Specific Progressive Overload Training (S.P.O.T.): Part 3.

In this SPOT article I will go into detail about complete arm development - Frequency, volume, reps, sets, angles, order of movements ... Read on for the workout and more!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


Fire Your Guns!

Guns, pythons, pipes, shirt sleeve tearing, eye popping arms are what any true bodybuilder is after. Filling out your sleeves and having people compliment on your massively-developed arm musculature is a common goal. Arms are what people are talking of when they ask, "Show me your muscle."

Sure, it's been called a "beach" muscle, but usually you will find big arms attached to well-developed backs and chests as well. Thick, horseshoe shaped, ripped and striated triceps coupled with highly peaked, fully-chiseled softball sized biceps are the pursuits of many competitive bodybuilders and recreational lifters as well. Nothing sets a lifter apart from others in a crowd as noticeably as big arms.

When a bodybuilder raises his arms overhead for a front double biceps pose, nothing is left to chance. He could have great pecs, lats and legs, but if the arms are underdeveloped then proportion is thrown off completely. His weakness has been exposed!

Brad Borland
Click Image To Enlarge.
Brad Borland.

Back double biceps, front lat spread, side chest, side triceps - in nearly every pose the arms are a large part of the scrutiny of the physique. Even for the recreational lifter, arms are an integral part of the form and function of the physique. Not only is built muscle an objective, but strong, functional and powerful arms are essential in so many other lifts in your regimen.

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I see arm development two-fold ...

    One:

      The most obvious would be direct arm muscle stimulation. This is achieved through specific movements such as curls for the biceps and press-downs and extensions for triceps. These also can be considered isolation movements.

    Two:

      Indirect stimulation through synergistic compound stimulation. This occurs through rows and chins for the back and presses for the triceps. I truly believe that massive, well-developed arms will not be achieved unless you are rowing, and pressing pretty impressive weights. Therefore, direct (isolation) stimulation need not be excessive.

In other words, I feel a lot of trainers are utilizing too much volume and not enough intensity. In addition, if you have read my other SPOT articles, I believe frequency is a major key ingredient in the effectiveness and success of development.

In this SPOT article I will go into detail about the ins and outs of complete arm development. Frequency, volume, reps, sets, angles, order of movements all will be outlined. Muscle is basically built through consistency and patience. There is no secret weapon and no crazy plan of action that you will want to abandon in the near future.

The principles in this article are tried and true, gut-wrenching, blood pumping techniques that are quackery-free. So go ahead and go to bodybuilding.com apparel section and buy some larger T-shirts - you're gonna need 'em!

Brad Borland
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Brad Borland.

Indirect Stimulation:

    As said before, indirect arm stimulation deals with the work done on your back, chest and shoulders that indirectly affect the arm musculature.

    Bench pressing, shoulder pressing, rowing, and pull-ups and pull-downs all will influence arm growth to a great degree. So much in fact that I believe without doing most of those key moves, one will not achieve their true potential regarding arm development.

    Every client I have trained over the years has increased their arm size simply by incorporating heavier, compound lifts into their routines. Once I evaluated and redesigned their training routines, they immediately benefited in larger and more developed arms without too much time spent on isolation movements.

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Lock & Load!

To get a comprehensive battle plan in place we must attack the arms from all angles and carefully choose movements as to not be redundant and avoid stagnation.

This program takes the same principles from SPOT Part 1 and uses them to compose an arm program that produces results. It will use an "A" and "B" routine system to avoid hitting a plateau and moderate volume to avoid overtraining.

They are done twice per week on the same day as shoulders.

For Example:

  • Day 1 is chest and back
  • Day 2 is shoulders and arms
  • Day 3 is legs
  • Then a day off or repeat all three days with the seventh day off.

Working biceps and triceps together is advantageous to your success. Instead of working them after chest and back when they may be too drained to train, they are fresh on their own day.

