21 Arm Routines - Part 1

The greatest arms in bodybuilding were built by diligent men with incredible routines. Follow advice from heroes of the past and get arms worth flexing - Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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How did Arnold Schwarzenegger build his iconic biceps?
With hard work - and lots of it.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's guns are arguably the most famous in human history, and rightly so. Stretching the tape to a full 22 inches, they weren't just the biggest of his day (the late-'60s to the mid-'70s) but also the most ideally shaped.

Arnold kept things basic and brutal yet made sure to cover his bases by including exercises that he considered mass builders, and others that isolated the biceps.

Cheating barbell curls were a favorite exercise that he included in his regimen from the time he was a teenager. "The cheating barbell curl stands alone for building mass," he once stated.

Likewise, Arnold loved incline dumbbell curls. He would set the incline bench to an angle of about 45 degrees to ensure maximum stretch throughout his biceps. Arnold considered one-arm concentration curls to be the ultimate movement for adding peak to the biceps.

Although the shape of one's biceps is largely determined by genetics, concentration curls do target the outer head of the biceps, which is the one that creates arm height when flexed.

The Oak would finish off his biceps with standing alternating dumbbell curls, which he'd sometimes do with a device called an arm blaster. This would help him keep his elbows pinned to his sides, isolating his biceps even further.

In the end, he performed between 20-and-26 sets of this grueling work twice per week, on Tuesday and Friday evenings.

Arnold's Basic Biceps Routines
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Get locked, loaded, and ready for urban assault with this workout from one of the best athletes in law enforcement.

When you've earned the title "Toughest Competitor Alive" at the World Police and Fire Games, as Andy McDermott did in Vancouver in 2009, you've got a pretty good handle on the physical requirements of law enforcement.

As a member of a Tactical Response Squad in Arizona, McDermott needs to be ready for just about anything. "As I've gotten older," McDermott says, "I've had to change a lot of things in order to stay lean, which is what I need to be for work. My arm workouts are part of a circuit that keeps my whole body moving quickly and is metabolically taxing. It pumps up my arms and burns fat at the same time."

Attach a pair of elastic bands to a heavy object and work your way through five rounds of the following workout. If you don't have access to a rowing machine, substitute any activity requiring a quick, heavy energy output: jumping rope, sprints, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or shuttle runs.

McDermott's Arms Routine

Circuit: 5 Rounds

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Times Five
It doesn't take a space-age program to build mass.
Try this old-school classic.

The biceps and triceps (both relatively small muscle groups) respond well to going heavy, and using more weight can provide a goodsize foundation for the arms (and make them stronger) so your higher-rep sets can be done with even more weight, producing more mass.

The 5x5 training method is a lifting practice the late Reg Park (a 3-time Mr. Universe and Arnold Schwarzenegger's idol growing up) swore by in his prime during the 1950s and '60s.

Park used the first two sets of each exercise as a warm-up, increasing weight from the first to the second set, building up to the final three working sets. On all three working sets, the weight stayed the same.

The following workout includes two exercises each for biceps and triceps, and you'll alternate back and forth between the two muscles - as opposed to doing all biceps work, then all triceps work, or vice versa - to ensure that neither takes a backseat to the other.

5X5 Arm Routine



* Use the first two sets as increasingly heavier buildup sets, doing no more than five reps. Use the same weight on the last three sets.

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Badly injured in combat, this decorated American warrior knows the value of heavy weaponry.

101st Airborne Division veteran Dan Eslinger risked his neck for the United States of America. Literally.

Attached as a security specialist to the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, the force of a roadside bomb ejected Eslinger from his Humvee, landing him on his head, destroying his left shoulder and fracturing his neck in three places.

Eslinger, now a national-level NPC bodybuilder with his own training business, brings a "wartime mentality" with him every time he walks into the gym - and his arm-training days are no exception.

With arms measuring more than 20 inches in circumference, he might just be on to something. "Why train with a 9mm pistol when you can roll with a .50-caliber machine gun?"

