Build Bigger Arms in 8 Weeks!

Complete Arm Workout for Biceps and Triceps

Building bigger arms takes hard work, consistency and dedication … and the right program. And that’s just what we have, courtesy of Joe Donnelly.

From the first time you walked into a gym to your most recent workout, it’s likely one of your main goals has remained the same, regardless of how many years you’ve been at it: Build bigger arms.

But unfortunately, wanting it doesn’t necessarily going to mean you’re going to get it. Getting there takes hard work, consistency and dedication … and the right program. And that’s just what we have, courtesy of Joe Donnelly, in the form of this eight-week Arm Assault Program that will shock your biceps and triceps into growing like never before.

Tension Tactics

Exercise selection, sets, reps and rest time are all key factors that can make or break a workout. They’re also variables you’ve most likely changed over time in some way, shape or form. We’re betting there’s one all-important factor you’ve ignored, to some degree, on your journey to bigger arms. That factor? Time under tension, which is the foundation of the eight-week Arm Assault Program.

When you perform a rep of any exercise (if you’re doing it properly, of course) the muscle you are working is put under tension. The time under tension is the total time the muscle is placed under tension during both the positive (eccentric) and negative (concentric) portions of the exercise. If you’re like most people, your typical rep speed – or time under tension – is around three seconds. That means if you’re performing a curl, you take around two seconds on the way up (the concentric portion) and one second on the way down (the eccentric portion).

“The average person does between eight to 10 reps in any given set,” Donnelly says, “so the actual time under tension for that set is anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. Studies have shown us that maximum muscle hypertrophy occurs when the muscle is under tension in the 35- to 40-second range, so that’s what you’ll shoot for with this program, on most of your arm exercises. You’ll have to fight the urge to use speed to finish the rep as the pain increases.”

Arm Assault Program

In this program, you’ll slow down your reps on select exercises to seven seconds – three seconds on the concentric portion, a one-second pause at the top for a peak contraction, then three more seconds on the eccentric portion. On those exercises, you’ll only be shooting for five reps. Do the math, and that’s 35 to 40 seconds per exercise, roughly 10 to 15 more seconds of tension than what you’re likely used to. On those exercises, Donnelly recommends starting light – very light – to help get down the tempo and to resist the urge to speed up your reps.

“Don’t pick up a 30-pound dumbbell and try to curl it for seven seconds,” Donnelly says. “I was literally taught with a 10-pound dumbbell and to count – one one-thousand, two two-thousand, three three-thousand – to get the feel for how slow seven seconds really is and how long it really takes. And by that fifth rep both arms were burning so bad.”

You’ll only be performing seven-second reps on select exercises. On the others, you’ll use your usual rep speed for anywhere from eight to 14 reps.

“There is still something to be said for using regular-tempo reps,” Donnelly says. “You still want to overload the body using heavier weight. Thirty-pound dumbbells on slow bench presses aren’t going to do much – you’re better served doing heavier bench presses and mixing in some time under tension exercises on isolation movements. You’ll build the most lean muscle mass when you have a mix of methods and training principles.”

You’ll be training biceps and triceps twice a week during the next eight weeks, once with a larger body part and once on a day dedicated entirely to arms. Your first arm day can pair legs with biceps, then you can pair chest with triceps on your second. Compound movements recruit more total muscle mass, which leads to a big metabolic stress on the body – the perfect recipe for releasing more testosterone and spiking growth hormone levels.

On day one, you’ll do biceps for your first workout of the week. To increase the intensity, you can also incorporate some leg exercises into this day as well, including leg extensions, barbell squat, hang cleans and stiff-legged deadlifts.

“The focus here is hitting both heads of the biceps, which we do by varying our grip placement,” Donnelly says. “Far too many people have underdeveloped biceps because they constantly use the same type of grip that leads to neglecting either the long or short head of the biceps.”

Day two is triceps and you can also add chest exercises to this day if you want to take it up a notch – including incline dumbbell press, barbell bench press, flat bench dumbbell press and flat bench dumbbell flye. Your third arm workout will come at the end of the week, after a rest day. This will ensure you’re fresh to finish off the week strong and put all of your focus and energy into biceps and triceps.


For cardio, Donnelly stresses only high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, for 12 to 15 minutes per workout. Don’t be fooled – this isn’t a less is more approach. More like less and more.

“The only type of cardio that promotes lean muscle gain and increases metabolic rate and growth hormone release is HIIT,” Donnelly says. “True HIIT cardio is 15 minutes or less, realistically like 12 minutes or less for mass-gaining intervals. Meaning you’ll do something as hard as you can for 12 to 15 seconds followed by a rest period two to three times of what that max interval is.”

Donnelly strongly recommends deadmill sprints – turning off a treadmill, then manually powering the treadmill belt by holding on to the side of the machine and running at an all-out sprint for 12-15 seconds. The StepMill, elliptical and stationary bike can also be used.

Since it’s only 12 to 15 minutes, perform your cardio after your workout. “I’m a big fan of being in the gym once and done,” Donnelly says, “Get in, get done and get out.”

Cardio frequency depends on your starting point. If you’re under 12 percent body fat, Donnelly recommends two to three sessions a week; if you’re over, four to five sessions.


“I’m a big fan of liquid nutrition when you’re talking about pre- and post-workout,” Donnelly says. “When you eat within 60 to 90 minutes, a lot of the body’s energy can be used to break down that food. But you still want to get calories in the body, of course.”

That means shakes. Donnelly recommends a combination of 30 to 45 grams of protein 45 minutes before, then 20 to 30 grams of carbs 10 minutes after that.

“Something with a little bit of sugar, like a Gatorade is fine,” Donnelly says. “You’re removing the digestion part of the situation so you’re not going to be tired digesting your food while trying to complete a strenuous lift.”

Post-workout will follow along the same lines. But, unlike some, Donnelly recommends waiting on the whey protein.

“Everybody thinks that as soon as you finish lifting, you need to get your protein in right away,” he says. “That’s one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Studies have shown that protein synthesis is increased by about 30 percent when taking in simple carbs first, then following that up with whey protein. Immediately post-workout, you want to get in 20 to 30 grams of a simple sugar, then around 30 minutes later is when you want to get 30 to 45 grams of whey protein.”



Sunday Legs/Biceps

Monday Chest/Triceps

Tuesday Back/ Abs

Wednesday Shoulders/Calves

Thursday – Off

Friday – Arms/Abs

Saturday – Optional Training Day



The Workouts


+EZ Bar Spider Curl

4 sets x 14 reps

*Alternating Dumbbell Curl

3 sets x 5 reps

*Rope Hammer Curl

3 sets x 5 reps

+Alternate inside/outside grip

*7-second time-under-tension lift



Weighted Dips

4 sets x 8-10 reps

*Single-Arm Rope Kickback

3 sets x 5 reps

Bodyweight Skull-Crusher

3 sets to failure

*7-second time-under-tension lift



+EZ Bar Spider Curl

4 sets x 14 reps

*Alternating Dumbbell Curl

3 sets x 5 reps

Incline High Cable Curl

4 sets x 12-15 reps

*Rope Hammer Curl

3 sets x 5 reps (last set drop set)

+ Alternate inside/outside grip

*7-second time-under-tension lift


Dumbbell Lockout Press

3 sets x 15 reps

Superset with

*Single-Arm Rope Kickback

3 sets x 5 reps

Bodyweight Skull-Crusher

3 sets to failure

*7-second time-under-tension lift




E-Z Bar Spider Curl

Set an incline bench to a 45-degree angle and grab an EZ bar with a close grip, where the bar curves on the inside. Let your arms hang straight down, so the bar is directly under your chest. Curl the weight up towards your forehead. Pause and squeeze for a peak contraction, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position.

JOE’S TIPS: “You’re alternating between narrow and wide grips to attack both heads of the biceps. A lot of people put the bench at too high of an incline and that forces them to bring their shoulders back too far. The whole point of a spider curl is to let your arms hang to stress the long head of the biceps. When you curl, focus on really attacking the peak of the biceps. Use a light enough weight where as you curl get the weight up almost to your face.”


