Everyone loves to train pipes, but very few people train their arms with a well thought out program utilising appropriate exercise selection and order.
The average arm workout might be three sets of 12 on this, four sets of 8 on that, superset that one, do that one by itself, get a pump, flex, maybe see a vein then go home.
There's more to your arms musculature than just biceps and triceps. Apart from the two heads of the biceps and the three heads of the triceps. There's the brachialis and brachioradialas. To avoid weaknesses and get the best development possible all of these need to be trained effectively.
When selecting exercises for optimal arm development you want to pay attention to the position of the humerus (upper arm) during the movement. This will affect which muscles (and which head/s of the biceps and triceps) come in to play the most.
With biceps and triceps there are three basic positions we can have the humerus in when completing an exercise.
1) Humerus in front of the body - e.g. preacher curl
2) Humerus in line with the body e.g. standard BB curl
3) Humerus behind the body e.g. incline DB curl on 45 degree bench
1) Humerus behind or inline with the body - e.g. dips or tricep press downs
2) Humerus in front of the body - e.g. close grip bench press or skull crusher
3) Humerus over head - e.g. Over head tricep extension with DB or rope cable attachment
As well as this you want to pay attention to type of grip being used. This will also affect muscle recruitment. Add variety and prevent over use injuries.
For most exercises you can do
Pronated - Palms down e.g. Reverse grip curl or close grip bench press
Neutral - Palms facing each other e.g. Dumbbell hammer curl or parallel bar dips
Supinated - Palms up e.g. standard barbell curl or reverse grip tricep press down (supinated grips on tricep movements don't really make that much difference to tricep recruitment and usually just make the implement harder to hold so this will rarely be used)
Thick grip - Any of the above grips with an extra thick handle (we use Fat Gripz to do this)
So now that you know that - On to the Arm Workout
In the program I have selected exercises to hit the most common weak points as well as including a variety of arm positions and grips to foster total arm development.
Sets, reps, tempo and rest.
The reason I've called this the Complete Arm Workout apart for the varied grips and arm positions is because there is a fairly broad spectrum of loading parameters. Meaning you are creating hypertrophy through multiple methods of adaptation in the same workout.
In the 'A' series exercises you have low reps with a slow eccentric and longer rest. Meaning you can use more weight and placing more mechanical tension on the muscle.
In the 'B' series we have more standard reps and rest but we are putting the muscle into the stretched position and putting another quarter rep in there for good measure. This will help to create significant muscular damage
Finally in the 'C' series we have high reps, low rest and are aiming the get the bi's and tri's fully contracted close to the shortest length they can get into biomechanically and then throwing in a pause there. This will give you a killer pump, metabolic stress and hypoxia.
Below each exercise I've listed the arm position and grip with a short explanation
A1 Standing reverse grip ezi bar curl (back against wall)
Arm position - In line with the body
Grip - pronated
We're starting with this because it hits the brachialis, brachioradialis as well as the forearms and wrist extensors all of which are commonly weak as piss relative to the biceps and wrist flexors. So we are giving them the attention they deserve. Also the brachialis does better with slower tempos and lower reps which are better suited to the beginning of the workout. Back is against the wall to stop cheating and keep technique spot on.
A2 Close grip bench press With Chains
Arm position - In front of body
Grip - Pronated
At the start of the workout when strength is highest we want to do the most neurologically demanding, compound based strength movements. The close grip bench fits this bill. The chains help to overload the top of the movement emphasising the triceps more than a standard close grip bench. If you don't have access to chains just go without or try some light bands instead.
B1 Incline DB hammer curl - thick grip - 45 degree - 1 and 1/4 reps
Arm position - Behind body
Grip - Neutral + thick grip
Now we give the biceps some work by taking the long head into a stretched position with upper arm behind the body. Throwing in an extra quarter at the bottom of each rep really smashes it in the stretched position. Having the neutral grip will again hit the brachialis and brachoradialis. Finally adding the thick grip will increase activation and difficulty overall as well as giving the forearms extra work.
B2 Seated overhead Ezi bar tricep extension 1 and 1/4 reps
Arm position - Overhead
Grip - Pronated
Same idea here with triceps. Having the arms over head and elbows pointing to the ceiling puts the long head of the tricep in the stretched position and the extra quarter rep increases the effect. The pronated grip gives the lateral head to work as well
C1 Preacher cable curl - Supinated grip - pause at top
Arm position - In front of body
Grip - Supinated
Now we are doing the opposite of the incline dumbbell curl. Instead of putting the most stress at the bottom position when the bicep is stretched. Now most of the work is being done in the top position when the muscle is at its shortest. The higher reps, shorter rest period and killer contraction of each rep combine for an awesome pump and cell swelling.
C2 High pulley cable cross tricep extension (elbows behind)
Arm position -Behind body
Grip - Neutral
Same concept here with the tricep. Keeping the elbows behind the body makes the long head as short as possible creating an awesome contraction. If you do these right it will feel like your tri's are going to cramp.
While I have used this workout successfully with clients. Remember no one training program is the key to getting you're arms to grow. Its about stringing together a series of well laid out programs that allow you to continually develop and progress.
I hope this training program has made you think about the arms exercises you use, the arm position and grip while doing them as well as how to target some potential common weaknesses.