Good, efficient and effective strength training doesn’t just “happen,” and this includes developing well-built, appealing arm musculature. Like everything in life, there’s a good way, a better way and the best way to build strong, muscular arms. But first — why?
The fact is, arms (especially in warmer weather and with shorter sleeves) are simply one of the spots where everyone looks. So, if you want “the look,” arms are body parts that can have a big impact on your appearance and can be easily developed with understanding and a strategy.
Most people default to, “Oh, I’ll do lots of bicep curls” and think that will get the job done. Not. The problem is that this method doesn’t take into account the massive amount of motions that our arms can perform, and all of the other muscles in the arms that contribute to these motions. You need to train your forearms, biceps, triceps and deltoids, and you need to train them intelligently.
So what do we do? Step one, compound movements that involve the arms. Movements like chin-ups, rows, presses, push-ups, dips and their variations are essential for building big arm muscles, as they activate your arm muscles through a natural range of motion and demand that they function the way they are anatomically designed to. Aim for sets of three to 10 reps in these, making sure you’re progressively increasing the weights you lift and imposing an overload on your muscles. Some weeks, go for five sets of three heavy reps; other weeks, three sets of 10. Change it up. Once you’ve gotten through the big compound lifts of the day, it’s time to hit up those muscles individually.
For the biceps, use barbell curls done for three sets of 10 reps after a chin-up and row-heavy day, which is also the ideal time to get some extra forearm work in. Keep in mind, the forearms respond really well to lots of volume, so skip the sets of wrist curls and instead hit the forearms with a serious kick in the pants while burning some fat by finishing with some farmer’s walks. (Basically, just pick up a heavy dumbbell or two and walk about 30-40 steps; repeat three to five times and feel the burn!)
For triceps training, use overhead dumbbell extensions, done after a heavy pressing and dip workout. The deltoids can also be trained during this session. Simple front and lateral raises with dumbbells (think 5 to 20 pounds, depending on how strong and big you are) are the safest and best way to get some extra work in for the delts.
The best way to get quick results out of your lifting program is to stop trying to target specific muscles exclusively. Instead, work the area in unison, and then get in some extra isolation work.
If it’s good enough for Schwarzenegger and Stallone, it’s good enough for you!
Jay Pepito is a registered personal trainer at 12th Street Gym. For more information on Jay and more than 30 other top trainers at the gym, go to www.12streetgym.com.