Bust through an arm-building stalemate with these muscle-blasters.
Josh Bryant, C.S.C.S., for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 7
No matter how hard or often you train when it comes to arms, exercise selection is everything.
Regardless of whether you started lifting in Arnold's day or you're just about to pick up your first dumbbell, chances are, you want powerful, well-developed arms. But while lots of guys have the desire to build muscular arms, too many toil endlessly in vain with no growth to show for it. Why? Improper exercise selection.
Give these six tried-and-true exercises a shot and take your arm development to the next level by working your muscles to exhaustion.
Behind bars, the triceps are referred to as the “back arms"—and any jailhouse lifter will tell you that there's no better way to build those back arms than with dips. As exercise physiologist Per Tesch writes in his classic book Targeted Bodybuilding, MRI scans have shown that dips maximally target all three heads of the triceps. For decades, dips have been a staple in the routines of top bodybuilders, strength athletes, and fit jailbirds alike.
Most folks classify “chins” as a back exercise, which they most certainly are. But remember: One of the functions of the biceps is supination; in the case of the chin-up, this means grabbing the bar with your palms facing you. Countless lifters have experienced bicep growth by dropping curling movements altogether and specializing in chins. Just think of the overload your biceps will experience as you pull your bodyweight through the air and your chin over the bar. If you're strong enough, you can even add additional weight. Chins, like cheat curls, are used for overload. The difference: Chins are safer, more effective, and allow you to use more weight.
One of the mainstays in the triceps routine of legendary Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman was the skullcrusher. Interestingly, many bodybuilders at the gym used more weight than Ronnie on this exercise, even though they were less-developed and much weaker. Point being, this exercise is about working the muscle—not your ego.
This is an extended range of motion exercise because of the incline which forces your arms to go behind your torso. To shorten the range of motion totally compromises results, think of this movement as a stretch movement.
This is very elbow-friendly triceps exercise. Some folks have trouble feeling their triceps work with free weight extensions because in the top position the weight is no longer providing adequate resistance. Overhead rope triceps extensions provide continuous tension on the triceps, even at the top position; because of this, a unique overload is provided and is helpful in building a mind muscle connection.
Hammer curls are very effective for working the brachialis, the muscle that internationally renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin refers to as the “workhorse” of elbow flexors. The brachialis might look small, because it hides under the biceps. But looks are deceiving—it's much bigger than it appears. The bigger you build the brachialis, the more it can push your biceps upward, giving you bigger, thicker arms.