T Nation

Make My Arms Grow!


#1

I need some help in bringing up my arms. In the past when I wanted to bring up a body part I would just go as heavy as possible and force it to grow, but my arms are a diffrent story.
Some vitals: I'm 25 5'9" 197 and around 10% bodyfat. I've been training since 2001, the first four years were sport specific the last three focused primarily on bodybuilding. I've made some great progress in the last three years, gaining 20ish lbs. In those three years I really focused on the big three, bench, dead, and squat.

Currently my best lifts are 405 x 3 for dead, 130 DB x 2 for bench, 375 x 3 for squat. So I'm not a weakling in my compound lifts, but my arms dont seem to be keeping up with my torso in terms of growth. Not that measurements mean much, but my arms only measure just under 15 and a half, while my shoulders are at 53 and my chest is at 48 inches. I feel I'm begning to look disproportionate.

In the past, when i wanted to bring up a body part I have always trained it hard and heavy and forced it to grow (i.e.claves), but I find that when i try to move any kind of weight with my arms i get almost no benifit of it (i.e. i can hammer curl 75 DB) but, my elbows always end up hurting and i dont really feel the exercise in my muscle. If i use a lighter weight for higher reps (i.e. 45 lbs for 8-15) I can feel the movment in my muscle more, but my arms dont seem to grow using this method.

Currently I am on a modified DC split (A,B,and C workouts) doing two exercises per bodypart, one exercise for a bodypart rest pause, and the next with higer (20) reps. The split looks like this:

M Chest/Shld/Tri A
T Back/BI/Forearm A
W arms/calves/abs (I added this in to try and focus on lagging bodyparts and it is always on wednesday)
R Legs A
F Chest/Shld/Tri B

M Back/Bi/Forearm B
etc...

So I've thought about moving my arms to the beging of the workout to hit them when they are fresh "prioritize" as Mr. Weider might say, but I'm concerned that I will be crompromising my progress on my major compund lifts if i do this. Wouldnt the heavy compound movment be the best way to force growth?
any ideas or feed back would be great. Thanks guys.


#2

From the workouts you posted, it looks like you could easily overtrain your arms. TheY need recovery time just like other bodyparts. Plus you have to remember that they are a secondary muscle group hit in most exercises.

I personally like a Hybrid, Lower/Upper Split.

M-Lower(Strength)
T-Upper (Strength)
W- Active Recovery/Off
Th-Lower (Hypertrophy)
Fr-Back/Chest(Hypertrophy)
Sat- Off
Sun- Arms/Shoulders (Hypertrophy)


#3

i would think that if you're rest pausing with enough intensity then 5 workouts a week would not be the best idea, for recovery purposes. I mean, do you feel like you recover between each session? no decrease in strength, no intense soreness? if you can recover, more power to you.

for arms, they are like everything - progression along with a proper diet should lead to growth. I would highly suggest upping the weight on barbell (or ez bar) curls every week. increasing the volume by a little bit every week could also help. if you're certain that something is not helping your arm size drop it for something you've never tried before (for example dumbell curls don't really work for me).

a personal suggestion of mine would be to include heavy dumbell rows for your back workout, they helped me with arm size.

whatever you do, make sure you recover enough and make sure there's some sort of progression every week.


#4

Videos of you curling and doing close-grip presses... And "modified DC split"? How about calling it "Some split I made up"... And taking 3 years to gain 20lbs? You're doing some things fundamentally wrong.


#5

I'd like to add: Stop bastardizing the hell out of DC and use a routine suited to your level...

Maybe we should make a t-cell thread about how to curl properly in a bodybuilding context, with vids and all...


#6

Agreed.

I also believe DC is made for advanced trainees. I believe your size and current lifts (although fairly good) would still have you in the intermediate range, not advanced.

Arms also recover quicker than other bodyparts, so I believe you can train them 2-3 times a week. However, it looks as though you need to come up with a specialization program for your arms which means cutting back on the volume for all your other body parts while you try to bring them up.

