Weak Point Series: Arms
Are your arms lagging? You’re not alone. Although some genetic freaks never have to deal with weak points, most of us have one area that just doesn’t seem to budge. Sure, legs will grow for almost anyone – after all, it’s almost impossible for them NOT to if you’re actually doing squats. But when it comes to upper body training, we don’t always get the right muscles to fire.
That’s why you can kick ass on benching, rowing, and all of the other “money” movements and still have lagging arms. Maybe your chest takes over during every pressing movement, and your lats do all the work when you pull. That’s great for building THOSE muscles, but you’re still not getting any arm growth! Here are a few tips you can use to bring your arms up to par with the rest of your physique.
So, should you stop all that benching and do more “light” training to bring up your arms? No way! You may not feel the tris working during your normal presses, but that just means you’ll need to find a more productive way to lift. High-volume, high-rep training absolutely has its place, but training light all the time will only make your arms SHRINK – not grow!
Instead, start focusing on big, compound exercises where you can’t help but use your triceps. Do close-grip bench instead of normal benching – even when you train chest, and even when you’re on the incline. If you’ve got a choice, use the narrowest grip possible on dips. You can even find creative ways to move your grip inward on machine presses. The triceps are fast-twitch dominant, which means they respond best to heavy, low-rep training. You’ve just got to use the exercises that FORCE them to work!
The same is true for biceps. Sure, curls are the most important biceps movement, but you still need to focus on some heavy chin-ups. If you can barely use your body weight on underhand chins, it’s no wonder your biceps are lagging! When you’ve added 100 pounds to your close-grip bench, and you’re chinning with a couple of 45s hanging from your waist, small arms will be the least of your problems!
Have an Arm Day
If you love lifting heavy (and who doesn’t?), you might scoff at the idea of an arms-only day. But ask any guy with great arms, and he’ll probably tell you he trains them on their own. I don’t care how diligent you are with your arm work at the end of your other workouts, you’re just never going to get the maximum growth without giving them your full attention. Besides, you’re trying to bring up a weak point, remember? It only makes sense that you’d start to prioritize arm training.
Plus, an arms-only day doesn’t require endless sets of curls and extensions. They’re critical, sure, but you’ll still be doing plenty of heavy work. Just like any other good session, you’ll start with the big stuff – close-grip benches, chin-ups, and dips. Once you’ve done all you can, THEN move onto the isolation exercises.
Some lifters say that the pump doesn’t matter, and that setting PRs is all you need to worry about. They’re right to focus on breaking records, but I just don’t agree. Another commonality among guys with big arms is that they ALL talk about how important it is to get a solid pump during training. Your muscles are actually surrounded by a thin membrane called fascia, and it’s forced to expand when your arms are filled with blood.
What’s the best way to get this kind of pump? Supersets! Once you’ve done your heavy work, and you’ve moved on to extensions and curls, always pair a biceps exercise with a triceps exercise. You can take a breather between rounds, but keep the rest to a minimum when you switch between the movements. The fascia in your arms will expand far more when your bis and tris are pumped at the same time.
Not quite what you expected, is it? If your arms are truly lagging, then you may be able to improve them without getting much bigger overall. However, the biggest thing that drives arms growth is quality weight gain. Just think about it – do you really think you’ll have eighteen-inch arms if you weigh a buck-sixty? Forget about it! Simply put, if you’re not on a mass-gaining program, and your arms aren’t a strong point to begin with, they’re going nowhere.
Don’t take this advice as license to get fat, though. If you’re currently ripped to shreds, then you may have to accept some blurred definition, but turning into a slob will not pay off. Eat tons of protein (most of it meat), plenty of healthy fats, and just enough carbs to fuel intense training. If you’re gaining two to three pounds per month, you’re golden.
Finally, keep training the rest of your body every bit as hard as you have been – if not harder. You may need to gain ten or so pounds for every inch on your arms, but that weight’s going to be distributed to all of your muscles. Keep that arm day in your rotation, and add some light arm work to your other sessions as well. Combined with a steady diet of squats, presses, pulls, and deadlifts, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you progress!
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