The Most Effective Way Ever to Build Your Own Blazing Guns:
A 12-Week Program for Guaranteed Results.
The desire to build the biggest set of arms is what first hooks many into a life of lifting. Stretching the shirtsleeves courtesy of enormous “cannons” is in fact one of the biggest motivating factors for lifters at all levels.
Let’s face it, younger bodybuilding hopefuls are almost unanimously fixated on developing biceps and triceps that attract the most amount of attention in the shortest possible time. And who can blame them? When it comes to building the physique, there’s nothing quite as appealing as an impressive set of well-shaped, shredded and ultra-massive arms.
This quest for gargantuan guns is not confined to the newbie lifter. It seems we all want Arnold-like upper appendages that command attention and respect while conveying formidable strength. Visible from all angles, the biceps and triceps are by far the most celebrated of muscle groupings. However, despite being a comparatively smaller complex, building them to impressive proportions can be a complicated task. That is, without the right knowledge and expertise to guide the way.
hitting arms more than twice a week with every imaginable movement, potentially overtraining them, may also limit their ultimate development.
What is needed is a perfectly balanced approach incorporating just enough volume and intensity combined with the right movements and training techniques to stimulate the positive adaptation that leads to continuous growth. If you’re looking to upgrade your arm development and are willing to put in the work, we have the perfect strategy for you.
This article will instruct you on exactly how to go about the business of building this most coveted of muscle groupings. An open mind and a willingness to outwork the competition is all you’ll need to add inches to your arm development, regardless of what stage of the training game you are at. Get ready to flesh out your guns, one perfect rep at a time!
Reps, Sets and Volume: A Superior Approach
Contrary to bodybuilding folklore, because the arms are smaller by comparison to say the back or legs does not necessarily mean they should be trained any less intensively or with fewer sets or reps. In fact, because they are comprised of a range of smaller muscles, each with individual functions and in need of a specific training stimulus to grow, the arms should be hit from all angles with a number of different movements. Dumbbell curls for biceps and pressdowns for triceps are only just the beginning.
…the arms should be hit from all angles with a number of different movements.
The key to successfully blasting the biceps and triceps is to use enough weight to stimulate a maximum amount of overload, or the mechanical tension needed to force fresh growth.3 Like any other muscle group, the arms also require a maximum degree of metabolic stress (the accumulation of metabolic byproducts such as lactate) to ensure optimal growth (both these areas will be discussed in greater detail soon).
Repping for Maximum Growth
This means that in order to successfully spark the supercompensation needed to produce impressive growth we must lift heavy iron in a controlled fashion through a full range of motion while pumping as much blood as we possibly can into the arms. To do so, use a rep range of 10-12, serving as a fundamental basis for growth. This will allow the utilization of heavy weights to thoroughly stimulate all available muscle fibers and enough volume to fully engorge the arms with blood.
While 15-rep sets may not provide the mechanical tension needed to force extreme growth they do have their place as ‘finishers’ to enhance blood volume to the working muscles, thus aiding sought-after pump and eliciting maximum metabolic stress. The inclusion of partial reps on certain key movements is also effective in small doses and will form part of the blazing guns plan to follow.
Setting the Foundation and Pumping Up the Volume
There is no need to go beyond three work sets for each of the arm movements to follow. After a warm-up set using a weight 50 percent lighter than that of your first work set (for the first two movements of each workout), it’s time to up the intensity and set the foundation for the sets to follow.This means keeping the form super-strict and feeling the targeted muscles working hard from full extension to full contraction.
The arm specialization program to follow will have you training the bis and tris twice a week: one high volume/intensity workout on Tuesday for each area (two separate sessions per day where the bis and tris are targeted separately) and two movements each following back and chest/shoulder training. With three work sets per movement and 10-12 reps on most sets, enough volume will be provided to place your arms in a continuous state of growth.
To fully stimulate a maximum amount of size, it’s best to train the biceps and triceps separately, on their own separate day. Whenever the triceps are trained with chest/shoulders, for example, it’s impossible to generate maximum intensity due to the neuromuscular fatigue and energy substrate depletion that’s occurred during the chest work. Strength levels and the capacity to pump your tris to otherworldly dimensions will thus be compromised.
