Training Techniques and Programs for Out-of-This-World Arm Growth
Arms: The muscle groups that everyone loves to train. The problem is—as with a lot of bodyparts—most bodybuilders go about training them incorrectly. This article is here to fix that problem.
What follows are some of the best principles available for unleashing arm growth, followed by several programs that incorporate these principles.
Principle #1: Train as Frequently as Possible While Being as Fresh as Possible.
The bottom line is that you need to train frequently. You also need to be “as fresh as possible” each time that you train.
Every time that you pump your biceps and triceps a whole slew of good things happens to your muscle cells. A properly executed workout raises testosterone levels, enhances GH levels, and makes your muscles highly susceptible to the proper anabolic environment.
Do you enjoy training your arms once per week, obliterating your biceps and triceps with lots of sets, reps, and plenty of intensity techniques? Then train every day, using a one-bodypart-per-day split. (This is much better than training 3 days per week, hitting several different muscle groups at each session.)
Enjoy splitting your muscle groups but training with less intensity than the above scenario? No problem. Use a 3-on/ 1-off split. Keep your “work” sets limited to 9-10 per muscle group for most bodyparts—but don’t be afraid to train your arms with more volume.
Lastly, don’t forget this tidbit: No great bodybuilder ever became great by working out only once or twice per week. Frequent training is a must.
Principle #2: Use C.A.T. for the Ultimate Repetition
It was Fred Hatfield—also known as “Dr. Squat”—who coined the term compensatory acceleration training (C.A.T. for short) for a repetition where you move the weight as fast as possible through the concentric range of motion. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the weight necessarily moves fast (though it certainly might with certain styles of training). The point is for you to accelerate the weight as fast as humanly possible (even if you’re going for a one-rep maximum). This kind of training, I believe, is the most effective for long-term muscle growth.
Principle #3: Train Heavy and Hard for Your Body Type
The heavier and harder that you train, the better it is for muscle growth. Using C.A.T., pick a weight that has you approaching failure somewhere between the 6th and the 12th repetition. Why the discrepancy in rep ranges? It all depends on your body type. I believe that most training—at least as far as hypertrophy is concerned—should be done with weights that are approximately 80-85% of your one-rep maximum. If you have a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers, this means you will hit failure somewhere around your 6th repetition. If you’re more of a slow-twitch type, you should be approaching 12 reps or so with the same percentage. And—if you have a mix of muscle fibers—it should be somewhere in between.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all of your training should be performed in your particular repetition zone, but I would advise to do so about 75% of the time.
Principle #4: Use a Relatively High-Volume of Training
The amount of volume will obviously depend on just how frequently you plan to train. Just make sure that you use as many sets as your work capacity—and your bodypart split—can handle. Don’t cut yourself short.
And learn to build up your work capacity. Obviously, you shouldn’t start out by performing 15 to 20 sets for both your biceps and your triceps. But you do want to work up to the point where your work capacity can handle that sort of training.
Also, keep in mind that your arms—contrary to some of the mis-information you may have heard or read elsewhere—can handle more volume than other bodyparts. Sorry, but 20 sets of curls and pushdowns simply doesn’t cut into your recovery system like 20 sets of heavy squats, deadlifts, or bench presses.
Take advantage of the fact that your arms can handle the extra volume and intensity.
Principle #5: Stop Most of Your Sets Shy of Momentary Muscular Failure
For the most part, you don’t want to take your work sets to the point of failure, especially at the beginning of your workout.
When do you want to stop the set? Try stopping when you begin to slow down. If you’re using C.A.T.—and moving the weight as fast as possible throughout the concentric portion of the rep, and you’re training heavy—then stop the set when your repetitions become slow.
After two or three exercises using C.A.T., then you can throw in some of the more popular intensity techniques. Which brings us to our final principle…
Principle #6: Do Less Early On in Your Workout So You Can Do More Later
A lot of bodybuilders make the mistake of training too hard at the beginning of their workouts, then burning out too quickly. (This is one of the main problems with typical H.I.T. workouts.) If you enjoy training to failure or doing stuff like forced reps, drop sets, or another of the various intensity techniques—which you certainly can and should do when training arms—save that for the last 1/4 of your workout.
