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Shocking Guns

After my last competition, which took place in November ’08, I received a lot of positive feedback about my physique and how much it had improved from my previous outing. Clients, friends and family who were at the show or viewed photos afterward mentioned over and over just how wide my back looked, how small my waist was, how much overall mass I carried and, more than anything, how my pecs reminded them of the one and only Arnold (and that would be Schwarzenegger, not Palmer). Unlike what happened in past years, however, I did not hear very many comments about my arms.

It concerned me, as I had always felt that my arms were pretty darn big and certainly worthy of selling at least a few dozen tickets to the gun show. Consequently, I decided to carefully review the contest pictures to evaluate where my bi’s and tri’s stood in relation to the rest of my physique. In my opinion, symmetry and aesthetics are the most important elements, so I have always kept a careful eye on mine while sculpting my body in the gym.

After studying my photos, however, I realized that my arms had fallen a bit behind, especially in relation to the size of my chest and shoulders, which grew tremendously during 2008. The disparity was most noticeable in my side-chest shots and front lat spreads, where my pecs and delts appeared to swallow up my arms, making them look weak. That was totally unacceptable, and I vowed then and there that the next time I stepped onstage I would be reloaded with bigger, better guns.

The process began with a careful examination of my biceps and triceps, as well as forearms, my goal being to discover exactly where the weak points were. That enabled me to find a better strategy for the exercises that I would focus on, as I never look to add size haphazardly but, rather, as proportionately as possible.

I realized that I needed to work on my outer biceps heads, as well as the peaks. As for triceps, the major weakness was the long, inner head—also known as the triceps undersweep. I was dissatisfied with the thickness of my upper forearms as well, which meant that my brachioradialis and forearm flexors needed some extra attention.

With that information in hand, I put together a list of exercises that would make up my “Project Big-Guns” arsenal for the next year:

Close-grip low-cable curls
Seated incline curls
EZ-curl-bar 90 degree preacher curls
Dumbbell 90 degree preacher curls
Standing or seated concentration curls
Lying overhead cable curls*

Seated or incline barbell or dumbbell overhead extensions
Seated one-arm dumbbell overhead extensions
Forward-lunge-position rope cable extensions
Elbows-out V-bar pushdowns
Close-grip bench presses
Elbows-out Smith-machine high close-grip bench presses*
Face-high one-arm cable extensions*

Barbell reverse curls
Standing alternate hammer curls
Cross-body hammer curls
Seated concentration hammer curls
Reverse wrist curls

* You’re probably not familiar with these movements. Here’s how to do them. (Note: Exercise illustrations are on page 164.)

Lying overhead cable curls. This unique exercise is my personal favorite for assaulting the brachialis. Begin by placing a flat bench in front of a weight stack on one side of a cable crossover machine. Make sure that the bench is at least a foot or so away from the stack, as the goal is to make your arms appear more like mountains, not to put a mountain-sized lump on your head!

Attach a short straight bar to the upper pulley, lie on the bench, and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Have someone hand you the bar, as trying to grab it yourself is a bit awkward on this exercise. Start with your arms perfectly straight, and begin curling the bar down and back until at the full contraction point the bar is actually behind your head.

As you curl, you will need to draw your elbows back slightly and tip your head forward just a bit in order to achieve the exaggerated range of motion. Hold at the bottom and squeeze for one or two seconds. Then return the bar under control to the starting position.

For variety you can also perform this exercise seated, facing a high-cable pulley. Hold your arms straight overhead, and, again, curl the bar down and back to full contraction.

Elbows-out Smith-machine high close-grip bench presses. Lie on a flat bench as you would for regular close-grip presses, but slide your body forward so the bar is just about even with your chin. Take a close grip on the bar, but instead of keeping your elbows tucked close into your body, rotate them outward until your upper arms are perpendicular to your torso. Of course you’ll be rotating the position of your hands on the bar as well, so be very careful about taking your grip—it will be as if the bar is almost resting on your palms. That’s the reason I perform these on a Smith machine—so there’s less chance of the bar rolling out of my hands.

Once you’re in position, unrack the bar from the safeties and lower it slowly until it reaches a point just below your chin. Then carefully but forcefully press to the top. Locking out is not really possible on this movement, so there will be constant tension on your tri’s throughout the set. You will likely need only half to two-thirds of your normal close-grip bench press poundage on these.

Face-high one-arm cable extensions. As a trainer and coach I’m like the great Charles Glass in that I’m constantly looking for new angles that will hit the muscles in unique ways. That takes some experimentation, but once I find the perfect groove, hitting the muscle just where I want to, I smile broadly, knowing I’ve found another training gem. This is one of those movements, and it quickly became my favorite triceps-isolation exercise.

In order to perform face-high one-arm cable extensions properly, you’ll need access to an adjustable pulley system. Set the pulley at a height that’s just about even with your chin. Using your right hand, grab the end of the pulley with no bar or handle attached (if it has a rubber ball near the end, that’s the perfect spot), and turn your body 90 degrees to the left so that your left foot is the one closest to the machine (this is in order to work the right arm). Bring your arm up so that your biceps is up between chin and nose height and at full stretch your fist is almost back by your left shoulder. Then, without moving the elbow, forcefully straighten your arm until the triceps is fully contracted. Squeeze hard, and then slowly return to the starting position. Turn your body around and repeat with your left arm.

