We looked at the latest research and got two of our favorite experts to surrender their savviest arms-training methods. Incorporate them into your workouts and in less than two months you’ll add an inch to your pipes. Let’s see them call you a “meathead” after that.
1. Make every rep count
There’s a long-held belief that doing lots of sets with moderate weights and short rest periods does the most to spur muscle gains; while it’s an approach that can work, research favors doing the opposite. A study last year in the journal Physiological Reports compared the effect of fast-paced, high-volume workouts with longer, heavier sessions (four sets of 3–5 reps with 90% of your max and three-minute rests). The subjects trained using exercises like the bench press and row (not just direct arms exercises). After eight weeks, the latter group gained more arms mass.
2. Hold on (to your lunch)
Most guys pump out reps of curls without any thought to how the biceps are contracting, but it’s important to recognize that just holding a point in the range of motion statically can create a training effect, too. Jim Smith, C.P.P.S., a strength coach in Wyalusing, PA, (dieselsc.com), recommends performing a set of preacher curls with an EZ-bar to prefatigue the biceps, then immediately grasping a heavy dumbbell with both hands (staying on the preacher bench) and holding it with elbows bent 90° for as long as you can. “The isometric hold facilitates max muscle fiber recruitment,” he says, as your biceps will be working extra hard—in their already-fatigued state—to keep your elbows from straightening. Try three to four sets of 15–20 reps on the curl. Warning: It hurts, and it may make you queasy.
3. Stretch your limits
“Finish your triceps workout with a stretching movement,” says Ryan Munsey, a strength coach and fitness model in Roanoke, VA, (ryanmunsey.com). This could be a cable overhead triceps extension or a lying triceps extension, in which you feel a strong pull on the triceps in the bottom position. This stretching action facilitates blood flow and recruits muscle fibers. “Do these after your elbows are warmed up and you have some blood in your triceps,” Munsey says. “Really reach behind your head. You’ll get the best pump.” And pumps promote growth.