Train biceps and triceps before back and chest and your intensity across these larger groupings will also be less than optimal. Instead, train the bis and tris on their own when they are at their freshest and most receptive to the high intensity demands of proper training. It’s also best to separate bis and tris for the same reason. Even with elite-level training fuel and a mindset primed by a scoop of IMPACT Igniter there is no way full justice can be done to either area when functioning in even a semi-depleted state (however marginal).
To fully stimulate a maximum amount of size, it’s best to train the biceps and triceps separately, on their own separate day.
To thoroughly smash each area you’ll instead need to divide your arm training into two sessions: one in the morning and one in the evening. As mentioned, you’ll also be training the biceps and triceps with back and chest respectively to get a little more stimulation and volume later in the week. However, this session will not be as intensive as Tuesday’s combined workload. To ensure full recovery takes place between workouts, proper rest and nutrition are imperative.
the arms receive both sufficient variety and complete stimulation, thus enabling them to grow like never before!
Alternate from week-to-week the order in which biceps and triceps are trained to ensure they receive equal intensity and stimulation. We are naturally strongest at certain times of the day and will usually be slightly fresher for one of these workouts. Also, by alternating these sessions, each area receives a little more rest from week to week. So train biceps in the morning one week and switch to the evening the following week. Keep alternating in this fashion with both areas.
As with all other body parts, arm growth must be coaxed; it’s a process to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed. Blast through your curls and extensions (and all variations of) and you cannot expect to achieve an appreciable degree of growth. So before embarking on the most effective arm training program ever devised, you’ll need a good grasp of several key training fundamentals, namely: tension, stress, damage, and fuel.
Tension, Stress and Damage
A big reason why so many people fail to produce tangible bodybuilding results is seldom due to design faults in the program they’re using. It’s how they train.
The first rule to remember is tension, namely the amount of weight lifted and the amount of time sufficient pressure is kept on the working muscles for the full duration of each set. By lifting heavy, slowing the movement down (more so on the negative phase), and keeping optimal tension on all available muscle fibers you’ll have created maximum mechanical tension and your muscles will have no choice but to grow in order to better cope with similar levels of stress in subsequent sessions.2, 3
Ideally you’ll be exploding the weight in a controlled manner through the concentric for a one-count and taking a full 2-3 seconds to complete the negative. A set of 12 should take between 40-48 seconds to complete.
Amount of weight lifted + amount of time sufficient pressure is kept on working muscles for full duration of each set.
The above mentioned approach will also have contributed to metabolic stress (an accumulation of metabolites due to intense muscular contractions). By keeping the tension and training volume high and rest periods between sets short (no more than one minute) while upping the reps to 15 on the final set of each movement, you’ll have continuously pumped blood into your bis and tris. Among many other benefits this pronounced cell-swelling effect (the coveted pump) stimulates anabolic processes such as muscle protein synthesis and decreased proteolysis (or protein breakdown) to forge huge slabs of dense muscle.3
Most seasoned lifters have heard of muscle microtrauma (the minute muscle tearing that occurs when the muscles are subjected to heavy loads through a full range of motion). As a contributor to muscle soreness, such muscle damage is universally considered a sign of training success.
By training hard and heavy, we break the muscles down so they may be built back larger and stronger.
Due in part to post-training inflammation, muscle tissue is signaled via a super-compensatory response to adapt to the increasing intensity demands of progressive resistance training.1, 2 As a result we should experience fresh muscle growth on a periodic basis.
It’s important to approach the workouts to follow with each of these factors in mind. Remember that a mediocre plan approached with the intention of creating maximum mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage will far surpass a superior program that is approached in halfhearted manner.
Building bigger guns is not simply a case of training with perfect execution and diligent effort. Proper training fuel both before, during and immediately after each workout is essential and arguably the most important training factor of all.
Both rapidly absorbed aminos and carbs are needed before, during and after training. Research as far back as the early-90s pointed to the importance both carbohydrate and protein ingestion immediately following workouts to enhance muscle anabolism and replace glycogen stores.4 CARBION+ and AMINOCORE mixed together tastes amazing and provides exactly what so much research has proven to be true. Mix just before you train and drink this delicious mix while you’re hitting the iron. Without sufficient blood levels of aminos (in particular the BCAA’s) prior to and during training, the muscles may draw these aminos from muscle tissue (especially in the absence of stored muscle glycogen).
