Master Angles for More Muscle


Use every angle at your disposal in the gym to build thicker, fuller muscle bellies.

By Joel Stubbs, IFBB Pro; Photography by Paul Buceta; Model: IFBB Pro Joel Stubbs

[Q] Hey Joel, for chest, I like to stick to the major moves like flat bench press and incline bench press. But after a while, as you may imagine, this gets a bit boring. Are there ways I can shake things up a bit and still get the benefits of these moves?

[A] There are various ways to work the chest and not fall into a rut. I am old school, of course, so I love working the barbell bench press and incline barbell press. However, since you’re already doing those moves, you can vary the workout a bit and still get the same benefits. Nowadays, I split my chest workout into three distinct workouts, each of which is a bit different from the others. Always begin with a warm-up exercise, using a lighter weight just to get the blood flowing to the pecs. For that reason, I’ll usually start with the pec-deck machine. Workout No. 1 will be with barbells, doing incline first, then flat bench and finishing with decline presses. Workout No. 2 will be the same format as No. 1, but with dumbbells ⎯ incline, flat and decline. Workout No. 3 will employ the Hammer-Strength machine press, again going incline, flat and decline, but this time finishing the pecs off with dumbbell flyes, cable crossovers and pullovers.

Joel, I know you’re big on heavy rows for back, but I’ve seen a lot of variation in how much people bend their hips. Shouldn’t my torso be close to parallel to the ground to hit my lats the best? I see a lot of the pros standing almost straight up!

[A] Well as far as bent-over rows go, the question is “How low can you go?” To target the middle back and lats properly, you’ll need to bend over fairly low so that you’re pulling nearly perpendicular to your body. If you observe my lifts, I go low. When you stay down and row upward, you’ll actually feel it in the upper lats and middle back more so than in your upper. The guys who row in an almost upright position are shifting the emphasis to their shoulders, upper traps and biceps. It’d be better to just go a bit lighter and bend more at the waist to properly target the lats.

[Q] Do you recommend using different angles for training biceps, or are regular curls enough?

[A] Using different angles is always a good idea because the tension is applied on the muscle fibers in different ways, giving you a more complete-looking muscle. I use several angles with biceps to feel and shape the muscle group as best as I can. So-called regular curls are just not good enough when it comes to building a dynamic set of biceps. You’ll have to use all the different angles at your disposal ⎯ neutral (hammer), concentration, preacher and incline bench ⎯ if you expect to reach the full potential of your biceps.

[Q] Joel, how many different angles should I use for triceps? I usually do an overhead extension, a pressdown and a skullcrusher.

[A] All three of these exercises are good ⎯ the overhead extension targets the long head, the pressdown works the lateral head and the skullcrusher uses a bit of all three heads. But I noticed you don’t have any reverse grip movements here, which you should. For these, you can do two-arm or one-arm variations using the cable station to drive the emphasis to the sometimes-undertrained medial head of the triceps. I use every angle in the book and my triceps training is pretty heavy on volume (27 sets) because of that. Your triceps are responsible for most of your arm mass, so if you truly want big arms, you have to throw the kitchen sink at your tri’s training! And don’t forget, you can also include multijoint triceps moves such as dips, bench dips and close-grip bench presses.


More muscle heads require more attention; the world’s biggest bodybuilder rationalizes. Here’s a peek at his monster, 27-set triceps routine that hits every part of the muscle.

Exercise  Sets  Reps
V-Bar Pressdown  4 15
One-Arm Pressdown  3 15
Reverse-Grip EZ-Bar Pressdown  4 15
One-Arm Reverse-Grip Pressdown  3 12
Hammer-Strength Machine Dip 4 12
Bench Dip 3 12
Dumbbell Overhead Extension 3 12
Dumbbell Kickback 3 12

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