5 Golden Rules for Success
Lots of guys complain that they have small arms despite having done tons of biceps curls. But the trouble isn’t their biceps—it’s actually their chest, shoulders, back, and legs. You see, your muscles almost never grow in isolation. So when those muscles are weaker than they should be, they limit the size and strength of everything else—including your arms. Learn how to develop total-body strength while creating a base that allows you to build bigger arms with our 5 golden exercise and nutrition rules.
1. MORE-MUSCLE EXERCISE GUIDELINES:
Ok, let’s start with the basics. Learning how to build muscle isn’t complicated. So don’t get bogged down with complex routines. Keeping your workouts simple and straightforward is the fastest path to more muscle. Let’s start with the 3 most important pieces of information you need to maximise the amount of muscle you build. The numbers below are based on beginner/intermediate levels of training experience and are adapted from the US National Strength and Conditioning Association.
1. Ideal number of reps: 8-12
2. Ideal amount of rest between sets: 60 seconds
3. Ideal amount of weight: 80% – As a percentage of your 1 repetition max (1RM)
This is not to say that variations outside of these guidelines don’t have their place in your workouts. In fact, varying up your routine by changing variables such as frequency, intensity, time, and including overload principles such as supersets help to keep your routine fresh, reduce boredom and continually challenge your body to adapt and grow. Rather, consider these guidelines a foundation for your routine and one which you are able to build upon as you progress.
2. COMPOUND EXERCISES ARE KING:
Ok, so which exercises are best for a pair of sleeve-busting biceps? While it’s likely you’ll gain some localized hypertrophy (specific muscle growth through repetitive targeted movements – think of soccer players calf muscles or a mechanics forearms) – through regularly training only your arms (4 times a week approx), moves which isolate your arms are only half the equation.
The real power comes from multi-muscle compound moves. These are exercises which recruit and engage large amounts of muscle and release the greatest amount of naturally-occurring anabolic hormones such as testosterone, insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and human growth hormone (HGH) which prime and signal your body to grow.
Such classic compound moves include the squat, pull up, shoulder press, bench press, leg press, lunge, lat pull down, seated row, bent over row and upright row. It is these exercises you’ll want to base your workouts around, either in a split or total body workout format.
There are scientifically-supported arguments for the use of both training styles. However, if you are just starting out, there is strong evidence to suggest that a total body approach is best before advancing to a split routine. Using the workout guidelines posted above, an excellent full body workout with an emphasis on arm development would look something like this:
Lat pull down
Alternate hammer curl
Bent over row
3. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR TRICEPS:
Building your triceps, not your biceps, is the biggest secret to bigger arms. Your triceps make up approximately 2/3 of your upper arm girth so it makes sense to dedicate some time to building up these all-important muscles. While triceps-specific isolation exercises like the triceps extension, skull-crusher, French press and triceps kickback have their place in your routine, following on from the discussion about the importance of compound moves, two of the very best exercises which increase triceps muscle activation are dips and close-grip bench press/push ups. Bringing your hands together during any ‘pressing’ movement (such as the bench press or shoulder press), will place more emphasis on your triceps, so be sure to include these in your routine.
4. BIGGER FOREARMS = BIGGER BICEPS:
Guaranteed to improve your grip strength, a strong set of forearms can also aid in the development of your upper arms and assist with all-important compound lifts such as pull ups and deadlifts. If you want bulging biceps, you need a strong grip. Without it you won’t be able to lift heavy, plus you’ll risk injury. To build your forearms try the reverse barbell curl. It’s just like a conventional barbell curl, except you hold the bar with an overhand grip.
How to do it: Start with the bar lightly touching the front of your thighs with your arms at full extension. Curl the bar up to your chest in a controlled movement, squeezing at the top of the movement. Do two sets of 8-10 reps at the end of your arm workout.
5. FUEL YOUR MUSCLES:
Proper nutrition is single-handedly the most important aspect in your quest for bigger, more defined arms. Food is your fuel. What you put in your tank will make or break your success. Protein is the best known fuel for more muscle, but it has a hugely valuable ally: carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give the green light for more muscle. Here is a general macronutrient breakdown of what you should shoot for each day:
Protein: Most experts agree that one to 1 ½ grams of protein per lb. of body weight is best for muscle growth.
Carbohydrates: When trying to gain muscle, you need around 2-3 grams per lb. of body weight of preferably complex carbohydrates.
Essential Fats: Fat intake should be kept low. This can be done by simple “clean” eating – lean meat and dairy sources of protein and complex carbohydrates. You can use add an omega 3 fatty acid supplement or use flax seed oil to ensure you are getting an adequate intake of healthy fat.
Below is a sample 3 day nutrition plan tailored for a 75kg bloke looking who wants to add upwards of 4kg of muscle, 10% more strength and lose 2-3% body fat.
Breakfast: 3 fried eggs on wholegrain toast with 4 slices of bacon
Snack: Packet of beef jerky, few slices of cheese
Lunch: Avocado, tuna, spinach salad
Snack: Bag of salami, handful of pecans
Dinner: Rack of lamb with broccoli, corn and cabbage
Breakfast: 3 eggs, scrambled, with slab of cheddar cheese
Snack: Avocado with cooked prawns and olive oil
Lunch: Sashimi with dried edamame beans
Snack: 100g mixed nuts
Dinner: Chicken stir-fry on a bed of asparagus, celery, spinach, onion and capsicum
Breakfast: 2-3 slices of wholegrain toast with jam, plus bowl of wholegrain cereal
Snack: Peanut butter bagel
Lunch: Chicken fried rice (Chinese-style)
Snack: 100g cottage cheese on crackers
Dinner: 4 pork chops with cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus
Jon McShea writes for clickfitpro, a leading destination for muscle-building blueprints, healthy diet plans, fitness tips and losing belly fat. To learn more, please visit the site.