Building Big Guns
How to Build Big Guns Fast
We’ve all seen the headers for magazine inspired arm workouts:
TITANIC TRIS!!!!... BULGING BIS!!!... LUG NUT LIMBS!!... ARTILLERY-LOADED ARMS!!! ...
The point is, no matter how much the title may inspire or motivate us, or cause us to want to rush down to the gym and try it out before dawn, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the content of a sensationally-titled workout is anything special just because the body part has been paired with a ‘galvanized’ word.
Okay, so it’s true…
Hard abs do remind us of metallic armor. Rock hard quads do resemble tree trunks. Biceps that are bulging and pumped up with blood just following a workout do remind us of hammers, anvils or other steely paraphernalia. So do triceps conjure images of iron horseshoes. The epitome of what we all seek to achieve in the gym is a hard-as-nails quality that can only be gotten through gut-busting training practices. After all, isn’t anything worth doing, worth doing well?
Still, the names accompanying some workouts are about as cheesy as a Kraft pasteurized foodstuff factory, and more often than not, they typically bomb in the area of effectiveness.
There’s something in a name, alright, and it’s usually malarkey! So we thought we’d take a different tack… a generic approach to workouts:
If it’s good, you’ll know it just by trying it out. If it isn’t… Well, hey, at least we didn’t use some lame name and end up with egg on our faces!
Arms are probably the easiest of body parts to build. That may be an unpopular stance… particularly among the set who find it difficult to build anything bigger than a limb that resembles buggy whips… but it’s basically true. The tricky part is, more than any other body part, the arms are really only as good as your genetics. You can always build a bigger chest, a better developed back -even much denser shoulders- but you can never really supercede the genetic hand you were dealt for bis and tris.
And let’s get something straight right from the start…
It’s a stupid waste of time to split up your arm training! Maybe gym newbies will want to do the requisite back/bis - chest/tris type of workout, but you’re really just wasting your time if you are at all advanced and choose to do this. Bis and tris work together mechanically as a single unit in one designated area of the body to accomplish a great many tasks throughout any given day. To fracture them mechanically, and work them on different days, just makes no sense at all. The best arm development follows a session that is intense and short-lived, and then leaves the arms alone.
There’s no denying that a certain amount of exertion on the part of the bis and tris happens as a matter of doing chest and back workouts. However, what ends up happening if you train the bis with the back and the tris with the chest, is a chain of events that ends up causing overtraining to occur. And overtraining is probably the worst enemy of arm development.
Let’s say you work every body part twice weekly. But let’s say you’re the kind of person who splits the body into back/bis - chest/tris. Sounds fine… it’s the split that most people recommend. Now take a closer look? You’re working bis during back workouts, and then following that workout up with yet another bis workout. The next day, you come in and you work the chest. Then immediately following the chest workout, you work tris… again! What gives here?
What gives is development and growth, that’s what! People often argue, "Well, you inadvertently train bis and tris on an extra day whenever you work the back or chest, so why not just get it out of the way on the same day so you have extended recuperation time?" If only the biceps and triceps saw it this way, everything would be fine. But the truth is, they don’t. The biceps and triceps just see a continuous barrage throughout the course of one workout as a stumbling block to potential recovery.
To prove this point, ask yourself this simple question:
Would you EVER do 30 sets of biceps and 30 sets of triceps in arm workouts? If you answered ‘no’, then you see the point.
Of course you would never exceed about 16-18 sets per arm workout if you were experienced at training! Who would? It would be developmental suicide! Unfortunately though, if you endeavor to combine chest and triceps into one workout and back and biceps into another, that’s exactly what you’re doing… committing developmental suicide! If you’re that sort, when you work the back, you use at least 4 different exercises, do four sets per exercise, and then move on to biceps for at least another 16 sets. Pre-exhaustion for the biceps is one thing, but working the bis in this way isn’t pre-exhaustion, it’s just plain exhaustion!
Yet, people do this type of split everyday and wonder why their arms never go beyond a certain point. Genetics, or a lack thereof, could always be blamed for the lack of growth but it’s likelier that there has been a total failure to even reach the boundaries of any genetic potential for arm growth you may have.
Less is definitely more.
That statement needs no qualifier and no explanation. If you’ve dialed into arm growth, you know it’s the absolute truth -not just for the guy who is gifted, but for you too! It’s like the girl who walks into the gym wearing a lot of make-up and a ‘come bone me in the aerobics room’ outfit… she’s eye candy when she first walks in. She definitely registers on the peter-meter and you immediately want her because she’s essentially told you that you do. But upon further inspection, she’s a bit much. And maybe underneath it all, she doesn’t even have as great a body as the girl wrapped up in sweats you probably overlook or don’t think is anything special. Come to think of it, she fails to fulfill any promise at all. You pass.
