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The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns

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The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns

If you want muscular, strong, and defined arms that you can be proud of, then you want to do these arm exercises and workouts.

 

If you’re like most guys–and…I’m not going to lie…like me–you got into weightlifting to build big arms and a big chest.

And if you’re a girl, toned, defined arms were probably high on your list as well (behind a bubble butt and killer legs, of course).

Well, I know where you’re coming from.

I remember when I first watched The Predator and…

best arm exercises with weights

…yeah, that’s pretty awesome.

Nothing inspires flattering looks and comments from strangers faster than muscular arms and well-developed pecs. A physique just isn’t complete without full, round, “3-dimensional” arms.

Well, in this article we’re going to talk all about what it takes to build biceps, triceps, and forearms that make eyeballs pop.

Let’s start with the anatomy of arm and learn what needs to happen to get the look we want and then move on to the arm exercises and workouts that will get us there.

The Anatomy of the Arm Muscles

arm muscle anatomy

When most people think of arm muscles, they think of the biceps.

Big biceps = big arms…right?

Not necessarily.

Ironically, the biceps contribute substantially less to overall arm size than the triceps, which are a much larger muscle group.

You can see this clearly in a shot like this (might as well stick with the Arnie worship?)…

best upper arm exercises

Thus, one of the little-known “secrets” to building big arms is building big triceps.

I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let’s rewind and look at each of the arm muscles in detail.

The Biceps in Detail

The biceps (or, formally, biceps brachii) is a two-headed muscle that looks like this:

biceps brachii

Another muscle you need to know about is the biceps brachialis, which lies beneath the biceps brachii and assists it in flexing at the elbow.

Here’s how it looks:

biceps brachialis

While this muscle isn’t nearly as prominent as the biceps brachii, it plays an important role in the overall appearance of your arms.

When well developed, the brachialis looks like a “knot” in between the biceps brachii and triceps, and it noticeably impacts the overall aesthetics of the arms.

  • First, it cleanly separates the biceps and triceps when flexed, which better showcases each.
  • Second, it pushes the biceps brachii up, giving you a better “peak” when flexing.

Here’s a picture of me that I think illustrates my point:

best arm exercises

So, when we get to the exercises and workouts portion of this article, we will be including some work to target the brachialis.

The Triceps in Detail

The next muscle group to talk about is the triceps, or triceps brachii, which has three heads:

triceps muscles

As you can see, the three heads combine to form the distinctive “horseshoe” that can become quite pronounced, when properly developed.

Here’s another shot of me showing where I’m at with my triceps:

best tricep exercises

 

As I mentioned earlier, the biceps are given far too much focus in most people’s arm workouts.

Small triceps mean small, disproportionate arms, regardless of the size of the biceps.

The Forearms in Detail

Last but not least are the forearms, which are comprised of several smaller muscles:

forearm muscles

Forearms are like the calves of the arms.

They aren’t the immediate focus, but if they’re underdeveloped, it’s sorely obvious. If they’re well developed, however, it greatly enhances the whole appearance of the limbs.

[Read: The Ultimate Forearm Workout: The 5 Best Forearm Exercises for Popeye Arms]

Well, I’ve been practicing what I preach in this article for several years now and my forearms have made quite a bit of progress, which I think you can see nicely here:

best arm workout

Alright then. Those are the muscles we want to develop and why.

Let’s now discuss how to best do it, starting with the fundamentals of proper arm training.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

The Simple Science of Effective Arms Training

best arm exercises men

There are a lot of theories out there about how to best train arms.

Some people say you have to focus on high-rep training and really feel the burn.

Others say the key is training them several times per week.

Others still say you don’t have to directly train them at all and should focus on major compound movements instead.

Well, I’ve tried all the above and more, and I’ve worked with thousands of people, and what I’ve found is a combination of the above seems to work best.

That is, building big arms requires that you perform heavy compound lifts and directly train your major arm muscles with both low- and high-rep training. And, like with all major muscle groups, you have to emphasize heavy weightlifting to best stimulate muscle growth.

