T Nation

Direct Arm Work, Yes Or No?

I notice a lot of the experts here on T-Nation (especially CW) will not include direct arm work in their programs.  The logic seems to be that heavy rowing will take care of your biceps, and pressing movements work your triceps.  

The few times I have ever gone to commercial gyms all I see people doing is arm work (endless curls, tricep kickbacks etc.). I just wanted to know what you guys think. Do you use direct arm work in your workouts or not?

I will go ahead and answer for everyone…

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Most of the people who have built impressive arms train their arms directly. They also train every thing else. From the pictures I have seen of those who avoid all isolation work on this site, they should probably quit avoiding it like that.

That’s kind of what I thought. I do think that a lot of people overwork their arms or ONLY train their arms, and that is obviously a mistake. It doesn’t seem right to completely neglect direct arm work. Some of the experts say you don’t need it, but I have never talked to anybody with massive arms that didn’t do curls on a regular basis.

[quote]JBomb wrote:
That’s kind of what I thought. I do think that a lot of people overwork their arms or ONLY train their arms, and that is obviously a mistake. It doesn’t seem right to completely neglect direct arm work. Some of the experts say you don’t need it, but I have never talked to anybody with massive arms that didn’t do curls on a regular basis.[/quote]

That’s why many of us keep stressing the difference between using these articles simply as a resource and adding it to things learned elsewhere…and following every single word of certain authors like some sort of cult.

Some people seem unable to tell the difference. You can also generally pick those people out since they make the LEAST physical progress.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
JBomb wrote:
That’s kind of what I thought. I do think that a lot of people overwork their arms or ONLY train their arms, and that is obviously a mistake. It doesn’t seem right to completely neglect direct arm work. Some of the experts say you don’t need it, but I have never talked to anybody with massive arms that didn’t do curls on a regular basis.

That’s why many of us keep stressing the difference between using these articles simply as a resource and adding it to things learned elsewhere…and following every single word of certain authors like some sort of cult.

Some people seem unable to tell the difference. You can also generally pick those people out since they make the LEAST physical progress.[/quote]

What timing, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

Thanks.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Most of the people who have built impressive arms train their arms directly. They also train every thing else. From the pictures I have seen of those who avoid all isolation work on this site, they should probably quit avoiding it like that.[/quote]

I totally agree. I probably do what most people would call too much direct arm work. My arm day consists of 3 or 4 exercises and 12-16 sets each for biceps and triceps once a week. My arms respond real well to this routine.

we all work out in the weight room…but depending on what your goals are…you need to pick and choose what is going to help you reach your goal…

its important to distinguish when an article is written for a bodybuilder, powerlifter, athlete, mma fighter, etc…

bb- direct arm work yes…
soccer player- probably not…

you probably get the point…

hope this helps
good luck
mt

I think most people who lack overall size shouldnt “waste” their time with arm work. I say “waste” because ultimately its not “wasting” much, but I think they would be better off putting their energy into compound movements.

Once someone has put on an appreciable amount of muscle, then add direct arm (and other iso movements, for that matter) to help bring up lagging bodyparts.

[quote]rrjc5488 wrote:
I think most people who lack overall size shouldnt “waste” their time with arm work. I say “waste” because ultimately its not “wasting” much, but I think they would be better off putting their energy into compound movements.

Once someone has put on an appreciable amount of muscle, then add direct arm (and other iso movements, for that matter) to help bring up lagging bodyparts.[/quote]

…and I would disagree with that unless the individual is so extremely lacking in muscle mass, that even minor exercises are a challenge. There is no reason at all for a beginner to avoid either isolation or compound movements. NONE. The idea that it is “wasting” their time is ridiculous. How many guys have you EVER heard who actually are big who would claim they “wasted” their time by training everything?

[quote]rrjc5488 wrote:
I think most people who lack overall size shouldnt “waste” their time with arm work. I say “waste” because ultimately its not “wasting” much, but I think they would be better off putting their energy into compound movements.

