T Nation

Big Arms In A Compound World

I’ve recently started training just compound movements, three times a week, to increase functional strength. I’m pretty happy with the results; my core strength has improved and my general musculature is getting better. The only problem is my biceps. For some reason they’ve gone pretty soft.

My workout consists of 5 sets of 5 going heavy on Bench, Rows, and Deadlifts with lots of ab work and some overhead presses throwin’ in if I’m feeling strong. On my off days I might do a few chin-ups or go rock-climbing. For some reason I’ve deluded myself into thinking this extra work might keep my bi s up to scratch or the rows would provide enough stimulation, but that’s not the case.

Does anyone know of a compound exercise that will help me out? I’d like to keep my workout time down so I’m hoping for something that maybe I could substitute for one of my other exercises. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Couple of things - alternate your bent-over rows b/w supinated and pronated grips (supinated will hit the bicep fairly hard) - and do more chin-ups, pull-ups and semi-supinated pull-ups, and that should do it - preferably weighted.

Chin ups work the bi’s pretty well.

I can understand why someone would focus on the core lifts, but I will never understand why anyone would purposefully avoid all isolation movements. That, to me, is the wrong way to approach training and makes no sense at all.

I like the idea of alternating between pronated and supinated rows. That’s not something I’ve considered before. I’ll try that tonight. I should probably have mentioned that i do chin-ups with a pronated grip(ie. pull-ups), probably because it has the greatest cross-over to climbing. But maybe I should alternate these too.

Upright rows hit my Bis pretty well. I always do at least one isolation movement for Bis though. If I don’t do upright rows, I do two isolation movements. BTW, I do a lot of pull/chin up/pull down movements prior to that.

With a narrow grip chins/pulls should work your arm pretty well. Supine narrow grip seem to kill my bis. And I think that somewhere around here, in a roundtable (something like this) it was something like “you can get great arms both by chins and by curls”. Well, it just said you can get a great biceps just by chinning.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
but I will never understand why anyone would purposefully avoid all isolation movements. That, to me, is the wrong way to approach training and makes no sense at all.[/quote]

I second Professor X on this. I generally train full body, but I like to hit most muscle groups at least once a week with a good isolation movement. I switch up the exercise/sets/reps every two weeks or so, and usually go a little higher reps than I do for my compound movements. So I’d pick two bodyparts to throw in a superset at the end of each of your regular training sessions. In your case, maybe even two days of direct arm work.

Christian Thib wrote an article about this not to long ago:

http://t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=687162

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I can understand why someone would focus on the core lifts, but I will never understand why anyone would purposefully avoid all isolation movements. That, to me, is the wrong way to approach training and makes no sense at all.[/quote]

I like compound lifts quite a bit, but I know if I do not hit biceps twice a week in isolation, they definitely lag in a big way. Given the fact that doing isolation exercises for arms is not nearly as taxing as a lot of other exercises, I would be confused as to why anyone would completely avoid doing them.

everything above. and it doesn’t take long too knock out some isolation movements. besides heavy barbell curls gironda-style are practically a compound movement.

also for what its worth power snatches and overhead squats have made my bi’s sore. if you have a good technique (total one piece lockout) there’s a quite a bit of muscle tension on the bi’s.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I can understand why someone would focus on the core lifts, but I will never understand why anyone would purposefully avoid all isolation movements. That, to me, is the wrong way to approach training and makes no sense at all.[/quote]

Then read the articles here.
Isolation has it’s place, but depending on your goals, it’s value is very, very relative, even for bodybuilding training.
And no, this isn’t a bodybuilding-only site.

But everything works … for a while.

That said, I like one-arm chins and other variations for biceps, and the occasional hammer curl.

[quote]Leeuwer wrote:
Professor X wrote:
I can understand why someone would focus on the core lifts, but I will never understand why anyone would purposefully avoid all isolation movements. That, to me, is the wrong way to approach training and makes no sense at all.

Then read the articles here.

[/quote]

You have no point. Chirag on this site had that same argument…until I showed him in those same articles where it did not say to avoid all isolation exercises but to incorporate a minimal number of isolation movements with your main focus on the core exercises. Not to mention the fact that you should be able to think for yourself instead of blindly following anyone’s article without understanding why or how it will affect you.

I’d love you see a man over 220 do enoguh one-arm chins to elicit some nice growth. I’m not trying to instigate anything, but I’m not sure what to make of your argument here. The value of isolation movements is relative…sure…ok…to what? Are you trying to say they should play less of a role, because nobody is arguing this, but I agree with Professor X, to throw out all isolation movements would be a mistake in regards to bodybuilding, and I think since big arms are being discussed, we are discussing aesthetic value, so bodybuilding would be our discussion.

Anyways, from my own experiences, anytime I give up isolation movements for my biceps and triceps my arm size suffer, especially my biceps. Perhaps it is due to my long limbs, but no amount of chin-ups, bent-over rows, etc. did anything for my biceps, but they sure hit my back hard.

I also noticed that you told PX to read the articles here. Why would he…he’s 275lb and has figured out what works for him. I find this a lot of T-Nation… jumping on the bandwagon of a particular writer’s training philosophy and shun anything else, even if it might work better for you. Whole-body training seems to be the new fad, but I personally think it’s application for bodybuilding is limited…although some people seem to do very well on it. Functional strength is also a term that’s being thrown around a lot here, as if there is nonfunctional strength that one can tap. Don’t be fooled, dogma is present even at T-Nation.

[quote]Leeuwer wrote:

Then read the articles here.
Isolation has it’s place, but depending on your goals, it’s value is very, very relative, even for bodybuilding training.
And no, this isn’t a bodybuilding-only site.

But everything works … for a while.

That said, I like one-arm chins and other variations for biceps, and the occasional hammer curl.

[/quote]

[quote]Professor X wrote:

You have no point. Chirag on this site had that same argument…until I showed him in those same articles where it did not say to avoid all isolation exercises but to incorporate a minimal number of isolation movements with your main focus on the core exercises. Not to mention the fact that you should be able to think for yourself instead of blindly following anyone’s article without understanding why or how it will affect you.
[/quote]

Read again what I said.

My point is that you understand where they’re coming from, which I know you do when you read these articles.

And which was the answer to what you said, literally.

In the popular articles on this site, it is said why. The person starting this thread acknowledged how he felt about the points made in these articles, and I don’t necessarily agree with that.

I agree with the fact that everything works … for a while.

Don’t turn a simple answer into a demented discussion simply because of the lack of expression on the internet, it’s as pointless as the claims made and drooled over on many a discussion forum.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I can understand why someone would focus on the core lifts, but I will never understand why anyone would purposefully avoid all isolation movements. That, to me, is the wrong way to approach training and makes no sense at all.[/quote]

That’s a really good point and I’ll try and answer it as succinctly as possible.
I’d like to avoid bicep curls in particular because on my off days I’ll be climbing or bouldering and I reckon the extra fatigue will adversely affect my technique. Now I know this sounds a bit dumb considering I’m doing heavy core lifting and surely that’s going amount to the same, but I find that isn’t the case. In fact, although my overall endurance is reduced, I feel alot stronger on the rock the next day.
Secondly, I’d like to keep my exercise time down and the number of exercises low. This is partly because I don’t have much time to work out (who does) but mostly because it helps my motivation in the evenings after a long day at work if I just have to do three or four exercises.
Thirdly, I think the physique I’m going for can be achieved with just compound movements. I don’t want massive guns but I do want a proportional athletic look. I’ve had good results with my triceps from the bench so I’m sure this is achievable with some of the solutions the other guys on this thread have mentioned.
All that said there’s alot of truth in what you say and you’ve definitely made me think twice about my workout.

[quote]WguitarG wrote:
I’d love you see a man over 220 do enoguh one-arm chins to elicit some nice growth.
[/quote]

You are correct in the fact you give. I said what I liked, and I did not say he should do them though.

This can be a great discussion, about people having to have a literal workout pinned out … Dan John surely can elaborate on this. Point is, who cares, really ? I said what works for me, he can draw his conclusion from that.

If you’re going by that logic one has to stop learning at one point.

Don’t elaborate on this any further, I share your view on using everything at your disposal.

Many people miss the trait of being able to relativate, especially in training, and develop a very narrow-minded view.

One shouldn’t care about what he does, as long as he enjoys what he’s doing, and he’s making progress in what he wants to do.

Whether that’s curls or cleans, it doesn’t matter.

[quote]Leeuwer wrote:
Read again what I said.
[/quote]

OK, let’s:

[quote]
Then read the articles here.
Isolation has it’s place, but depending on your goals, it’s value is very, very relative, even for bodybuilding training.
And no, this isn’t a bodybuilding-only site.

But everything works … for a while.

That said, I like one-arm chins and other variations for biceps, and the occasional hammer curl.[/quote]

[quote]
My point is that you understand where they’re coming from, which I know you do when you read these articles.[/quote]

I very rarely read the training articles on this site. In fact, reading that one article when Chirag pointed it out may have been the first in years.

[quote]
And which was the answer to what you said, literally. [/quote]

No, it wasn’t. I said that no one should exclude all isolation movements for no reason. That wasn’t a question.

[quote]
You said that you couldn’t understand why they would, well, in the articles it is said why. The person starting this thread acknowledged he felt about the points made in these articles, and I don’t necessarily agree with that.[/quote]

In the one article I have read on putting a compound exercise routine together, it was said to NOT avoid all isolation exercises. Where are the articles telling you to avoid any and all isolation movements? Hell, even if they exist, why do you think this is the best thing to do?

[quote]
I agree with the fact that everything works … for a while.[/quote]

I have been training essentially the same way for over 5 years (after only occasionally changing my routine the first five years). It still works.

[quote]
Don’t turn a simple answer into a demented discussion simply because of the lack of expression on the internet, it’s as pointless as the claims made and drooled over on many a discussion forum.[/quote]

That was deep. Let me try:

“He who never works biceps will never achieve his absolute true potential in biceps size.” I doubt that will fit into a fortune cookie…but then, who here has the goal of actually fitting well into things?

[quote]Leeuwer wrote:
If you’re going by that logic one has to stop learning at one point. [/quote]

Bullshit. One can continue to learn without following the hand written routines of another. Not one author here had a thing to do with anything I ahve learned in school about biology. Blasphemy, you say? No, it is the truth. I have never had even one author from this forum as a professor in any class I ever took throughout my education. Believe it…or not.

[quote]bigirishstu wrote:
Thirdly, I think the physique I’m going for can be achieved with just compound movements. I don’t want massive guns but I do want a proportional athletic look. I’ve had good results with my triceps from the bench so I’m sure this is achievable with some of the solutions the other guys on this thread have mentioned.
All that said there’s alot of truth in what you say and you’ve definitely made me think twice about my workout.[/quote]

If rock climbing makes you happy, do what you feel. However, you wrote:

[quote]The only problem is my biceps. For some reason they’ve gone pretty soft.
[/quote]

Well, gee, Houston, though we can see a solution, we still have a problem.