By John Litteral 12-10-22
I don’t know many men who do not want to have big arms. I have even had women ask me what they can do to tighten their arms up, especially the triceps. Increasing the size of your arms and sculpting good definition can be achieved by understanding a few key principles.
1) DO NOT OVERTRAIN
2) USE COMPOUND AND ISOLATION MOVEMENTS
3) TRAIN FOR FULL MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT
1) DO NOT OVERTRAIN: The first principle is to not overtrain. I have found that I get my best results with low volume and high intensity. I train each body part once a week because my workouts are intense enough that it requires that I let my body to have enough time to recover and repair what the training broke down. This is especially necessary for my arms. I do my arm workout at the end of my training split because my triceps get worked very hard during my chest and shoulder workouts, and my biceps get worked very hard during my deadlift training and my back workout. If I trained my arms twice in a week, I would be not only not gain more muscle but I would lose size. I have tried it before and that is what happened.
2) USE COMPOUND AND ISOLATION MOVEMENTS: Compound movements allow you to use heavier weight because you are moving more than one joint at a time, which means that more muscles are being used. The use of heavier weights sends a signal to your body that muscles need to get bigger and stronger, therefore your body responds to that stress and your muscles will grow and get stronger. Isolation movements allow you to target certain muscles and to work them from different angles, which allows you to build a full muscle development of certain muscle groups.
3) TRAIN FOR FULL MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT: Training for a full muscle development allows you to maximize the size and definition of your muscles. Your biceps have two heads to the muscle, and your triceps has three heads, therefore when you train to develop all the heads of those muscles, then that enhances the overall growth and shape of those muscles.
When I train my triceps, I like to begin with a compound movement. Beginning with a compound movement is important because your muscles are fresh and not pre-exhausted. There are a couple of compound movements for triceps that I usually choose from, high dips or close grip bench press. I usually choose one or the other for that training session, and alternate from week to week.
THE TRICEPS EXERCISES
I do low dips for chest and high dips for triceps. Low dips are when you go down deep into the movement in order to get a good stretch on the chest muscles, but I do not go to full extension at the top. But high dips are when I only go down about halfway down but I go to full extension at the top of the movement and make a point of flexing my triceps at the top. Low dips are an excellent exercise for building size and strength. Once that you get good at the exercise you can add weight to yourself for extra resistance such as using a weighted belt or stretch bands. This exercise will target the overall area of your triceps, especially the medial head. I usually go for 8-12 reps per set.
CLOSE GRIP BENCH PRESS
The close grip bench press is an excellent compound movement for triceps. This exercise allows you to use heavy weights for your triceps, though not as much as you use for your flat bench press while you are training your chest, but a considerable amount more for your triceps as compared to isolation movements. You should place your hands on the bar about shoulder width apart. You should not put your hands any closer together because that does not improve the resistance on the triceps, and it puts awkward stress on your wrists. This exercise will target the overall area of your triceps. I usually go for 8-12 reps per set.
CABLE TRICEPS PRESSDOWN
This exercise can be done well with a straight bar attachment or an EZ bar attachment. This exercise targets the lateral head of the triceps. I usually go for 10-15 reps per set.
OVERHEAD TRICEPS EXTENSION
This exercise can be done with a dumbbell or a rope that is used on the cable machine. This exercise targets the long head of the triceps.
HONORABLE MENTION: Above are the exercises that I typically do for my triceps, but there is another exercise that I will do from time to time when I am in the mood to do something different. Skull crushers is an excellent exercise that has the feeling of a compound movement. I like them, but I rarely do them.
THE BICEPS EXERCISES
This is a compound movement that targets the whole bicep. This exercise will help your biceps grow because you are able to use more weight than what you usually use as compared to isolation movements. Gymnasts have been known to use this exercise for their biceps, which helps explain one reason why gymnasts have phenomenal looking biceps. This exercise is done on a lat pull down machine. The key to this exercise for training biceps is to focus on pulling the bar down with your biceps and not your back.
STRAIGHT BAR CURL
This straight bar curl is an excellent overall biceps exercise even though it is an isolation movement. It is usually considered good for mass and strength for your biceps because you can use more weight than the other isolation movements. This exercise can also be done with an EZ bar. I usually go for 8-12 reps per set.
DUMBBELL CURLS (SUPINATE WRIST)
This exercise is excellent at hitting the biceps at a little different angle than the straight bar curl and the hammer curl. You can do these curls standing up or sitting. I prefer standing. You can change the angle by sitting on an incline on a bench, which helps isolate the biceps even more. I usually do 10-15 reps with this exercise.
DUMBBEL HAMMER CURLS
This exercise is almost self-explanatory by the name of it. The grip that you hold the dumbbells is much like the way you would hold a hammer. This exercise tends to put more emphasis on the short head of the biceps and the brachioradialis of the forearm. You can also do this exercise on the cable machine with the rope extension. I usually do 10-15 reps with this exercise.
Above are the standard arm workout that I have been doing for many years. But there are some other exercises that I do for biceps when I feel like changing it up some.
BICEP CURL MACHINE
HIGH CABLE CURLS
This exercise has been claimed to help develop the peak on biceps. Whether that is just bro-science or not, I personally have gotten some results of peaking on my left bicep.