[Read: The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy (Build Muscle)]

Exercise choice is also a very important part of proper arm training because some exercises are better for progressively overloading the muscles than others.

For example, the standing barbell curl is an all-around more effective biceps exercise than the cable curl.

mikead1-900x900

Another aspect of your arms training that you have to get right is volume, or the total number of reps you do each week.

This is especially important when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting because the general rule is this:

The heavier the reps, the fewer you can do each week.

Heavier weights necessitate more recovery, which means you can’t do as many reps every week as with lighter weights without risking overtraining.

I’ve tried many different splits and frequency schemes and what I’ve found works best is in line with two extensive reviews on the subject.

When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This not only applies to the biceps and triceps but to every other major muscle group as well.

Now, I would modify this slightly in the case of arms training because the biceps and triceps are heavily involved in your pressing and pulling.

So if you’re also doing 60 to 70 heavy reps for both back and chest every week (and you should be), you probably want to do a bit less direct work on your bis and tris. I’ve found that 30 to 40 reps per week is plenty.

Alright, now that we have basic training theory under our belts, let’s look at the best arms exercises for building muscle and strength.

The Best Arm Exercises

best arm exercises for mass

We’ll start with the biceps and then move to triceps and forearms.

The Best Biceps Exercises

Like with most muscle groups, there are scores of biceps exercises you can choose from but only a small handful are really necessary.

Just because you can do twenty varieties of curls doesn’t mean you need to. The following are the most effective:

1. Barbell Curl

The barbell curl has been a bodybuilding staple for over a century now for good reason: it’s one of the best all-around biceps builders you can do.

2. E-Z Bar Biceps Curl

I will switch to the E-Z Bar variant from time to time to give my wrists and elbows a break from the stress placed on them by the barbell curl.

3. Alternating Dumbbell Curl

Like the barbell curl, this is a time-proven exercise that builds bigger biceps.

4. Hammer Dumbbell Curl

The hammer curl is particularly useful for building up the biceps brachialis (the smaller muscle that helps give your biceps a visual boost).

5. Chin-Up

The chin-up is a great “functional” movement that targets the biceps.

You can add weight with a dip belt or weighted vest as you get stronger, which ensures you can keep progressively overloading your muscles.

The Best Triceps Exercises

Like the biceps, the sheer number of potential triceps exercises you can do can be overwhelming.

Here’s what you need to focus on to really bring out your horseshoes:

mikead2-900x900

1. Close-Grip Bench Press

If I were to do just one triceps exercise, it would probably be the close-grip bench press.

It’s a compound movement that allows you to safely push heavy weight and it also gives a little boost to your chest development.

NOTE

When doing a close-grip bench press, your grip should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width and no closer.

You’ll see many guys place their hands just a few inches apart, and this is a bad idea—it puts the shoulders and wrists in a weakened, compromised position.

2. Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press

This is one of my favorite triceps exercises because it enables you to safely press heavy weight and overload the triceps.

3. Lying Triceps Press

The lying triceps press involves a motion similar to the overhead dumbbell press and it’s great for developing the triceps.

4. Triceps Pushdown

This is the most common triceps exercise that people do and, surprisingly, it’s quite good.

That said, I like to save it for later in my workouts after I’ve done heavier work on the other exercises given in this list.

I also like the V-bar and straight bar attachments more than the rope.

5. Dip

There are two types of dips you can do: the bench and upright dip. Both are good for training the triceps and benefit the chest and shoulders as well.

Here’s the bench dip:

And here’s the upright dip:

Forearm Training

I’ll often get asked what I do for my forearms, and people are surprised to learn that I do no direct forearm training. All development has been a result of heavy back, chest, and arm training.

I’m not a fan of directly training forearms for two reasons:

  1. It can lead to elbow tightness and pain, which hinders your triceps training.
  2. It’s just not necessary if you’re sticking to heavy, compound lifting for your back, chest, and arms.

That said, if you really want to train your forearms, or if you need to develop a stronger grip for your pulling, then you can find an effective routine here.

Remember–Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

That’s it for the best arm exercises.

The key, however, isn’t just doing the exercises–it’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of weight you can move over time.