I believe CT has written an arm specialization program for T-Nation. You could try that, or you could see how it's set up and then use his "Designing Programs" article to set up your own plan.


#7

While I think that biceps recover fairly quick, I think its due mostly to the loads not being comparable to that of tricep training. I train my triceps using heavy smith reverse-grip benches, etc and they are pretty brutally sore for usually at least 2 days after this.

To the OP, gaining size on your arms is no different than anything else. Train them directly, and train them hard. Make sure you are progressing weight in a moderate rep range (8-12?) every time you hit them. If you do BB curls with 95 lbs for 10 reps one week, make sure to up the weight at least 10 lbs the next week and hit the same 10 reps or more.

Also a big mistake I see lots of people make when training arms is they are cutting out like 1/2 of the ROM. Not going all the way up and not going all the way down, just kind of doing the middle part of the ROM (this is specifically for curls). And not controlling the eccentric (negative) portion of the lift enough, if at all.

C_C maybe the video stuff is a good idea...lol


#8

Spot on...

You have 15" arms but manage to Hammer Curl 75lb Dumbbells?

How much Body English are you throwing into those curls? My guess is you're working your obliques more than your arms.


#9

wow... thanks for all the feedback so fast guys. I really appreciate the time.

Theceka: Regarding my recovery ability, I don?t think it has been diminished at all from the workouts. I find that if i get good rest, nutrition and supplementation i feel a little sore but rested and energized for the most part.

CC:I'll try to get some videos up for you, but I train alone most of the time, so filming or pictures while im in the gym is a bit of a problem. A lot of my boys will be home over the holidays so ill see if i can get them to tape me maybe sometime next week.

As for the "modified DC split" I agree its deff not DC, but i find it best for illustrative purposes. I started on a pure DC split for a couple months, but after evaluating my progress after a couple months I thought that my body might respond better to a bit more volume. That?s when i went into the three day split. I loved almost everything else about the DC program and kept them in my routine. So instead of taking the time to explain the static holds, stretches, blasting and cruising, and all of the other things i do that i stole from DC I just say "modified". It?s more of a time saver really. In all due respect (and i mean that sincerely, not in the douchebaggy "all due respect" crap that people say on this board when the really mean, go fuck yourself) i think that i have found a program that works for me. I really like the progress I?ve made in the past year and a half in terms of strength gain and what not.

One thing i do take a little exception to, though is your statement that 20lbs over 3 years not being that great of progress. In part that is due to my interest in brevity and not making a long post about my entire training history. But it also might be my lack of knowledge. If it is the latter than i apologize and maybe you could point me in the direction you got your knowledge from.
First of all, I said 20ish lbs in my original post, because I'm not really sure how much muscle i gained over the past three years. I got to law school at 173 at around 13-15% BF and am currently at 197 around 10% BF. I?m sure that is more than a 20lbs weight gain, but i don?t really know how to figure it out, math isn?t my strong suit, that?s why i went into law. At one point i had bulked up to a sloppy 207 so who knows what the real muscle gain over that time period was.
Now onto my second contention, I was operating under the impression that if you can naturally gain 5lbs of lbm over the course of a year that is fantastic progress. RIght now i am averaging a little over 6 lbs a year. I remember reading in mentzer's heavy duty where he discussed gaining 5lbs a year as a major accomplishment. Again, he was a little crazy and there might be other factors involved that i don?t know about at play, that?s why i asked to be pointed in the direction you got your info from.

Nate dogg: I remember reading that CT article maybe a year or so ago. I'm just afraid that cutting back on all my other training would diminish my strength and size gains I?ve made thus far. If i remember correctly it was maybe a 6 or 8 week program, so maybe ill look into it.

Josh86: i was just curious, do you do anything special for your wrists when you reverse bench? I always feel like my tendons are going to pop out of my arm if i go over a plate and a quarter.

what are some of the favorite mass building exercise you guys have used over the years for arms. I feel stupid even saying this cause i always thought that if you went heavy on the big three they would grow but any more feedback would be great. thanks again fellas.


