Dude, I’ve been there. You’re young, you want bigger arms by summer, and you’re ready to train yourself into the ground trying to get them. Believe me, I know. I come from a serious lifting background (I ran my own hardcore gym for more than 10 years), and I understand the mentality: “Never leave a rep in the tank and always lift heavy.” And while I wouldn’t say that way of thinking is all wrong (my old training buddies would kick my ass if I did), it does need to be controlled. Learning to harness your animal instincts in the gym will go a long way toward getting those arms this summer, and it's the key take-home lesson in the program that follows.
After all, a lot of guys just like to do reps. They pick up some dumbbells and start curling until they can’t lift their arms anymore. Then they rest and repeat, knocking out set after set, all the while thinking more is better. But if brute effort were all it took to make progress, you’d see a lot more guys busting out of their sleeves, rather than getting big pumps that deflate an hour later when they’re trying on shirts. Our program is going to let you push yourself, but you’ll do it when and how we say, and you’ll grow a lot faster as a result.
LOAD AND DELOAD
I’ve designed thousands of programs over the years for guys with lots of guts and little patience—guys who just wanted to get jacked. And in that time, I’ve never seen anything that works better than the formula you’re going to follow for the next eight weeks. The program is divided into two phases. The first phase will build your tolerance for volume, a major program variable when trying to add muscle. You’ll start with three sets for most of the exercises, and then you’ll add a set in Week 2, increasing the total volume. In Week 3, you’ll do the same number of sets, but you’ll increase the weight, furthering the challenge. By Week 4, it’s time to go for broke as you add weight and another set.
At the same time, the number of reps you do in each workout gets reduced slightly throughout the week. They’re still on the high side (12–14, 10–12, and 8–10), but gradually reducing them causes a slight deloading effect so that you’ll go into the weekend primed to recover. Still, this is your chance to push yourself and “rep out” while your buddies yell at you to get “one more, one more.” And just when you think the volume can’t increase any more and you’re about to burn out, you can move on to Phase II.
In fact, we insist. Even one more week of that kind of volume would risk over- training, and that would defeat the whole you to your brink—which we know you like—without pushing you over it. Once you’ve increased your capacity for volume, we give you a break and switch the emphasis to heavyweight. The result?You’ll grow even faster. Since they no longer have to perform multiple sets of high reps, your arms can save their energy to put up big weights—and more frequently. Your arms have relatively small muscles, which means they’re able to recover fast—you can train them three days a week on this program. This is also partly because, while you’ll work the rest of the body just to maintain your overall size and strength, the total volume you do in each workout is less intense. That way, you can maximize your arm growth over this eight-week period with minimal interference from other muscle groups—and then start slitting your old T-shirt sleeves with scissors.
Jason Ferruggia is a performance-enhancement coach. He has gained nearly 100 pounds of muscle drug-free.