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The Dragon Slayer Speaks

Rich Gaspari - the dragon slayer
Arm Training

Just about all aspiring bodybuilders love to train arms. When you look at a person who lifts, the first thing you notice in a short sleeve shirt is arms. You can't help it, that's what you automatically check out. When asked to 'make a muscle,' the first thing guys do is flex their biceps. I've yet to see anybody hit a quad shot or a side chest! Arms have always been and always will be the most popular bodypart both to train and to want to develop to the max.

For me, arms were a hard body part to develop. The main reason was the same reason that still prevents most guys from ever building the best arms they are capable of. I lifted way too heavy, without good control of both the contraction and the stretch. I was swinging weights instead of feeling the weights work my muscles. In essence, I was training like a weightlifter instead of a bodybuilder.

As soon as I started using lighter weights and concentrating on better and really feeling the muscle work as I performed the movements, I saw new gains immediately after being at a plateau in size for some time. The main thing to get in your head is to get rid of the ego and concentrate on form and actually feeling the movement inside the muscle. My old training partner Lee Haney used to say, "stimulate, don't annihilate!"

Good form can make all the difference in an exercise like alternate dumbbell curls, for example. It is so important to make sure that while curling the weights, both pronation and supination are done throughout the movement. Make sure you are squeezing at the top and flexing your arm hard to really stimulate growth in your biceps. That's a world of difference from just heaving them up as you see a lot of guys do.

The biceps is a two-headed muscle with both an inner (long) head and an outer (short) head. You also have the brachialis muscle, which is under the outer head of the biceps. It's technically not part of the biceps, but when developed it makes your biceps look even bigger by 'pushing them out.'

So how do I train my biceps? I look to train both the inner and outer biceps as well as add a peaking exercise. Last but not least, I do either a hammer curl or a reverse curl to train the brachialis as well.

Another thing people don't always know is that a full 2/3 your arm development comes from the triceps. Thus, you need to make sure you train you triceps hard to build big arms.

The triceps is a three-headed muscle, so you have to train the inner (long), middle (medial) and outer (lateral) triceps heads to see the best results.

I always like to use exercises that focus on all three heads, like the pullover press. I still do them even though many people today have forgotten what they are! It's a great movement that bodybuilders used to use successfully for many decades to beef up their tri's. Here's how they are done.

Start by laying on a flat bench with an EZ-curl bar in a moderate grip position with the bar across your chest. Press the weight up, but don't lower it straight down to your chest. Instead, take the bar across your face to the back of your head stretching out your arms in a pullover movement before bringing the bar back to your chest again. This is one rep. What this exercise does is train all three heads of the muscle as your press up, then stretches out the triceps in the pullover part.

To me, this is about the best movement to build great triceps all around and I think it's a shame that most guys today have never done it.

Other movements like rope pushdowns help train the outer head of the triceps. With the rope, you get to really squeeze the reps; hitting the outer head of the muscle much better than just using a bar.

I have also found I like to Superset both triceps and biceps together to get a great pump on the entire arm. One thing to remember is to train triceps first on a superset of biceps and triceps, because getting a pump first on the biceps can prevent full movement afterward for the biceps. The bigger your biceps are, the more you will notice this.

Let me give you an example of a typical arm workout that I do.

Rope pushdowns

supersetted with Incline Dumbell curls

Use both arms at once on curls. Do 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Pullover press

supersetted with Close-grip preacher curls

3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Overhead French press (EZ-bar extension)

supersetted with Preacher reverse curls

3-4vsets of 10-12 reps.

Bench dips

supersetted with Dumbbell concentration curls

I like to do these 'Arnold style,' where I bend over by a dumbbell rack, let my arm hang, and curl the weight. I make sure I rotate and supinate my hand away from my body, squeezing the biceps hard at the top of the movement. Remember, this is not about the weight but on concentrating on the contraction and training the muscle. That goes for everything, not just this exercise!

That's my typical arm workout. I do arms on their own day after training both chest and back in the two days prior. Give my workout a try and let me know how you like it and let me know what kind of results you get.

Until my next blog, I'll see you in the gym!

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