How to train your arms smarter

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the upper arm. Upper arms are composed of a set of two muscle groups – the triceps and the biceps. The biceps has two heads, and the triceps has three.

Each head can be hit with a separate exercise. You could work the biceps, for example, with several different exercises and they could all work the same head. To avoid this error, learn the exercises that hit each of the muscles on your arms.

Vary the weights and reps

Arm muscles have diverse types of muscle fibers. Some of the fibers respond to heavy weights, others respond to high reps. To achieve maximum hypertrophy, switch your training methods periodically.

Follow a heavy weight/low rep routine for several weeks followed by a lighter weights/ high reps routine in the next several weeks.

Train smart

Following a strict routine day in and day out doesn’t mean that you’ll make progress. Use the routine only as a guide for your training.

I’m saying this because there are numerous external factors playing a role in your recovery and muscle growth (such as everyday stress for example). So if you feel tired and your arms are exhausted, give them an extra day of rest.

Add variety

You work your arms indirectly every time you work your back, chest and shoulders. During these workouts you use the same moving patterns, almost the same pattern of reps and sets.

This is why, when you train your arms separately they need something different.
Again try changing your reps from low to high (from 5 to 15 reps) and different movements than when you train your big body parts.

The rule of rotation

The most effective exercise is the first exercise you do for any body part, as you are strongest at the beginning of the workout. Many trainees  always start their workout with the same exercise.

However in order to provide a different stimulus, you need to regularly  change the place of the exercises in your workout.

For example if you started your arm workout with a narrow grip bench press last time, you can start with triceps dips or scullcrushers the next time you workout.

As for the biceps, think about changing  the grip width. If you started your workout with a wide grip curl last time, try doing a close grip curl the next time you work your biceps.

The principle of progression

A stronger muscle is a bigger muscle, the saying goes. Or the size of the muscle is almost always proportional to its strength. This is why you need to progress, both on the weights you lift and the repetitions you use.

This way you are forcing the muscles to adapt to the new challenge you are imposing on them, and by adapting they are getting bigger.

Here is an example: pick a weight that you can do 10 reps to failure with. In the course of 3-4 workouts try to increase the reps and do a set of 12 with the same weight.

Once you are able to do 12 full reps with this weight, increase the weight by 2-4 lbs and repeat this whole process again. 

Don’t overload though

Yes, you need to add weight to your lifts, but this can be a two edged sword. An attempt to load the arm muscles with more weight than you can really handle can lead to improper technique and, eventually, an injury.

Always pick a weight that you can lift for a number of FULL REPS with a PROPER TECHNIQUE.

If you are “throwing” and “jerking” the weights, you are probably using too much weight. Lower the weight a bit and try to do controlled, slow repetitions – 2-3 seconds down, 1 second up.

Pause at the peak

The greatest number of muscle fibers shortens at the point of peak contraction during an exercise. For this reason, the peak contraction is considered to be the most valuable training stimulus.

This is why you always need to use a full range of motion and always pause and squeeze at the the peak of the exercise.

Under Tension

While performing biceps curls, trainees tend to loosen the arms when the elbow gets fully extended. This action removes the tension from the biceps.

You can increase the intensity of the exercise by keeping your biceps constantly under tension by not fully extending (locking) the elbows at the beginning of the movement.

The same goes for triceps. At the top of the movement, If you lock the elbows, then all the tension transfers from the triceps to the elbow joint and the bones.

Keep the muscles, instead of the joints under tension, by avoiding to lock the elbows when the arms are fully extended.

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