Once someone has put on an appreciable amount of muscle, then add direct arm (and other iso movements, for that matter) to help bring up lagging bodyparts.[/quote]

I agree that isolation work will not help put on overall mass. But I think working your arms directly is a must. I also don’t think you should wait until your arms are lagging before you start working them. If you are still trying to put on overall mass, compound movements are the way to go, but it won’t hurt to do isolation movements also.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
rrjc5488 wrote:
I think most people who lack overall size shouldnt “waste” their time with arm work. I say “waste” because ultimately its not “wasting” much, but I think they would be better off putting their energy into compound movements.

Once someone has put on an appreciable amount of muscle, then add direct arm (and other iso movements, for that matter) to help bring up lagging bodyparts.

…and I would disagree with that unless the individual is so extremely lacking in muscle mass, that even minor exercises are a challenge. There is no reason at all for a beginner to avoid either isolation or compound movements. NONE. The idea that it is “wasting” their time is ridiculous. How many guys have you EVER heard who actually are big who would claim they “wasted” their time by training everything?
[/quote]

Right, and, in my opinion at least, the only possible viable excuse for not performing direct arm work would be if your arms are just that far ahead of the rest of your body from a developmental perspective. And, even then you would probably still only avoid training them until your other body parts caught up, or at least only train them on a maintenance schedule.

Everybody who does direct arm work suffers testicular atrophy and winds up with a voice like Jennifer Tilly. Oh yeah, their arms get smaller and weaker too.

I was beginning to worry. It’s a been a little while since this came up.

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:
Everybody who does direct arm work suffers testicular atrophy and winds up with a voice like Jennifer Tilly. Oh yeah, their arms get smaller and weaker too.

I was beginning to worry. It’s a been a little while since this came up.[/quote]

Has this come up before!?

It’s amazing that you can leave here for months and come back to the same nonsense.

Especially the people who honestly believe that an arm workout or direct arm exercises are a ‘waste of time.’

Anywho…time to go shrink my nuts

I only read your title, here is my answer:

In order to get full, complete and optimal development, you MUST do direct resistance training to that muscle group.
End of Story

[quote]That One Guy wrote:
I only read your title, here is my answer:

In order to get full, complete and optimal development, you MUST do direct resistance training to that muscle group.
End of Story[/quote]

No one says it better than Dave Tate:

[b]If you can’t flex it then DON’T ISOLATE IT.

You need to have control of your body if you’re going to do isolation movements. If I asked you to flex your pecs, it’d probably be easy. You can make those boobies bounce with pride. Now what if I asked you to do the same with your triceps, delts, hamstrings, or lats?

If you can’t, why in the hell are you doing tight isolation bodybuilding cable work? Hmm… never thought of that one, did you? Stick with the presses and rows and build muscle first. You can’t flex bone.[/b]

I used to have an “arm” day, where I would do a typical bodybuilding workout to “thrash” (or whatever stupid nonsense verb M&F uses now) my arms. They stopped growing and stopped getting stronger.

I stopped working my arms directly for a while and saw some growth again.

Then I went on a Westside-inspired template and only did heavy, low volume, and more functional exercises for my arms. Saw some more growth. My triceps and biceps are also much stronger than they were when I was doing direct arm work.

The point of my story is that I think most people’s arms are overtrained. I think too many people spend time doing biceps curls without creating a strong back. I think having some time off from direct arm work helps immensely.

I think heavy presses, rows, and deadlifts will help to grow the arms (and the rest of the body). I think more functional exercises at a lower volume work great for the arms. Hell, I did back last night. Deadlifts, heavy rowing, chins, etc. When I woke up today, my back, shoulders, biceps, and forearms are all killing me.

But, most importantly, I think CHANGE will help develop great arms. In fact, after a year of only doing triceps exercises designed to improve my bench and rarely hitting biceps at all (except for the occasional hammer curlto keep my elbows healthy) I have put almost an inch on my arms. I will readily admit, however, that back in my “arm thrashing” days I neglected deadlifts, squats, and heavy pressing.

