Many of us would give our right nut to have arms like big Toney Freeman, the ’06 Europa Supershow champion, who placed seventh at the ’06 Mr. Olympia and started out the ’07 season with a unanimous victory at the IRON MAN Pro. At 290 pounds onstage, this 6’2” tower of muscle sports a pair of guns that tape out at 24 inches pumped. But it wasn’t always that way.
Arms have been a tough bodypart for Toney to build. When he started training, they were an embarrassing 13 3/4 inches—and truly looked like pipe cleaners on a man so tall. It wasn’t until a brief training stint with legendary amateur Edgar Fletcher, one of the greatest physiques to never turn pro, about 10 years ago that the breakthrough came. “Edgar had some of the best arms in the sport at the time,” Freeman says. “The first day we trained biceps, we started with preacher curls, and I was shocked to see that he only had a 10 and a five on each side of the bar for his work sets. Here I am with arms a lot smaller, and I was using a 45 on each side.” It began to make sense once Edgar explained his rationale. “He said that unless you could flex the biceps as you performed the curling motion, the weight was too heavy and you were wasting your time. I tried it, and immediately I knew I’d been doing things all wrong.”
To this day Toney shuns the ego lifting of his younger years and won’t go any heavier than 40 or 50 pounds on each side of the bar for curls. He usually does his dumbbell curls seated and with both arms at the same time to ensure the strictest form possible. Even when standing and doing alternate curls, 60 pounds is about the most he’ll use, because he demands the type of muscle contraction that you just can’t get when you start slinging big weights around.
A lot of guys like to blame bad genetics or the fact that they don’t use steroids for their mediocre biceps. Could it be that the real hindrance to their progress is their insistence on using weights that are too heavy for them?
Just for the hell of it, try using just half the amount of weight you normally do for everything in your biceps workout, and focus intensely on squeezing the muscle hard and holding each contraction for a one-second count. If you feel something you haven’t felt before, like an insane pump and burn, maybe that’s your cue that you need to lighten the load and do it right. Odds are you won’t get your guns up to 24 inches like Toney’s, but if they end up bigger than they are right now, that’s still something to celebrate.