A big chest or wide shoulders are signs of virile masculinity. These body parts stand out even from a distance and are goals for men of all ages to shoot for, but when a female admirer notices a superior physique and in importunate bashfulness asks, "Can I feel your muscle?", she wants to fondle your flexed bicep. Nothing so easily impresses other people as does a large, well-defined and shapely bicep.
Diane: Well defined biceps muscle are important for our female readers as well. When baby boomer, Arnold Schwarzenegger co-starred with lean and fit, Linda Hamilton in the movie, Terminator 2, the level of female arm development was redefined. More than a decade later, female training clients still request Linda Hamilton arms.
If people are so impressed with arms, why are so few outstanding biceps seen even at gyms or local level contests where you would think they would be common? Far too many people mistake size with quality development.
But, once you've decided to make your arms a priority in your physique development, where do you turn for advice? The big guy in the gym with no definition? The skinny lady who is naturally lean? NO! Not only does this baby boomer team base our advice on scientific evidence, but we also base our recommendations on our expertise. So, if you want to develop your arms, turn to the man that was named by Muscle and Fitness magazine (October 1995) as among the Top Ten Guns of All Time, Richard Baldwin.
Since I was named among the Top Ten Guns of All Time, I feel confident that I have something to say about arm development. First, let's clear up two mistakes made by many lifters.
"If I can just get my arms to measure 19 or 20 inches, I'll impress everyone." Big arms are not necessarily impressive arms. I see some big arms in gyms all the time but few impressive arms. The problem is that most of the big arms I see lack shape and definition and are often accompanied by a fat stomach. Believe me, a fat stomach ruins a big chest or wide shoulders as much as it does a large set of arms.
Remember, fat is synonymous with big. Most fat people have big arms, but are fat arms the type of big arms you are striving to achieve. In this case it isn't just size that counts, but rather the quality of the developed muscle. It's sort of like breasts for females; they lose their impressiveness if they are accompanied by too much abdominal fat and a big butt.
"I want arms like Lee Priest's, so I will follow his arm routine." Unfortunately, we are all limited by our genetics. When I decided I wanted big arms I found out what every guy that had great arms did to get those and realized they each had found a different routine that worked for them.
What worked for Larry Scott's biceps worked because the routine was carefully tailored to maximize his genetics, nutrition plan and workout style. The same holds true for Frank Zane, Dave Draper and myself. There is no one size fits all arm routine.
However, there are some general guiding principles to impressive arms:
- THERE IS NO SECRET EXERCISE! The truth is that one must use a variety of exercises with barbells, dumbbells, cables and machines.
- It takes years to build arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Priest, or any of the amateur or pro bodybuilding champions. Yes, that's correct - it takes years!
- Don't get discouraged if gains don't come quickly. Look at some early photos of Franco Columbu. If he can build a pair of arms like he displayed in winning the Mr. Olympia, so can you. Persistence counts more than heredity. I've seen a lot of people with outstanding genetics but no discipline or desire.
- Consistency is as important as persistence. That is, working out regularly all year round for one year is more important than training for only three or four months out of the year for ten years.
- You only get out of arm training what you put into it. That sounds corny and obvious, but it does express the importance of intensity. How often have I seen a fellow doing some pro bodybuilder's arm routine and wonder why he didn't get arms like the pro bodybuilder. Often the reason is simple: he talks as much as he trains in the gym.
- Don't neglect the forearms and triceps. We have already written an article on triceps training and will do one on forearms in the future. Great biceps look even greater when they are matched by great triceps and forearms.
Richard Baldwin's Top Ten Guns Of All Time Routine
Remember, this worked for me. Try it out and take from it what seems to work for your arms. I seem to get the best results training arms at least 2 times a week in the off-season and 3 times per week when I'm attempting to burn the last bit of fat from them and eke out trophy-winning shape. I work biceps first, followed by triceps with forearms last. I have also found that I seem to get best results if I choose a heavy basic exercise to begin a muscle in order to get the deep muscle fibers for that important size. Then I finish it off with isolation-shaping exercises.
Biceps begin with barbell curls consisting of four to five sets of six to eight reps. At one point in my struggle to build prize-winning arms, I dropped all barbell work. My arms began to shrink after a few months. I panicked and began searching through my old magazines and read an article by Arnold Schwarzenegger about the importance of barbell curls. I reinstated them in my routine and began progressing once again.
Next is one arm dumbbell curls on the preacher bench. I can use a 100 pound dumbbell for reps, but my arms seem to respond best with 70 pounds. This seems to give me separation between the biceps and triceps.
Finally, I do a series of bent over curls with an EZ curl bar and a dumbbell. Robby Robinson does these relentlessly and I enjoyed them so much when we did the together that I have kept them in my routine.
Here is what my routine looks like:
Remember, the same routine done for too long will lead to stagnation. Periodization of sets, repetition schemes, and exercises is essential for maximum growth and development. To illustrate what I mean, here is another routine that I am currently using:
Hammer curls, 3 X 6 with 60 pound dumbbells
Preacher bench curls, 3-4 X 6 with 60 pound dumbbells
Seated concentration curls, 3-4 X 9 with 45 pound dumbbells.
Some other great biceps exercises that I have used with some success are reverse (palms down) barbell curls, barbell preacher curls, alternate standing dumbbell curls, bentover one arm dumbbell curls, one arm standing cable curls, and one arm standing cable curls with the cable at shoulder height (so you are "making a muscle" with resistance).
So whether you are 20 at heart and are still interested in flexing those biceps or you just want to have nice arms, try these exercises out and find a routine that gives you the level of results you are seeking.
Train hard, train smart and make it a legendary week!
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
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Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.