This is one that you can play around with, changing the angle of the elbow just slightly so that the forearm moves on an upward, downward or straight plane. Each method gives the exercise a somewhat unique feel and exhausts a different set of motor unit pools.

Arms Attack

Once the exercises were in place, it was time to turn my attention to just how I would proceed to train my guns. Regular IRON MAN readers know that I am the developer and pioneer of two different (but synergistic) training programs—P/RR/S and FD/FS—both of which I called upon to help me add some beef to my pipes. Because my plan was to specialize on arms, however, I used a different rotation of the two methodologies from what I was doing with other bodyparts, as well as unique applications of each.

“Do what you have always done and you will get what you always got” certainly applied here. I knew my bi’s and tri’s needed a somewhat new prescription. Here’s how I set up my week-to-week arm-attack:

Week 1: Power
Week 2: Basic Shock
Week 3: FD/FS
Week 4: Rep Range
Week 5: Power
Week 6: Shock (advanced techniques)
Week 7: FD/FS
Week 8: Rep Range (reverse)
Week 9: Power
Week 10: Shock (add-on sets)
Week 11: FD/FS
Week 12: Rep Range (descending)
Week 13: No arm training
Week 14: Cycle begins again

Because it would take up far too much space to detail examples from all 12 weeks, I decided to refer to my training journal and list several of my 10 workouts. What exactly is a 10 workout? After each workout I rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, based on how I perceived it in terms of effectiveness, intensity, drive and focus—in other words, how well I kicked ass in the gym. Although I approach every workout with serious purpose, these are a few that stood out as perfect 10s.

The FD/FS Massacre

Close-grip barbell curls 3 x 3-4 (8/0/X tempo)
60 degree incline dumbbell curls 3 x 5-7 (2/4/X)
Lying overhead cable curls 1 x 25-30 (1/0/1)
Cross-body dumbbell hammer curls 1 x 25-30 (1/0/1)
Elbows-out Smith-machine high close-grip bench presses 4 x 3-4 (8/0/X)
Incline overhead EZ-curl-bar extensions 3 x 5-7 (2/4/X)
Elbows-out V-bar pushdowns 2 x 25-30 (1/0/1)

The Advanced Shock Techniques Terror
Standing low-cable curls (1 1/2 reps) 2 x 8-10
EZ-curl-bar 90 degree preacher curls (with eccentric pauses) 2 x 6-8
70 degree incline curls (with X Reps) 1 x 8-10 + X Reps
Close-grip bench presses (1 1/2 reps) 2 x 8-10
Seated two-arm overhead dumbbell extensions (with eccentric pauses) 2 x 6-8
Face-high one-arm cable extensions (with X Reps) 2 x 8-10 + X Reps

The Reverse Rep Range Ripper
Reverse curls 1 x 16-20
Close-grip barbell curls 2 x 13-15
70 degree incline curls 2 x 10-12
Concentration curls 2 x 7-9
Elbows-out V-bar pushdowns 2 x 16-20
Forward-lunge-position overhead rope cable extensions 2 x 13-15
Elbows-out Smith-machine high close-grip bench presses 2 x 10-12
Seated one-arm overhead dumbbell extensions 2 x 7-9

The Add-On-Sets Scorcher
EZ -curl-bar 90 degree preacher curls 1 x 8-10
    EZ-curl-bar 90 degree preacher curls 2 x 8-10
    60 degree incline curls 2 x 8-10
    EZ -curl-bar 90 degree
    preacher curls 1 x 8-10
    60 degree incline curls 1 x 8-10
    Lying overhead cable curls 1 x 8-10
    Seated overhead EZ-curl-bar extensions 1 x 8-10
    Seated overhead EZ-curl-bar extensions 1 x 8-10
    Close-grip bench presses 1 x 8-10
    Seated overhead EZ-curl-bar extensions 1 x 8-10
    Close-grip bench presses 1 x 8-10
    Forward-lunge-position overhead rope cable extensions 1 x 8-10
Giant set
    Seated overhead EZ-curl-bar extensions 1 x 8-10
    Close-grip bench presses 1 x 8-10
    Forward-lunge-position overhead rope cable extensions 1 x 8-10
    Elbows-out V-bar pushdowns 1 x 8-10

The Power Pounder
Close-grip barbell curls 3 x 4-6
Standing alternate hammer curls 2 x 4-6
Dumbbell 90 degree preacher curls 2 x 4-6
Close-grip bench presses 3 x 4-6
Incline overhead barbell extensions 3 x 4-6
Elbows-out V-bar pushdowns 2 x 4-6

In a little more than a year on this gotta-get-guns program, I have managed to add a full inch to my arms without increasing my off-season bodyweight, so I know the gains are pure muscle. My hope is to add an additional half to three-quarters of an inch before I begin preparation for the 2010 contest season. Right now I’m extremely pleased with the way my arms have progressed and so I’ll now employ the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” In other words, it’s time to put in some more level-10 workouts and turn my pistols into truly shocking guns!

Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s e-program Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout is available at His P/RR/S DVD is available from or free when you subscribe to IRON MAN. See the ad on page 145. IM

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