The Perfect Pump
When it comes to training arms, keep your mind on the muscle, not the weight.
By Shelby Starnes
Many people tend to forget that training arms is more about the pump and driving blood into the muscles, and less about lifting crazy, heavy weight. Keeping tension on the muscle for eight to 15 reps with slow negatives will help you achieve a desired pump. Doing three-rep sets of ultra-heavy barbell curls won’t.
This arms workout consists of four sets of six exercises. Do a warm-up set before each movement until you find a weight you can use for all four working sets. Since your arms aren’t a big body part like your legs, they don’t require as much time to recover. Cap your rest periods off at a minute for each working set. Your last rep should be a struggle, but if it’s too much of a struggle and your form falls apart, reduce the weight as necessary.
Above all, during each set try not to think about it as “moving the weight.” With a dumbbell curl, for example, view it as flexing your biceps to initiate movement that takes a dumbbell from point A to point B. Why do that? Because when you’re only focused on moving weight, you’re not effectively working the muscle.
Pro Tip: Start with rope pushdowns to send blood into the triceps without much elbow involvement. Keep your elbows tucked close to your sides for the entire set. If your arms or elbows ride up or you find yourself hunched over and recruiting the shoulders for help, you’re using too much weight. At the bottom of each rep, give a hard one-second flex.
Decline Bench Skullcrushers
Pro Tip: Starting a workout with skullcrushers is a great way to destroy your elbows. But by this time in the routine the arms and elbows should be plenty warm, so executing movements that place more stress on the elbows is okay. Since you’ve already pre-exhausted the muscle and your primary focus is on the stretch, there’s no need to use a lot of weight. You can enhance the triceps stretch by allowing the bar to go way behind your head. Then press the bar up to about three-fourths of full extension. I’d suggest using an EZ curl bar, which might be gentler on your wrists than a straight bar.
Pro Tip: Use a wide grip to hit the outer biceps head. Your tempo can be a little faster here so long as your reps don’t get sloppy. The objective is to keep the bar moving for 15 controlled reps. Your elbows should remain by your sides for the entire set. If you find yourself relying on momentum or leaning back and recruiting the shoulders for help, reduce the amount of weight.
Shelby Starnes is a bodybuilding and nutrition coach. Visit him at shelbystarnes.com