Little Known Training Routines for Massively Muscled Arms
The “x-factors” are those little-known training programs that not many people even know about, let alone actually do. But for the bodybuilders who do perform these workouts, there can be little doubt: these are the best programs in existence, capable of transforming physiques, and turning proverbial 98-pound weaklings into the big boys of the beach.
For this installment of “x-factor” training, I thought I would turn my hypertrophy-inducing beacon of light on every bodybuilder’s favorite bodypart(s): the arms. So if you’re prepared to go down the rabbit hole, to swallow Morpheus’s red pill and enter an arm-training world that you thought only existed on some quantum paradoxical alternate universe, read on. (And prepare to put inches on your arms as never before.)
Arm Training Specifics
Despite the fact that this article contains some routines where the “rules” go out the window, arm training is unique compared to other bodyparts. Let’s first look at what I consider the 2 “specifics” of arm training. Once you understand—and accept—these specifics it might be a little easier for your eyes (and your mind) to adjust to this new world of mass-building. Here goes:
- Central nervous system (CNS) fatigue is very low with arm training. If your central nervous system has not recovered from the effects of your training, then it doesn’t matter if your muscles have recovered. Some research suggests that the nervous system takes more than twice as long than the muscles to recover from a workout. This means that if a workout session is too intense, your muscle fibers will have recovered before your central nervous system. The problem this presents is that if your workout is too hard, your muscles could begin to atrophy before your CNS has recovered. In other words, you could both undertrain and overtrain at the same time—not good. The good news, however, is that CNS fatigue is very low when training either your biceps or your triceps. In layman terms, all of this means that you can train your arms very hard—lots of intensity techniques like drop sets, tri-sets, and giant sets—and still be able to recover from the CNS damage before your next workout.
- Arms don’t require a lot of exercises for full development. Just because you are capable of using a lot of sets and a lot of intensity techniques when training your arms, this doesn’t mean that you have to perform a lot of exercises. Unlike muscles such as the chest and the back—which require “hitting” the muscles from 3 or 4 different angles for full development—you can develop huge biceps and triceps from just one or two exercises per muscle group. Now, keep in mind from our first “specific” that you can certainly train your arms with multiple exercises if you so wish. There’s no reason that your arms can’t recover from the damage—it just means that multiple exercises aren’t necessary for full growth and development to occur.
The X-Factor Programs
Now that we have our 2 specifics covered, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts, the nitty-gritty of why you’re reading this article: the actual workout routines.
Before we begin, keep this in mind: all three of the programs that follow are meant to be used during a period of training when your sole focus is to make your arms as large as humanly possible. Do not attempt to train the rest of your body with even close to the same intensity. Don’t get me wrong, you still need a good staple of squats, benches, chins, and deadlifts while performing these arm-training routines, but you shouldn’t be going overboard. (The first program incorporates the entire body, and gives you a good idea of the kind of training you need to do for bodyparts other than your arms on the last two routines.)
With that in mind, let the games begin:
High-Volume, Heavy/Light/Medium Training
If you have read any of my articles in the past, then you know might know that I favor the heavy/light/medium system of full-body training. Well, here’s an arm-training version of the same thing—with a twist, of course. This program has you training six days per week. Three days will be devoted toward training the chest, back, and legs (with a minimum number of exercises) and the other three days will be devoted toward arm training. The other twist is that the arm training days will be high-volume—plenty of sets for a massive pump and massive growth.
Here’s what the program for a week of training should look like:
Day One—Heavy Full Body
1. Squats: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps. Only the last set should approach muscular failure.
2. Bench Presses: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps.
3. Chins: 3 sets of close-to-max reps, using bodyweight only.
Day Two—Heavy Arm Training
1. Barbell Curls: 8 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps. Take your time working up over 8 sets to a max triple.
2. Weighted Dips: 8 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps. As with the barbell curls, take your time working up to a max triple.
3. Barbell Curls: 5 sets of 10 reps. For these, use the same weight on all 5 sets. The first couple of sets should be tough; the last three sets should be damn near impossible to get all 10 reps.
4. Skullcrushers: 5 sets of 10 reps. Use the same set/rep format as the barbell curls above.
5. Barbell Curls: 2 sets of 25 reps. Now, it’s time for some real torture. Despite the fact that your arms—at this point—should be pumped and full, you will do both of these sets to muscular failure. The 25 reps is just a guideline; if it takes more reps to reach failure, do it!
6. Skullcrushers: 2 sets of 25 reps. Do these the same as the barbell curls.
Day Three—Light Full Body
1. Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps. Work up to a weight that is approximately 80% of the max weight performed on Day One.
2. Standing Military Presses: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps.
Day Four—Light Arm Training
1. Barbell Curls: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps. The last set should be hard, but you should still have something “in the tank” when you are finished.
2. Bench Dips: 4 sets of max reps. This is an exercise that you can train hard, and it still doesn’t take its toll on your recovery system.
Day Five—Medium Full Body
1. Squats: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps. Work up to a weight that is 90% of what was used on Day One.
2. Bench Presses: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps. Work up to a weight that is 90% of what was used on Day One.
Day Six—Medium Arm Training
1. Barbell Curls: 8 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps. Take your time working up to a set that is approximately 95% of what was used on Day Two’s triples.
2. Skullcrushers: 8 progressively heavier sets of 3 reps. Take your time working up over 8 sets of a max triple.
3. Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets of 10 reps (each arm). Use the same weight for all 5 sets. The last few sets should be “all-out.”
