I hope you're ready to bust some sleeves, because this jacked-up biceps-and-triceps-program is far more hard-hitting than anything you've tried before. You'll do four—that's not a typo!—arm workouts in one week and apply challenging advanced techniques like blood-flow restriction, negatives, heavy partials, and cluster-set training.
Does this push arm training way out of bounds? Nope. Because while you'll be doing more arm work each week, you'll also be cutting way back on volume during each workout. So, instead of doing two days of four exercises, you'll do four days of just two exercises.
That might sound like a distinction without a difference, but it's not. You're always strongest on the first exercise in a body-part workout. With the approach I'm offering, you'll now be doing first movements (for both triceps and biceps) four times a week instead of just two. That's twice the opportunities to use heavier loads and grow muscle, while the increased frequency turns on muscle protein synthesis more often.
Here's a sample split that includes four arm workouts and two rest days a week. As you can see, two days are dedicated to arm-only workouts.
- Day 1: Biceps, triceps
- Day 2: Legs, abs
- Day 3: Chest, front and middle delts, triceps, biceps
- Day 4: Rest
- Day 5: Triceps, biceps, abs
- Day 6: Back, rear delts, biceps, triceps
- Day 7: Rest
Weeks 1-4: Emphasis on Eccentrics (Negatives) and Heavy Partials
For the first four weeks, you'll focus one arm workout each week on eccentric or "negative" training, and another on heavy partial-rep training.
Lifters normally focus on positive-rep (concentric) training, where the goal is to shorten target muscles by lifting weights. Negative (eccentric) training focuses on lengthening target muscles by lowering weights.
Studies show that eccentric muscle action can produce 20-60 percent more force than the positive contraction. And in this workout, you'll increase that energy expenditure even more by taking more time to lower the weight (4-5 seconds instead of the standard 1-2 seconds).
Negative training promotes greater gains in muscle mass than eccentric training, in part because of a rapid rise in protein synthesis and anabolic hormone response, as well as gains in strength.[2-7]
The downside is more muscle damage and soreness, though it quickly abates. You'll be doing the negatives for short periods of time and with plenty of rest in between to avoid overtaxing your neuromuscular system and reduce your risk for extreme muscle soreness.
In this workout, you'll go negative only on the last set of each of your two biceps and triceps exercises.
For example, you might normally end your set altogether after reaching positive muscle failure on your last set on a triceps-dip machine. But in this program, you'll have your training partner aggressively push the handle back to full arm extension.
With your arms fully extended, you'll "go negative" by taking a full 5 seconds to return the handles back to the start position. You'll do 3-4 reps like this, until you can no longer return to the start position slowly and in control. If you don't have a partner, you'll have to use single-limbed movements, using your non-working hand to get the weight easily back to the top position.
Heavy Partial-Rep Training
We're all familiar with the sticking point—that part of the range of motion where you're biomechanically weakest. Heavy partials help avoid these sticking points so you can go heavier and get bigger.
This technique is best done inside a power rack. To do heavy partials on a bench press, set the safety bars 3-4 inches below your fully locked-out position. Since you'll be avoiding the sticking point and working over the portion of the ROM where you're stronger, load the bar with more weight than normal. Try the 6RM weight you'd use for the full-range movement.
After 3 sets, lower the safeties one notch for 3 more sets; you might also have to slightly reduce the weight. Then, reset the safeties one more notch down for 3 more sets.
Weeks 5-8: Emphasis on Blood-Flow Restriction and Cluster Sets
The second phase of the program continues the pattern of four arm workouts a week and adds two more advanced techniques.
Blood-Flow Restriction (BFR) Training
BFR, or blood-flow restriction training, is a cutting-edge training technique that occludes blood flow back through the veins without affecting arterial circulation. In this way, blood flow still goes into the target muscles but can't get out. This causes an increase in metabolic byproducts like lactate and hydrogen ions that stimulate protein synthesis to support hypertrophy.
Sometimes referred to as occlusion training, BFR works best on your arms and legs, making it perfect for adding those 2 more inches to your biceps.
