Your 6 Secrets to Big Arms
Think building big arms is all about choosing the right exercises? Think again. Here are 6 keys to adding an extra inch to your bi’s.
By Bill Geiger, MA
Let me apologize in advance if you thought these four biceps exercises were going to somehow deliver magical results. They won’t. But allow me to fill you in on a secret that longtime bodybuilders know that few newcomers care to believe: It’s more than just the exercises you do that matter most. That’s right, selecting the best exercises is just one variable that affects your overall success in building big arms. You want to know the others? Here’s a summary:
1) Get the order right
Perform the best mass-building movement early in your workout when fatigue levels are low, those with which you can push around the most weight and generate just enough momentum to get you over a sticking point.
2) Load up the volume
Not doing enough heavy sets won’t provide the muscle-building stimulus you need, let alone trigger the hormonal bath that’s conducive to building bigger arms. Though you can certainly overdo it — as many beginners mistakenly do — aim for at least 8–10 working sets on biceps day.
3) Work in a rep range that actually builds muscle
You may not be acquainted with the scientific research in the field of exercise science, but you should know that not all sets are created equally, at least when it comes to building muscle. A tough set of eight reps may be just as hard as doing a tough set of 20, but you’d have to use a much lighter weight on the set of 20, and that weight won’t be sufficient to maximally build muscle. You want to reach muscle failure between 8–12 reps.
4) Bump up the intensity
Reaching the point of muscle failure is critical in the growth equation as opposed to simply ending the set when discomfort sets in. While you don’t want to take every set past muscle failure, strategically taking 1–2 sets of every exercise beyond failure can speed growth if you can withstand the intense pain that comes with this type of training. With each of the biceps exercises listed we recommend a strategy for working past failure, although there are certainly plenty of others to choose from that range from forced reps to negatives, drop sets and partials.
5) Get out of your comfort zone
While a workout may at first seem like it really works, after a while your body grows accustomed to it and any changes in muscle strength and growth begin to slow down. Rather than doing the same workout again, it’s time to introduce some changes into your routine. Here, we recommend several alternatives to each move to reduce your chance of hitting a training plateau and ensuring those gains continue.
6) Finally, don’t expect results overnight
Good bodybuilders have been training hard for many years; guys with pretty good physiques probably a year or two. Be in it for the long haul; consistency matters and skipped workouts add up. If you really want big arms you’re going to have to pay the price. We all have to pay it.
You need to realize that the road to bigger biceps consists of a lot more than just a list of exercises, and maximizing all those factors puts you on the fast track to growth. Stay hungry to learn more and try new ideas and you’ll quickly separate yourself from the dozens of others in your gym who may be training hard, but not making near the progress that you are.