Dan Eslinger's Arm Routine

*Increase weight by five pounds each set.

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Build the deadliest handshake in the gym.
By Jedd Johnson, C.S.C.S.

You can't get pumped-up wrists the same way you get pecs and biceps, but there are plenty of compelling reasons to train your grip.

Use this routine to get the paws of a grizzly bear.

The Grip Workout

Include one of the following exercises at the end of each workout.

Two-Hand Pinch

Place two same-size weight plates (think 35s) together so the smooth sides face out, and grip them with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other.

Squeeze the plates together and lift them off the floor as though you were deadlifting. Hold them in front of your body at arm's length for time.

Perform 3-5 sets. To make it even tougher, run some chain through the holes in the center of the plates and rotate your wrists. The chains will add weight and will swing when you twist your wrists, adding another element of challenge.

Sledgehammer Twist

Tie a 24-inch strap or rope to a 2.5-pound weight plate. Tie the other end to the head of a sledgehammer (the longer the handle, the harder the exercise will be).

Hold the hammer at the end of the handle with both hands at waist height. While keeping the hammer parallel to the ground, rotate the handle so the strap wraps around it and it begins hoisting the plate up in the air.

Continue until the plate touches the handle, and then unroll it to the floor. That's one set. Change the direction you roll every set along with the hand that's in front. Do 2-3 sets with each hand in front.

This exercise works wrist flexion and extension while forcing you to overcome bad leverage, so it strengthens the wrist in multiple directions.

Plate Curl

Hold a 10-pound plate by hooking your thumb around the lip on the outside edge and spreading your fingers on the smooth side.

Curl the plate as normal but keep your wrist straight - don't let it buckle from the weight. Work up to two plates and then a 25-pounder. Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps on each hand.

Jedd Johnson is a trainer in northeastern Pennsylvania who competes in gripstrength contests - he can two-hand pinch 268 pounds. He is co-founder of The Diesel Crew, a training information company. dieselcrew.com

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It Out
Build bodybuilder arms and strongman strength with this extreme routine.
By Derek Poundstone, America's Strongest Man 2007, '09, '10

Do the work and have a good plan - the secrets to building anything in life. I'll give you the plan if you supply the work.

My off-season arm routine is designed to strengthen the triceps (for pressing 400-pound logs overhead) and the biceps (for pulling a 230,000-pound train).

Start with a triceps pressing movement, focusing on using the tri's to execute the movement rather than the lats, shoulders, or chest.

Heavy weights are mandatory to place a substantial amount of tension on the triceps and make them strong.

Next, do an extension movement to isolate the triceps and stimulate every last muscle fiber for growth.

Then, we ignite the arms with pain-tolerance training, using barbells and ropes.

Keep your form tight on barbell curls, with constant tension on the arms and no resting at the top or bottom.

Derek Poundstone's Arm Routine

All sets listed are working sets and do not include warmup sets.
*Perform at least 50 reps, with a goal to reach 100.

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Pyramid to a pump with M&F's resident
iron game lunatic.

MuscleTech-sponsored athlete Matt Kroczaleski, one of the strongest powerlifters in history, has taken his talents to the bodybuilding stage - and if his new physique is any indication, his training methods are right on point.

"Kroc," known for the insane hardcore intensity of his now-infamous garage workouts, relies on more volume than most to get his arms growing.

His program takes several basic movements, which he works in a pyramid-style rep scheme, and then adds a unique twist: a triple drop set (TDS) performed as the last set of each exercise.

To do this, decrease the weight by 20-25% for each successive drop set without rest. Then grind out three quick sets to failure without resting. "This will force a ton of blood into your arms," Kroczaleski says, "stretching the fascia and allowing room for new muscle growth to occur."

For your first three sets with each exercise, pyramid upward in weight. Start with a weight you can handle for high reps, then add enough weight to make each set a challenge - but not enough to make you fail before you complete the prescribed number of reps.

Matt Kroczaleski's Arm Routine

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3