Since arms are one of the most popular, if not the most popular, muscle groups, then this article should be most welcome.
The system of training I'm going to describe for upping arm size is not new by any stretch of the imagination. It was first introduced to me many years ago by my good friend and power bodybuilding mentor Donne Hale of Miami, Florida. He called this system of training the Super Rest-Pause.
The Super Rest-Pause
Best described, it is the performance of ten sets of a select exercise, in which the number of reps changes with each proceeding set, with very short, constantly-changing rest-pauses between each set.
For example, in the first set, do one repetition, rest 1 second, perform the second set by doing two repetitions, rest two seconds, do a third set for three reps, rest three seconds, etc.
Continue on in a cumulative fashion, adding 1 additional repetition and additional second of rest-pause until 10 full exercise range motion reps are completed for the 10th and final set.
Obviously, to accommodate the Super Rest-Pause technique as described, a poundage will have to be used that is approximately 75% of the amount used for an un-fatigued 10 repetition set.
For example, if you are able to perform 10 reps with 100 pounds in, say, the Barbell curl, then use only 75 pounds (.75 x 100 = 75 pounds) for each of the ten sets. Though 75% seems to be an average, some individuals will use slightly more or less poundage, depending on energy, endurance, and sanity.
Structuring a Super Rest-Pause system for the upper arms, I involve a combination of five arm exercises, alternating triceps and biceps, but working more on the triceps since they contribute to the most involved muscle mass of the arms.
The Five Exercises I Used Are:
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Same performance as the regular supine (lying horizontal, face up) bench press.
- Use a handgrip spacing of approximately 6 inches apart between index fingers.
- Lower the bar to bottom of ribcage.
- Extend arms to full extension to emphasize triceps tension.
- Standing Barbell Curl - straight bar
- Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown
- Same as standard pushdowns.
- Use an underhand (supinated) grip - same as a barbell curl.
- Same as standard pushdowns.
- Alternate Dumbbell Curl - seated
- Curl DB alternately, look at biceps doing the work.
- Supinate forearm during contraction.
- Do one arm at a time; do not make it a swinging motion.
- Vertical Dips - on parallel bars
I will assume that you have a grasp of the most basic exercises and I have therefore only briefly described the "technique emphasis" which I feel are very important. The exercises selected are based on my personal wants and needs and it is not my intent to make a statement with regard to which ones have the highest or lowest level of Neuro-Muscular Activation (NMA).
The question you have to ask yourself is how do you feel when you're doing an exercise? Is the exercise working? Listen to your body.
Experiment with different exercises; this is a form of freestyle training. You might instinctively go with Skull-crushers (Lying triceps extensions) and Scott preacher barbell curls in place of the first two exercises listed above, for example.
I advise performing only one complete sequence of the Super Rest-Pause on each of the five exercises. Don't try to repeat the super rest-pause sequence more than one on each exercise. If you do so, you will only be impeding your progress.
I followed the above Super Rest-Pause technique twice per week (Monday and Friday) for approximately two weeks.
It's important for the body to send a message to the pituitary gland to continue secreting growth hormone over the already opened pores of the awakened and alert muscle fibers of the upper arms (or for any other muscle group, for that matter). One of the best ways I know of to do this is through a couple of variations of the above-mentioned Super Rest-Pause system.
Variation No. 1:
This particular procedure is a reversal of the Super Rest-Pause already mentioned. Instead of increasing the reps and rest-pauses each proceeding set, I'll use slightly more poundage and work down the rep ladder (i.e., 10 reps, 9 reps, 8 reps, 7 reps, etc.) while keeping a constant ten-second rest-pause between each and every countdown set.
It's important to note that on the final set, normally to be only one repetition, squeeze out 1, 2, 3, or as many reps to absolute momentary positive failure as possible.
A couple of "bugs" will reveal themselves in this variation. First, localized muscle fatigue sets in so strong during the eight rep and seven rep sets that it's difficult to complete those sets for the required rep count. The one solution, if the system is to be followed properly, is to reduce the starting poundage.
Second, a couple of the lower rep counts may seem extremely easy. Rather than pumping out more reps than required for a particular set, simply perform the repetitions more slowly (5-6 seconds in the positive phase and 5-6 seconds in the negative phase).
By slowing the repetition speed from, say, 3 seconds in the positive and 4 seconds in the negative phases of the reps, there will be an increase of intensity (time under tension), plus the mind-to-muscle link will improve.
Variation No. 2:
The second variation is to change the repetition scheme from a countdown modality of 10, 9, 8, 7, etc., to a firm ten reps plus the rest-pauses and number of sets changes as well. First, I calculate a poundage I can do for 10 repetitions. Now I add 10% more weight to the bar (if I can do 100 pounds for 10 reps, I'll load the bar to 110 pounds).
Here's where the program gets interesting: I'll do 10 reps rep set, and the secret to accomplishing this is two-fold. First, the length of the rest-pauses changes from 10 seconds to 30 seconds upon the completion of the first set of 10 reps. On each proceeding set, I'll add an additional 15 seconds of rest-pause time.
After the second set, rest-pause 45 seconds; after the third set, 60 seconds; after the fourth set, 75 seconds; after the fifth set, 90 seconds, etc.
Second, the number of sets changes from ten to six. When I get to the point where I can do all six sets rather easily for 10 reps, then and only then will I add more poundage (magnetic weight plates are great for introducing additional microloads).
Within the training protocol of the original Super Rest-Pause and the two variations, I followed each one for approximately two weeks and on the same frequency (Monday and Friday).
I personally feel that six weeks is long enough to use the 3 programs. I continued with the same five exercises mentioned earlier, but as I said, you are free to experiment with different exercises.
If used properly, the reliable Super Rest-Pause system will help you to achieve surprising and pleasing results in fresh new arm growth. It did for me and many other power-bodybuilders.