Arms + Shoulders

I’m curious as to how many people train arms and shoulders directly. Many of the articles on t-mag say the best way to strengthen these areas is with compound movments. Just wanted to get some other opinions!

I train arms directly, but not shoulders. In fact, I have a day designated for arms. My situation is different though. I can’t bench press, so there is no compound movement for tris. That, and I’m not allowed doing pullups, so there is no compound movement for biceps.

I would say a lot of people train tri’s directly, but not bi’s. Just an observation of some of the programs.

I was wondering about this too. In the ‘Texas T’ article this week at T-mag they talked about Chad Waterbury having the biggest biceps in the gym and he doesn’t even do curls. Very interesting. Maybe we’d all be better off doing more chin-ups, dips ect than direct arm training? Sort of like getting more bang for the buck, like deadlifting alot instead of messing with all these fancy back machines. There is definitely something to this.

Depends on the program.

Most of the time I do a number of things…


In 1 split, I’ll do:
Bis with Back,
Tris with Chest
Separate Shoulder day

In another where I’m gearing for arm development I might do
Bis with Back,
Tris with Chest,
Then Shoulders, Bis, and Tris,

Other times when I’ve only got 4 days, I’ll do bis, tris and shoulders on one day, and Back with Chest 2-3 days before or after.

On other programs I don’t do any direct arm or shoulder work, because they’re involved in the compound movements. (Ex. some programs geared towards chest and back do them twice a week at various angles, so there’s really little point to do bis, and tris on top of this.)

Like anything else, I think you need to vary it. Sometimes train directly, othertimes don’t. Just make sure (regardless of whether or not you train directly) that your program doesn’t force you into any imbalances.

Best Wishes

I have basically nor really trained arms directly this year. I have a few times, but nothing consistent. My focus has been on the compound movements and getting the big muscles, bigger.

However, while my arms haven’t lost size, and may in fact be a little bigger, everything else has grown to the point where I feel they’re now a weakness.

As for shoulders, I train them directly. I used to not, and they were my worst bodypart. They are not right up there with my better ones.

I’ll do some reverse curls or rear raises at the end of a workout for 20 reps for increased bloodflow, other than that the closest I get to either is push presses.

There’s a lot of variable which come into play. Are you an athlete? A Bodybuilder? A Powerlifter? Do you have any weaknesses? Imbalances? Injuries?

Athletes, by nature need functional training which closely matches the basic movements and needs of the sport, in order to maximized strength/endurance carryover to the specific sport.
Functional Training also teaches your body to integrate several muscle groups in synergistic way to accomplish a specific task. As such most athlete’s workout will only carry over to their sport effctively if it consists of basic compound lifts which integrate muscle groups, and if the lifts closely resemble the specific movements/needs of the sport. An isolation exercise such as a DB Biceps Curl will have little carryover to Football, and will drain the CNS to a certain degree on top of the drainage from the key lifts, requiring longer periods of rest in order to achieve a fully recovered CNS. However, the Power Snatch and Squats for example, have good carryover to the field - itll develop Power and strength as well as a strong core, while integrating large muscle groups.

Bodybuilders on the other hand focus on maximizing muscle fiber recruitment in a specific muscle, in order to induce more hypertrophy. As such isolations exercises may work better for Bodybuilders (I say MAY mostly because compound lifts still raise T levels much higher than isolation lifts, which also leads to better gains).
Imagine your Central Nervous System is your car battery. If you turn on all the lights, the air conditioner, the radio, and use the elctric button to roll down the windows, chances are you’ll notice the lights will dim somewhat. This is because you’re distributing a limited energy supply over all those systems.
Your CNS works in a somewhat similar way. If you do lunges with the forward leg on an unstable surface, your whole body will become involved in stabilizing the load. In tunr less muscle fibers will be recruited in the TARGETED muscle, which may lead to lesser hypertrophy gains. Bodybuilders, as you know, care only about aesthetics, not Functionality or even strength. As such, a bodybuilder may experience enhanced Biceps hypertrophy by isolating the muscle. Just remember they dont have to play in the field and achieve optimal performance. Their careers consist of looking good nekid, not performing at their best. Edgar Martinez’s needs are radically different from Ron Coleman’s needs.

Also, imbalances may requires specialized attention in a specific muscle group. If your Triceps were excessively weak, ad this affected your performanc in focus lifts such as the bench press - also affecting performance if you were a shot putter, for example - then focusing on isolation movements for the triceps for a period of time might be very helpful for an athlete.

While not detracting from Chad’s protocol efficiency, I just want to remind you that Upper Arm size depends on muscle fiber composition, Tendon insertion points, Limb length, among others.

While Chad certainly knows his stuff, dont make the classical Poliquin mistake - that is, just because someone has huge guns, dont make the mistake of thinking it is due solely to his routines, or even that these will work best for YOU.

Poliquin, for example, has a very good fast twitch composition, which coupled with low insertion points set him up for better gains than someone who, like me, has higher tendon insertino points and an average muscle fiber make-up. Will I benefit from his training philosophies? Yes, but will my gains even compare to his? Not at all.

Just keep it in perspective. Compound lifts are my personal approach - pull-ups, deads, squats, bench presses - but even I know that my gains will not NECESSARILY be as good as those experienced by the author.

Additionally, someone with an already very strong back where his biceps/brachialis might be a weak link will probably note strength/hypertrophy gains in the upper arm, whereas someone with a weaker back where his upper arm strength isnt a weak link will probably notice gains mostly in his back but none in his arms (since his back forces him to terminate his set before fully stimulating biceps).

Haven’t done any direct bicep training in a long while. Been relying on indirect work like, deadlifts (any back work), cleans, etc.

And my biceps have not suffered; however, have maintained direct triceps work.

For shoulders, have been relying on push presses, snatches, cleans; basically no static work for shoulders. No lateral raises, military presses, etc.

Maybe, just maybe, I will give out the ultimate bicep building advice in my upcoming Q & A Branding Iron column? This will shock many of you! And no, it has nothing to do with avoiding direct arm training.

Actually, I was wondering the same thing. I haven’t been training arms for quite some time now and have only been sticking to compound movements, but I haven’t noticed my bicep size or strength decrease.

I’ve found heavy rows and pullups have put the most mass onto my biceps, also I found training the forearms with hammer or reverse curls helped.

Triceps wise I use things like dips, close grip benching and tate presses.