Friday, June 22, 2012

Bigger Arms In Less Time

By Andrew McGunagle

I almost always find articles about arm training to be altogether amusing. Usually, these articles come in one of three varieties:
  1. Bro, do these 6-10 different curl variations for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps and you will be jacked in no time. Trust me, my arms are huge.
  2. Silly young chap, never do any isolation exercises. Just do the basic lifts and get strong and you will get bigger guns.
  3. No, no, no. You all have it wrong. Do the basic, heavy lifts and add in some isolation movements. Aren't I reasonable? Science.
The funny thing about arm training is that it is difficult to screw up. Take a stroll through any college recreation center, and you will realize that curling consistently can net almost any idiot a decent pair of biceps. It doesn't matter if you stay up late, eat crappy food, and party on the weekends; as long as you work your biceps once or twice a week with a certain amount of focus and intensity, you will get bigger arms.

They won't get this big, but they will get bigger.
That said, I believe a lot of people could benefit from making their arm training more efficient and less random. Rather than bombarding da biceps for two hours (some guys do this, I've seen it), why not have a simple, progressive program that ensures your arms will get bigger and stronger over time? This strategy works wonders for the squat, the bench, and the deadlift. So, to a certain extent, it should also work with the barbell curl.

Now, the program I am going to outline is not for everyone. If you have been training for a while, have done a bunch of curling, and already have decent arms, then this might not be for you. If you are a newbie or if you never train your biceps because some strength coach convinced you it was useless, then this program will work for you. Essentially, if your arms are skinny and you cannot curl much weight, then this is one of the simplest, most effective solutions.

The Bigger Arms Progressive Overload Program:

Day One:
A. Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 8 reps

Day Two: 
A. Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps

-At the very least, this program is to be done twice a week. Do your best to space the two sessions out evenly; something similar to Monday-Thursday would work well. If your schedule is ridiculously open, then do each session after either one or two days of rest. This would entail getting to the gym on a variety of days, so simply stick to a standard format if you cannot make that commitment. Honestly, it doesn't really matter either way. If you do have access to a barbell every day of the week, then start with one day of rest in between sessions. As the weight begins to get difficult, begin resting two days between sessions.

-Start with a fairly easy three sets of eight reps on day one. Keep your form strict and do not use momentum. On day two, use the same weight and complete three set of ten. Then, when you start back at day one the next week, add 2.5 pounds to the weight you started with. This means you will be using the little 1.25 pound plates; if your gym doesn't have these, then buy them. They do not cost much, and you can store them in your gym bag. Taking bigger jumps than 2.5 pounds is not recommended, as the biceps are a relatively small muscle group and will not be able to continually adapt to larger weight increases. Resist the temptation to add more than 2.5 pounds, especially in the first few weeks. It is better to make consistent small improvements than it is to add too much weight too soon and hit a wall.

Add enough 1.25's and you will eventually be curling some decent weight.
-The tempo of your curls does not necessarily matter, at least for this program. Ideally, all of your reps would be fast on the way up, flexed for a count at the top, and then lowered under control. This would entail something similar to an X-1-2 tempo ("X" stands for "explosive", and it refers to the concentric (curling) portion of the exercise; curl the weights as forcefully as possible. The "1" tells you to do a one-second isometric contraction while your arms are fully flexed. The "2" is for the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement, and it indicates that you should take two-seconds to lower the barbell.). While this type of quality is something to strive for, your primary objective should be getting all of the prescribed reps. Aside from using momentum and using body English, just do what you need to do to get all 24 reps on day one and all 30 reps on day two.

-In between sets, rest as long as you need to, but as little as possible. As soon as you are certain that you can get all eight or ten reps of barbell curls, then do your set. Once you get deeper into the program, you will probably have to rest longer to get all of the reps. Don't be alarmed if you need five minutes between sets as you near the end of the progression. Also, it wouldn't hurt to do some soft tissue and mobility work during your rest intervals.  

-Lastly, if your goal is to get bigger arms, then you cannot neglect your triceps. Your triceps training should feature thoughtfully programmed heavy pressing movements, as these exercises will have the biggest impact on the strength and size of your upper arms. Bench and (overhead) press, squat and deadlift, add in some chin-ups and some rows, and you will get bigger and stronger. This program should be nothing more than an addition to an already sound training plan. Have fun pumping up your biceps, but not at the expense of doing the "big" lifts.

A fantastic arm training program and three pictures of Arnold for motivation? Your success is all but guaranteed. Give this simple program a shot and let me know how it goes!

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