If you don’t get stronger, you won’t get bigger. 

But if you do work on building your strength on these exercises, and you eat enough food to grow, your arms will respond.

The Ultimate Arms Workout

best flabby arm exercises

A good arms workout trains both the biceps (and both the biceps brachii and brachialis) and triceps (each of the heads) and, indirectly, the forearms, and focuses on heavy weights.

Just like any other muscle group, arms can benefit from higher-rep work, but you have to emphasize heavy weightlifting if you want them to continue to grow over time.

You can learn more about programming workouts in my books  Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger, but I want to give you a simple arms workout that you can do for the next 8 weeks to see how my advice works for you.

What I want you to do over the next 8 weeks is perform the following arms workout once every 5 – 7 days:

Barbell Curl

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Close-Grip Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Dips

3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Optional

Dumbbell Curl

2 sets of 6 – 8 reps

Optional

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press

2 sets of 6 – 8 reps

That’s it–just 16 to 20 heavy sets for your entire workout.

Don’t superset these exercise. Instead, do this:

  • Biceps exercise
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Triceps exercise
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Repeat

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if you get 6 reps on your first set of barbell curls, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can curl it for 6 reps, and so forth.

What About Supplements?

strong woman is drinking sports nutrition

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

[Read: The Ultimate Guide to the Best (and Worst) Workout Supplements]

While workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

mikead3-900x900

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your arms (and other) workouts.

Creatine

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.

creatine-supplement


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)

whey-protein-supplement

WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors.
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

pre-workout-supplement

Want More Workouts?

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

back-exercises

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

shoulder-exercises

The Ultimate Abs Workout

ab-workouts

The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Calves Workout

ultimate-calves-workout

The Ultimate Butt Workout

best-butt-workouts

The Ultimate Forearm Workout

deadlift-form-tips

The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.

 

What do you think of this arms workout? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

How to get lean and build serious muscle and strength, faster than you ever thought possible…

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my books.

You see, depending on how you eat, train, rest, and supplement, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly simple or seemingly impossible. I've learned this the hard way, making every mistake you can imagine.

I've also learned a lot about what DOES work, and I wrote Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to build the body you've always wanted.

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  • Pingback: The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back | Muscle For Life()

  • Awesome article Mike. Love the way you really detail, break down and explain the anatomy of the muscle. Not many actually do that. Training to increase the strength will lead to significant increases in hypertrophy and muscle size in the long run. Great article, great series.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I appreciate it.

  • Brandon

    When you say.. “When training with the proper intensity (focusing on lifting heavy weights), optimal frequency seems to be about 60 – 70 reps performed every 5 – 7 days.” do you mean 60-70 reps of arms or total of all workouts for the week?

    • AJ

      Looks like he means 60-70 reps of just arms done every 5 to 7 days. So if you did 60-70 reps Monday, you could do it again on Saturday, Sunday, OR the following Monday.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah.

    • Michael Matthews

      Total for the 5-7 day period. When you’re training back and chest heavy, your arms are getting worked, so I don’t recommend then doing another 50-60 reps on arms day.

  • Jamal Craigson

    Mike, I’m a bit confused as to what you did to make progress in your forearms as you said you don’t train them directly. Have they progressed the past few years just because you’ve switched to heavy compounds and also hit the brachioradialis?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, I really started to see progress with the heavy back training.

      • Jonas

        dont you use straps for back training?

        • Michael Matthews

          No.

  • Jonas

    I don’t have a bench… Are close-grip floor presses for tris and floor presses for chest okay as well?

    • Michael Matthews

      The reduced range of motion makes this less effective but it’s better than nothing.

      • Jonas

        would weighted close grip pushups and regular pushups for chest, and weighted decline pushups as a replacement for incline bench press be a better option?

        • Michael Matthews

          Pushups suck in comparison to heavy weightlifting.

          • Jonas

            so what should i do then?
            i thought that i then just could the bodyweight chest routine you postet there in that bidyweight routine post and supplement with dips and closegrip floor presses for trizeps isolation… are dumbell or barbell presses better in that case…
            ( i have no bench!! thats why….)
            what do you think?