Also, they are in close proximity to each other so blood can pool into the arm for each muscle group easily and you can achieve maximum contraction. This will also come in handy when you want to superset biceps and triceps for a real intense shirt sleeve busting workout.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. This program utilizes basic movements done in any gym. Basic compound movements are your bread and butter for the best results so forget the 1-arm cable curls for now. You might look good doing them in the mirror but a slight pump is about all they will deliver.

    Barbell and dumbbell curls and lying barbell and dumbbell extensions, close grip bench presses, and pressdowns will make up the bulk of the program.

  2. Always practice good form, but not perfect. I believe in the 95% rule. Use 95% good form with 5% controlled (but safe) cheating. If you literally used absolutely perfect form on every single movement then you will not make great gains.

    The body is not a machine and does not move on sliders and hinges. It is pliable and utilizes its own plain of motion to function. So, use good form all of the time, but a little body english is acceptable near the end of a set to squeeze out those last few result producing reps.

  3. Work hard! When you enter the gym, be ready to go to work because this program is designed for the hard worker. Rest only 1 to 1 1/2 minutes between each set. Every set is important and must be taken to failure. If not, then you are just spinning your wheels and going through the motions. Hit those arms hard and then get out.

  4. Be progressive. I cannot stress this principle enough. This is resonated throughout all of the SPOT articles. Keep a log of all of your sets, reps and weights so you can easily track your progress. Increase in reps and/or weight at each session. This is the only practical way to keep up with your progress. A log will also let you know which movements are working and which are not so you will be able to make the necessary adjustments.

  5. Make adjustments when necessary but only one at a time. You may not like to do a certain movement at a certain angle, or you may have a minor injury that prohibits a particular movement. Make adjustments when you absolutely need to, but keep the basic principles intact.

  6. As said before, this program utilizes an "A" and "B" type system. This will enable you to avoid stagnation, but at the same time still be progressive on a structured schedule. All "A" workouts will be progressive on each other and the same with all "B" workouts. This also allows more variety of movements for more development and can also break up monotony.

  7. Did I say BE PROGRESSIVE?

Brad Borland
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Brad Borland.


Ready! ... Aim!

Here are a few notes on specific movements. Sometimes a slight turn of the wrist and a different grip can make a huge impact on the movement's effectiveness.

Biceps:

    Barbell Curls:

      This is the basic granddaddy of biceps mass builders. Use textbook form with a slight "bump" at the bottom of the last couple of reps.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Barbell Curls.
Video: Windows Media - Real Player

    Dumbbell Curls:

      Curl each dumbbell at the same time and make sure you start and end the motion with a thumbs forward position. Keep you elbows by your sides and curl in a controlled manner. Curling both dumbbells at the same time with exhaust your lungs less and will allow each biceps to be under tension without resting.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Dumbbell Curls.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Incline Dumbbell Curls:

      Again curl both dumbbells at the same time and be sure to pronate and supinate the wrists as you curl. You do not need an extreme angle on these, but get a good stretch at the bottom. Remember, keep the muscle under tension.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Incline Dumbbell Curls.
Video: Windows Media - Real Player

    Dumbbell Concentration Curls:

      These are done freestanding with the elbow pointing straight down and curling up to the anterior (front) deltoid. Do not rest at the bottom and squeeze hard at the top.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Dumbbell Concentration Curls.
Video: Windows Media - Real Player

    Preacher Curls:

      Use either a straight bar (preferable) or a cambered (EZ) bar, depending on your flexibility and comfort. A huge mistake I see people make is resting at the top. Curl the weight up, squeeze and then lower it in a controlled manner.

