Last Updated on January 7, 2021
Whether your goals are aesthetically driven or strength focused, give these pointers a try for powerful arms.
Bigger, stronger arms not only look great, but they also play a critical role in getting stronger in your main lifts. Biceps are frequently referred to as beach muscles because it’s common to see bros at the gym skipping leg day once spring hits, focusing primarily on curls. However, there comes a point in your training program where you have an opportunity to work on assister muscle groups that will ultimately help push those deadlift and bench PRs. Now’s that time.
Add Pullups Or Chinups TO Every Workout
Yes, I said every workout. I’ve heard Brando Lilly, a super human powerlifter say he’s never met a guy with a big back that was weak. Follow me here. Building a strong back requires you to have strong arms. If your arms give out before you can finish a set of pullups or rows, then you’ll never develop that power. By adding vertical pulling to all of your workouts, you build muscle and strength. I suggest doing a mix of chinups (palms facing you) and pullups (palms away from you). Integrate your pulling towards the end of your workout, after all of your other multi-joint lifts, but before arm-specific work. Vary between lower volume with added weight and higher rep sets with just body weight.
Deadlift Heavy At Least Once A Week
If you can olympic lift with proper form then you can do that too, or simply alternate these lifts from week to week. Either way, you need to pull hard from the floor during at least one training session a week. My two main reasons for this are grip and tension. When you deadlift intensely, you are forced to grip the bar with everything you have. Few exercises require this kind of activation out of your forearm. It sends signals to your body that will awaken your inner Popeye without the necessity of spinach.
Let’s not forget tension. Strong people are really great at creating tension throughout their body. After a heavy deadlift I can feel my pecs come close to spasm. This means that although you may feel your deadlifting in your legs or your core, remember, your arms are holding the weight. The tension that builds in your arms to simply stabilize that weight is incredible and will lead to your arms experiencing gains.
Perform Bench Work Twice A Week
One session should be heavy singles or sets of 3. That means that you literally cannot do more than 1 rep or 3 reps with the weight that is on the bar. The other bench session should be what I call modified Russian volume training. The Russians like to apply a lot of volume to certain lifts. This means that you could be benching every day. I disagree with the prolonged use of this for many reasons, but one of my main reasons is because I think it puts too much stress on the shoulders. However, higher volume is ok within one workout as long as you allow for rest. To that point, bench session 2 should be 10 sets of 10 reps with a weight that allows you to complete all sets. This kind of split will call for a ton of arm activation especially in those triceps.
Start Your Arm Day With Squat
If you’re going to insist on having an “arm day”, that is an entire session dedicated to arm exercises, start it with squats. I must say, I don’t advise an arm day. I think it’s wasteful because time is such an important commodity and to work out for an hour without doing big lifts is a missed opportunity in many ways. One such opportunity is the release of critical hormones that keep your body balanced and growing. I recommend adding 5 sets of squats before you start hammering on your arms to stimulate hormone release in your body. You may think you’re working intensely when doing heavy arm sets, but when was the last time someone threw up while bicep curling? Prime your central nervous system before you start working arms and watch both your energy levels and arm strength increase.
Do Your Conditioning On An AirDyne
While I believe there is a time and a place for a treadmill, and I enjoy rowing, the Airdyne bike presents a unique opportunity to get your arms pumped. The push-pull combination that occurs while riding the Airdyne is great for your arms. Balancing the distribution of lower body and upper body engagement will allow you to get in a high-volume conditioning workout. In addition, just using your arms to move the fan wheel will absolutely push them to their limit.
Keep Your Arsenal Small
Execute your arm-specific work more effectively by choosing 2-3 exercises only, with higher reps and more sets. Instead of trying to do every arm exercise under the sun, focus on getting 5 sets of 12-15 reps of arm exercises that you are challenged by. I find that people get caught up on working smaller muscle groups at specific angles. Don’t obsess over different exercises. Instead, concern yourself with volume and intensity. The concentrated, intense work that you get with simple, more traditional arm movements will get you results.
I hope I’ve armed you with some actionable steps to get bigger, stronger arms while building powerful lifts. Remember that your body works as one unit. When all the parts are tuned in and ready to work your results will be better.