I think it’s safe to say if your a guy, or girl, big arms are a must! "Guns for a huns” as the ultra famous Danny mulligan says.
Here’s my guide to growing big guns!
First thing first, and the most important rule for arms is frequency. How frequent should you train Biceps and triceps? Well smaller muscles like these tend to recover much faster and create a lot less homeostatic stress. Furthermore, unless you’re one of the bro’s in the gym curling the 40kg dumbbells, crossfit style, then you shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights. So, the overall intensity shouldn’t be that high. This means you’ll be able to train them a lot more. You should train them a minimum of twice a week. However, they could even be trained everyday, depending on person, intensity, experience and lifestyle. I personally recommend 3/4 times per week as a general rule.
So, decide on your optimum frequency, then all we have to do is simply squeeze in as much volume as we can recover from within those sessions. You see, the hypertrophic gains are made through increasing total volume over time. So not only do the guys swinging super heavy dumbbells look like idiots, they also won’t be building very big arms to go with it. This is because they simply won’t be able to continue to do good quality sets, which results in a low overall volume. Total volume is weight X sets X reps, and usually X distance too but its not really important for this discussion.
So what’s the right number of sets and reps per session? Let’s say your doing 3 arm sessions a week. A good guideline would be a total of 14-22 total sets per week, with between 6-15 reps per set. This might look like 6 sets 10 reps for biceps on Monday, 6 sets 10 reps for biceps on Wednesday and 6 sets 10 reps for biceps on Friday and the exact same for triceps, giving 18 total sets for each muscle. Rather than the bro’s who do 100 sets on Monday along with chest and then can’t lift their arms all week.
Using this next concept (which is pictured below) we discuss will help you increase the number of times a muscle is worked. The more frequent a muscle can be worked, and then trained again, the better the growth. Often referred to as the SRA curve(stimulus recovery adaptation), basically every time you’re training you create a stimulus which actually damages the muscle. So if you go too hard in your session by the time the muscle comes around again to train, it’s barely recovered! You’ll just be dragging yourself further in, meaning you’ll need more recovery. Meaning adaptation is further away. So for maximum hypertrophy we need stimulation thats sufficient enough for growth but not too much that your muscles can recover and adapt. We refer to this as maximum recoverable volume. It’s worth adding that this is always changing slightly week to week. For a number of reasons but one very simple reason and thats overload. In order to be better you continuously have to do more. In this instance we are seeking more volume week by week. Now be smart here, a lot of people associate volume as just an increase in reps and sets. Well remember, if you get to a point where your just hammering more and more curls doing upwards 30 sets per week, then take down the amount of sets and raise the weights. I’m sure a lot are reading this, doing the maths and your thinking,“I do more sets on my arms than that” which brings me to my next point, quality sets.If your just doing the pump chasing 30 reps 30 sets can’t stop to breathe style of training (by the way got the t-shirt) then the emphasis on quality is lost.
To understand this more let me also explain RPE, rate of perceived exertion. This is basically on a scale of 1/10 how hard are you working, or simply put, with a gun to your head how many reps are left in the tank. RPE 10 would be no reps left. So that being said 4 quality sets of 10 reps at a RPE 8/9 is better the 10 sets at RPE 5. And I know some of you think your RPE’s are higher than a 5, but the clue is when you put the bar down at your perceived end of set and your training partner tells you “bro you got more than that” and you go on to do 10 more reps immediately after. Yeah… that’s an RPE 1 (A very easy set).
So to recap, frequency is absolutely key, concentrate week to week on increasing the volume whilst maintaining good quality reps and sets. You should be aiming for 8-15 reps on both triceps and bicep doing 14-22 total sets each week.If your arms are always sore then your either training them to hard or not resting enough between session. A bit of extra information I’d like to include, for the best results ensure you also including compound like rows, heavy pull down, chest press things of that nature each week.
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