      Two safety points: adjust the seat so that you are over the pad. You do not want your shoulders pushed up like you are shrugging. Also, be careful not to bounce at the bottom as the preacher bench can put the biceps in a vulnerable position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Preacher Curls.
Video: Windows Media - Real Player

    Machine Curls:

      As to not mimic preacher curls do these one arm at a time. This is sort of a machine concentration curl. Squeeze at the top and low in a controlled motion.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Machine Curls (Shown With Both Arms).
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

Triceps:

    Lying Barbell Extensions:

      Use a straight bar on these with a grip about shoulder width apart. Lower the bar to your forehead with your elbows over your eyes. This put your upper arms at an angle so when you straighten your arms the bar will be over your face and not your chest. This keeps the triceps under constant tension.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Lying Barbell Extensions.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Overhead Dumbbell Extensions:

      This movement can be performed with both arms or with one arm at a time. Just be sure to control the weight behind your head and get a good stretch at the bottom. The machine version is similar.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Pressdowns:

      Both V-bar and reverse grips are used in this program. Keep you elbows by your sides and squeeze at the bottom. Try to avoid "pressing" the weight down. For reverse grip pressdowns try using a cambered bar for wrist comfort.


Click Image To Enlarge.
V-Bar Pressdowns.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod


Click Image To Enlarge.
Reverse Grip Pressdown.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    Decline Bench Press:

      Doing these on a decline puts the triceps in a strong position. It is like doing a pressdown but with free weights. Use a grip about shoulder width as an extremely close grip will cause wrist stress.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Decline Bench Press.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod


FIRE!!!

Routine 1:

    This routine is for those working out in a decently equipped gym. Most gyms are pretty well-equipped with basic benches, dumbbells, barbells, cable apparatus and specific arm machines.

    A.

      Biceps:
    • Barbell curls - 3 x 8-12
    • Incline dumbbell curls - 3 x 8-12
    • Concentration curls - 3 x 8-12


    • Triceps:
    • Lying barbell extension (nosebreakers) - 3 x 8-12
    • Overhead dumbbell extensions - 3 x 8-12
    • V-bar cable pressdowns - 3 x 8-12

    print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine 1 A.

    B.

      Biceps:
    • Seated dumbbell curls (both arms at the same time) - 3 x 8-12
    • Preacher bench curls (EZ bar or straight bar) - 3 x 8-12
    • One arm machine curls - 3 x 8-12


    • Triceps:
    • Over head triceps machine extension (or with rope) - 3 x 8-12
    • Close grip (about shoulder width) decline bench press - 3 x 8-12
    • Reverse grip pressdowns (with a cambered bar) - 3 x 8-12

    print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine 1 B.

Routine 2:

    This routine utilizes the superset principle. By supersetting you not only save time and increase intensity, but you also stimulate other growth factors as well as boost strength potential. When the biceps (for example) are working, the triceps are forced to rest and vice versa.

    Therefore, the triceps are ready to knock out a set because it was forced to rest. The continuous burn in the arms also naturally releases growth hormone for a more productive workout.

    A.

      Superset:

    • Barbell curls - 3 x 8-12
    • Lying barbell extension (nosebreakers) - 3 x 8-12

    • Superset:
    • Incline dumbbell curls - 3 x 8-12
    • Overhead dumbbell extensions - 3 x 8-12

    • Superset:
    • Concentration curls - 3 x 8-12
    • V-bar cable pressdowns - 3 x 8-12

    print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine 2 A.

    B.

      Superset:

    • Seated dumbbell curls (both arms at the same time) - 3 x 8-12
    • Over head triceps machine extension (or with rope) - 3 x 8-12
    • Superset:
    • Preacher bench curls (EZ bar or straight bar) - 3 x 8-12
    • Close grip (about shoulder width) decline bench press - 3 x 8-12
    • Superset:
    • One arm machine curls - 3 x 8-12
    • Reverse grip pressdowns (with a cambered bar) - 3 x 8-12

    print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine 2 B.


Conclusion

So there it is; a great arm routine for massive biceps and horseshoe triceps. Remember to keep track of your progress and try the routine out for at least 6 weeks. Also, refer to the other SPOT articles for more routines and program principles. And don't forget to email me your questions, comments, progress and ideas. Fire your guns at will!

Brad Borland
Click Image To Enlarge.
Brad Borland.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3