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Arm Exercises for a Powerlifter?


Basically I’m a 15 year old who mostly focuses on powerlifting. My arms are pretty long and this makes them look small compared to my back. My arm training is basically as follows: 3 sets of dumbbell curls one day, 3 sets of dumbbell curls and hammer curls the next day. For triceps I do cable extensions every workout and once a week close grip bench. Here is a picture of my back double biceps to give you guys a sense of what my arms look like.


There ain’t many 15 year olds with anything near decent arms so you are already doing well lel.


So for some bicep gains we’ll take a look at your back accessory work and the isolation work you do. For both the name of the game is more volume and in the long term progressive overload while in a caloric surplus. Both the muscles of your upper back (as distinct from your lower back) and biceps can handle a lot of volume.

You are probably already doing some form of back accessory work to help your powerlifting. I reckon put in some real work on these, getting in more work/week and driving progression, and you’ll see some good gains without curling anything. Weighted chin ups are probably one of the best compound movements if you want bigger biceps but rows are also very good.

As a powerlifter we have to consider how some movements will affect the rest of our training. Since we are deadlifting and squatting plenty it’s safe to say our lower back is getting plenty of work in. So as handy as bent barbell rows are if we were to do lots and lots of volume in them then our lower back is gonna be fried and our main training suffer because of that.

So… I highly recommend getting good at pulling exercises that don’t put much demand on your lower back. Weighted chin ups and chest supported rows are what come to mind. Dunno what program you currently run but hopefully there’s a place for more back work per week (+ frequency, volume etc.). Maybe start with 15 sets per week split over three days (so 5 sets of back per workout) or you could split it up however you want as long as there’s time to recover workout to workout. We can start at 15 but we need to progress so maybe over say a few months we can gradually increase the intensity/weight used or increase weekly volume to 25 sets per week (adding an extra set or two every week).

So now onto bicep curls. Even if you’re already doing a fucktonne of pulling work the biceps can still handle a lot of volume. Bit awkward to overload via more weight tho cos you start swinging and using more momentum.

Anyways when you say your arm training is yada yada yada I’m a bit confused. Do you mean you do kinda 3,6,3,6,3,6,3 sets of isolation for biceps and end up with 27 weekly sets? If so that’s probably enough isolation volume and you should focus on compound movements.


Bit easier cos bench shoulder already be giving you plenty of tricep work (depending on form). Even if you do assistance exercises with any sort of tricep focus, decent volume and overload direct tricep work still has its place.

Compound Movements: Dips or Close Grip Bench ez


What program are you on?


Upper lower twice a week. One low volume day one high volume day for each


ok I recommend on low volume upper day do just one move only. Something heavy-ish say hammer curls 4x6-8. On volume day pretty much go for a big pumpathon: 2-3 moves for 5x15 then finish with this…


I do 6 sets of dumbbell curls and 3 of hammer curls per week. I do 3 sets of rows and 3 sets of vertical pulls each upper body day so that’s 12 sets of back per week. I guess I’ll make sure to always do 1 underhand back exercise weather that be chin-ups or rows


Because biceps aren’t involved in the power lifts do you think doing 2-3 sets of curls between sets on lower body days would help? It would be a pretty easy way to add some weekly volume I bet.


No where near enough then for either muscle group lel.

I reckon think of volume in terms of total number of working sets per body part per week. Split it up or divvy it however you want.

Back - 15 sets / week and add volume gradually until you get towards 20+ sets / week.
Biceps - 15 sets / week and gradually work your way up to 25ish

No rush tho because you can overload weight pretty easily on your compound back movements.

Nah do it at the end. Might be time efficient to throw it in between lower body sets but as a powerlifter you should be 100% focused on doing the work and even the little bit that a set of curls would mess with your main work is too much.


So you think that doing a few sets of biceps on a lower body day would be fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rest of the workout?



If it was other body parts workout to workout recovery might be an issue but within reason biceps recover plenty fast enough to train them every day if you wish.


Assuming you deadlift on lower body days you should probably watch this video.


Don’t get carried away with training your biceps. A few sets of curls once or twice a week is plenty. Your biceps might be able to handle more volume, but your body can only tolerate so much. Even an relatively easy exercise causes fatigue. Are bicep curls worth sacrificing progress on the squat, bench, and deadlift?

Don’t do anything between sets of the main lifts if you actually want to get stronger, and don’t deadlift after bicep curls unless you want a torn bicep.


Was going to say this.

Just throw in biceps work at the end of 2 of your sessions - use double progression and go slow.

If you add just 20lbs to a strict curl set of 10 over 2 years, I assure you that your arms will look great.


Are curls really gonna negative impact my power lifts?


I hook grip to avoid all the mixed grip issues.


If you overdo them, yes. If you can add 10 sets of curls and still recover just fine then you would be better off doing more squatting, benching, and deadlifting instead, or at least something specific to building those lifts. I can understand your situation, you are a kid who wants to be strong and look big but both of those things take time. If you can bench 400 then nobody will care what your biceps look like. Personally, I do three sets of hammer curls once a week in addition to rows and chin ups. I just measured my arms, they are 18 inches. And no, I don’t take steroids. I don’t give a damn about arm size, I want to lift bigger weights.

That’s good that you are using hook grip, but you shouldn’t do anything other than rest between work sets on the competition lifts. Save your energy for the stuff that really matters, do less important things after. You can superset curls with band pull aparts or rear delt flys or something like that, that’s what I do.


Why I do curls: I have had issues with bicep and forearm pain, mostly caused by low bar squatting, and curls seem to help reduce/prevent that. Also, some coaches like Josh Bryant and Brandon Lilly have said that training the biceps can help the bench press because the biceps are involved in stabilizing the bar. That doesn’t mean that you need a ton of bicep work and neither of those guys are recommending that, just do a bit and gradually increase weight and your arms will grow. If anything, you would be better off with more tricep work. Cable extensions are OK, but doing the same thing over and over every workout won’t get you very far. Do dips, skull crushers, JM presses, elbows out dumbbell extensions, and so on. Tricep work will directly help your bench.


Thanks sm. You have helped me a lot.


Your arms dont look small compared to your small back. You are over thinking it and complicating it. You need more size top to bottom front to back. Keep eating and keep training. Focus on getting a 500 bench you wont have small arms then.

  1. Stop looking in the fucking mirror.

  2. Lift big, eat big, sleep big.