Roll up, roll up! Your sleeves that is. Better yet, throw out anything with sleeves, because it’s time to pack on some serious size to your biceps and triceps. Your arms may not be a large muscle group, but big and defined arm muscles aren’t only visually pleasing, they’re as sought after as a defined 6 pack and arguably much easier to achieve.
Yet trainers have all sorts of issues when it comes to getting results in that region. From poor exercise selection to poor technique, putting size on your arms can be a frustrating process. We’re here though to cut the fat and give you 7 of the best tips to boost the activation of your bi’s and tri’s and add inches to your arms.
But First Check Out Ryan Pedone's Big Bicep Workout
1. Toughen Up Your Wrists
No other injury is as damaging to your workout progress as a wrist injury. Depending on the severity, you might not be able to do any upper body exercises or any free weight exercises at all if it hurts just picking up a weight plate. If you want to get serious about building big bi’s and tri’s, you’re going to have to add on weight and if your wrists can’t handle it, you might as well call it quits. There a few excellent exercises to built wrist and grip strength including plates holds, plate curls and barbell twists, but one of the best is simply a straight barbell curl. The straight bar places greater strain on the wrist than an EZY bar, so start off with that to help build wrist strength.
2. Lift Heavy, But Not Too Heavy
Have you ever seen that ego lifter in the gym trying to curl 25 kg dumbbells but ended up recruiting every other body part to get the weight up? While it’s important to use a heavy weight to help recruit muscle fibres, your arm muscles don’t need as much weight as your other major muscle groups in order to grow. Train smart and focus on your mind-muscle connection and your contractions rather than trying to lift the heaviest weight you can.
3. Cheat Curls Are Fine
A lot of gym goers tut tut at cheat curls and cheat reps, but those are also the guys who seem to have smaller arms. Cheat curls are an overreaching technique that helps to increase the intensity of an exercise, just as supersets and drop sets are. What cheat curls don’t mean though is doing them for every, single rep. This is counter productive, unless of course you were aiming for a whole body workout. The idea of cheat curls is to do as many proper reps as possible and then use slight momentum from either your hips or your knees to help drive a few more reps. Try to aim for less than 5 reps using cheat curls.
4. Internal & External Rotations
While it’s true that your elbow joint only works in one plane of motion, your biceps and triceps are made of more than one muscle. In fact, your biceps are made of 2 heads or segments if you well, while your triceps consist of 3, hence the prefix ‘bi’ and ‘tri’. Incorporating internal and external rotations to your lifts can really help to boost the stimulation and activation of certain segments. For example, during a tricep kick back, turning the hand into and towards your body will help to focus on the outer head of the tricep. Similarly doing twisting dumbbell curls instead of straight up and down ones, not only recruits some accessory arm muscles that add to a bigger arm, it also helps to maximally recruit the biceps. This technique is best for dumbbell exercises and rope exercises on cable machines.
5. Range of Motion Matters...Sometimes
This is especially true with triceps where you often need to go beyond the head to really activate the long head of the triceps. Focus on getting a really good stretch when doing exercises such as dips, seated triceps press and skull crushers with dumbbells. However, range of motion is not as important when it comes to biceps, due to the complete lack of tension at the very top of the movement. Time under tension is one of the key factors affecting muscle growth, so keeping your bicep curls in a range of motion that maintains tension throughout is ideal.
6. From Failure Comes Growth
Training to failure isn’t always easy, especially when you’re working out by yourself. However, arm training to failure is easy and much less dangerous than compound exercises such as deadlifts, squats and bench press. Make sure you take advantage of that by incorporating at least 4 sets of any arm exercise to failure at the end of your workouts. To kick things up a notch, utilising a variation in the rest pause method can boost the pump even further. To perform it, finish a set to failure. Rest for 5-10 seconds and perform another set to failure. Repeat 3 times. If you’re training correctly, you won’t be able to do more than 1 rep by the end of it.
7. Exercise & Equipment Selection
Exercise selection can be an important factor in how much growth you’re going to get. Some exercises are just generally more fatiguing than others, however there’s a lot of individual variation. For example, bicep dumbbell or barbell curls tend to be harder than a cable curl for a lot of people. Whereas skull crushers might be more fatiguing than a close grip bench press. The key is to simply mix things up and also incorporate underused exercises and equipment such as the Zottman Curl, Across the Body Bicep Curls and using kettlebells for arm extensions due to the different weight distribution pattern.
Shake Up Your Workout With Nick Jones' Creative Bicep Training
Take Your Time
Building muscle takes time, effort and a whole heap of patience. But there’s a certain technique and science behind it just as with your compound movements. Force your arms to grow with the above 7 tips to help boost bicep and tricep activation and time under tension. And remember, if you can touch your shoulders or scratch your back comfortably after an arm workout, you haven’t done enough.