          • Michael Matthews

            That’s totally fine but lifting in a gym is better. Are you not able to do that?

  • Joel

    Could I workout arms twice a week? For example a heavy arms day like the one you’ve recommended on Wednesday and then a light arms day with 6 sets of 10 – 12 reps for each muscle on Saturday?

    • Gary Kenny

      Great article Mike! Touching on what Joel said, I’m trying to focus on Legs and Arms more for this coming trimester. Following your BLS Workout Plan but including a 2nd workout day (Saturday) for Legs and Arms. Would you recommend this?

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks! See my comment above on adding bis and tris sets, and for your legs, you could sneak in 3-4 sets of legs 3-4 days after you train them, but I wouldn’t do more than that.

    • Michael Matthews

      You could but it’s really not necessary if you’re also training your back and chest heavy as those do partially count as arm workouts as well.

      That said, you could add 3 sets of bis on back day and 3 sets of tris on chest day.

  • Matt

    When doing lying tricep extensions I’ve started to get small pains and clicks in my elbows and whenever I do dips I get a really sharp pain in my collarbone (which I got from day 1 of doing them). I’ve stopped doing them for a few weeks but I’m really missing the dips! Any way to solve these problems?

    • Lindsay Rice

      Great article. I get that collarbone pain too, usually afterwards not during, I’d love any tips on correcting.

      I’m not too concerned about increasing bicep size, but I’d like to balance them a little more as both inner heads are bigger than the outsides. I’ll try doing the outside grip EZ-bar one above, do you have any other ideas to hit the outer head?

      • Michael Matthews

        See my above comment and if I’m not mistaken, the inner grip will work out the outer head more.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah things like this can happen, and what I’ve done is just lay off the exercises that bother me and get stronger on ones that don’t. I then find I can come back to ones that were bothering and they don’t anymore.

    • Bill Sutcliffe

      Quit being a pussy.

  • Johnny

    What about doing dumbell isolation movements in the 6-8 rep range (hammer curls, lateral side raises, rear delt raises,)
    ..because my dumbells dont go that heavy… so i can use them for some time, of course, at some time, i will need some new and heavy ones, but i just bought them recently… :/

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s fine so long as you’re including heavy, 4-6 work as well. Some people find it hard to maintain form at 4-6 so they can use the 6-8 range to build up that strength.

      • Johnny

        What do you mean with ‘if i include heavy 4-6 work as well?
        obviously, when im doing those exercises in the 6-8 rep range i cant do them in the 4-6 rep range at the same time. or do you mean that i should definitely then do those compound lifts in the 4-6 reps? yes, im doing this, if you meant that 😉 haha!

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah sorry. I mean include 4-6 rep work in your workout. Don’t do all 6-8 rep.

  • Anon

    Hi Mike Thank you for a great article. I have one arm subtly shorter than the other and so the bicep looks a bit smaller than the other… any recommendations like extra sets on smaller side (if so how many?) or continue with BLS compound lifts etc should even out? I have same problem with my lats too. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Imbalances are uncommon and it usually resolves with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

  • Ian

    Mike! I have a dilemma, regarding my split…. This may sound strange but believe me it’s how my schedule works. Week 1 I can workout Mon, Tue, Friday. Week 2 I can workout Mon, Tue, Fri, Sat, Sun…..Any recommendation on how to split this up? Any advice is appreciated SO MUCH I have been trying to figure it out. Great articles and tips as always! Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s no prob. I would do this:

      3-day: Chest + tris, back + bis, legs + shoulders

      4-day: chest + tris, back + bis, legs, shoulders

      Simple. 🙂

      • Ian

        You da man! Thanks!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! 🙂

  • Tricia Gotcha

    For the alternate dumbbell curl, is it better to do it with palms facing forward rather than facing them towards ur body? Cuz i do it with palms facing towards my body or facing each other.

    • Michael Matthews

      Palms up is definitely better for working the biceps.

