Ask the Discipline Doc: Turn Up the Heat on Arm Day
Get back to a “guts-and-glory” mindset in the gym with tweaks and tips to bulk up your bi’s and tri’s
By Craig Richardson, IFBB Pro
[Q] My arms are lagging behind my other bodyparts. How much should I be focusing on weight loads to get them to catch up?
[A] Arms are tricky, but in a good way. They’re a little like your back in that you may not need to go super heavy to see dramatic results. Some pros like to keep the weights a little lighter, going as high as 15–20 reps using a full range of motion and getting a good squeeze on each rep. What I like to do when I hit failure is to do ¼ or ½ reps through the bottom of the motion. I don’t swing it, though. I focus on the muscle. This gives me that little extra fiber breakdown I need to see good growth.
You don’t need to go super heavy. That’s not really what bodybuilding is about. The times when I’ve gone really heavy, I’ve sacrificed form for weight. And that didn’t work for me. My joints just ended up sore and I didn’t really get a pump. Train smarter, not heavier.
[Q] How often should I be using compound moves like dips and close-grip benches for triceps? Or are single-joint moves the best way to go?
[A] Well, these multijoint exercises are popular because they provide “greater overload for target muscles.” But I just don’t buy it that these should ever be staple moves for triceps. Personally, I don’t like these exercises, but I’ll throw them in occasionally for variety. You have to be really, really careful with these moves because your chest and shoulders are working so hard in addition to the target muscle. I find sometimes that I’m using those muscles more than my triceps. I don’t suggest them as being the main mass builders in your triceps training.
[Q] A guy at my gym likes to do underhand-grip pull-ups as a compound move for biceps. How do you think they compare to barbell curls?
[A] I don’t rely on them necessarily but there’s no reason they can’t work. A lot of guys that I grew up with who didn’t have access to a lot of weights or equipment did have pull-up bars. And a lot of them have really great arm development. Some of them say that underhand pull-ups are to thank for that. It can work but you have to be careful because of the additional overload on your biceps. As a compound move, do them first in your workout when your energy levels are highest.
[Q] Do you have a favorite “shock” technique for your biceps? What about triceps?
[A] When I really want to shock my arms, I’ll do a ton of drop sets. For example, I’ll do a barbell curl drop set at the barbell tree. I’ll do 15 reps or so with the 110-pound barbell, then 10 reps at 80, all the way to the 30. I’ll do that for four total sets. Then I’ll go to plate-loaded preacher curls and do something similar. Then it’s on to rope hammer curls at a cable station or high-pulley curls, using the same technique. You can do this with any exercise but I like to start using free weights, and then transition over to machines because there’s more safety in place as you fatigue.
Craig’s 5-Point Recipe For Sick Arms
Use these evergreen tips to build your best arms ever
1. Leave ego at the door. It’s not about how much weight you can move.
2. Train to complete failure. Then make sure you get enough food and rest.
3. Focus on form. Always select weight that allows you to have picture-perfect form.
4. Change your routine often. Don’t ever stick to the same routine for very long.
5. Different exercises. Greater variety ensures you’ll work the most muscle fibers over time.