T Nation

Arm Training for the Powerlifter

Starting out in training I listened to a number of authors that claimed I would get enough direct arm training from compound movements. I started out training at a skinny fat 5’9" 155 and now am 180 at a much lower body fat. Have put hundreds of pounds on my total (315/235/425) and grown everywhere except my waist and wrist- trouble is my arms didn’t grow like the internet gods told me they would. Started out at 11’ cold, went down to 10.5 from losing the fat and now are at 12’ cold/13.5’ (flexed).

Overall I’m pretty torso dominant- I’ve never had a problem with biceps taking over in chinups or rows and triceps during bench. Unfortunately this translates to forearms taking over in curls a lot of times but focusing on keeping my wrists straight at all times has helped with this.

The past month or so I’ve just been doing 3x5 barbells curls followed by 3x12 preachers with another day of dumbbell curls followed by hammers. Triceps get pretty beat up from board/floor pressing and dips. My arms just look ridiculous on my frame so I want to do pretty much whatever possible on top of my current 4 day upper/lower (5/3/1) to bring them up to respectable size.

Any recommendations?

Do one or two exercises for bis and tris on each upper body day, or if you prefer do 2-4 exercises for just bis on one upper body day and then 2-4 exercises for just tris on the other. Reps and such are not as important as just training hard and not taking super long rest. Here are a few of my favorite exerices for them:

Bis - EZ Bar Curls (a little swing is okay), DB Curl, Hmr Curl, EZ Reverse Curl

Tris - Skull Crushers (regular or cable), closegrip bench, Higher Rep Pushdowns (15-25) and Higher Rep DB Tri Pullovers. Don’t forget to warm them up.

Good luck. The Wendler routine is pretty low volume so I think you should be able to add this stuff in without much overtraining but listen to your elbows.

Keep in mind I know little on this subject.

Underhand close grip pullups were good for me.

Also, I would replace hammer curls. My understanding is that those work the forearm/brachialis more than the biceps (which are bigger than brachialis).

Also, I have no idea if this is true, but according to www.exrx.net/Lists/ExList/ArmWt.html#anchor1910925 , preacher curls are also more brachialis intensive. I would probably replace those too.

I have the same problem, from the same reason. My shoulder peaks almost an inch higher then my bicep in a front double bi. It’s fucking pathetic. I’ve been doing cable and incline db curls.

tris: skullcrushers and 3+ boards

Maybe try some type of high frequency training for your bizeps and trizeps or some sort of doublé technique?? For example, do curls, bench + assistance exercises, then do curls again?? I’m pretty balanced but I think these things are typically recommended for bringing up lagging bodyparts.

You could give the more bodybuilding friendly 5/3/1 templates a shot…

Thibaudeau had a brief program called “Beach Training for Athletes” or something like that, basically short (15 min.) sessions to toss in at the end of a workout for guys who are performance-oriented. I’d go find that. Might start using it myself pretty soon actually.

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Any recommendations?[/quote]

Try jacking up the volume (not so much a strength workout, your after hypertrophy) for a couple of months for bi’s

Overall, I tend to agree with Tim Henriques.

Firstly: Don’t get me wrong, but judging from your pics your triceps are just as much of a problem as your bis.
And tris make up most of the upper arm when developed (and of course they’re kinda handy when benching. Kinda)…

I wouldn’t junmp right into specialization or hi-frequency routines and such if you never really trained your arms progressively and directly before for any length of time.
Just do some standard stuff for starters and work up to the point where you put up some respectable numbers on arm-work.

It also doesn’t take a huge amount of exercises to make them grow, if you do a ton of volume (especially work-set-wise)then chances are that you’ll just end up stalling all the time/progressing very slowly…

I’d suggest that you have a look at the t-cell thread “best exercises for each bodypart” (or whatever it was called) and see what people recommend there… There were also arm-training threads in the cell.

Then pick a heavy press and maybe some sort of pullover/extension (or just extension… Careful with nosebreakers, PL’ers elbows get beat up enough as it is, you don’t need to provoke tendonitis even more)
and get as strong as you can on those for a moderate (press) to high(extension/pullover) amount of reps.

1-2 work sets (or maybe one DC rest-pause set, seeing as how both jackreape and Hanley seem to like those and are getting great results off them… Hanley does fully-fledged DC though at the moment) per exercise is just fine. The faster you can increase your working weight with acceptable form, the faster your arms grow…

At some point you could start alternating exercises there to keep progressing, but that’s a topic for another time.
If you stall and nothing’s moving despite increased calories and enough Protein in your diet… Then switch to a different movement of similar type until you stall there as well, then come back to the original exercise.

Same stuff for bis, pick one movement where most people can go fairly heavy (alt. curls starting in a hammer position, alt. hammer curls, pinwheel curls…) and one extra thing (preachers, incline offset curls, wide-grip low cable curls to chin or forehead with a wide-lat-pulldown attachment) and drive your strength up.

