Name: Alex Savva
Education: B.S. Physical and Health Education, University of Toronto
Occupation: Founder of CircuitFIT, Co-founder of PharmaFreak and SD Pharmaceuticals
We all love training arms, but many of us don't get the growth response we want because we're stuck doing the same old thing week after week. Unfortunately, the body adapts to any tired, dusty, lackluster approach, and your gains may suffer as a result. Don't let your arms go limp!
You don't necessarily need to do anything fancy in order to build bigger biceps and triceps, but it is in your best interest to add variation to your arm-training regimen.
These 10 variations on classic lifts can bring your arms to that next level. They're nothing totally new or advanced, but if you want bigger, better arms, these variations belong in your training protocol!
There's no right or wrong way to implement these variations into your program. If you like training your arms on a separate day, hit each of these exercises to failure. You don't need to do a ton of sets! Three sets of each exercise would be plenty.
If you like to train your arms as part of your upper-body workouts, pull out the biceps exercises and pair them with your back workouts, and add the triceps movements to your chest and shoulder day.
However you choose to use these variations, remember to focus on quality over quantity. Keep your elbows pinned to your sides and concentrate on the muscle that should be moving the weight—your arms!
Here's how to build a set of freaky-strong pipes.
Alex Savva’s Must-Do Arm Exercises!
Variation 1 Triceps kick-back with a twist
To do this variation, simply turn your wrists when you hit the peak contraction of a triceps kick-back so that your palms face the ceiling.
Triceps kick-back with a twist
Adding this little bit of extra motion will help target the medial head of your triceps and give all of your kick-backs a stronger muscular contraction. Don't let yourself swing or use momentum to move the weight. Keep your elbows tight to your body.
Variation 2 Preacher curl 21s
For this exercise, take the traditional preacher curl and break it down into three phases. To hit the lower end of the biceps, start at the bottom of the movement and raise the barbell halfway for 7 reps. Then do 7 reps from the top to the midway point to torch your upper biceps. Finally, complete 7 full-range-of-motion reps—which is where the pain really sets in—to complete one set of 21s.
Preacher curl 21s
Doing this 21-rep style will increase the time your muscles are under tension. You'll force extra blood into the muscles, signaling them to grow. That extra tension can also cause increased damage, which is another important signal for growth and repair.
Variation 3 Overhead kettlebell triceps extension
I like using a kettlebell occasionally because the weight hangs differently than a dumbbell, giving your triceps a new challenge.
Overhead kettlebell triceps extension
That's right: Even changing the implement can impact the effects of your workout, especially if you've been doing the same old thing. Keep your elbows tight to the sides of your head and brace your core. Control the movement up and down.
Variation 4 In-and-out barbell curl
To begin this variation, use a close grip—hands 4-6 inches apart—on a fixed barbell to focus on the outer head of your biceps. Bang out about 6-8 reps. When you're done with those reps, put the barbell down and switch to a wide grip. Your hands should now be wider than shoulder width. Do 6-8 reps with a wide grip to hit the inside head of your biceps.
In-and-out barbell curl
By using various grips, you ensure complete and total biceps development. Many people just rep out an endless string of curls, but making small changes like this will help you build full biceps without any weak areas.
Variation 5 Skullcrusher 21s
Use an EZ-curl bar and start this exercise by extending your arms so the weight is right above your forehead. For the first 7 reps, start at the end of the movement and extend your arms halfway up.
For the second 7 reps, start from the top and lower the weight halfway down. Then, do the exercise in its full range of motion for the last 7 reps. Concentrate on making your triceps do all the work.
Variation 6 V-dip
For this exercise, you're doing a traditional bodyweight dip, but you're shifting all your weight to one side as you extend your arms. Start centered on a dip platform with your legs below you and your torso straight up and down. Don't lean forward. Bend your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
As you push up, extend so all of your weight is on your right side. Lower back down and center yourself, and then push up to your left. Shift back and forth.
Variation 7 Cross-body hammer curl
Alternate arms as you do this hammer curl variation to really target and build each arm. Doing these curls across your body will add width to your biceps by really activating your brachialis.
Cross-body hammer curl
Don't swing the weight, or your shoulders will take over the movement.
Variation 8 Close-grip bench
This is a basic mass-builder for the triceps, and it's a totally underused exercise! Grip a barbell with your hands 6-8 inches apart. Start with the barbell over your chest, and bring it down slowly.
Keep your elbows tight as you press up through your triceps muscle. As you press up, drive your shoulders into the bench.
Variation 9 Underhand-grip triceps press-down
The underhand grip is more difficult than a normal press-down, so adjust the weight accordingly. Glue your elbows tight to your sides and allow the bar to come up to about chest height at the top of each rep.
Underhand-grip triceps press-down
Squeeze out each rep at the bottom, focusing on a full contraction. This variation will target the medial head of your triceps.
Variation 10 Zottman curl
Hardly anyone does this movement, and they definitely should! Because you'll hit the biceps on the way up and the forearm on the way down, the Zottman curl is a complete biceps and forearm exercise.
Grip the dumbbells with a supinated grip and curl them up like you normally would. Pause at the top, rotate your wrists so that your palms face down, and then lower the weight. Check your ego on this exercise, drop the weight, and go for quality reps!
To maximize growth from an intense training program like this, your body requires nutrients. During intense workouts, hydrogen ions accumulate in the muscle, causing the pH of your blood to drop and leaving you in an acidic state. This causes muscle fatigue and can potentially slow down the recovery process.
This is where a top-quality greens product can provide major benefits. Many people overlook the benefits of a greens supplement, but consuming one immediately after training can help neutralize the accumulation of hydrogen ions, putting your body back into a more alkaline state. Of course, it's important to consume protein after your workout, but the metabolism of certain amino acids contributes to the acidic environment in your body. This makes a greens supplement even more beneficial when taken post-workout.
"After my workouts, I mix one scoop of greens into my protein shake to make my post-workout drink even more anabolic," says Don Gauvreau, MSc, CSCS, aka "The Supplement Godfather."