This can result in muscle losses and diminished energy levels. As well, both muscle protein synthesis and glycogen replacement can only be fully accomplished when the release of the storage hormone insulin is stimulated beyond normal levels. Proper supplementation will ensure that pre, intra and post-workout insulin production is maximized to spark the anabolic response needed to keep the muscles growing.
Due to slower assimilation, whole food carbs and proteins are not suitable immediately pre, during and immediately post training. Fortunately there are a range of specific supplements that provide precise ratios of the most rapidly absorbed aminos and carbs of the highest bioavailability.
By taking the right supplements prior to, during and following each of the workouts featured in this article, you’ll be better able to train in the correct fashion (as outlined above). Thus you’ll experience more growth than when training without the right fuel.
A combination of both isolation movements and pure mass builders are needed to fully blast the bis and tris. We have selected the most effective of each. Though seemingly vast in number, each will be included in your arm training program to hit your guns from different angles.
Normally we would have a limited number of movements to choose from and thus little in the way of variation from one week to the next. The way the following program is designed, you’ll be using seven movements for triceps and six for biceps. Because each movement hits its target muscle in a different way, you’ll receive complete stimulation and the perfect amount of volume to shock your guns into news levels of growth.
Furthermore, due to the unique and varied training system to follow you’ll also maintain peak enthusiasm for the training process. In fact, workout boredom is an underappreciated factor in one’s failure to achieve ongoing progress. With the following program, your training will never become stale.
Overhead Triceps Rope Extensions
A great way to keep continuous tension on the triceps, this movement also serves as the perfect warm-up before tackling the heavier mass builders.
To perform, face away from the weight stack, grab a rope attached to a high cable pulley and take two steps forward. Lean over until upper body is parallel with the floor. Stay in this position throughout the movement. Extend the rope past your head until the arms are completely straight. Next, bend the elbows and return the weight until the forearms are resting on the biceps. Then immediately blast into the next concentric rep for a full squeeze.
As with all the triceps movements to follow, the key to successfully completing the pressdown is to aim for a full extension and squeeze on each rep.
Attaching from the upper arm bone to the forearm, the lateral head (the outer, most visible area) and medial head of the tris are the main prime-movers that work together to extend the elbow joint. Meanwhile, the long head (which runs from the back of the shoulder blade and down to the forearm) assists the other two heads and contributes to shoulder extension while also stabilizing the shoulder joint. All three heads must be thoroughly stimulated to ensure complete triceps development.
To perform, tilt the torso forward at a 30-40 degree angle. Do not stand straight up, as many lifters do. With arms bent at at a 90 degree angle, drive them all the way down until they are perpendicular to the floor. No hip thrust or swinging at the waist. Maintain complete control at all times.
Dumbbell Kickbacks on Incline Bench
Arguably the most effective of the triceps mass builders, the following two-arm kickback variation places extreme emphasis on all three heads.
To perform, place bench at a 30 degree incline and lie face down. Bring elbows to the sides of waist (as in a dumbbell row). This will be your starting position. Extend at the elbows until dumbbells are at, or ideally slightly past parallel. As with all of the movements in this plan, keep continuous tension of the triceps by going directly from one rep phase to the next. Though a peak contraction is permissible on the concentric, the working muscles should never be relaxed. Alternate between neutral, hammer and palms facing down grip to blast each triceps head with maximum force.
Seated Overhead Cambered Bar Extensions
A pure mass builder, more weight can be used with this movement than for any other of the isolation movements in this plan. When performed properly, all three triceps heads are subjected to an intense burn.
To perform, fully extend the arms above the head before bending the elbows and controlling the bar as it travels to the back of the neck (use a spotter on this one). Stretch the triceps to the max but allow the elbows to drift to their natural plane (do not lock them into a parallel position). This minimizes stress on the elbow joints. Extend the arms to the starting position for a full squeeze.
Dips (Parallel Bars)
An old school favorite, the parallel bar dip allows the lifter to really load up on the weight to place significant mechanical tension on the tris. Often employed as a mass builder for the lower pecs, with a slight adjustment this movement fleshes out the tris and in particular the lateral head like no other.
To perform, adopt a shoulder width grip and lower the body in an upright position until a full triceps stretch is achieved. Press to the starting position until arms are fully extended. Squeeze hard for a peak contraction before proceeding to the next rep. It’s also good practice to change up the rep speed from time to time, going from fast to ultra slow to target a maximum number of both fast and slow twitch fibers respectively. Add weight as the movement becomes easier to achieve muscle failure within the desired rep range.
Seated Two-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extensions
A unique variation on the one arm overhead extension, this movement requires a greater degree of balance and control and thus engages the smaller, often untapped muscles of the triceps. The unilateral nature of the movement means that each arm is forced to work independently. This eliminates the compensatory effect that may occur when one arm is slightly stronger than the other.
To perform, sit in a low-rise seat with back support and extend the arms above the head until the triceps are fully flexed. Lower the dumbbells behind the neck to achieve a maximum stretch. It’s important here to keep the elbows as vertical as possible to ensure that maximum tension is placed on the triceps at all times. When extending the dumbbells back to the starting position, twist the wrists to that the palms face forward to achieve a complete peak contraction in the triceps.
Close-Grip Pushups on Dumbbell or Step
A great finisher, this movement will be used at the end of your Tuesday session to fully overload the triceps and to cap off a great workout. As opposed to traditional close-grip pushups, these will be performed unilaterally, going from side to side.
To perform, with legs wide to maintain balance place both hands on a heavy dumbbell. Attain a full extension. Start by removing one hand and placing it on the floor adjacent to the dumbbell. Push back up and return it to the dumbbell. Then alternate with the other arm. Once no further reps are possible, place both hands back on the dumbbell and crank out a few more reps until the tris are pumped to full capacity.
As with all muscle groupings, impressive results can only be achieved via finished look which encompasses every square inch of musculature. Hammer curls are great for adding finish as they target the hard to reach brachialis and brachioradialis to create the 3D appearance so sought after nowadays.
To perform, hold dumbbells at your sides with palms facing one another. Keeping palms facing inward throughout the movement, curl one side at a time toward the shoulder. To exaggerate the pump on the final set, complete 10 reps, rest for 10 seconds and do another 10 reps. Complete another 10 reps for maximum effect.
Incline Preacher Curls
A great way to achieve a peak contraction, this movement also blasts the lower portion of the biceps to ensure a degree of roundness and fullness best demonstrated by the man who popularized this movement back in the 60s: Larry Scott, the first-ever Mr. Olympia winner.
To perform, set the bench at a steep angle and wedge your arm in as deep as you can with tricep resting on the padding. Slowly lower the dumbbell to around 90% of the way down. Then squeeze hard to achieve a full positive contraction, pause for half a second while maintaining maximum tension, and repeat. Make the most of this pure isolation movement by keeping the reps efficient and steady. The weight must traverse back and forth in piston-like fashion to force as much blood as possible into the bis.
Seated Incline Curls
A true mass builder, this movement targets both biceps’ heads to accentuate both fullness and peaking. On the final three reps, hold the bottom position for a three-count.
To perform, set incline bench to a steep incline of approximately 75 degrees. From a fully stretched position, curl both dumbbells to a full peak contraction, hold and squeeze. Then return one arm in controlled fashion while keeping the other bicep in a fully contracted position. Repeat on the other side and alternate back and forth for the prescribed number of reps. Remember to achieve a complete extension and contraction with each arm before lowering on the opposite side.
Standing Bilateral Curls
One way to maximize the amount of tension placed on the biceps (to enhance isolation and force tremendous growth in both heads) is to perform dumbbell curls by resting the back of the elbows on an incline bench while keeping the elbows pinned to the sides of the waist. This restricts the momentum and elbow movement that may otherwise negate complete tension through a full range of motion.
To perform, take a set of dumbbells of a lesser weight than you’d likely be using for normal curls. Place elbows against the front of the ribcage and brace your back against an incline bench set at a 90 degree angle (straight up). Curl the dumbbells with palms facing up, squeeze hard, and then lower them almost all the way down (around 90% down).
Bent-Over Cable Curls
For this movement, use either a straight or cambered bar to enhance long (or outer) head development to accentuate the biceps peak.
To perform, stand with back to the weight stack and grab a low pulley attachment (direct the cable through the legs). While remaining in a bent forward position (be sure to keep the back arched at all times), curl the bar to a peak contraction. If performed correctly, cheating the weight up will be all but impossible. Do not go for a full extension on this movement. Instead, to keep tension on the bis lower the cable to around 80% of full lockout.