You can do all the super-sets and drop-sets and forced reps with 40 lb DB’s and a 225 lb Barbell that you want, the guy curling the 90’s for 6-8 with decent form and close-gripping 405 or more for 8 (both for 1 set) is going to have the bigger arms.

Plenty of good advice already here.
Could also try some slow 20 rep sets at the end of upper body days and really make them burn, also give Tate presses a try- lots of them.

The simple approach seems best.

My main problem with tricep training is the fact that I can’t do any type of extension without horrible elbow pain. This has been around from long before I started lifting or benching or doing pushups- it’s kind of a mystery.

I’ve had ART done before but it was only temporary relief. No pressing or pushing exercise that I’ve tried yet has given me any, so I need to experiment and see what I can do that is mainly triceps but doesn’t aggravate it or is taken over by shoulders/chest.

Personally I like:

EZ Bar Spider Curls
Alternating Dumbbell Curls
Alternating Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Close-Grip Chin-Ups
Neutral Close-Grip Chin-Ups

Floor Skullcrushers
Weighted Dips (chain)
Close-Grip Bench Press

  • w.high boards (3-5)
  • w.double bands
    Tate Press
    Rolling Dumbbell Extensions
    Band Pushdowns (after all bench movements)

[quote]IronAbrams wrote:
The simple approach seems best.

My main problem with tricep training is the fact that I can’t do any type of extension without horrible elbow pain. This has been around from long before I started lifting or benching or doing pushups- it’s kind of a mystery.

I’ve had ART done before but it was only temporary relief. No pressing or pushing exercise that I’ve tried yet has given me any, so I need to experiment and see what I can do that is mainly triceps but doesn’t aggravate it or is taken over by shoulders/chest.[/quote]

I know what you mean with the extensions…

PJR’s should not aggravate that though (at least they don’t do that in my case).

IH presses or SRGB’s should really be more than enough for your tris… Again, consider that t-cell thread on best exercises/bodypart.

Just to clarify, over how long were these gains made? Or rather, how long since you stopped cutting?

I mean, you did put 1.5" on your arms! If you stopped cutting 6 months ago - that is an awesome result. If it took you two years, still not bad but you could have done better with direct arm work.

Can’t say that I was ever cutting per se- went into a phase for about a year where I was paranoid about only eating “clean” foods to the point of pissing off my parents which led to me not getting enough calories to really bulk.

Got my act together last year once I got to college but my weight gain has to go at a pretty slow pace otherwise it really starts cutting into my run time for ROTC.

I know part of it’s estats, but it seems like the average arm size of someone who’s been training around my weight is more like 14 or 15’ and that makes me pretty self conscious about it.

I am the same way. I didn’t do any bicep work for 4-5 years as it didn’t help with PL. Then I got tired of having small arms and I have tried to bring them up but they are still not growing fast enough for me.

I have been doing a lot of close grip chins (hanging weight to keep reps in the 6-10 range) and then I usually do at least 1 arm isolation exercise at the end of every workout (tri pressdown, skull krushers, various curls, etc).

I also do close grip bp once a week along with a lot of other pressing. This has brought my arms up to 17" flexed but they still look like strings hanging out my shirt compared to my torso (approx. 46" chest)

Another thing you can do is get a few db’s or and ez curl bar and a some weights for your room and just do curls every night before bed.

[quote]Tim Henriques wrote:
Do one or two exercises for bis and tris on each upper body day, or if you prefer do 2-4 exercises for just bis on one upper body day and then 2-4 exercises for just tris on the other. Reps and such are not as important as just training hard and not taking super long rest. Here are a few of my favorite exerices for them:
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Oddly enough, I’m actually trying this exact approach. On a weekly basis, I’ve been able to add at least 2 or 3 reps to the heaviest working set of each exercise. It seems to be working.

I had the same thing happen to me. I love weighted chinning so Ive got a wide torso, but my arms have hardy grown. With my 13.75in arms and 46 inch chest at 6’3" I looked like a snow man. I did the high volume arm program that was in an article on here this fall and gained damn near an inch on my arms.

It only lasted for 6 weeks so i didn’t lose anything on the big three. I’m doing madcoxs 5x5 right now which has some arm work plus I added a few sets of curls for my left arm, but it’s to soon to tell how it’s been working for me.

[quote]IronAbrams wrote:
I know part of it’s estats, but it seems like the average arm size of someone who’s been training around my weight is more like 14 or 15’ and that makes me pretty self conscious about it.[/quote]

Cold, I have no idea what is normal amongst the weight-trained population.

Anyway, it looks like in a year you put 1.5" on your arms doing whatever you are doing now. If your current program is working for your powerlifting, be careful about making too radical a change. Maybe choose an appropriate block somewhere that fits in your comp calender and do some hypertrophy work with a focus on your arms?

Just be sure that you aren’t confusing “not happy with my arms” with “what I’m doing isn’t working”.

Sounds more like you need to gain weight. On average you need to gain 10lbs for an inch of arm size. It’s pretty impossible otherwise. Also, you just have to realize the limitations of your phenotype.

Wendler on arm training: