Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Strong-Arm Your Way to Strong Arms

Everybody wants huge arms.  I'm no exception.  So how do you get arms like Stallone and Schwarzenegger? I hope you're in it for the long haul because it's not easy!

You probably already know this, but to grow muscle you need to damage muscle.  The trick is to do the most damage without actually injuring yourself.  When you do a proper arms workout, your arms will feel like lead when you leave and you'll have the wonderful feeling of soreness and success in the morning.  If you don't have that feeling you need to push harder.

So the method to designing a killer arms workout.  Different workouts hit different parts of a muscle.  For example using a V-Bar for triceps on the cable machine seems to hit higher than using a rope.  Pick the workouts so that there's at least one hitting each key area of your arm.  Some key things to remember:

  1. ALWAYS do no more than 5 sets of 5 reps of the absolute maximum weight you can do safely while maintaining good form.
    • Failing part way though the 4th rep is better than doing 5 of a weight you could do 6 or 7 or 10 of!
  2. Emphasize form over weight!
    • I'm not one to tell you that you need to absolutely lock up every other muscle in your body during your set, but good form leads to good results better than bad form with higher weight.
  3. Alternate pushing and pulling!
    • Do a series of sets of a pulling workout (curling for example) followed by a set of pushing (tricep dumbbell press).  This helps to ensure that your muscles grow in sync with each other and aids in joint health (especially shoulder)
  4. NEVER be that guy who is curling in the squat racks.  
    • That's a quick way to draw the hate of everyone in the gym who is now unable to squat because of you.  If you're curling heavier weight than you can pick up off the ground then you need to concentrate on squats and deadlifts.  
So that's the basics.  Here's an example of my arm workout.  It's the second of my daily workout, 3 days a week.  Start at the top of the list one day and the bottom the next day.

  1. Alternate Dumbbell Curls: Alternate one arm at a time slowly bringing the dumbbell from your side to your chest, rotating as you go.  Excellent for biceps and back.
  2. Dumbbell Tricep Press:  One dumbbell held in both hands behind your head.  Lift vertically and lower behind the head.  Hits middle of tricep.  I like to keep my feet back and squeezing the bench's supports for balance.  
  3. Barbell Curls: Keep your elbows pinned against the side of your abdomen and arms parallel to each other as you grasp the barbell.  Lift in arc pattern from waist to chest.  Do the most weight you can without significantly rocking your back.  Remember, this is an arms workout primarily.  You will target your biceps, and your back will benefit as well.
  4. Tricep Pushdown (V-Bar or Rope): Alternate by day between V-Bar and Rope.  Attach either one to the adjustable cable machine so that the ends of the handle are at neck level.  Pull the handle down and pin your elbows against your body.  FOR V-BAR: pull down bending only at the elbows in a forward arc pattern.  FOR ROPE: pull down in the same pattern, but at the bottom pull each side of the rope off to the side with your wrist.  Both hit triceps and shoulder, rope also hits forearm.
  5. Straight Bar Cable Curl: for this lower the adjustable pulley used above to about knee level or below. Attach a short straight bar.  (Bars without rubber grips and use of gloves is highly advised here.  Also make sure bar has a swivel and can spin free of the cable)  Like with Barbell curl, grasp the bar at about shoulder width so your arms are parallel.  Curl bar to chest careful not to rock your back.  This should burn more than the other curls as it ends up doing a little more vertical movement.  You can often do more weight as you have less balancing to do.  NEVER replace free weights with cable machines.  Struggling with balancing builds accessory muscles which benefit appearance and real world strength.
  6. Weighted Dips: Start with zero weight and then adjust based on your abilities. Either use a weight belt, or hold a dumbbell between your feet.  Wider grips seem to hit triceps more.
If you do this right you should be really feeling it during each set and after the workout.  Be careful to take care of yourself and never work a body part that is sore from a past workout.  Building with workouts like this requires vast amounts of protein.  Always try to take a protein shake and some carbs within 30 minutes of finishing the workout.

Just the fancy legal stuff: All of the above are based on my experiences and research and are for informational purposes only.  Workout and consume supplements at your own risk and remember, always consult with a doctor before beginning a workout routine or drastically changing your diet.  Be Careful. Stay Safe. Lift Heavy. Be Strong!

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