#10

One rarely used bicep builder is the barbell curl with a band wrapped around the bar and your feet. Use a fast concentric tempo and slow eccentric tempo on these and your bis will be begging for mercy. Also, slow chin-up negatives have spurred some growth for me in the past.


#11

try iso's. Thib just had an article on how iso's are good for bi/tri "width." (can't remember the correct term off the top of my head) they've worked good for me thus far. I noticed my double bicep pose (not a bodybuilder, just to give you all a visual) was more impressive than my friends', but from the front they looked lacking. iso's helped even them out, stopped them from being 1 dimensional.

then again, without a pic from you, we can't tell if that's your problem as well. post some pics, I'm sure you'll get great help from the guys on here. they helped me a lot.

good luck


#12

5 lbs of muscle gained in a year isn't fantastic progress IMO/from my experience, especially in the earlier stages. Now in the case of a very advanced BB'er who is close to their genetic limits of muscle mass, yeah gaining 5 lbs of muscle in a year might be great progress. It's mindsets, false truths like thinking that you can only gain 5 lbs of muscle a year (naturally) that results in so few natural BB'ers actually achieving anything substantial in terms of progress.

You should be able to gain 30+ lbs a year, at least in the earlier stages. No, not all of it will be muscle. Yes, you will soften up a little. But a good amount of that weight will be muscle (provided you're actually giving your muscles a reason to grow). Even if only 60% (which would be a rather low percentage and would probably mean you were eating rather crappy) of that weight gain were muscle, you'd still have gained 18 lbs of muscle in that years time, that's 3x what you've been averaging.

Get yourself some wrist straps/wraps. Problem solved.

There are no secret exercises, you probably could name all of the major exercises for arms off the top of your head (BB curls, CGBench, skull crushers, alt DB curls, etc...). Just get strong on them for moderate reps and eat enough, nothing complicated about it.

Why would you think that doing bench, squats, and deadlifts would be adequate work for all of your muscle groups? Those are all fine exercises, but hardly stress your entire musculature adequately to provide optimal growth. Even powerlifters like Dave Tate do isolation exercises for their arms.

Finally, your split is most likely holding you back from making gains (like CC said). If you were going to do DC, do the 2 way (not the 3 way) and do it verbatim, do not alter it or change it. Feel free to pick your exercises, but that's it. This train wreck (sorry but that's what it is) doesn't even resemble DC, and shows a lack of understanding for some basic physiological truths (like your muscles actually need rest to grow).


#13


Oh, biceps...the retarded cousin of bodybuilding that never seems to develop as fast as the others.

From my knowledge, a lot of times the brachialis muscle is the weak point in total biceps development. I'm assuming you know where this muscle is, but if you don't, its underneath the biceps brachii (the hump, the showstopper). the brachialis is the primary flexor muscle of the upper arm. The brachii, on top of that, is a supinating muscle mainly. This is why if you flex the bicep and then turn your palm toward you, the bicep "peaks" out from the supinating movement.

Try switching to heavy reverse curls for a few weeks. It looks like your probably getting plenty of bicep work with your back workouts, but the brachialis and brachioradialis(running down your forearm, the spot that burns during reverse curls) could be the weak link. Hit the reverse curls and hammers ONLY on your arm day for a few weeks, and if you stimulate those muscles your arms will grow, guaranteed. getting the brachialis bigger will also push on the biceps brachii, causing the bicep to peak out more and appear bigger.

Hope this wasn't too lengthy and was atleast somewhat helpful!


#14

From my knowledge, a lot of times the brachialis muscle is the weak point in total biceps development. I'm assuming you know where this muscle is, but if you don't, its underneath the biceps brachii (the hump, the showstopper). the brachialis is the primary flexor muscle of the upper arm.

The brachii, on top of that, is a supinating muscle mainly. This is why if you flex the bicep and then turn your palm toward you, the bicep "peaks" out from the supinating movement.

