When I first became interested in bodybuilding, one of the first books I saw was Arnold's Education of a Bodybuilder. The front cover was an iconic picture of Arnold on top of a mountain striking a one-arm biceps pose. What was most memorable was the peak on his biceps. His peak was so freaky and jagged! I was amazed that anyone could get their arm to look like that. I wanted more than anything to be able to build arms like his, and I read the book to learn how.
Of course, just reading about what Arnold did for his arms doesn't mean you can have bicep peaks like his, but you can learn to build your arms by learning the different exercises you need to do to accomplish a well-developed arm. For myself, I didn't have the genetics to get an arm quite like Arnold's, but I was able to get pretty good arm development as a pro. I was never known for having the best arms, but they matched my body and allowed me to more than hold my own against some of the best bodybuilders of that era with some of the best arms in the business.
Arm development was never easy for me, and every inch I built was earned through very hard work. At my best, I was able to develop a 20-inch arm, which wasn't too shabby for my day. I did learn that to get my arms to grow, I really had to study every exercise there was for both the biceps and the triceps. What many people aren't aware of is that 2/3 of the total size on your arm is actually the triceps, while the rest of the arm is the biceps and brachialis, which is the muscle between the long head of the biceps and the lateral head of the triceps.
First, I tried training my triceps and biceps on separate days with a larger bodypart. For example, I would train chest followed by triceps, and back followed by biceps. The results were not what I was hoping for. In looking at the way I set the workouts up, I felt I really couldn't fully concentrate on the arm portion of the workouts because I was already tired from training the larger body part.
With my genetics not being overly gifted regarding the arms, I really needed to concentrate on just my arms on their own day to give them a fighting chance to grow. I did some more research and thinking. What I felt was best for me was to train arms together, doing supersets of biceps with triceps. To me, training them together I got the best feel in the muscles and got the most blood in the entire arm. Getting a great pump is integral to stimulating growth in the arms.
What was also important was to train the arms from all the different angles to hit the various parts of the arm. For example, the triceps is a 3-headed muscle and you need to hit the inner (long), middle (medial), and outer (lateral) heads of the triceps. For biceps, you have 2 heads that need to be hit, the inner (short) and outer (long) plus work the brachialis to give it more thickness. Neglecting the brachialis can mean you're missing out on an inch or more of total upper arm mass! I also like to do a peaking exercise for biceps, like concentration curls Arnold style. These are done not seated as you normally see, but bent over a dumbbell rack with the working arm hanging. Make sure you twist your hand so your thumb rotates away from your body for optimum contraction, which gives you better peak.
So give my arm training a try if you have a hard time making gains in your arms, and see how you do with it.
My typical weekly training is as follows:
- Day 1 Chest
- Day 2 Back
- Day 3 Arms
- Day 4 Legs
- Day 5 Shoulders
Here is my typical arm training:
Rope Triceps Pushdowns:
- supersetted with Incline Dumbbell curls (curling both arms at the same time)
- 3 to 4 sets of 10-12 reps
Seated Overhead Triceps Extensions:
- done with a single dumbbell using both hands
- supersetted with Seated Preacher Curls with EZ-curl Bar (either with a inner grip or outer grip)
- 3 to 4 Sets of 8-10 reps
Lying Triceps Skull Crushers or Lying Pullover Press:
- supersetted with Seated Reverse Preacher Curls using an EZ-curl Bar (using Versa Grips so I don't lose my Grip)
- 3 to 4 Sets of 8-10 reps
- done with 2 benches with arms behind back on bench with feet on the other bench using a plate placed on my legs
- supersetted with Arnold Concentration Curls
- 3 Sets of 10-12 reps
This is my typical arm raining routine. I will switch around exercises, but generally keep exercises like the preachers and the cable pushdowns as staples to the routine.
Now give my arm training routine a try and let me know how you do! I think you'll get great results like I did as long as you work hard and use the best form you can while challenging yourself.