By: Josh Bryant
Heredity deals the cards, but training plays the hand when it comes to arm development. I am going to share with you four ways to play your hand and hit the jackpot of bigger arms.
These techniques have worked muscle-building miracles on hard-gainer bikini competitors to genetic freak IFBB pros and even corporate CEO meatheads.
Don’t be afraid of the unorthodoxy; remember, the Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics, not engineers.
Exercise: One-Armed Eccentric Barbell
This movement was taught to me by my mentor and the always innovative, late, Charles Poliquin.
Why the eccentric emphasis?
Because eccentric overload training is a potent muscle-building tool that preferentially recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers and, sparing you a science symposium, these are the fibers with the most potential for growth.
Very few bodybuilders take advantage of eccentric overload training but don’t let their ignorance rob you of stretching the tape.
About this Move
Even if you have never had the pleasure of eating at Waffle House, I bet you can guess what they serve.
Like Waffle House, the one-armed eccentric barbell curl has a self-explanatory name. Yes, you read it correctly, barbell NOT dumbbell.
The width of the bar makes the movement very awkward and it forces you to use your supinators to keep the barbell steady and parallel with the floor.
Perform the movement on a preacher bench, starting with the arm in flexion (bent) at the top of the movement, and then simply lower the barbell with one arm over an eight-second count. Stop briefly at the bottom and have a training partner assist you on the concentric portion of the rep or if you train alone use your off hand.
You want a good spot—all the work should be on the eccentric!
Author, Josh Bryant training Texas bodybuilding Icon, Tyrus Hughes
Growth is the objective but keep in mind each rep takes eight seconds alone on just the negative, so keep reps in the three to five range for three to six sets.
People are as much 1.6 times stronger eccentrically, so that means you must go heavy. With the highest intensity possible perform four to six sets of three to five reps.
The weight is too heavy when you can no longer maintain a steady eight-second eccentric tempo.
Eccentric overload training takes much longer to recover from than traditional training, so do not use this movement on a lower intensity phase.
Be prepared to be sore!
Exercise: Bent over Rope Triceps Extensions
This movement is a very effective triceps isolator that builds the muscle and, unlike most effective triceps isolation movements, spares trauma to the elbow joint.
About this Move
Grab the rope attachment from medium high pulley with your body away from pulley apparatus and the rope attachment behind your head. Bend over downward with rope attachment positioned behind your head with one hand gripping each side. Step forward with one leg while allowing your elbows to be pulled back under cable resistance.
To perform this movement, extend your forearms forward until your elbows are straight. Allow the cable bar to return back over your neck. Repeat this movement for the prescribed amount of reps.
This exercise may not be super unique but this brutally-effective approach we are going to use is.
Drum roll, please!
We are going to attack this movement with cluster sets.
Cluster sets simply mean more sets and fewer reps. A traditional three sets of eight reps workout would become eight sets of three reps. Olympic lifters have used cluster sets for over half a century and powerlifters have for decades.
Now, even more physique-oriented individuals are getting on board. I personally have used this technique training IFBB pro bodybuilders Johnnie Jackson, Cory Mathews and Branch Warren.
Smart bodybuilders like cluster sets because they allow you to get more volume done in less time.
Instead of your traditional three sets of 12 overhead rope extensions, you will use the same weight for five reps, rest 15 seconds and repeat this sequence for five minutes straight; you will get a hell of a lot more volume albeit in less time!
Tyrus Hughes showing us an example of the movement in a cluster fashion.
To provide your arms with a nice growth shock, for a three-week period do all arms exercise in a cluster fashion—do this for four to six exercises, one to two times a week.
Exercise: Reverse Fat Bar Curl, Eccentric Emphasis
One of the functions of the biceps is supination; with reverse curl you grab the bar with a pronated grip (overhand grip) and this works a muscle, the brachialis, that is not visible but a workhorse in elbow flexion. The brachialis is located in the lower aspect of the upper arm just below the biceps.
A well-developed brachialis increases arm size and creates a better peak, if you cannot reverse curl approximately 80 percent of what you can do with regular curl you are leaving arm size on the table, according to the highly-respected Charles Poliquin.
About This Movement
While standing, grab a barbell at shoulder width with the elbows close to the torso; to make this exercise more difficult and add extreme forearm overload, use a fat bar like in the video demo. The palm of your hands should be facing down (pronated grip). This will be your starting position.
While holding your upper arms stationary, curl the weights while contracting your elbow flexors. With perfect technique only the forearms should move. Continue lifting the weight to a fully contracted position, for most this will be approximately shoulder level and for well-developed bodybuilders just go as high as possible. From the top position hold the contraction briefly and lower the weight for a steady five-second eccentric. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
Tyrus Hughes, Providing a Demonstration
Since the brachialis is often neglected, we want to bring its strength up to snuff but at the same time maximize time under tension.
This is accomplished by keeping our reps in the three to six range and our sets in the four to six range, going as heavy as possible. Perform the concentric portion of the rep fast but under control without using additional momentum, lower the weight at steady five-second pace.
If you do not have access to a fat bar, Bodybuilding.com offers Fat Gripz which turns a barbell or dumbbell into a fat handle in five seconds.
Exercise: Weighted Dips/Triceps-Triset Superset
For maximum muscular development one must train with a very wide variety of weights, rep ranges, tempos and movements.
This painful superset starts heavy and ends in extreme fatigue, taxing fast twitch, slow twitch and intermediate fibers.
About this Movement
Per Tesch’s legendary bodybuilding text, Targeted Bodybuilding, demonstrated through MRI that dips maximally target all three heads of the triceps. This is why, for over a century, dips have been a staple in the routines of top bodybuilders and strength athletes.
Most people know what a dip is, now enter the triceps tri-set.
I was introduced to this exercise by Joe Giandonato, MS. Grab a pair of dumbbells; Joe recommends 30 percent of the load you could use on dumbbell bench presses for 10 reps (e.g., if you could do 100s, use 30s). Lie down on a flat bench then perform a neutral-grip dumbbell bench press. From that top locked-out position, lower the dumbbells, hinging at the elbows, to the side of your head and then extend back to the locked out position. From the locked out position, lower the dumbbells behind your head. Then extend at the elbow to the starting position. That is one rep.
Tyrus Hughes Demonstrating the superset
For dips add weight if needed; if you are unable to handle your bodyweight use a band for assistance. For the tri-set follow Joe’s guideline. Perform three supersets of these movements starting with dips for five to eight reps and the tri-set for 10 reps (really 30), reduce each set by 10-15 percent because of fatigue and rest three minutes between supersets.
If you want to go extra heavy on the dips use a slingshot, this will take some of the stress off the chest and shoulders and massively overload the triceps.
Well-developed arms are more than just aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they are extremely important for both pushing and pulling.
With so much emphasis and time committed to building arms, only a very small percentage of trainees have impressive arm development.
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. You have been dealt your cards now you have the tools to play the hand wisely.