Standing Bent One-Arm Curls
A favorite of legendary seven-time Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger, this movement thoroughly isolates the biceps to flush both heads with blood. Alternate between a supinated grip (palms up) and hammer grip (palms in) to work the biceps and forearms/brachialis respectively.
To perform, place feet a little wider than shoulder width and lean forward until the upper body is parallel with the floor. Stabilize the upper body by placing the opposite hand on the opposite quad. With the working arm hanging perpendicular to the floor, curl dumbbell to complete contraction. Keep the elbow fixed in place at all times to eliminate momentum. Switch from side to side. This movement is great for reverse run the rack training: with each successive set, increase the weight while lowering the reps, with no rest between sets.
The intensity methods outlined above can be incorporated periodically to further challenge the bis and tris. Experiment to determine which work best for you; also, apply these methods to different movements featured in the program to follow and assess what kind of response you get from them.
Tips, Tricks & Additional Considerations
Most of the great champions, from Schwarzenegger to Platz, visualized the results they would ultimately go on to achieve. There’s no doubting the kind of progress you too can achieve with this powerful practice. Hold firm in your mind a vivid picture of exactly what it is you expect to accomplish with the arm specialization program to follow. Routine visualization programs your mind much the same way you would a computer. Input equals output.
It’s not complicated. Think of visualization as a creative form of daydreaming where you see yourself displaying the arms you want. Hold the picture in your mind for as long as you can. Make this image the last thing you think about at night and the first thing you think about in the morning. Then get to the gym and turn your vision into reality.
get to the gym & turn your vision into reality.
The methods needed to extract every ounce of intensity from your workout are many and varied. It’s beyond the scope of this article to fully expand upon them all. However, there is one intensity trick that can be employed to full advantage when hitting biceps and triceps. In fact, it works especially well when seeking to mass-out the arms. It’s called the partial reps principal and, when employed judiciously, will pump your bis and tris to crazy dimensions.
While drop sets or forced reps require you to either stop what you are doing momentarily or rely on the spotting skills of a partner, partial reps can be done right away and require no special assistance. Where specified in the plan to follow, switch from full range to partial range (the upper quarter of the rep) and crank out six additional reps. Partials are a great way to induce a tremendous muscle pump.
You’ve probably heard of the terms supination and pronation in relation to movement execution. A biceps curl, for example, can be made more effective by turning the little finger away from the body upon positive contraction. This exaggerated supination forces more emphasis onto the long head to build a better peak. I personally prefer to alternate this style of lifting from set to set. By keeping the palms facing up, more tension is kept on both biceps heads and a greater pump can be achieved. However, supination does vary the stimulus placed on the bis and should also be done to produce the best results.
Pronation, on the other hand, requires that the palms face down throughout the movement. Like supination, pronation can also be exaggerated. With pressdowns, for example, you can force more emphasis onto the lateral head of the triceps by turning the thumb further inward as the arm is extended. Again, you may wish to alternate between a more traditional style (wrist in a fixed position) and additional pronation to intensify your training.
Variety and Experimentation
Many of the strategies employed in the exercise descriptions above and in the program to follow have personally worked well for me. Give them a decent shot and there’s little doubt that they will also work well for you. However, do not be afraid to add a couple more reps or a little more weight on a given set if you feel it justified.
Maybe you have a specific intensity method you’d like to try. Just as it’s important to stay consistent with the training to follow it’s equally important to train in a way that gets you the best results. Follow the program, as outlined, but also add the occasional variation of your own to see whether it is more effective for you.
Possibly the most limiting factor in all of bodybuilding today is the notion of genetic potential. If many of today’s bodybuilding champions listened to the naysayers and based their willingness to engage with the iron on whether the results they sought would ultimately come to fruition, there would be far fewer men on the Olympia stage than is currently the case.
No one has perfect genetics. The perfect physique does not exist. Perhaps your biceps are too flat (with zero-peak, like the late Sergio Oliva) or too short (with an unseemly gap between lower bicep and elbow, like two-time Olympia champion Franco Columbu). In either case the development they currently display is no indication of how impressive they can become with a consistent and methodical approach to training. Blast away and ignore your present state of development. The only thing that’ll hold you back is not your genetics but an unwillingness to build upon your current potential.
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