T Nation

Large Core and Small Arms



I have been following a what seems to be a popular T-Nation workout plan for about two years now that favors large muscle groups with exercises such as deadlifts, squats, bench, pullups, etc.
However, it seems that I have developed quite a lot in the areas of lats and pecs, but my arms still lag behind, on top of naturally being built with a large core upper body and small arms. In addition, it seems that close grip bench gets my chest more than my tri's, and doesn't help any.

Most of the time on this site, advice goes like "want bigger arms? deadlift", but I was wondering if anyone has been in or seen a situation similar to mine, and had any advice.

Thanks a lot!


I've found myself facing a similar situation. I'm half way considering doing curls once a week...


How 'bout you list the actual workout and maybe a pic too.


Why don't you just prioritize your training? If your arms and shoulders are lagging, do direct work for them. All isolation work is a bad idea, but no isolation work will probably lead to weak points.


Coach Thibaudeau had a similar problem in the early days of his career at T-Nation and solved his Biceps problems like this:


So do not feel bad doing direct arm work!

Also, if this convinces you to do direct arm training for a while, check out the Ultimate Triceps Program by Waterbury.

By the way, I am built like you and this kind of training never built any size on my arms either. At 279lbs I still only had 16' arms yet I could deadlift and squat a car!
I got them close to 19' at one time only by doing three 6 week specialization programs for the arms.

Good luck,



Why the hell is ANYONE avoiding direct arm work? Is this the new fad or something? It's stupid.


Prof, there are many coaches who think trainees get enough stimulus from chins and rows. Thibaudeau is not one of them, thankfully.


Same thing happened to me, but I noticed it after about 2 or 3 months. Isolation exercises work great for the arms (curls, pushdowns, etc.)


But even if there are coaches out there telling people this, why are they listening? I mean, has ANYONE seen someone with arms anywhere over 18" that are well shaped but did NO direct arm training at all? Yes, the biceps are "stimulated" from back work. They aren't stimulated enough to grow to their potential, however. I never saw this before until about 2 or 3 years ago as far as people acting as if all isolation work should be avoided. Is this more of the "bodybuilders are weak" bullshit?


People are listening cos of the credentials of the coaches. For example in ABBH Chad says that big arms come from compound exercises and that he purposly left out direct arm work. It is probably be taken out of context and his perspective is from building a strong foundation, but the guy has like 4 university degrees and trains elite athletes and special forces so people (like me) listen.

There are other factors to consider; if one muscle group (eg back)is way stronger then it will overpower the other (biceps), also the ROM, form, limb length etc will affect which muscles get most worked. If youre rowing and concentrating on using your back then its your back that will get the benefit but its equally possible to row the same weight using your biceps as the main driving force.

For me, chin ups are enough for biceps and I think of them as a mainly bicep exercise and pressing movements are giving me steady tricep growth. However Im just aiming to add overall mass and I agree that well shaped arms grown to full potential do need iso work.

Just my opinion, aint disrespectin ya Prof, dont Hulk out on me!!


You might also want to check out the following article..

Beach Training for Performance-Oriented Lifters by Christian Thibaudeau


Good points. I also think that ABBH, while being a good program for a vast range of people, is last but not least geared towards beginners and intermediate lifters or people who want to get into better shape after layoffs or periods of less focused lifting. These people definitely shouldn't be focusing on improving a specific body part but rather on gaining overall mass, losing fat or improving their general fitness, or as you said, "building a strong foundation".

Apart from that, other programs by CW actually do include direct arm work, e.g. AoW, WM, etc. To make a long story short, I believe you are right when you say that these comments are likely to be taken out of context and it definitely is a slight misinterpretation to say CW advocates no direct arm work at all.


This IS the new fad. People seem to think since rows and chins put more overall weight on them, they make them grow more. I'm a firm believer in isolating the shit out of any and all muscle im training.


CW just doesn't want newbies(the people who were targeted in ABBH) to think that arm work was all there was to it. He wanted to drive the point home that compound movements should make up most of your workouts, which I partially agree with.


If I concentrate on Squats for instance, all that happens is my legs get bigger, they are too big for the upper body right now and measure about 30 inches approx.

There is talk about how the body balances itself out with leg works and overall mass gain putting weight on the arms. My arms are not the greatest and are about 17.5 inches, for my weight they aren't that big. Also I have a long muscle insertion on the bicep which spans the length of the upper arm with no peak, which does not help at all.

If I cut back on Squats, I get a marked weight loss and when I get back into them, the weight goes back on. The arms don't seem to change much but if I cut back on leg work I can have the time / energy to train arms more and they do respond somewhat, but I'd pay good money to stick another inch on my arms.


I hear you guys. Like I said before FOR ME the answer is in using compound exercies to isolate specific weakness, eg - my biceps suck so Im doing extra chins and focusing on the bicep contraction and trying to use the other muscles as little as possible. Youve probably already read Thibs Bulk Up Cut Up articles which explain how to use the upper and lower part of a bench press to work your tris and pecs respectivly.

Chads a smart dude (4 fucking degrees thats nuts!) and his book should explain his methods in full.

"Works well for me" is all anyone can say for sure about anything I guess.


I think part of the confusion comes from the concept of balance.

You won't get truly big arms if you have no back, no shoulders, no core and no legs.

As others have said, the compound lifts will do a good job of putting on sizeable quantities of mass and building a foundation.

At some point, you may need to move beyond laying the foundation...


Yeah but there are people with big backs, big legs, big chest ya da da and arms which don't match up. This is one of the conundrums, but I do agree with what you are saying basically.


I can understand presenting this info in ways that almost FORCES newbies to stop ONLY doing curls when they hit the gym, but the idea has been taken to an extreme now. It is being recommended to every single person who logs in and I find that to be out of touch with reality. I am all filled up with happiness that Chad has degrees. So do I. I also know that someone should be focusing on ALL of it. I can see a benefit for a newbie to spend some time on those "full body exercises". I trained with a large focus on that for about two years...but I still did direct arm work.

In other words, while I can see why extremes have been presented in order to break the chain when it comes to newbies ONLY focusing on arms, it is taken too far when they begin completely avoiding direct work for that body part. I am very glad I never did that. I never really had any "balance issues". The only body part on me that truly lagged at one time was calves and possibly hamstrings. I currently try to focus more on both.

While no newbie should even be thinking "what are my weak points?" because everything is a weak point, they should also not be neglecting body parts. I have not read many of these articles on this site, however, when this was presented to me by one newbie last year, he provided a link to one article here and it turned out that he read the article wrong. It said nothing about getting rid of direct arm work altogether.


There are manycoaches that think people shouldn't drink water while training. There are many highschool football coaches that think squat is king, and have never heard of rows chins and deads. In high school I got in a big argument with a coach over the fact that you CAN train your rotator cuff. Becuase someone is a coach, or becuase someone can write articles, or becuase someone has been to college does not make them neccessarrily an expert. Most of the fellas that write for T-Nation are smart and they know what they are talking about.