You may think you know all there is to know about training arms with supersets. Trust me, you don't. I don't either, which is why last year, I saw the need to bring my arms up. I felt the same way about my delts, as I explained in my last article, Kris Gethin's High-Volume Shoulder Builder.
The way I attacked my biceps is similar to how to how I tackled with my delts, and it proved similarly effective. First of all, I trained them every five days—effectively twice a week—rather than weekly. I also bumped up my calories to support muscle growth, and prioritized supplements that boost growth and strength gains.
Of course, I also changed up my routines, putting an emphasis on extending sets, deepening the fatigue, and maximizing the pump. With me, you should know by now, there's always plenty of volume. More volume equals better blood flow, a better pump, and better muscle gain. It's that simple.
Put another way, this is going to hurt. But you need it, so be a big boy and get it done.
Extend the set, extend the pain, extend the growth
Some may think doing supersets for biceps is somehow less intense because you're saving something for the second movement, but I assure you that how I do them is plenty intense. Rather than thinking of them as supersets, which many people associate with antagonist muscle groups, think of these as "extended sets" or mechanical dropsets.
Here's how built my biceps routine. Similar to how I trained shoulders, I do the first movement of each pair in in super-strict fashion, usually a curl from the seated position so that there's almost no body English. Oftentimes, I can't reach the rep target of 15, and start doing rest-pause reps to finally get there.
But that doesn't mean the set is over. With all that accumulated fatigue, I now stand up and complete another 15 curls. The standing position allows me to recruit other assisting muscle groups and to extend the set. Have you ever noticed you can use more weight on standing dumbbell curls than when you're seated? This superset takes advantage of exactly that mechanism. I'm thus going way beyond the point at which I'd normally end a set.
Though the rep range is high at 15, rest assured, I'm still going very heavy with those 15 repetitions, and I may reach failure well before that. If I do, I'll rest-pause my ass off till I get to 15. I'm going heavy, explosive, and forcing every muscle fiber to contract.
This kind of training means the pump is incredible, and your biceps are screaming in pain. You'll likely want to take a couple of minutes before you do your next set. Resist the urge. I limit the rest period to just 30-45 seconds before going again; I'm sure the muscles aren't completely recovered, but I've found that the combination of short rest and high volume gives me that fuller, rounder look.
What separates some lifters from others is how they handle the muscle burn. I force myself to experience that pain as pleasure, because I know that's what's going to help me achieve success. I'm always seeking that failure point; every single working set is about failure, no question. I'm not saving myself for some other set.
1. Seated curl to standing dumbbell curl
A seemingly minor change that has paid off immensely for me was to stop alternating sides when curling with dumbbells. When alternating, I found that just holding the dumbbell while the other side was working really took a toll on my forearms. My grip strength would fail before my biceps did.
So now I do 15 reps seated for one arm without alternating, then stand up and continue with another 15 reps standing up with the same arm. Only then I do start with the opposite side.
2. Preacher curl to standing EZ-bar curl
Because I'm seated, this is a very strict movement in the beginning. That also limits the amount of weight I can use. With preachers, I go with a very narrow grip, and I don't go all the way down because I find it puts too much stress on the biceps tendon.
With a shorter range of motion, I work on pumping and squeezing the biceps as much as possible. Then, when I finish the first 15 reps, I'll transition to a standing position and use a wider grip. I'm using a little body English now, so I get some help to keep the set going. If I'm not totally gassed by the time I approach 15 reps, I'll add in a few slow negative reps to make sure I hit failure when I should.
3. Lying cable curl to standing cable curl
The lying cable curl has been a favorite of mine for years, from the Hardcore Trainer on through the Muscle-Building Trainer. It looks weird to some people, but the execution is simple enough. You're lying on the floor, straddling the bars on the cable posts so that the cable runs directly along your midline. Because you're lying, it's difficult to use body English to help move the weight, so your form is really strict.
I usually reach failure at about 10-12 reps, then use rest-pause to get to 15. From that position, I stand up and do cable curls, employing a little more body swing to do another 15 reps.
Incorporating Change into My Arm Routine
Within this workout, I'll change up some exercises now and then. With preachers, one week I may do it on a machine, and another time with free weights like the EZ-bar. I'll make subtle changes like that. Occasionally, like once every 5-6 weeks, I'll switch up and perform certain movements with a reverse or hammer grip.
Though my routine isn't written in stone, I don't like to make random changes just for the sake of variety. Try out new things and see how they make you feel. But when you make changes, follow them for at least three months to see if they work. When you make wholesale changes to your training frequently, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what's working. You'll never know for sure, because you kept swapping things around all the time.
As I've said many times, I know it's working because of how I look and how it feels. I don't measure any body parts; I know mainly by looking in the mirror, and I often know by how intense the mind-muscle connection is during training.
If I ain't feeling it, it's not working. Words to live by.