Through the years and several injuries later, I have learned that weight is not as important as actually feeling the muscle working. You want your muscle to lift the weight, not your joints. With that said, some of the conventional exercises mentioned above seem to stress other body parts rather than your arms. For example, straight bar curls, preacher curls, and alternating dumbbell curls work the front delts; close grip bench, skull crushers and weighted dips seem to stress the chest, front delts, or the rotator cuff.
I have discovered that using cables, machines and working each arm individually is more beneficial and targets the working muscle more effectively. In order to show muscle you have to create them first. If you do not challenge your muscle with heavy enough weights, your body will not change. I always get frustrated when women, in their quest for toned arms, lift 3 pound dumbbells in hopes of achieving muscular definition. Remember, muscle is a very dense tissue and it takes up less space than fat.
It is easy to overtrain your arms. When you train the chest you train the triceps and when you train the back you train the biceps. If you train arms alone you should schedule them after an off day or when the following working day is a leg day. Your body grows when you rest not when you are in the gym.
It should take you no longer than 45 to 50 minutes to train both biceps and triceps. It isn't necessary to do more than 9 sets for each muscle group. You need to train your muscles to fatigue rather than complete exhaustion. Overtraining only leads to injury, muscle break-down, and hinders your overall development.
[view anatomy of the tricep]
I like to begin my arm training with triceps because this muscle is responsible for the overall size and look of your arm. There are three heads of the tricep. It is important to work triceps from all angles to effectively hit all three muscles.
I use weights that I can perform strict reps with and not utilize assistor muscles. Since I have a left bicep tendon tear I make sure that I keep my shoulders back with all exercises I perform. Also, I can't do close grip bench so instead I utilize a great deal more cable push downs and single arm extensions.
- TRICEP PUSHDOWNS [view exercise] - I like to start my workout with tricep push downs because this effectively warms up my elbows and prepares me for the rest of the workout.
- SINGLE ARM PUSHDOWNS [view exercise] - I then proceed with single arm pushdowns with a forward grip.
- REVERSE GRIP TRICEP PUSHDOWNS [view exercise]
- MODIFIED TRICEP EXTENSION [view exercise] - One of my favorite exercises involves using the bottom cable pulley and doing a modified type of tricep extension bent over. This type of workout is all about isolation and mind muscle connection. I never repeat the same workout from week to week. I believe in utilizing a variety of exercises and never letting your muscle get used to a set routine. Always keep your body guessing.
[view anatomy of the bicep]
After I get a great pump in my triceps, I move on to my biceps. If I am doing a concentration cable workout, I start with cable straight bar curls using both arms. After three sets of a challenging weight, I move on to training one arm at a time.
- CABLE CURLS [view exercise] - I start with regular cable curls from the bottom pulley. I perform three sets with a challenging weight and keep my shoulder back and my wrist tight. I usually do between 2 3 sets.
- HAMMER ROPE CURLS [view exercise] - Then I tie the rope together or just use the end of the pulley and do hammer curls. It is important to work the brachiallis, which is often forgotten in arm training. I have noticed that my arms have taken on a much nicer shape since I started doing more hammer type curls.
- INDIVIDUAL MACHINE CURLS - I might finish my arm training with machine curls using one arm at a time.
- CABLE CURLS ON PREACHER BENCH - Another great exercise is using a preacher bench and the bottom cable pulley for total concentration on the bicep. You get a great muscle pump and recruit all the muscle fibers in the bicep muscle.
Tips And Techniques
I try to keep my arm training brief and intense. Remember, you work your arms when you train your back, chest and shoulders. They are easy to overtrain. It is important to give your body rest and recovery or you will never see the gains that you desire.
I have to say that training arms is one of my favorite days in the gym. I have always been naturally strong and enjoy the ego boost I get from such a workout. However, I don't focus on how much weight I lift but on how well I lift the weight. You want your muscles to do the work not your joints.
This year, as I prepare for the USA 2003, I am training lighter than I have in the past and have seen my body change the most dramatically. I no longer worry about the amount of weight I am lifting, but rather the way my muscle feels lifting the weight. No matter what your goals are, everyone wants fabulous arms.
Just remember to train intensely and work on connecting with your muscle. Start with lighter weights and then progress to heavier weights once you learn how to correctly lift the weights with proper form. This goes beyond just doing the movement, but really making sure that it is your bicep not your shoulders, lower back, etc moving the weight through the range of motion.
I have been a personal trainer for over 10 years and it still amazes me that people do not have any body awareness. It might help to have someone touch the muscle as you do an exercise or try posing between sets. This might sound impractical, but it helps to pump blood into the working muscle and keep the mind muscle connection alive.
Diet And Nutrition
Lastly, don t forget about your diet and nutrition. You can have fabulous arms, but if they are covered with a layer of fat, you will never see the benefits of your weight training. For women, watch the processed carbohydrate intake. Stick with a diet rich in protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.
If you are going to eat carbohydrates, choose those high in fiber such as oatmeal, high fiber cereals, corn, peas, carrots, and whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, bran, millet). I prefer people to eat their carbohydrates earlier in the day rather than late at night. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and avoid juice, soda, or other high sugar beverages. Like I always say, going to the gym is easy. You just DO IT.
But, when you ask someone to change their eating habits, this becomes the challenge. If you want fabulous arms you have to combine proper training techniques and a healthy diet. It is that simple. You can have the body you desire if you become consistent with both your training and your diet.
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