One thing is certain, every guy going to the gym has one thing in common; whether you’re a competing bodybuilder, a beach boy wannabe, or just someone who’s looking to get fit, we all want bigger arms. More often than not, it’s easier said than done, because truth be told, we’re not all blessed with Phil Heath gargoyle arm genetics. Genetics here being a barrier to most of us average Joe’s, we’re always on the lookout to the next best arm workout, workout split in favor of bigger biceps and triceps, always on about with the latest breaking “scientific research” on muscle growth, etc. But let’s be honest, at the end of the day, it’s only bigger after the workout, unless you’re strapped in laboratory somewhere in eastern Europe, chances are your 16 inch arms, will remain 16 inch for a long time. Fine, maybe 16.5 a year or two later.
Having poor arm genetics myself, particularly triceps – I can assure you, there came a period of about 2 or 3 years where my arms were literally stagnant whilst the rest of my body was advancing. So being an Engineer, I started to analyze the problem, finding a solution, and implementing a new method to fix what really needed to be fixed. The first thing I realized was that my routine or workout cycle, included arms just once, and at that point I was thinking, “well, they need time to recover, don’t they?” In my case, and in most cases, they really do not. Another lagging muscle I had was calves; and the solution was always ‘do more calves’, ‘start with calves’, ‘increase the sets, add supersets, and drop sets’. Doesn’t seem like they have time to recover now do they? Yet, it worked. Personally I found – the more, the better, and the debate goes on from here on end, of course. So what did I do then with my arms?
First thing I did was changing my split in favor of arm growth, and I always do that every few months, or every year – I see which muscle lags, and I change my workout split accordingly. My prior split was as follows:
- Day 1: Traps, Back, Calves
- Day 2: Chest, Abs
- Day 3: off
- Day 4: Quads, Hams, Calves
- Day 5: Shoulders, Abs
- Day 6: Biceps, triceps
- Day 7: Off
So as you can see, I was working each muscle about once a week, excluding calves and abs. And I was honestly just following the whole hype of being careful with overtraining. I thought it was about time to bunk that theory, and go my own way. So I changed my split, and stuck to something similar, for the next 4 years, till today.*
- Day 1: Back, Biceps, Calves
- Day 2: Chest, Triceps, Abs
- Day 3: OFF
- Day 4: Quads, hams, Calves
- Day 5: Traps, Shoulders, Biceps
- Day 6: OFF
- Day 7: repeat.
Now the trick here is, the second workout cycle, I’d do back with triceps, then chest with biceps, followed by shoulders with triceps. I’m basically alternating each part of the arm, where one of them would be worked twice in the cycle, giving the other one enough time to recover from the week prior. Additionally, the cycle itself has shortened, instead of being on a 5 day split; it’s on a 4 day split. One might ask, “Well won’t the workout be longer?” – And that’s where your seriousness comes in.
Adding part of the arm to a big muscle workout would require more time, and I’m not in favor of workouts longer than an hour, especially if you’re a natural, an hour should be your limit, because then you’ll have the whole cortisol issue, and that’s where the true overtraining comes from. So I figured I’d do less sets for the bigger muscle groups like back and chest, to give more room for the biceps and triceps, on the one condition that my workout would be more intense, less breaks between sets, and having big ass headphones and pretend not to see the person I’m supposed to say hi to, and we’ve been practicing that habit since high school, so I’m sure they’ll understand.
Another note to keep a keen eye on, is really your instinct. Usually when I do Biceps after back, I’d do 9 sets of 3 exercises, instead of the usual 12 sets, 4 for each exercise. I’d also focus on the biceps peak and inner head, rather than the brachialis and forearms, since they’ve already been worked doing back. Here’s an example of how biceps would be workout with back, and then with chest.
- Exercise 1: Dumbbell concentration curls – 3 sets
- Exercise 2: Barbell or machine curls at a wider grip. – 3 sets
- Exercise 3: Alternating dumbbell curls, OR, standing cable concentration curls, using both ends of the cable simultaneously. I’d personally go with the latter, only because I feel the alternating dumbbell curls use too much forearm.
- Exercise one: Barbell Curls – 4 sets
- Exercise two: Dumbbell concentration curls – 4 sets
- Exercise three: Hammer curls, OR, Reverse barbell curls, starting mid-way, then all the way up – you’ll notice the latter exercise will hit the brachialis more than anything. – 4 sets
The same idea would go for the triceps, if you’re doing triceps with back, you’d go for 12 sets, focusing on compound exercises like machine dips or close grip bench presses, as well as isolation exercises like rope pull downs. But if you’re doing triceps with chest, then the tricep exercises would strictly involve concentration exercises, such ass; One arm dumbbell extension, rope pull downs, reverse pull downs, cable push downs with a straight bar, etc..
The 2012 Canadian National Middle Weight Champion
B.Sc. of Civil Engineering.
ISSA Certified Personal Trainer