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Arm Training (Triceps & Biceps)
by: Jeff Schwartzer

Whenever someone says make a muscle, the immediate response is to flex your arm in the biceps pose. It's never a side chest or back lat spread or even a most muscular. No, it's always the one arm biceps pose. Now, this pose is not only the biceps, it also contains flexing the triceps which as a matter of fact makes up 2/3 of the upper arm therefore only leaving 1/3 to make up the biceps. The biceps (bi- meaning two) has two muscle heads, along with another muscle that runs on the outside of the biceps from the elbow to the shoulder called the brachialis. This muscle helps add width to the biceps. The triceps (tri- meaning three) on the other hand has three muscle heads. All three must be trained to effectively develop the triceps.

** When training arms on the same day, either train one muscle first completely and then begin training the second muscle or train them together in a superset fashion.**

Developing an Arm Training Program: the triceps have a greater variety of exercises to choose from, while the biceps only have different variations of the curls. Due to their ability to recover faster because of their smaller size in relative to the other body parts: back, quadriceps, hamstrings, chest and shoulders; arms can be trained two times a week. Working them together in one workout is a good idea. For their second workout, pair one of them with either back, chest or shoulders. This will allow different stresses to be placed on the muscle with each workout.

When training arms on the same day, either train one muscle first completely and then begin training the second muscle or train them together in a superset fashion. Here you would perform one set of biceps followed by one set of triceps. Rest periods can either be long enough to recover completely before beginning the other set or with little rest performing the second exercise immediately after completing the first. Each workout should consist of 3-4 exercises with a range of 8-15 repetitions for each muscle group. Attempt to add weight with each successive set. Alternate exercises with each workout, never repeating the same workout more than twice.

Now on to the training....


When training biceps, all exercises will be one form of a curl. Barbell and dumbbell are the old trusted ones that still work magic. With all curls, keep your elbows down near your sides throughout the entire range of motion. Do not allow them to drift forward and cheat the weight up utilizing wherein the shoulders assist with the movement. While keeping elbows near your sides, bend the elbow squeezing the biceps to raise the weight up to the shoulder and upper chest area. The barbell curl is performed with palms facing forward grasping the bar with any variation of grip. Vary your grip from close, to shoulder width, to outside shoulder level with each workout or even vary them with each successive set. Performing barbell curls with the varying grips puts tension on the outer, middle and inner portion of the biceps. An alternate to the barbell curl is the cable curl, performed in the same manner as the barbell, but with a cable in the lowest position and curled with either a straight-bar or curl-bar.



Dumbbell curls can be performed with varying angles due to their freedom of movement. Here many variations can be performed. Starting position for the exercise can be with palms facing toward your thighs and as the weight is curled up the wrists are twisted forward and then away from the body. This motion is called supination and helps to get an extra squeeze of the muscle with that last twist of the wrist. Another variation of the curl is keeping the palms forward throughout the entire range of motion. No twisting of the wrist takes place on this particular curl. A third variation keeps the wrists facing toward the thighs at the beginning of the motion and maintain that hand position throughout the range of motion. At the top of the curl your pinkie should be closest to your body with the thumb away from your body. These different styles of the curl can be performed standing or seated (incline or flat-bench). Utilize any one of the three versions within your training to add variety to the workout.



Another exercise to assist in the development of the brachialis is the hammer curls. Here, the palms face toward each other throughout the entire range of motion. The exercise is called hammer due to the similarity of hammering a nail. The outer head of the biceps is also targeted with this exercise. Another variation of the hammer curl can be performed with a rope and the lowest cable setting. Here the palms are facing each other and the rope is curled in front of the body.

One more exercise for the biceps that is a great finisher is the
cable crossover curl. Raise the cable setting to the highest setting and attach a D-handle to each side. Grab one in each hand and curls your hands toward your head and squeeze the biceps at the top of the movement before returning to the starting position. This exercise is great for pumping that last little bit of blood into the muscle before calling it a day.

Now it's on to triceps....


I always recommend some form of pushdown to begin the workout. This exercise helps to pump blood throughout the triceps and warm up the elbows for the workout to come. Variations of this exercise consist of using a straight-bar, V-bar, rope, or a D-handle to train one arm at a time. As with all versions, the elbows are kept near the side of your body only allowing the elbow to do the movement. Do not use so much weight that you need to bend over the weight and push it down with your shoulders and chest. This exercise is meant to work the triceps only. Raise your palms up to where your forearms are slightly above parallel to the ground before returning to the down position and squeezing the triceps when finishing in arms length.



Another exercise is
lying triceps extension, also called French press or skull crushers. Lie flat on a bench facing the ceiling. Grab an E-Z curl bar and start with it positioned at arms length above your head. To begin, bend your elbows and lower the bar to the top of head just beyond your forehead. Return the bar to the starting position with arms straight above your head. This exercise can also be performed with a curl bar on the cables in their lowest position. Have the cable attachment at the same end of the bench where you would place your head.

A third exercise is
overhead extensions with a dumbbell, barbell, or cable. With all three variations, keep the palms facing toward the ceiling throughout the entire range of motion. This helps maintain tension on the triceps and off the forearms. The exercise can be performed on a bench or standing. Grab hold of the weight and extend your arms above your head with arms fully stretched. Begin by lowering the weight behind the head down to the level of the base of the head allowing for a complete stretch of the triceps. Return the weight back to the starting position above the head.

Another exercise is
close-grip bench presses. The exercise is similar to the bench press for chest, except the elbows are kept closer to the body. A narrower grip, shoulder width or closer, is used helping to keep the elbows close and allow for tension to be placed on the triceps instead of the chest. The weight is lowered to the chest allowing for a deep stretch of the triceps before returning it to the starting position.

A final exercise if
dips performed on a dip machine or using your own body weight on dipping bars. With this exercise the palms are facing toward the body. On the machine dips, the handles are gripped while seated securely under the thigh pads. The starting position should be with elbows bent and palms near your chest while seated in the seat. Begin by pushing the weight down and extending the arms to full extension squeezing the triceps at the bottom of the motion before returning to the starting position with arms bent again. The dip bars are performed the same way except instead of sitting under a thigh support, you use your bodyweight to act as resistance. You lower your body down to where your elbows are bent and palms are near your chest. Return to the starting position where arms are extended straight flexing the triceps.




Each workout should contain 3-4 exercises keeping the repetitions from 8-15. Control each movement in order to only stress the muscle at hand and not allow assisting muscles to come in to play. Train hard, eat smart (which includes your protein powders), and take your supplements.

"Best of luck with your new training program and any questions can be directed though this web site to me and I will do my best to assist you in any way possible."

Sincerely, Jeff Schwartzer


The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.


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