It’s good to see that we’re at that stage where people are sending in questions – I like it! After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Yesterday evening I received a question which I often get asked. Without revealing his name, he asked:
“Hello. Great website keep it up. I was just wondering how you train your arms? My arms are toned but Im having trouble adding size to them. Is there anything you can recommend?”
Thank you for your kind words and yes, there are a dozen things I can recommend. Read my reply after the cut!
Without sounding too conceited, I’ll admit that my arms, along with my shoulders and back are my best muscle groups – aesthetically. The key to my success in these departments stems from an understanding of anatomy.
Typically speaking, your upper arm consists of biceps (biceps brachii), triceps (triceps brachii) while the lower portion of your arm is referred to as the forearm.
Did you notice how I said “biceps” and not “bicep” Well, that’s because your biceps are comprised of two heads – hence the word bi-ceps. They are made up of a long head (outer) and a short head (inner) and so, much of the development (proportion and size) in your biceps comes down to how well you can target each head.
Does that mean that different exercises engage different heads?
Exactly, but moreover, the positioning of your palms/wrists (pronation or supination) also has an impact on this, which is why an EZ curl bar is designed in the way that is. That, and the fact that it helps reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.
Utilizing a close grip on an EZ curl bar for arm curls recruits the outer head whereas a wide grip will target the inner head.
Of course, there are many other exercises which work the heads differently. For an insight into how I train biceps, please click here.
Many people misconstrue biceps as being the key to bigger arms. Wrong – triceps are, so don’t neglect them! Indeed, they make up for two thirds of your overall upper arm size.
As you would guess, the triceps consists of three heads: a long head, a short head and a lateral head and like biceps, the positioning of your palms/wrists also influences which head you stimulate. For an insight into how I train triceps, please click here.
Like calves and abs, forearms are regarded as being an “ancillary muscle”. In other words, they are often recruited to help support major muscle groups. More often than not, these muscle groups are trained with high volume. Personally, I like mixing it up; alternating between high volume-low weight and vice versa.
As with any muscle group, “adding size” comes down to four things: lifting a heavy weight with perfect form, the intensity at which you train, how well you allow yourself to recover and more importantly, your diet. While your genetics may dictate the shape of your body and muscle couture, never let that be an excuse for you not being able to achieve your goals.
In terms of intensity, keep your rest periods short and sweet – no longer than a minute. Ideally, you want to sustain the pump in your muscles; short rest periods will help facilitate oxygen and nutrient delivery into your muscles. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to incorporate “shock techniques” into your routine. I intermittently throw in drop sets, rest-pauses and negative reps, which help take my workout to the next level. For more information on “shock techniques”, please click here.
Continuing on intensity, take a look at your training split. A friend of mine recently asked me to recommend him a training split. By that he meant which muscle groups he should train together, and on which days. The most common form of split involves training chest and triceps together, and back with biceps. Although this is fine, I have a more effective way to get the most out of your workouts. See, the problem with training chest and triceps together is this: by the time you come to training triceps, they will have suffered from fatigue which in turn will hinder your ability to train them at maximum effort. This is because when you train your chest, your triceps are worked as a secondary muscle group, which fatigues them! You can work your way around this by performing the following split: back and triceps (Monday), shoulders (Tuesday), legs (Thursday), chest, biceps and forearms (Friday/Saturday), with abs trained daily or pulsed every other day.
Thank you for your question – I hope this helps you to achieve your goal of bigger arms.