I think this growth is the result of concentrating on getting my other lifts (ya know, the anabolic and GH producing ones) up.

BUT I’m about to change my routine and have a day where I superset bi’s and tri’s with bodybuilding style exercises for about 6 weeks. My theory is that I’ll see some arm growth, but that if I kept it up longer than 6 weeks the growth would stagnate, my arms would get overtrained, and my other lifts would suffer as a result.

The thing I’m really looking forward to with this is that ever since I backed off of direct arm work, on the rare occasion where I’ll see what I can curl or pressdown for shits and giggles, my arms are insanely strong compared to what they used to be. So I’m looking forward to some high volume heavy arm work.

In short, my theory is that cycling direct arm work in and out of your program is probably good for someone not juicing. If you’re training hard enough on the core lifts, constant direct arm may just cause problems. However, neglecting direct arm work altogether won’t let your arms reach their full potential.

But everyone’s body is different. Experiment. I think everyone doing direct arm work would see some improvement if they backed off for awhile, and everyone neglecting direct arm work would see improvement if they included it for awhile. Just my 2 cents.

[quote]Fenris wrote:
In short, my theory is that cycling direct arm work in and out of your program is probably good for someone not juicing. If you’re training hard enough on the core lifts, constant direct arm may just cause problems. However, neglecting direct arm work altogether won’t let your arms reach their full potential.[/quote]

I agree, because last year I had the same experience as you. Over a period of 6 months my arms went from 15 to 16", by going from a bodybuilding routine to compound movements only, then back to the bb routine. In fact, I put on a lot of mass overall, but the arms grew most dramatically during that time.

Variety is more than just the spice, when it comes to changing the body.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
<<< No one says it better than Dave Tate:

[b]If you can’t flex it then DON’T ISOLATE IT.

You need to have control of your body if you’re going to do isolation movements. If I asked you to flex your pecs, it’d probably be easy. You can make those boobies bounce with pride. Now what if I asked you to do the same with your triceps, delts, hamstrings, or lats?

If you can’t, why in the hell are you doing tight isolation bodybuilding cable work? Hmm… never thought of that one, did you? Stick with the presses and rows and build muscle first. You can’t flex bone.[/b]

[/quote]

I agree with you more often than not, but I don’t know if I can go along with this line of reasoning. How does it follow that if you “can’t flex it” it is immune to being benefited by direct work?

If this means that you may be unaccustomed to using the muscles this way then the solution is to learn.

If it means that there isn’t enough meat to be noticeable when flexed then all the more reason for the work.

Are you saying that once it can be flexed it should be isolated? I agree that rank beginners should concentrate on big compound movements, but that isn’t the same as excluding all iso movements.

I’m also not grasping the “can’t flex bone” thing. Again, if this simply means the guy is small, how is some iso work along with his compound based routine going to do anything except help? How is his non flexible-ness usable for rows and presses, but not pushdowns, curls or lateral raises?

Maybe I misunderstood altogether.

[quote]Kailash wrote:
Fenris wrote:
In short, my theory is that cycling direct arm work in and out of your program is probably good for someone not juicing. If you’re training hard enough on the core lifts, constant direct arm may just cause problems. However, neglecting direct arm work altogether won’t let your arms reach their full potential.

I agree, because last year I had the same experience as you. Over a period of 6 months my arms went from 15 to 16", by going from a bodybuilding routine to compound movements only, then back to the bb routine. In fact, I put on a lot of mass overall, but the arms grew most dramatically during that time.

Variety is more than just the spice, when it comes to changing the body.[/quote]

I do not agree because I have been doing direct work for bis, tris and forearms for the past 14 months and all three have grown dramatically.

Look, I’m not going to be the one to tell somebody something didn’t happen to them, but it’s tough to believe that working your arms by itself made them either stop growing or smaller unless you were grossly overtraining them or not eating enough in which case nothing else would grow either.