How you structure your arm training should be different to other muscle groups. Particularly if you’re not experiencing the gains you crave.
EXPERT – Kris Gethin is a nutrition consultant, trainer and author of the book Man of Iron
Developing big arms is a goal some bodybuilders find easier to achieve than others.
If you’re in this group, then you need to utilize protocols that inflict extreme hypertrophic trauma. And then you need to promote recovery, which is when long-term growth occurs.
Here’s one of the most wildly effective methods for punishing the muscle fibers in your biceps and triceps, to make them grow.
THE ARM PYRAMID
This training strategy overwhelms the biceps and triceps with stress. You’ll perform the following sets and reps for dumbbell curls.
You’ll perform all reps for one arm and then all reps for the other without resting before moving on to the next set. You won’t rest between sets because one arm will be recovering as you’re working the other.
So you’ll perform 10 dumbbell curls with your right arm followed immediately by 10 with your left.
Without resting, you’ll then perform nine curls with your right arm using the same weight. You’ll continue until you’ve completed this entire pyramid set with no rest.
After you complete this, you’ll rest for 60-90 seconds, before completing this pyramid set 5 more times for a total of six pyramids.
Each set contains a total of 55 reps per arm, so you’ll be performing a total of 330 dumbbell curls for each arm. And you’ll perform this same volume for both biceps and triceps.
With this amount of training volume you’ll need to use the rest-pause principle at some point.
For the rest-pause, you simply take a short break when you reach the point of fatigue where you can’t perform another rep. You may only need to take 1-2 second break or a long inhale and exhale.
Fatigue is caused by lactic acid and hydrogen ions suffocating your muscle fibers, and these short breaks allow just enough recovery to pump out another rep or two.
It’s crucial that you choose the proper weights that allow you to complete all sets and reps. You can reduce weight as you get deeper into these pyramid sets, but the aim is to take every pyramid set to failure.
While you want to use the heaviest weights you can, fatigue will set in and the burn will become extremely intense. Don’t be tempted to use a shorter range of motion (or cheat by swinging the weights) to make the reps easier.
Once you’ve performed these six pyramid biceps sets, you’ll use the same strategy for your triceps pyramid using single-arm overhead cable rope extensions.
SET, REPS PER ARM, ARM
1, 10, right/left
2, 9, right/left
3, 8, right/left
4, 7, right/left
5, 6, right/left
6, 5, right/left
7, 4, right/left
8, 3, right/left
9, 2, right/left
10, 1, right/left
WHY THIS WORKS
Generally, muscle groups are resistant to growth because you don’t have a strong neurological connection with that muscle group. That in turn limits your ability to fully stimulate fibers in these muscles.
An overly restrictive fascia then reduces the ability for expansion and thus muscle growth. My strategy helps engage your brain for a stronger mind-muscle connection.
It also breaks down physical limitations within your weak muscle groups, allowing for better growth over time.
I also have to add that many people work out with the intensity of a tame kitten. Or they spend more time taking selfies or talking to others rather than training when they’re at the gym.
This training protocol is brutal, and it will unquestionably address each area I have just mentioned.
In my experience, the mind-muscle connection improves dramatically when you apply more time under tension. The explanation for this is simple: you’re practicing to recruit the muscle and that forges a better neurological connection.
Adding extreme intensity also helps trigger high threshold motor units that can recruit up to ten times more muscle fibers. Ultimately, this provides a much-needed boost to your growth potential.
For those who have a heavily restrictive fascia, it can be very frustrating because it literally keeps the muscle’s room for growth suppressed.
This training protocol causes extreme blood volumization within the target muscles. This means that, over time, the fascia can gain more elasticity, allowing for expansion.
Imagine the fascia as a very thick rubber band that envelops your biceps and triceps (all muscles in the body are surrounded by fascia).
By frequently stretching the fascia of your biceps and triceps when you’re performing these massive arms pyramids, your pump can eventually increase the elasticity of your fascia.
This positively affects the ability of your biceps and triceps to grow.
Many people leave growth potential on the table by failing to hit slow-twitch muscle fibers.
These can account for over 50% of your total muscle mass, therefore avoiding them can be a huge mistake. For years I have endorsed high repetition training and found that in many cases, people with seemingly weak muscle groups experience an increase in growth when they implement this.
Sarcoplasmic swelling is very likely to occur at a faster rate with this style of training, especially in the biceps and triceps.
FORGE MORE GROWTH
There are additional steps you can implement to get even better results from this training strategy.
These are all largely based around helping the biceps and triceps swell. The first step is to ensure that you are properly hydrated every single day, especially before you train your arms.
Being hydrated can help your biceps and triceps balloon in size, which is exactly what you need to encourage long-term sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. For this reason, I recommend drinking one gallon of water per day and adding electrolytes such as calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium for their hydrating properties.
To further enhance blood flow for better muscle pumps, I recommend that you supplement with a pre-workout product that includes pure citrulline. Citrulline is an amino acid that encourages elevation of arginine blood-plasma levels.
And the reason you want to boost arginine levels is for its vasodilation effect, allowing greater blood flow into your working muscles. Many pre-workout supplements use arginine (another amino acid), but research shows that arginine supplementation is less effective than supplementing with citrulline.
The reason for this is that arginine is more readily destroyed in the digestive process while citrulline enters the body where it is then effectively converted into arginine.
You also want to make certain that your diet is not too low in carbohydrates. That’s because extreme low-carb diets deplete muscle glycogen, which reduces the ability of your muscle cells to swell or engorge when you’re training.
PUTTING INTO PRACTICE
There is little doubt in my mind that utilizing this brutal intensity method to hit biceps and then triceps will yield great results.
You just need to use the technique over a prolonged period. You can start by using it once a week, but you can increase frequency as you begin to accommodate to this new protocol, performing it every 4th or 5th day.
That will allow enough time for recovery while also maximizing training of this body part, if it’s your biggest weakness.