4. Dips: 5 sets of max reps. Using your bodyweight only, do 5 sets of the maximum number of reps you can perform.
|The almost-forgotten Joe Bucci still has some of the best arms in bodybuilding history.|
Smolov-Style Power Training
Former Soviet strength coach S.Y. Smolov must have been one sick commie because he created some of the most hellish squat routines imaginable. But here’s the thing: if you were capable of making it through his programs—actually man enough to do the hard work required—then you came out of them with bigger legs and stronger squats than ever before.
Enter Smolov-style arm training. Make it through the program below, and I can guaran-friggin-tee that your arms will be bigger—not to mention stronger—than they have ever been in your life.
Follow the program below without deviating. The first week, there is a chance that you will want to quit because of how sore your muscles are; don’t worry about it. Your body will adjust to the new workload after a week to a week and a half of training.
1. Barbell Curls: 70% (of one rep maximum) for 4 sets of 10 reps. Don’t worry if the percentage you use isn’t exact, but it should be close.
2. Weighted Dips: 70% (of one rep maximum) for 4 sets of 10 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 75% for 5 sets of 7 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 75% for 5 sets of 7 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 80% for 7 sets of 5 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 80% for 7 sets of 5 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 85% for 10 sets of 3 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 85% for 10 sets of 3 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 70% (plus 10 pounds) for 4 sets of 10 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 70% (plus 10 pounds) for 4 sets of 10 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 75% (plus 10 pounds) for 5 sets of 7 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 75% (plus 10 pounds) for 5 sets of 7 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 80% (plus 10 pounds) for 7 sets of 5 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 80% (plus 10 pounds) for 7 sets of 5 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 85% (plus 10 pounds) for 10 sets of 3 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 85% (plus 10 pounds) for 10 sets of 3 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 70% (plus 15 pounds) for 4 sets of 10 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 70% (plus 15 pounds) for 4 sets of 10 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 75% (plus 15 pounds) for 5 sets of 7 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 75% (plus 15 pounds) for 5 sets of 7 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 80% (plus 15 pounds) for 7 sets of 5 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 80% (plus 15 pounds) for 7 sets of 5 reps.
1. Barbell Curls: 85% (plus 15 pounds) for 10 sets of 3 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: 85% (plus 15 pounds) for 10 sets of 3 reps.
Barbell Curls: Work up over progressively heavier sets to a max single.
Weighted Dips: Work up over progressively heavier sets to a max single.
Once the four weeks are finished, perform a week of “active recovery” training. During this week, train 2 to 3 days, using a full-body program. Perform 3 to 5 exercises per workout for 3 to 5 sets on each exercise. Don’t take any of these sets to failure.
Following the “active recovery” week, return to another four-week block of Smolov training. Be sure to calculate your new one-rep maximum percentages based on your numbers on the Friday and Saturday of your fourth week of training.
The Fantastic Four
As with the Smolov workout, this program has you training your arms 4 days per week. Unlike the Smolov plan, you are going to rotate exercises and repetition ranges at each session.
Before we get to the actual program, here is an outline of what is involved:
- Workout One will be devoted toward high-set, low-rep, heavy weight training. This will develop maximum strength, as well as tap into your fastest-twitch muscle fibers.
- Workout Two will be devoted toward endurance training. You will perform only a couple of sets of each exercise for 30 to 40 reps.
- Workout Three is strictly for hypertrophy. Here, you will use a standard 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps regimen.
- Workout Four is for “speed” training using explosive reps. You will perform 10 sets of 3 reps.
Below is an example of what one-week of training should look like:
Monday—Maximum Weights, Maximum Sets
1. Barbell Curls: Using 90% of your one-rep maximum, perform 8 sets of 2 reps.
2. Weighted Dips: Using 90% of your one-rep maximum, perform 8 sets of 2 reps.
1. Cable Curls: 2 sets of 30 to 40 reps. For these, use a light weight where you wouldn’t reach failure until approximately the 50th rep.
2. Bench Dips: 2 sets of 30 to 40 reps. Use your bodyweight only on this exercise. Be sure that you are not pushing it to your limit.
1. Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 6 reps. Use a weight that would allow for approximately an 8-rep maximum.
2. Skullcrushers: 4 sets of 8 reps. Use a weight that would allow for approximately a 10-rep maximum.
1. Barbell Curls: Using approximately 65% of your one-rep maximum, perform 10 sets of 3 reps. Every rep should be as fast and “explosive” as possible, while maintaining as strict form as possible.
2. Close-Grip Bench Presses: Using approximately 65% of your one-rep maximum, perform 10 sets of 3 reps. Every rep should be as fast and “explosive” as possible, while maintaining as strict form as possible.
Perform this program for 3 weeks straight before taking a “down” week. On the down week, perform the same workout but cut the poundages used in half. This will aid recovery, and will prepare you for whatever program you decide to perform next.
None of these programs are fat-loss workouts. Make sure that you’re consuming plenty of protein, carbs, and fat. In fact, go ahead and eat everything in sight. (If you need to lose a lot of bodyfat, you should probably be on another program anyway.) Consume at least a gram of protein per-pound-of-bodyweight daily. Consume at least 15 times your bodyweight in calories every day.
Be sure to get adequate sleep. No less than 8 hours every night should suffice. Any less and you’ll be inhibiting your recovery ability.
Another important factor is water. I recommend you drink your bodyweight in ounces on a daily basis. This also aids your recovery ability and keeps your muscles “fuller” than if you don’t drink this much H2O.
Give all of these routines an honest try. You don’t have to do them all back to back. For instance, you might want to follow the heavy-light-medium program for 4 weeks, then switch over to more of an over-all mass building program for 4 weeks. After that, you could switch to 4 weeks of Smolov-style arm training, before once again switching over to another program for 4 weeks.
Good luck and good training.