Thursday, July 16, 2015

ARMORED: Turning Arms into Meat Hooks!

Arm Specialization Training for Massive Guns
by Jared Smith
Arnold showing off his "guns" in this early '70s pic

It Begins with an Epiphany
Many of the greatest things in the world were born out of necessity. In my case, I am not speaking of an invention, but rather a method of training that would allow me to bring up a lagging muscle group by forcing me to train it more often.

I have always been of the mindset that the major lifts need to be trained often. Squats, bench presses, overhead presses, and deadlifts in all their various forms should be done as often as possible to stimulate growth throughout the entire body. One day I was squatting, as I had done a thousand times before, only this time my body decided it had done enough. A pain that felt like a rusty knife scraping across my kneecap hit me all at once. I rested and backed down the weight, thinking that perhaps it was just “wear and tear” and that a little light weight set or two may ease the pain. Upon descending with the weights, the pain rushed right back. I called it a day, and for hours my knee throbbed like an infected wisdom tooth. Soon thereafter, an MRI would reveal a partially torn quad tendon. Needless to say, I was more than a little upset. Someone telling me that it would be months before I could squat and deadlift again was something that I wasn’t fully prepared to hear. After it sank in that I was going to have to put my well being ahead of doing the things I love, I decided that if I couldn’t squat and deadlift, I was at least going to focus on something.
I had always had problems with arm development—or lack there of. My chest, back, shoulders, and legs were plenty big, but, of course, I trained them way more frequently, and I admittedly never really liked arm training. If I wasn’t moving some serious iron, I was bored. I decided that in my down time I would train my arms 3 times a week, with a different protocol each time. I sat in my room one evening and mapped out a plan to put some size on my arms and to give me my training fix until I was rehabilitated.

Putting it all Together
Although I believe that overtraining is a myth perpetuated by people with a fear of working hard on a consistent basis, there is some merit to the idea that doing the same thing too often will lead to stagnation and boredom for many. To circumvent this issue, I decided to either alternate the movements or the rep range for which they were performed. Much like the old Heavy/Light/Medium system of training, but aimed at making my arms swell to a ridiculous degree. The first day of training I would rely on heavier compound lifts such as close grip bench presses, barbell curls, skull crushers, and alternating dumbbell curls. The second day was a day consisting of mostly isolation type lifts focusing on the stretch, or semi-stretch, portion along with the contracted position. The third day was my favorite. This day called for just enough compound work to cause muscle damage, then I would engorge the muscles with blood.
The Workouts
Heavy Day: Four sets of 6-10 per exercise with a three count on the negative and an explosive positive. Rest about 2 minutes between sets.
Close Grip bench Presses
Barbell Curls
Skull Crushers
Hammer Curls
Light Day: Four sets of 12-15 per exercise with a “piston-like” tempo. Don’t get sloppy, but keep it moving. One-minute rest between sets.
Incline Dumbbell curls
Bench Dips
Concentration Curls
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions (Unli-lateral)
Medium Day:
Barbell Curls: 3x6-10 in the same style as on day one. One-minute rest between sets.
Cross-Body Hammer Curls: 3x12-15, one arm at a time. Do not rest, go from one arm to the other until all sets are completed. Use the same tempo as with day two.
Lying Overhead Cable Curls: 3x15-20. Put a flat bench in the cable station, grasp a straight (or cambered) bar overhead and curl to the crown of the skull. (The contraction from these is awesome!) 30 seconds rest between each set. Same tempo as day two.
Close Grip Bench Presses: 3x6-10 in the same style as day one.
Dumbbell Skull Crushers: 3x12-15. Keep your head near the end of the bench and really emphasize the stretch on each rep. Same tempo as with day two, with thirty seconds rest between each set.
Overhead Cable Rope Extensions: 3x15-20. Pretend you are literally trying to rip the rope apart at the top, and squeeze those tris. I prefer using the low cable to maximize the stretch. 30 seconds rest between sets, with a one second pause in the contraction and stretch positions.
Note: Two sets of wrist curls, for 20 reps, follow each workout!
On any two days between arm sessions, you will perform full body workouts. Since I was battling an injury during this time, this is what it looked like:
Leg extensions with Blood Flow restriction: 4x 30,15,15,15
Leg curls with blood flow restriction: 4x30,15,15,15
Standing calf raises: 3x8-12
Bench presses: 3x8-12
Chins: 3x max reps
Lateral Raises: 3x12-15

This is the program that got me through a tough time, and allowed me to retain the small amount of sanity I possessed from the get-go. Thankfully, I’m now squatting and deadlifting frequently again, but for anyone out there who perhaps is de-loading from a hard squat program (or if you just want your arms to swell up like friggin’ balloons) give this a try.

Finally, ask yourself this question: Why in the hell are you still sitting there, staring at this computer screen? Let’s get to the gym, and kick some ass!


  1. No injuries or need to deload but since ive switched from competitive bb'ing to competitive powerlifting to be honest my arms have.....shrunk. If I decide to "reload the guns" how long do you recommend this program?

  2. I would run it for eight weeks. Upon completion of eight weeks I would go shift my focus back to doing a tremendous amount of volume for the big three.


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