The Ultimate Workout Guide To Get The Perfect Arms

man with big arms

Want to make your body more attractive?  In this article I will focus on arms, which are the great symbol of manliness.

Overall, women are generally attracted to a lean, fit, V shaped, “athletic” buildBut just like there are boob or butt guys, women have body part preferences too. When polled, the chest, abs and butt all rank highly with this survey finding arms to be the top physical characteristic girls look for in guys.

While the arms do get quite a bit of work from compound movements like bench press (triceps) and pullups (biceps) they’re not the stars of the show. So even if you’ve been training hard your arms may be lagging a little behind and some specialization work to bring them up is in order.

Since you’re probably not a professional bodybuilder and working out isn’t your job, at best, you’ve only got an hour or so a day a few times a week to dedicate to the gym. So having an “arm day” probably isn’t the best use of your time overall. You just need to add in some direct biceps, triceps and forearm work to what you’re already doing. The most effective way to add direct arm work is by putting it at the end of heavier upper body training or adding extra sets in between leg exercises as a form of active rest.  

Since you’re already lifting, you’re probably doing a lot of work in the 1-12 rep range. That means you’ve got a lot of untapped potential for muscle growth by using high rep and time under tension sets that focus on the Type 1, or slow twitch, muscle fibers.

This is where I like to use “old school” bodybuilding techniques. They are especially useful because these techniques can create a ton of muscle damage and metabolic stress, two of the three requisites for muscle growth without the type of lasting, total body fatigue that may interfere with other training sessions from using these techniques with compound movements like squats.  

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Some “Old School” bodybuilding techniques include:

  • Dropsets: beginning a set with a weight, performing reps to near failure then stopping only long enough to change the weight dropping the weight and continuing the set (with less weight) to absolute failure.
  • Super High Rep Sets: Sets of 25-100 can fill the muscle with blood and in effect have the same result on the muscle as occlusion training because the blood can’t leave faster than it’s pumped in.
  • Constant tension Sets: The key to these sets is to always have tension on the muscle and to keep the weights moving. There should be NO resting or stopping during the set.

My favorite exercises for the biceps are ones that tend to focus on a high time under tension and creating a great deal of metabolic stress:

  • Rest Pause Barbell Curls: Grab a barbell with a weight that you can curl 8-12 times. Curl until you are one rep shy of absolute failure, then stop. Rest, take 3-5 deep breaths and go again. You can do this Rest/ Pause as many times as you like but I tend to stop once I can only get a single rep after two consecutive pauses.
  • Down the Rack Dumbbell Curls: Start with dumbbells that you can curl for 8-10 reps, and go until one rep shy of failure. Replace them, and without stopping any longer than necessary start again with dumbbells that are 5lbs lighter. Continue this process for 3-4 drops.
  • Super Slow Eccentric Curls: Use a weight that you know you can easily get for 20 reps fresh. Curl the weight up (concentric portion) at a normal pace, but lower slowly. I like to use anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds to lower the weight. At the bottom of the movement immediately curl the weight again. Do not allow the tension on the muscle to leave at the bottom position.

When it comes to triceps exercises I tend to stay away from using straight weight on barbells and with dumbbells, for exercises that isolate the triceps in both a stretched and loaded position. Exercises like skullcrushers and overhead extensions. Those tend to be nothing more than a problem waiting to happen for most lifters. Instead I opt mostly for either pressing variations or the use of bands with extension exercises so that, at what would be the point of greatest stretch and loading with straight weight, the load is lessened and the elbow joint protected:

  • Band Pressdown Mechanical Dropset: These are simple, the more band tension the harder the exercise is. Set a band up on a power rack or across the top of anything stable. Start by choking up on the band or backing away from the anchor point. As you fatigue simply take small step towards the anchor, slide your hands down the band, or do both to lessen the band tension so you can continue as you fatigue. When doing these aim for high reps, something like 50-100 for the set.
  • Close Grip 2 or 3 Board Bench Press: The top end (1/3rd) of a bench press hammers the triceps as does using a close grip hand placement. By placing a 2 or 3 board, a foam roller, or even a rolled up yoga mat on the chest you’ll will decrease the range of motion and make sure that you’re keeping the focus primarily on the triceps throughout the exercise. While having a partner there to help spot and hold the board or roller makes things easier, if you’re alone you can simply slide the boards or roller under your shirt.

Keep in mind that the grip should be no closer than shoulder width with the upper arms, parallel to each other, so the arms are at the side of the body at the bottom of the lift. This means the hands are usually at least 10 inches apart on the bar. Never grip the bar with the hands together, in the middle of the bar, and the elbows flared out to the side, this is incredibly hard on the elbows.

A good finisher using this exercise is “Triceps Death”.

You begin with a moderate load 40-60% or your one rep max in the bench press on the barbell. Go until 1-3 reps shy of failure on the bench. Have someone place the first board on your chest and begin pressing again until 1-3 reps shy of failure. Have them replace the single board with the two board and begin pressing again until 1-3 reps shy of failure. Continue doing this until you reach absolute failure. I’ve personally done it with anywhere from 1-5 boards.

  • Lying Band Extensions:  Lay on a bench with a band run under it, the ends of the band in each hand. Elbows up at ninety degrees, pointed to the ceiling. Perform these just like any other triceps extension. Best for high reps 20-100.

You don’t want to be the guy with big upper arms and nothing from the elbow down.

Because you’re training smart as it is, and doing things like always crushing the bar, not relying on lifting straps too much and using free weights, your forearms are already getting a good workout. But vascularity, having visible veins has become the fitness trend.

Good thing there’s probably no easier place on the body to accomplish this vascular look that with the forearms. So if they’re still lagging behind try these exercises to help bring your forearms up.

  • Fat Bar Anything: If you have access to a fatbar use it. Make sure you stick with the thumbs around the bar grip so you can grip the bar hard the whole time. A suicide or thumbs “open” grip kind of defeats the purpose.

If you don’t have access to a fatbar you can buy FatGripz, they’re small, fit easily into your gym bag and snap onto almost any barbell or dumbbell or simply wrap a towel around the barbell. Anything that increased the circumference of the barbell will work.

  • Constant tension Zottman Curls: The Zottman curl is a lift that was made popular by Arnold himself but seems to have fallen out of favor in the last couple decades. This is nothing more than a dumbbell curl that incorporates pronation/ supination of the wrist while curling the weight. Begin the movement with a normal biceps curl, wrist in supination, as you’re reaching the top of the movement, turn the dumbbell over (pronation) and lower it. As you’re reaching the bottom, supinate the wrist and curl the weight back up.

Zottman curls are most effective when there is constant tension/ movement.

  • Farmers Walks: These are easy, simply pick up a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells or, if you’re lucky farmers walk handles, and walk for as long as you can.

The key to making Farmers Walks most effective is not allowing the weight or your arms to rest on you, staying tight through the whole body and going until your forearms and hands are screaming.

If the weight is heavy enough your arms will touch the body, but they should never rest on you. Try to remain tight through the whole body the whole time, no swaying. Think about the implements you use as being two buckets of water and your job is to make sure no water spills out of the buckets.

These are just the exercises that I like best. There are plenty of other great arm exercises out there and lots of ways to use them. So don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you so you can build the type of arms that’ll test the seams of your t-shirt sleeves and get her attention.

 

About the author Roy Pumphrey

Roy Pumphrey is a Baltimore based trainer who's been making people a little more awesome in person and over the interwebzz for over a decade now. You can read some of his ramblings on health, fitness, and lifting heavy thing here at Wingman Magazine and @ roypumphrey.com