T Nation

Arms: what motions do what?

Guys: I’ve been reading tons of articles on here, as directed. I had a couple of questions I hope the gurus could answer, or lead me to the article that will tell me:

I feel that I need to improve my arm workouts. I’ve read all kinds of articles showing different sorts of exercises, but I don’t know which ones I’d incorporate or why. A curl looks like a curl to me whether I’m sitting on a bench, standing with an EZ bar, or using a preacher bench. Same with tricep extentions - your arm only hinges in one direction. How many ways can you do it? I see lying tricep extentions, kickbacks, etc. They all look like the same motion.

When I read articles like ‘great guns’ and so forth, my conclusion is mostly that you are concentrating on the arms for a greater number of sets of exercises that mostly do the same thing. The articles depict photos of guys lifting weights, but I want reasons WHY you’re doing a certain thing.

Could someone maybe give me some hints as to why these motions may be different? I currently do dumbell curls, which I turn over (palms down) at the top of the motion and lower, hammer curls, and EZ bar curls...and I'm not really sure I'm doing anything except overworking the muscles. Triceps, I do lying extentions with an EZ bar, and when I can't do the motion any longer, I move my hands in and do close-grip presses for each set until I'm toast. That's it...I feel I've made some good development there, but I also feel I should be doing more somehow.

My goals are size and good shape, together with a reasonable regimen (2-3 exercises each for bicep-tricep). Please don’t forward me angry letters to simply do great guns for 12 weeks. Some ideas as to what motions help shape my arms a particular way would really be appreciated.

The differences are mainly two: emphasis of a particular range of motion, and wrist position. The different wrist positions will place the load on different areas of the muscle (hammer curls hit the radialis, regular hit the peak). Different positions will emphasize a different range of motion (lying extensions vs kickbacks). Hope that helps.

The primary reason for changing the exercises is to change the area of the muscle the exercise impacts on. Let’s look at the triceps. The triceps muscle has three heads, different exercises stress different heads. Additionally, by moving the upper arm into different positions you can place the muscle in either a stretched or contacted position. This to effects how the exercise will work on the muscle.
Check out Strenght Training Anatomy and Target Bodybuilding at your local bookstore. They should provide you with much greater detail than I can provide here.
Try this for biceps Incline Curls (6-9 reps). Now sit-up and do seated dumbbell curls with the same weight no rest(6-9 reps). Now stand-up and do Hammer curls (6-9 reps) and if you still have any steam left. Clean the dumbbels to your shoulders and then lower the weight through a 1/4 range of the dumbell curl and return it to the top (these are called burns). Finally, stretch you biceps. Try this once a week. For tricep, I do something similiar from time to time. 1st Lying Tricep extensions, then Larry Scott Tricep extensions (this was taught to me by Mr. Scott, it is a sort of tricep extension/close grip bench, then close grip benches followed by burns. Each exercise is done for 6-9 reps. After three tri-sets, I will finish will dips super setted with standing dumbbell tricep extensions. Again do this only once aweek. Best of Luck.

Congratulations! You are on your way to lifting smart. Since it is a hinge joint, the motion is in a semi circle. At the point where the tangent of the semi-circle is perpendicular to the ground, this is where the workload is greatest. Take note of where that point is and the angle of your elbow. Pick two different exercises. When you top out, change the order or change to a similar motion. Either that or take some time off. Cables make that point different. People do more work because they like to work out, not because what they do is more productive.

The thing with all muscles is that even if it’s the same body part, it has several different portions of muscle. For example, when you do a hammer curl, you are working the brachioradialis, as opposed to doing a regular curl that works the brachialis. Both of these exercises are associated with the biceps muscle group, however, a certain muscle is isolated more than another…

You bring up a very good point, regarding the “why” of things. After all these issues of telling us ‘what’ to do, we probably need more articles on ‘why’ to do things. Personally, I really loved reading Bryan Haycock’s articles because he would take us into the cell to tell us what was going on. John Berardi’s articles were really excellent that way as well. I find Ian King’s articles to be the most frustrating. Why? Because I know his programs work, but he doesn’t go into WHY he’s getting you to do exercises in the order that he is.

Note to T-mag: I think it would be super-cool if Ian King did an addendum to his programs here explaining his reasoning behind his programs. Exercise choice. Tempo choice. Set choice. Exercise order. etc.

Keep in mind that your body adapts to each exercise you do. By changing up your exercise choice, you can cause muscle growth by shocking your body with a new type of lift. So after a while, those bicep and tricep exercises can be put on the shelf and you can try something new until it is time to go back to them.