Alternating Dumbbell Curl

Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Slowly curl one arm up, supinating the wrist (turning pinky up to the ceiling) on the way up so your palm is now facing your chest. Curl for a three-second count. Pause and squeeze at the top for a one-count, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position on a three-count, turning your wrist back to a palms-in grip at the bottom. Repeat with the other arm. 

JOE’S TIPS: “I’m a big fan of supinating the wrist. I use the term ‘over-rotate’ at the top, meaning as you come up to the top rotate your hand out a little more to force the sweep of the outer head of the biceps.”


Rope Hammer Curl

Attach a rope handle to a low cable pulley apparatus. Face the pulley and grab the rope with a palms-in grip. Curl the rope up for a three-second count, pulling the rope handles out to the sides of your face as you do. Pause at the top for one second and squeeze, then lower to the starting position on a three-count.

JOE’S TIP: “Remove the ego and choose a light weight. On the third and final set do a drop set to complete failure.”


Incline High Cable Curl
Attach an EZ bar attachment to in a lat pulldown apparatus. Sit in the machine with your back facing away from the weight stack and lean back so your upper body is at a 45-degree angle. Reach up and grab the handle with a narrow grip, so your arms are fully extended above your head. Keeping your shoulders locked and body at a 45-degree angle, curl the bar to your forehead. Pause and squeeze for a peak contraction, then extend your arms back to the starting position.

JOE’S TIP: “Use a light weight on this exercise. Curl the bar as close to your forehead as you can for a maximum biceps contraction. Keep your back on the pad throughout the exercise.”



Weighted Dips

Attach a weighted belt and a 25- to 45-pound plate. Grab the handles of a dip bar, hands positioned so they are directly under your shoulders. Keeping your upper body as straight as possible and your knees bent, lower your body by bending at the elbows. Stop when your elbows are bent about 90 degrees, then push up until you are back at the starting position.

JOE’S TIPS: “This can be a chest or triceps exercise, it all depends on the body position. When you lean forward, it hits more of the chest; when you do them upright it’s about an 80/20 split targeting the triceps.”


Dumbbell Lockout Press

Lie on your back on a bench, holding a dumbbell over your head by gripping the bell with both hands, palms facing up. Move the dumbbell over your chest, then slowly lower it down by flaring out your elbows. Pause, then press the dumbbell up to the starting position over your chest.

JOE’S TIPS: “Keep your elbows a little more turned out when you reach the bottom of the movement and squeeze them together as you press the dumbbell back up. This will hit the inside head of the triceps instead of the outer head.”


Bodyweight Skull-crusher

Place your feet on a flat bench and stretch out, extending your body so your hands are placed on a flat bench in front of you, about shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be slightly angled when extended in the starting position. Lower your body by bending at the elbows, keeping your back straight on the way down, so that your head lowers to just below the bench in front of you and your body is parallel with the floor. Pause, then push back up to the starting position by extending your elbows.


JOE’S TIPS: “A lot of people are going to want to flare out the elbows here because it makes you stronger – don’t. You want to get a deep stretch, pressing up with the palms of your hands on a bench and forcing a stretch on the triceps as opposed to flaring out the elbows and using too much front delt.”


BONUS BEGINNER TIP: “This is a very hard exercise to do. I recommend beginners use a Smith machine and set the bar about three feet off the ground and start with their body at a 45-degree angle to the bar. As you get better, you can lower the bar down so the body is completely parallel with the floor.”


Single-arm Rope Cable Triceps Kickback
Attach a rope handle to a low cable pulley machine and grasp one end of the rope with an overhand grip. Take a long step back from the pulley and get in a staggered stance, so that your back leg is the same side as your working arm. Bend down until your upper body is at a 30- to 45-degree angle with the floor, and bring your working elbow up to your side at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your elbow in place and tight by your side, extend your arm back as far as possible on a three-count. Squeeze the triceps for a one-count, then slowly lower the weight back down on a three-count.

JOE’S TIP: “Keep your elbow and upper arm at the same angle with your upper body during this exercise. This is strictly an isolation exercise, so you won’t need to use a lot of weight at all. Make sure to squeeze the triceps at the top of the movement.”


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