Whether you are looking to build or tone your arms, your training must be approached similarly. Some people genetically have a harder time adding any definition, and this guide will break down a few of the best tips.
1 – Increase Volume
When it comes down to it, if you want a muscle to grow, it needs to be worked more. Stick to basic exercises like:
- Bicep Curls and Variations
- EZ Curl Bar
- Straight Bar
- Varying Grips
- Triceps Extension and Variations
- Cable Pull downs
These staples are necessary for your routine. Make sure to keep your reps high (15+). Better yet, start counting once you feel blood flow into the muscle. Also aim to train your arms two to three times per week.
2 – Drag Curls
This little known exercise really helps stimulate the biceps head. It can be done with an EZ Curl Bar or Straight Bar.
3 – Get Proper Activation
Most people do curls wrong. In fact, most exercises are done incorrectly. Don’t just do an exercise to move, concentrate on what you are doing. You need to think about the muscle or muscles you want to stimulate. With a biceps curl, flex your bicep BEFORE you curl the weight up. You will reach max contraction of the muscles at the top of the movement when the muscle is shortest. Finally, keep the muscle contracted as you go back down. Paying attention to this will ensure that you keep max tension on your biceps and get the most out of curls (or any exercise).
4 – Work the Negatives
Before we discussed doing more work (volume). This comes into play with negatives as well. You may have heard of negatives before, and may even already do them with exercises such as Bench Press, Lat Pulldowns, and Lunges. There are three phases to any movement – Concentric (lifting), Isometric (no movement, usually at the top or bottom), and Eccentric (lowering). Few people know that the portion of movement that makes you sore is the Eccentric/Lowering (also known as the negative). Paying special attention to this phase not only makes your muscles sore, but also makes them work harder. You can experiment with doing timed negatives (3,510+ seconds) but keep your reps a bit lower (3-6ish). Also, note that this is probably best done AFTER you have finished your other arm work. Use negatives to empty the tank and burn the remaining energy you have left.
5 – Exercise Variety
Negatives are not only great because the force the muscle to work harder, but they also add variety. Muscles only grow when stimulated, so doing the same arm routine over and over will prevent any change. There are several techniques you can use to push your arms to a new level.
- Forced Reps
- You need a training partner for this. When reaching the end of an exercise set (and are tired), have a partner help you force out a few more reps. This will shock the muscle and force it to become stronger. ALWAYS KEEP GOOD FORM!
- Partial Reps
- After being fatigued from doing your set, force half or quarter reps until you can no longer move the weight.
- Super Sets
- Follow up a bicep curl with a tricep press down or a dumbbell curl with a hammer curl. Supersets help increase blood to the target muscle and those surrounding it.