  • Jim

    Hi mike. Really love all the Information and your bls book is quality! I’m a big fan of kinobody info but what is your stance on not training concsecutive days due to cns fatigue. Also, the volume seems very low to build substantial muscle. Love to hear your thoughts

  • Eric R

    Mike,

    I started to barbell curl on the first day doing this workout and it completely killed my forearms, almost like a sprain. I immediately dropped the barbell curl from my workout and now only do dumbbells but unfortunately the pain comes back after every arm workout, even without the barbell work. Any suggestions to continue working the biceps but avoid this pain?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow I’m sorry to hear that. Try lighter weights and see if it’s still a problem. Let me know!

      • Ahmed

        I don’t know if it is the same thing. I used to get insane pumps in my right forearm when I do any kind of biceps curls. as a result, my right forearm became bigger in a noticeable way than the left one.
        At first I thought that its a growth problem (I’m 18). But when I resumed training after a 1 year break I focused on form, and because I’ve lifting before for some years I was able to feel that the movement of my right arm is slightly wrong! It doesn’t appear in the mirror, but I can feel the muscle that moves!! (weird).
        So after I corrected my form I’m now using the “wrong form” biceps curl as a (secret) forearm exercise which I see is very effective in terms of adding mass to the forearms!
        The forearms arms are nearly equal now which means I’m doing fine.

        • Michael Matthews

          Interesting. Thanks for sharing! Good job on figuring it out. 🙂

  • Adambunce

    If you only training 4 times a week isn’t it better to separate biceps and triceps out so you do chest and triceps one day and back and biceps on the next day?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, I like to do it that way.

  • Abe

    Mike, do you still use your bigger, leaner, stronger program or have you changed that as you’ve progressed?

    • Michael Matthews

      I used a periodized version of the program which I will be talking about in my next book. It’s similar to BLS but includes some 2-3 and 8-10 rep work.

  • Tony Spinelli

    In my case pain in the collarbone area ended up being a partial rotator cuff tear. Get it checked out (MRI) and be cautious.

    • Michael Matthews

      Ouch. 🙁

  • Tim Jones

    When I do heavy tricep pushdowns it feels like there’s a lot of stress on my shoulders. Am I doing it wrong? Letting the v bar come up too high in between pushdowns? Just feels like it’s requiring too much shoulder input. Could be the way I am standing/posture?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm possibly. You shouldn’t really feel it in your shoulders. You might be using too much weight, which is compromising your form? Your elbows should remain more or less stationary.

    • Billy boy

      Stand closer to the pulley, look straight ahead, bring the starting point down to your shouoders, the only movement should be the elbow, with them tucked into your ribs and a slight arch in the back, concentrate on keeping the elbows in tight.and for god sakes don’t believe for one second that you’ll get arms like mine by training them once a week. 3 times a week every other day your body is a machine and will learn to recover faster

  • Pingback: 11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press | Muscle For Life()

  • Donald Booth

    I’ve been enjoying doing all the ultimate workouts and notice the difference in the training. I’m glad that I found them and wanted to say thanks! The arms training is the best arms programs i ‘be tried, I get a great pump during the workout!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome Donald! I’m glad to hear it! Keep up the good work!

  • Eric Farto

    Hi Mike! Hope everything is fine!

    A quick question, all these “the best exercises for…” articles are applicable to both men and women?

    Thanks! Excellent article, as always! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      All is good, thanks! Yup, both men and women can do great with these routines.

  • Mark

    Hey man, you look great in your pictures. I’m assuming that you get quite a few looks and stares from the ladies? hahaha. I’m not working out for just that reason but that is definitely one of the motivations.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mark! Haha I’m a hermit these days stuck behind a computer screen 12+ hours per day but my wife thinks I look good. 😉

      Getting girls is why I started lifting, along with about 100% of all other guys my age at the time (17).

  • Jon

    Now if you follow your BLS routine arms is done with abs. How do I do this workout and keep it under 60 minutes?

    • Michael Matthews

      I like to do it like this:

      Biceps exercise 1 set 1

      Rest 60 sec

      Triceps exercise 1 set 1

      Rest 60 secBiceps exercise 1 set 2

      Rest 60 sec

      Triceps exercise 1 set 2

      Rest 60 sec

      Etc.

