo, 3 x 6-8

Rest 10 seconds

A2) Lying EZ-curl-bar extensions, 2/0/1/0 tempo, 3 x 6-8

Rest 10 seconds

A3) Lying EZ-curl-bar extensions to chin, 2/0/1/0 tempo, 3 x 12-15

Rest 120 seconds

B1) Standing, narrow-reverse-grip EZ-curl-bar curls, 3/2/1/0 tempo, 3 x 5-7

Rest 10 seconds

B2) Standing, middle-reverse-grip EZ-curl-bar curls, 3/0/2/0 tempo, 3 x 3-5,

Rest 10 seconds

B3) Midline hammer curls, 2/0/2/0 tempo, 3 x 5-7

Rest 120 seconds


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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