Arm Training

Arm Training

​The Guns, your pythons, the pipes, or just plain old lady pleasers, whatever you want to call them, adding mass to the arms is usually at the top of most male trainees agendas.  (And some of the ladies!) There’s nothing like pulling on a tee and stretching out the shirt sleeves due to the ridiculous girth of your arms.  Or better yet, buying a dress shirt and almost splitting the fabric as the guns of navarone stretch the fabric makers handy work to their limits.


So If this is your goal your going to need a dedicated arm day if you want some pipes bigger than eleventeen inches.  Don’t believe the hype that you can grow an impressive set of guns without doing any direct arm work either.  And yeah yeah some internet dweeb always posts a photo of a gymnast with a ridiculous bicep but let me ask you this big homie, they have been training since they were six for up to 6 hours a day on the rings and high bars to achieve that.  Have you? Do you? Go away.

So here are some tips for your arm day that should start shrinking those shirt sleeves and better shaping those lady pleasers.

Exercise Variety

Whether your training arms or legs, every exercise in your program should be bringing something new to the table.  And by that I mean a new angle or hitting the same muscle from a different angle in order to preferentially recruit different parts of the muscle and provide a varied stimulus.  The more trauma you can cause to a muscle the more it will grow – to a point!

Let me give you an example of a bicep workout I see everyday up in the Bondi bubble.

  • Bb curl palms up 3 x 10
  • Seated dumbbell curl palms up 3 x10
  • Low cable curl palms up 3 x10

You see this all the time in the gym.  Essentially what this program really has done is 9 sets of the same exercise (albeit with the low cable maintaining constant tension).. Think about this – The humerus is beside the body the whole time, the palms are up the whole time and the reps are the same.  Did I mention no tempo either?  Add that point to this celebration of mediocrity and you have the most boring bicep workout of the decade.  Should of  just done 9 sets of 10 speedy speedy bb curls brosef.

So to illustrate my point, here is a better option for a beginner to intermediate trainer (and by that I mean been training for less than 2 years).

A1) Reverse curl on preacher bench – 5 x 6-8 reps – 4110 tempo. 75 secs rest
B1) 45 degree Incline Hammer curl palms up – 4 x 8-10 –  4011 tempo. 60 secs rest
C1) Strict Barbell Curl drop set (no humpty hump dance) sets 3 x 10/10/10 reps – 2110 tempo. 45 secs rest

This isn’t that advanced but try it.  Do it and follow the tempo and rest periods to the T and your biceps will feel like big lemons.

So you should be starting to get the picture in regards to the humerus so lets look at tricep training.

Tricep training is usually done a little better by accident.  A common workout you might see would be:

  • Dips 3 x max
  • Tricep pushdown with bar 3 x 10
  • Tricep kickback 3 x 10

Now this is slightly better in that the humerus is behind the body on a dip but then its beside the body on both tricep pushdown and the kickback.  That and the fact that tricep kickbacks to tricep training, is what Justin Beiber is to the music industry – they just make you cringe and tense up when you’re exposed to them.

So lets look at a better option using the bicep parameters.  Remember this is for a beginner to intermediate trainer (and by that I mean been training for less than 2 years). The reason I keep saying this is if you’ve been training for more than a couple of years you really shouldn’t be doing straight sets.

A1) dips – 5 x 6-8 reps – 4010 tempo. 75 secs rest
B1) Seated French press with EZ curl bar – 4 x 8-10 –  2111 tempo. 60 secs rest
C1) standing Tricep pushdown drop sets with straight bar 3 x 10/10/10 reps – 2011 tempo. 45 secs rest

Once again don’t mess with the tempo’s and rest periods.  Do it strictly.

So what I want you to think about is the position of the humerus in your arm training.  Basically, depending where the humerus is you will either be putting the bicep/tricep on a stretch or in a relaxed / semi relaxed position and preferentially recruiting different heads of the bicep and tricep muscles.  This isn’t an anatomy class so im not going to go into it but you should be getting the picture.

There are other factors that affect your arm training that I could talk about like tempo, exercise selection, rest periods, hand position, pre/peri/post workout nutrition, your forearm strength and the heinous pop music playing in the gym – but I won’t.  Just think about the position of the humerus.

 4 Positions of the Humerus

There are roughly 4 major arm positions for the humerus to be in when training arms. And this is by no means an exhaustive list its  just enough to get you thinking.

Behind the body

  • Dips
  • Dip Pushdown machine
  • Incline bicep curls
  • Incline Cable curls

Beside the body

  • Pushdown variations
  • Curls Variations whether seated/standing etc

In front of the body

  • Decline/Flat/Incline Pressing variations
  • Skullcrushers/extensions
  • Preacher Curls

Above the body

  • Overhead Pressing
  • Overhead Extensions
  • Chins

Very simply: make sure you never do two exercises with the humerus in the same position for the same muscle group.

I hope that helps. This is some basic stuff you should be mastering.

See you in the gym!

Brad Stocks
Personal Trainer Bondi Junction