Everyone loves arm day in the gym! It has been a phenomenon since the days of Steve Reeves, Bill Pearl, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and so on. For guys, it’s a rite of passage into being considered a man in the gym. When you first curl 50-pound dumbbells or skull crush an EZ Curl bar with 45lbs plates on each side, it’s like you finally hit gym-puberty!
Unfortunately, with everyone always worried about how much they can push or pull with their arms, most have lost sight on how to develop truly great looking, strong arms.
The focus needs to be on how you want to sculpt the arms, not how big you want them. The size will come, but will they look how you want them to?
In order to get great roundness in the biceps is to concentrate on specific range of motions for each movement. An example is the Rounded Barbell Curl.
Imagine if you took an elliptical machine and stood it vertical. Now, visualize how the pedals of the elliptical move. In a vertical position, the pedals would move slightly away from you, then come in extremely close to you with the knee joint never locking out or going to full extension. This is the exact range of motion used in the Rounded Barbell Curl; as you curl the bar you will slightly cast it away from the body, and as you lower the bar, it will drag straight down your body from the collar bone until it reaches the waist line (the waist line is the perfect finish point for the rep in order to prevent the elbows from reaching full extension).
Also, by never reaching full extension, the biceps are working and under contraction through the entire set. This same motion would apply to the rounded triceps cable extensions. When we train our clients, all biceps movements are of that specific range of motion in order to never let the elbows lock out and keep the biceps under a workload through the entire set. This is as opposed to the Strict Barbell Bicep Curl that focuses on a full range of motion from lockout to the full curl position.
For Triceps, we absolutely want a full extension because that is the contraction range for the triceps. However, we still try to avoid any elbow issues, so we do manipulate certain exercises. The Skull Crusher is a great example of this. When we do this movement, we use a “monkey grip”, which means that your thumbs will be out with your fingers. This helps lock the wrist into a neutral position through the entire range of motion. From there, elbows stay tight to the body and the bar is lowered to the chin. Once the bar reaches your chin, you immediately drag the bar as close to you as possible to the back of your head. The motion is then reversed and as soon as the bar is lining up to the chin, in a swoosh-like motion the bar is extended up to the finished position.
This movement pattern will execute hitting all three heads of the triceps as well as targeting the entire length of the triceps. Remember, the biggest asset to having bigger arms is having very well developed triceps. For a simple diagram of the basic arm muscles, check out Muscle Anatomy: Arm Muscles.
My years of working with great minds in Hollywood and implementing our philosophies with our clients have generated some of the best examples of how arms should really look.
Below is a taste of what the best workout is for great biceps and triceps.
|Skull Crushers w/overhead drag||5 sets X 10 reps|
Rounded Barbell Curls
Rocking Dumbbell Curls
|5 sets x 10 reps (2 drop sets)|
1-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extensions
|5 sets x 15 Reps|
Close-Grip Bench Press (1/4 range of motion)
Incline Bench Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets x 10 reps
|5 sets x 10 reps|
Rounded Cable Extensions
|5 sets x 10 reps-both directions|
Doug Hall (www.HallofStrength.com) is a former college athlete and Kinesiology major. He has always had a passion for fitness and for helping others. His extensive career includes over 17 years of training and educating clients in various fitness facilities in Michigan, Idaho and around the country. He recently joined the team of celebrity trainer of the stars, “Eric the Trainer” in 2012. This venture has included training many of Hollywood’s brightest movie stars and celebrities, UFC fighters, professional athletes and entertainers in Burbank, California and on location.
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