Try switching to heavy reverse curls for a few weeks. It looks like your probably getting plenty of bicep work with your back workouts, but the brachialis and brachioradialis(running down your forearm, the spot that burns during reverse curls) could be the weak link. Hit the reverse curls and hammers ONLY on your arm day for a few weeks, and if you stimulate those muscles your arms will grow, guaranteed. getting the brachialis bigger will also push on the biceps brachii, causing the bicep to peak out more and appear bigger.

Hope this wasn't too lengthy and was atleast somewhat helpful!


#15

I've been blessed with good growth in my arms; but this program really helped me years back kick things into gear.

http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/canadian_cannons

Now I just do zottoman curls at the end of my chest & bicep days as a 'finisher' and I like to think that it's working good. I started out with 40's and tried to do 8 reps for everything (40,35,30,25,20,15) ... i'm close to hitting all 8. Next week. For sure.


#16

Like Sentoguy said - get some good wrist wraps for the heavy Smith Reverse-grips. I find it more comfortable if I don't squeeze the bar fully with all fingers like I would on a normal bench press.

Instead I mainly squeeze hold it with my thumb and index/middle finger. This allows my hands to be at a bit of an angle which makes it easier on the wrists.

I also grip it fairly wide. My wrists don't bother me at all doing this, but the palm of my hand is still adjusting to the heavy weight resting on it in this manner. Just for clarification I do these with 3 plates per side currently and no wrist pain from them.


#17

Thanks for the advice. What would you consider the "earlier stages"? As i said earlier, i've been lifting since 01 (started at 145), and like everyone else I had my easy newbie gains, but i have had to fight for every pound since then (granted, conditioning for lacrosse wasnt exactly condusive for weight gain, but hey. whose counting). Maybe its my diet holding me back?

My current diet has helped me put on size while also helping me drop my bodyfat here's a sample day. What are your thoughts I agree that an all out bulk would let me put on size the fastest, but #1 I did that and while I gained muscle I felt, and looked like, shit and # 2 I think the slower you gain the muscle the easier it is to hold onto your gains. Again, I could be wrong, but that is my experience.

Here is my typical diet:
4000 MG of fish oil with GLA; 2000 mg of Glucosamine 1600 mg Chondroitin; and a once a day multi
6 egg whites 3 whole eggs 2 pieces of wheat toast
1 chicken breast
1 can of tuna
1 serving of no-shotgun preworkout
post work out shake (50 grams whey 65 grams waxy maize serving of BCAA and L Glutamine)
Tuesday/Thursday burrito with white rice, steak, lettuce, corn and a little sour cream
All other days chicken breast with serving of broccoli
1 can of tuna
50 grams whey and serving of natural PB

I was under the impression that putting the arms under heavy stress from heavy compound movements forced growth. I always thought that this needed to be supplemented with ancillary movements as well, but from my admittedly primitive understanding of exercise physiology these are traditionally believed to be the best mass builders.

I threw squat in under a lift to help get big arms because what i know about squatting says that it helps to boost testosterone levels and release growth hormone. I cant site to anything off the top of my head, but I m almost positive i have ready several articles that discuss the overall benefits of squatting.

I was looking for some personal experience with mass builders for arms, several guys on this board have been at this game a lot longer than me so i was hoping for some little tricks that someone might have picked up along the way.

Do you really think that my split doesn't allow for enough recovery? The most I'm hitting a muscle group (other than arms or calves) is twice a week for a total of 4 sets. When compared to a 5 day split or GVT that level of volume seems miniscule. What kind of a split do you recomend for proper recovery?

thanks again


#18

i just spit water all over my monitor. funiest thing ive heard all day


#19

wider than a normal bench? do you still keep your elbows tucked? I've always had problems going wide on this exercise becasue i tried to keep my elbows tight as i would ona normal bench.


#20

I don't really ever do BB bench, but I probably grip it a bit wider then I used to use on BB bench (middle finger on ring). I never pay attention to it but I think my pink fingers are outside the rings on the smith RGB. I don't worry about tucking or not tucking, I bring the bar down to my lower chest and let the arms move in whatever motion feels most natural.