It doesn't matter if you're a guy or a gal: defined, shapely arms look good. While compound exercises should be the staple of any resistance training routine, adding an effective arm workout to your usual split can add direct definition and size to your biceps and triceps.
Although you already hit your triceps during your push or chest days, and your biceps on your pull or back days, isolating your biceps and triceps once per week will further improve your complete physique—and everybody's favorite show-off muscles.
Ashley Hoffmann, Neon athlete and all-around badass, has a set of guns that would make many guys jealous. She also happens to have some great tips, and below you'll find one of her favorite workouts to help you get the most out of your biceps and triceps training.
Arms Advantage Tip 1 Don't Cheat!
We've all seen it: the guy doing biceps curls with his hips and lower back instead of his arms. Sure, challenging yourself with big weights every now and again can be helpful, but consistently choosing weight that's so heavy you have to swing it isn't going to get you much stronger.
"The key to a good arms workout is keeping your elbows at your sides," says Ashley Hoffmann. "Use only your biceps or triceps to do the exercises, not your body's momentum to move the weight." Whether you're doing curls or extensions, keep your elbows pinned to the side of your body, which will stop you from using body English to move the load.
In order for your biceps and triceps to grow, you need to make sure that they're the muscles being stressed. If you use your body to move the weight, you take away from the workload your arms could be doing, which could mean less change in the target muscle group.
Arms Advantage Tip 2 Squeeze At The Top
One key to building lean mass is keeping your muscles under tension. The best way to do this is by increasing the length of each rep by pausing for some extra squeeze at the top of the movement. "When I do biceps and triceps exercises, I try to act like I'm flexing," says Ashley.
Yes, your muscles will be working throughout any exercise, but extending the time that your muscle is in its peak contraction can really increase its size. That squeeze can increase the number of muscle fibers you activate. The more muscle fibers involved in your lifts, the bigger your muscles can get.
Arms Advantage Tip 3: Go To Failure (Or Past It)
Many of us know that the best rep scheme for hypertrophy (muscle-building) is around 8-12 reps. However, your body will eventually adapt to the routine if you do the same thing over and over again. So, if you've been curling 30-pound dumbbells for 3 sets of 10 for the last three months and haven't seen any changes, your program needs some help.
Start by bumping up the weight. If you start to fail sooner than you'd like, grab a buddy and have him or her help you on those last few reps. You can also try using bigger weights for fewer reps early in your workout, and then progress to lighter weights for more reps as you fatigue. Try finishing your last set with a dropset or negative reps to deliver better results—and an enormous pump!
The point of pushing your muscles past failure is twofold: most importantly, it helps your muscles adapt by becoming bigger and stronger, and secondly, pushing past failure means you'll avoid those annoying plateaus.
Arms Advantage Tip 4 Use Supersets
You want a sick pump? Do supersets. Supersets are a technique which calls for you to do two exercises back-to-back without resting. One of the best ways to employ this technique is to do a triceps exercise and follow it immediately with a biceps exercise or vice versa. By using this technique, you stretch one antagonist muscle group while contracting the other, which brings more blood to the muscles and sparks new growth.
Supersets are also great because they save a lot of time. The limited rest means you get through your workout faster, leaving more time for showing off your growing guns.
Arms Advantage Tip 5 Try Single-Arm Lifts
Unilateral (single-arm) lifts can be beneficial to your arms training. Many of us are stronger on one side of our body. So, if you only use a barbell to do biceps curls, chances are that your dominant side will do more work, leaving your weaker side, well, weaker.
By focusing on one side at a time, you'll be able to grow each arm evenly. Balanced and symmetrical muscles not only look better, but they function better so you're less likely to get injured.
Single-arm lifts can also help you learn how to use your mind-muscle connection to better recruit and activate the right muscle fibers to do the work. Think about your triceps squeezing as you do each and every rep, concentrate on using that muscle, and only that muscle, to move the weight.
Need a fresh arms workout to put your newfound knowledge to use? Try one of Ashley's favorite arms assaults! This workout is built on supersets, one of Ashley's treasured techniques.