To do BFR correctly, wrap the portion of your target muscle that's closest to your torso (the top of your biceps or upper triceps) with a standard knee wrap. The tightness level should be about 7 out of 10. If you feel any numbness or tingling, loosen the wrap until you don't.
Jacob Wilson, PhD, CSCS, a researcher and Bodybuilding.com contributor who has studied BFR, has found that the technique works best with relatively light weight. He recommends a weight at which you can do 20-30 reps on your first set, followed by 2 more sets of 15 reps apiece. Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets to continue driving blood into the muscle to increase the lactic-acid buildup and increase your pump.
For decades, big-name powerlifters and strength athletes have successfully used this technique, a hybrid of both rest-pause and dropsets done for time and broken down into several parts.
For example, instead of doing a set of 12 straight reps, you do a set of 4+4+4 reps, allowing very short rest periods within the set. When you're trying to build muscle size, your rests should be about 15 seconds. And since you can rest more often than with straight sets, you should be able to lift more weight for a greater anabolic stimulus and more size.
The cluster we're using in this workout is based on a program designed by Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, a longtime strength coach and Bodybuilding.com writer. Bryant calls it a hypertrophy-specific cluster set (HPSC).
Start your HPSC by choosing a weight you can lift for 8-10 reps. Do 4 reps, rest 15 seconds, then do 4 more. Continue this sequence for 5 minutes straight. When you can no longer do 4 reps, drop it to 3 reps. When you can't do 3, lengthen the rest interval to 20 seconds. When that becomes too much, end the set—but if you still have any gas left in the tank after 5 minutes, take the set for as many reps as possible (AMRAP).
Our gun-enhancement cluster-set training includes two exercises each for biceps and triceps, starting with slightly heavier loads and a lower rep target.
What You'll Need for These Workouts
- An experienced, motivating training partner
- Access to a power rack
- Knee wraps for blood-flow restriction training
- A training log to track your progress, paying special attention to note the set, load, and rep for each exercise
- An effective mass-building nutrition plan
The following workout table doesn't include warm-ups; do as many as you need, but never take warm-ups to muscle failure. Choose a working weight that causes you to reach muscle failure by the target rep listed.
While your training split helps amplify arm stimulus, you'll want to slightly dial back the volume on your other larger muscle groups like legs, back, chest, and shoulders, at least in the short term.
Two of your four weekly workouts use advanced training techniques that will test your arm musculature pretty intensely. For the other two workouts, do one lighter and the other as a straight-set approach.
The 2-Inches-By-Spring Arm Workouts
In the first four weeks of your new split, you'll train arms four times each week with limited volume.
For the second four weeks, your arm workout incorporates two new advanced techniques.
- Hollander, D. B., Kraemer, R. R., Kilpatrick, M. W., Ramadan, Z. G., Reeves, G. V., Francois, M., ... & Tryniecki, J. L. (2007). Maximal eccentric and concentric strength discrepancies between young men and women for dynamic resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(1), 37-40.
- Farthing, J. P., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2003). The effects of eccentric and concentric training at different velocities on muscle hypertrophy. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 89(6), 578-586.
- Friedmann, B., Kinscherf, R., Vorwald, S., Müller, H., Kucera, K., Borisch, S., ... & Billeter, R. (2004). Muscular adaptations to computer-guided strength training with eccentric overload. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 182(1), 77-88.
- Hortobagyi, T., Hill, J. P., Houmard, J. A., Fraser, D. D., Lambert, N. J., & Israel, R. G. (1996). Adaptive responses to muscle lengthening and shortening in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 80(3), 765-772.
- Ojasto, T., & Häkkinen, K. (2009). Effects of different accentuated eccentric loads on acute neuromuscular, growth hormone, and blood lactate responses during a hypertrophic protocol. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(3), 946-953.
- Doan, B. K., Newton, R. U., Marsit, J. L., Triplett-McBride, N. T., Koziris, L. P., Fry, A. C., & Kraemer, W. J. (2002). Effects of increased eccentric loading on bench press 1RM. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 16(1), 9-13.
- Norrbrand, L., Fluckey, J. D., Pozzo, M., & Tesch, P. A. (2008). Eccentric overload appears necessary to optimize skeletal muscle adaptations to chronic resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(3), 271-281.