People who, at one time, had small arms, and then grew them bigger than anyone ever thought they could (including them) have gone through the same kind of cycle? They immediately are drawn to the workouts that are complex, seem exhaustive and authoritative and are especially busy in terms of the amount of work you must do. They look flashy to the eye and seem intriguing because they appear to require a lot of work. Like high maintenance women, these workouts are anything but beneficial. And they aren’t any great accomplishment? they just keep you busy!
So here’s the deal…
Stop doing arm workouts that are in any way associated with chest or back routines. Throw away all literature that combines the bis with anything but tris and the tris with anything but the bis. They are forever married and should forever be worked together. The other advantage is that negative repetitions you may use exhausting the biceps also work the triceps, and vice versa. Funny how that works, huh?
You thought we’d just give you one workout for bis and one for tris? Ye of little faith!
Keeping biceps and triceps workouts simple is the cardinal rule, but how about variety? Variety is pretty much your only area of free reign because you still must always be mindful of the demon overtraining. However, the way in which you configure a workout in terms of content, is how you personalize your own growth. Maybe you lack density in the upper regions of your triceps, or lack growth on the outer head of your biceps… No matter what the weakness, there is an exercise designed specifically for that lack. Just make sure to keep your workouts simple, concise, and short in duration.
Train the arms -biceps and triceps- twice weekly. One day you’ll be working them heavier and one day in superset fashion, alternating between biceps and triceps to maximize time and intensity.
Think of workouts in this way: One is heavy and intense, and one is moderate, rapid and intense.
This is an intense, heavy workout that is based upon doing single sets and taking a rest in between. It is longer in duration than Workout Two, but is necessary because of the intensity and weight. These sets should be lower in reps, but no lower than 8-10. The point isn’t to get the heaviest lift out of each rep or set, but to get a maximum of reps (8 or so) and feel as though you would fail on the 9th).
-Standing Barbell Curl - or EZ Barbell Curls
-Alternate Dumbbell Curls
-Close-grip Bench Press
-Skull Crushers (French press)
-Overhead Rope Extensions
This workout should actually take you some time. In some ways, it’s just as well since the first of two body part workouts in each week should almost precede in breaking you in for the more intense session that follows.
If you feel that you are lacking in development in one area or another and need to prioritize that area, then configure your workout accordingly and prioritize. These exercises are merely suggestions and represent a full range of development in each area of the biceps and triceps.
Faster paced, higher repetition work that keeps the intensity high and the weight moderate. Use rep schemes of 10-12 for the second workout. Combine one biceps exercise with a corresponding, similar, triceps exercise, to achieve one type of superset.
-Alternate Dumbbell Curls
-Low Pulley Single Biceps Curls
-Single Arm Triceps Extensions
Here’s how the supersets in Workout Two might look:
-Alternate Dumbbell Curls/ Push Downs
-Concentration Curls/ Dips
-Barbell 21’s/ Single Arm Triceps Extensions
Once you finish Alternate Dumbbell Curls, for example, you’ll move immediately to Push Downs to work the triceps, with no rest in between. But keep in mind, these are not like true supersets, which function within the same body part grouping and are designed for maximum intensity and exhaustion. These are "complementary sets" designed to work in tandem to create simultaneous blood flow within the whole arm. One is recuperating while the other is being worked. Once the second triceps exercise is completed within the ‘complementary set’, the biceps are ready to be worked once again.
There is another possibility within this 2nd workout? Instead of supersets of biceps and triceps, you may wish to do 2 exercises within the realm of biceps in superset configuration. So, for example, you may want to do Alternate Dumbbell Curls and French Press (Skull crushers) together as a superset, then superset two exercises each of biceps with triceps in the way we suggest, and then finish off by doing solitary supersets of biceps and triceps with whatever exercises are left over. This bumps the intensity levels way up within each muscle group and in a cardiovascular sense on the whole. It’s yours to configure based on appropriateness and on how you feel on that particular day.
The biggest task is to listen to your body at all times. Your body will dictate what should be ‘so’ for that day. Not all workouts absolutely need to consist of four sets. There is no hard, fast rule that says that you need to eek 16 sets out of 4 exercises. Some days you may want to do just three sets of 4 exercises, or nix one exercise altogether and focus on 4 quality sets for the 3 exercises, totaling only 12. The call is truly yours because, unlike other workouts, the point isn’t to become dependent upon the workout, or the author, it’s to become independent and to learn how to tailor make workouts that suit what your body is telling you on that day.
Along those same lines, so too can a workout employ certain techniques that truly personalize the workout for your needs. For instance, using drop sets, pyramid sets, or taking the last set to failure can also be an option.
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