Just the Basics
This first program is a basic arm workout using a 3 on/1 off split. Split your bodyparts up in the following manner:
Day 1: Shoulders and Arms
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Chest and Back
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Repeat Split (If necessary, take an extra day off before resuming)
Here’s what the actual workout should look like:
- Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.). After warming up with a couple of light sets of 6 to 10 reps, load the bar with a weight where you think you can get 6 to 10 repetitions. Using proper form, move the weight as fast as possible. Stop the set once the repetition really starts to slow down.
- Weighted Dips: 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.). Use the same principle here as with the barbell curls. Make sure you perform these with a close grip, and with your elbows tucked in to maximize triceps stimulation.
- Standing Alternate Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps (using C.A.T.) Use the same principle as with the above exercises. Even though you are moving the weight fast as possible, make sure that your form is perfect, and really squeeze the hell out of your biceps at the top of each repetition.
- Skullcrushers: 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps (using C.A.T.). Use either a straight bar or an EZ curl bar for this exercise. Lower the weight with control, then explode as fast as possible back to lockout. Squeeze your triceps at the top of the movement.
- Cable Curls: 2 drop sets of 10, 15, and 20 reps. Set the weight stack so that you reach failure at approximately 10 reps. Once failure is reached, strip some weight, perform a set of 15 reps, then repeat for a set of 20 reps. Rest only a couple of minutes, then repeat the process.
- Rope Pushdowns: 2 drop sets of 10, 15, and 20 reps. Use the same process as the cable curls.
Advanced High-Set Regimen
The following program is for advanced bodybuilders with a minimum of one-year of training under their belts and a good deal of muscle mass. (If you’ve been training for a year, but you still essentially look the same as you did when you started training, this is not for you.) You are going to split up your biceps and your triceps, train each muscle group once-per-week, but still train six-days-per-week. Here is what your split should look like:
Day 1: Biceps
Day 2: Chest and Shoulders
Day 3: Hamstrings and calves
Day 4: Back
Day 5: Triceps
Day 6: Quadriceps
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Repeat Split
Here’s the workout:
- Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 5 reps (using C.A.T.). After a couple of warm-up sets with a light weight, load the bar with a weight that you would reach failure around the 7th to 8th repetition. Perform 5 sets of 5 reps, moving the bar as fast as possible.
- Standing Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.) Lower each repetition slowly, and then move the weight as fast as possible back to lockout.
- Incline Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.). Use the same principle as the standing dumbbell curls. Make sure you get a good stretch at the bottom of each repetition.
- 21s: 4 sets of 21 reps. Using a barbell, perform 7 partial repetitions from the bottom, 7 partial repetition from the top, followed by 7 full repetitions.
- Cable Curls: 4 drop sets of 12 reps each. Use a weight where you reach failure at approximately 12 reps. As soon as failure is reached, strip some weight off, and go for 12 more reps. Continue for 2 more drops. (Your arms should be very pumped once this workout is complete.)
- Weighted Dips: 5 sets of 5 reps (using C.A.T.). After a couple of warm-up sets using your bodyweight, use a weight belt so that you have enough weight where you reach failure somewhere between the 7th and 8th repetition. On all 5 sets, explode as fast as possible to lockout.
- Skullcrushers: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps (using C.A.T.) Lower each repetition slowly, getting a good stretch in your triceps, then move the weight as fast as possible back to lockout.
- Rope Pushdowns: 4 sets of 12 to 14 reps (using C.A.T.). Use the same principle as the skullcrushers.
- Close-Grip Push Ups: 4 sets of maximum reps. For this exercise, use just your bodyweight. Perform as many reps as possible. Don’t take it easy, either, but attempt to perform each repetition as fast as possible.
- One-Arm Reverse-Grip Pushdowns: 4 sets of 20-30 reps (each arm). For this exercise, take no rest between each set. When you finish with the right arm, move directly to the left arm, then back to the right arm, until all 4 sets are complete. Take each set to the point of momentary muscular failure, beginning with a weight where you can get approximately 30 reps.
There you have it: the training techniques and the programs for adding slabs of muscle to your arms. Reading about training won’t do a whole lot of good, however, if you don’t apply it. So get your ass to the gym and get training! Massive arms are only a few months in the making.