By IFBB Pro Josh Wade
With arms, just trying to lift heavier repeatedly is a recipe for disaster. That’s why I do a lot of supersets to make the weight feel heavier and put more tension on the muscle.
Q: I’ve been having trouble getting my arms to grow. I’m not sure if I should train them more frequently, or heavier? There is so much different information out there that it confuses me.
Everyone is different. Some people have muscle groups that grow incredibly fast or muscle groups that are so stubborn, it just takes time no matter what you do. Personally, my arms are long for being 5-foot-9 and have always been my slowest responding muscle group. I now feel that my arms match my body and are no longer a weak point, and I’ll tell you what has worked for me. I train arms twice a week with one day as a dedicated arm day, then I’ll add 8-12 sets of triceps after a muscle group three days later and the next day I’ll do the same with biceps to give them extra work plus also push extra nutrients in them to keep them fuller.
I always felt the best mind-muscle connection when keeping a three-second negative resistance on every rep. That creates such an incredible burn in the muscle that your mind has no choice but to feel the connection. I feel if a muscle is burning then it’s under constant tension. Also, that burn represents the anaerobic threshold which means you are forcing more blood into the muscle than can dissipate, which creates massive lactic acidosis and increases growth hormone as a response!
The second thing that works for me is that I almost always start my arm workouts with a superset to get a great pump. This also warms up the joints before I get into heavier or compound lifts. One thing to really pay attention to especially when doing triceps is that when you apply that negative resistance on every rep, after the first couple of sets when you straighten your arms and flex your triceps, they should feel like they want to cramp. That’s a good way to know you’re engaging them throughout the whole motion.
You must remember that with arms, just trying to lift heavier repeatedly is a recipe for disaster. That’s why I do a lot of supersets to make the weight feel heavier and put more tension on the muscle. This makes the muscle work harder but with less strain on the tendons. Every time I train heavy on arms, I just end up with bad tendinitis which inhibits productive workouts due to pain. Keep your form tight and keep tension on the muscle.
Here is an example what an arm workout of mine might look like. Keep in mind that I apply a three-second negative on all reps on all of these exercises.
Bent-Bar Pushdowns: 5 x15-12
(Keep the bar close to your body both directions)
Bent-Over Extensions: 5 x12
(Where you turn your back to the stack and bend over at the waist)
Close-Grip Bench Press
Lying Triceps Extensions: 4×12-10
Dips, Dip Machine OR Bench Dips: 4 x12 or failure
Palms-Up Dumbbell Curls: 5 x12-10
Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 5 x12-10
(On the last set of both exercises, I’ll tack on 3-4 partials from the stretched position after reaching failure)
Wide EZ-Bar Curls: 4 x12-10
One-Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curls: 4 x12-10
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