As classic as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, biceps-and-triceps supersets is a tried-and-tested technique for building serious arms in one workout. Team Bodybuilding.com and MuscleTech-sponsored athlete Abel Albonetti is ready to share his particular brand of supersetting for arms.
"This workout is probably different from what you're used to," he explains. "We'll start off lifting heavy on biceps at the beginning of the workout and lighter on triceps, then toward the end of the workout switch and lift heavier on triceps and lighter on biceps."
Already a fan of superset training and high-volume hypertrophy, Albonetti includes five supersets, blood-flow restriction (BFR) training, intra-set pauses, and one giant-set finisher into this arm-training gauntlet. The result: an insane pump and major arm growth.
Barbell Biceps Curl and Triceps Rope Push-down
Start the workout by going heavier on the biceps with barbell curls. Remember to keep your back straight and avoid using momentum.
"Too many people swing too much," says Albonetti, "so eliminate that tendency as much as possible."
You'll increase the weight on the curls with each set, starting at 12 reps, then increasing the weight and dropping to 10 reps, then 8 and 8. On the last set, you'll finish with a triple dropset.
With the rope push-downs, you'll use a lighter weight compared to the biceps curls because you're trying to pre-exhaust your triceps before giving them heavier weights at the end of the workout. Make sure you're going slow and controlled, completing 4 sets of 12-15 reps.
EZ-Bar Preacher Curl and Cable Overhead Triceps Extension
Now that your muscles are warmed up, you can really stretch those fibers through their full range of motion—which is why Albonetti uses preacher curls and cable extensions for his second superset. Stretching and squeezing at the top of the contraction helps pump more blood into the muscle.
"When you're doing preacher curls, make sure you're going all the way down to get a full stretch in the muscle," says Albonetti.
For the cable overhead extension, do 4 sets of 15 reps, combining intra-set stretching with a dropset at the end of the final set. To do this, perform the last set of 15 reps, then hold the stretched position (arms bent) for 30 seconds. After the 30 seconds is up, drop the weight and go for as many reps as you can.
Stretch again for 30 seconds before dropping the weight one more time, getting as many reps as you can before stretching for another 30 seconds.
Dumbbell Hammer Curl with Dumbbell Overhead Extension
This is the point in the workout where you begin to add more weight on the triceps, while backing off of the biceps. Raise the bench to 45 degrees for the incline bench dumbbell curls. Do 4 sets of 10-12 reps, repeating the same intra-set stretch/dropset pattern you just did with the overhead extensions on the final set.
Hold the dumbbells at the bottom of the movement for the intra-set where the biceps are fully extended. For each set, try to do both arms at the same time.
"If you hit failure before you've hit 10 reps, switch to alternating curls," suggests Albonetti. "You'll be able to squeeze out a few more reps."
For the triceps skullcrushers, you're now going heavier and lowering the reps. Start with a weight you can handle for a set of 10. Next, increase the weight and drop the reps to 8, 8, and 8. On the last set, you'll do a dropset. Once you reach failure, drop the weight by 20 percent and go to failure again.
"Make sure you're not locking out at the top of your skullcrusher," cautions Albonetti. "Keep tension on your triceps the whole time." He finds that the upright bench helps in this effort.
High Cable Curl with Triceps Cable Push-down
For the fifth superset, Albonetti incorporates BFR. As he mentioned in the article "How Do You Shock a Lagging Body Part," BFR allows blood to enter the muscle while preventing it from completely leaving. As a result, muscle-building metabolites start to build up, and the extra fatigue caused by the restriction forces your nervous system to recruit the largest fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the greatest potential for growth.
"There are bands made specifically for the purpose of blood-flow restriction," says Albonetti, "but if you don't have them, any small band will do. Get the band up high on the arm, and tighten it to about a six out of 10. You want it just tight enough to restrict the blood flow, but not so tight it cuts it off completely."
You won't be able to lift the amount of weight you usually do when using BFR, so drop the weight by 50 percent. For example, a weight that you'd normally lift for 30 reps would be perfect for 15 reps using BFR. The purpose of this technique is to amplify the pump, so go lighter and keep the bands on for both exercises.
Reverse EZ-Bar Curls with Dumbbell Kick-back and Close-Grip Push-up
You have one more beast to take down—a giant set to annihilate your arms and build serious muscle. Use good form on all three exercises, keeping your back straight and keeping tension in your muscles the whole time.
For the dumbbell kick-backs, use a weight you can get all 12 reps on and still keep your back straight. Squeeze at the back of the movement and pause for a second.
On the close-grip push-ups, go down, squeeze, go up—but don't lock out at the top. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides to keep the emphasis on your triceps rather than on your chest.
Albonetti recommends doing this workout once every two weeks.
"One workout I'll work biceps, the next I'll work triceps," he explains, "but this workout is great because I can superset them together."