As a bodybuilder, you can use any number of strategies to build bigger arms on a once-a-week split. You can train longer and harder on your back and bis day. You can try new exercises. You can buy smaller T-shirts. (Okay, that's smoke and mirrors.) You can train really, really hard. And then you can push yourself even harder!
Point being: Intensity has a ceiling. And when you've hit it, it's time to try another approach—like increasing your arm-training frequency. With an intermediate- or advanced-level training split of at least 5-6 days, you can easily train your biceps and triceps—small muscle groups that recovery fairly quickly—twice per week.
No, this approach won't work indefinitely. But over the course of six weeks, it's a simple way to add enough volume to bring added size where other approaches have come up short!
Your New Sleeve-Splitting Split
When adding a second arm workout, the way you put together your training split becomes crucial. Because the triceps are also recruited on chest and shoulder days, and the biceps on back day, there are a number of scenarios where adding a second arm day will interfere too much with your big presses and pulls.
The answer is a split like this one, which builds 48 hours between workouts for the push- and pull-day muscles, allowing ample recovery time. (Note: Abs and calves aren't included; add them wherever you want.)
- Day 1: Chest
- Day 2: Back, biceps
- Day 3: Shoulders, triceps
- Day 4: Legs
- Day 5: Biceps, triceps
- Day 6: Rest
- Day 7: Rest or cycle repeats
It's worth noting that adding arm size should also be done as part of an overall mass-gaining phase. Nutritionally, this means you're not restricting overall calories or missing meals. It also means following a mass-boosting supplement plan to provide all the vital raw materials for adding quality size.
When your focus is on building arms, you should focus on gaining weight, not just adding inches. A good rule of thumb: For every 10 pounds of quality mass you gain, expect to add about another inch on your arms.
Two Workouts, Two Approaches
You'll be doing a pair of biceps and triceps workouts each week, but they won't be identical. The first one falls after a shoulder or back session, meaning the arm extensors and flexors will be somewhat fatigued already, so the volume is accordingly adjusted downward. The second workout for each is an arms-only day, so you can attack the biceps and triceps with full force.
Using two different routines for each muscle group offers other advantages. You can hit some different angles, vary the way you manipulate your reps and weight, and try advanced training principles that you apply to 1-2 sets of each movement. The idea here is to hit those muscle fibers in new ways they're unaccustomed to.
Here are a few rules to guide you. You can see most of them, as well as other helpful tips, in Cytosport's recent "10 Keys for Building Monster Biceps" article.
- Do the best overall mass-building movement first. For triceps, that's a multijoint movement, so do the triceps dip machine first on your shoulder/triceps day, and a skull-crusher/close-grip bench press superset on your dedicated arms day. For biceps, it's standing barbell curls, because you can handle the most weight.
Vary grip widths across workouts. For instance, on your first day you can use a shoulder-width grip on barbell curls to target both heads. On the second workout, do that same move, but with two sets with a significantly wider grip and another two with a significantly closer grip. This shifts the emphasis to the short and long heads, respectively.
For your initial workouts, stick with more conventional movements that focus on the various heads on the first workout. On dedicated arm days, do some less common variations that provide a slightly different attack angle. This is also when you'd toss in intensity-boosting techniques like supersets, dropsets, back-and-forth sets, and Tabata-style sets, in which you do 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for four minutes.
Have your workout partner spot you to complete a few forced reps on the last set of each exercise when it makes sense. What does this mean? Barbell curls, yes. Triceps dip machine? Probably not.
Use this as a blueprint for a short-term strategy designed to jack up your arms, and tell us how it turns out in the comments below!
The Bigger Arms by Two Workouts
These workouts don't include warm-up sets; do as many as you need, but never take warm-up sets to muscle failure. Take all working sets to muscle failure.