      Saves time.

  • Renier

    I Really don’t like dips, i prefer to do french press on a decline bench, I can use more weight in that one too, are ”dips” necessary(chest and tricep version)? I feel some elbow pain in that one too…

    • Michael Matthews

      I had never heard of the French Press but apparently it’s just a triceps exercise?

  • Matt

    Like your article, Mike. What do you suggest I do if I experience low back pain whenever I do barbell curls? Would preacher curls be a good substitute?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yes you could do that, or just standing or seated DB curls.

  • Renier

    Mike, is there such a thing as dips- tricep version and dip- chest version? I really see no diference for me the dip is an exercise that target the tricep, chest and shoulder, but I do feel it more on my tricep, but there is a lot of tension on my chest too, what do you think about it?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah if you lean your body forward it puts more emphasis on your chest. If you’re upright it’s more triceps.

  • Alex

    Hi, Mike! Love your programs and your scientific approach. For 2-3 weeks I increased the weight in every excersice. For example the close grip bench press from 6x70KG to 6×77.5KG in 2 weeks! Lovin’ it :). While I was training in the 10-12 rep range I hit plateu for like 3-4 months with no strength increase. Already converted ~5 friends to your style of training and they love it, too. I bought your book and it’s unsurprisingly awesome. Keep it up.
    Btw, can you share your body measeurements :D?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That’s great! Thanks for the support. You rock. 🙂

      Yeah I need to take new measurements actually.

  • Anthony Giangrande

    I think Menno Henselmans makes a valid point when he says you have to do overhead work to adequately develop the long head of the tricep, and thusly the tricep overall.

    I have found it to be true in application.

    So maybe it would be preferable to do 3 sets of close grip bench OR weighted upright narrow grip dips as the first exercise (emphasis: compound/power/medial&lateral heads), and then 3 sets of overhead tricep extensions OR lying tricep extensions (aka skull crushers or French press) (emphasis: long head).

    Something where the elbows are lifted above perpendicular (>~90 degrees) to the torso.

    For an explanation regarding the anatomical reason, read this.. The section on triceps:

    http://www.simplyshredded.com/muscle-specific-hypertrophy-chest-triceps-and-shoulders-by-menno-henselmans.html

    • Michael Matthews

      Great comment thanks for sharing. I’ve always made great gains with overhead work.

  • Mario

    Would you say concentration curls are just as good as standing dumbbell curls? Also wide grip vs narrow grip? I noticed your plan doesn’t include any narrow grip.

    • Michael Matthews

      I much prefer standing with a neutral grip.

  • Santiago

    Hi! Just finished reading BLS, amazing work! I’ve been hitting the gym for 3 months now, and I just realized after reading BLS that I’ve been training in the wrong way (as for example, avoiding carbs at all cost for my first 2.5 months, that can explain why my muscles grew little at that time).

    I have a question about the progressive weight when training. My 85% 1 rep max is about 35 pounds (which i do not have a problem because I have a 35 pound dumbbell in the gym) but as far as using barbells which weight should I use for the barbell curls:

    *A 66 pounds barbell (33 for each bicep) which I can complete 3 sets of 4-6 reps without much problem (struggling and groaning, but I can). The matter which “concerns” me Is that Im lifting is less weight using this barbell than the one Im currently lifting in the dumbbell curls

    *A 75 pounds (37.5 for each bicep), which I can hardly complete one and a half set of 4 reps.

    Which barbell should I use? Considering that for the dumbbell curls Im lifting 35 pounds, but for the barbell ones I can ben using less weight (when using the 66 pound one) or lifting more (by using the 75 pound one).

    Also, how can I “face” the problem of lifting progressive weight If my gym does not have the proper dumbbell or barbell weight scale for using the 5-10 extra pound ratio after getting used to the prior weight?

    Thanks a lot and please keep this site going, it’s great for guys like us who are interested in getting fit

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Don’t worry about that just stick to the rep range. DB and BB weights don’t translate exactly.

      You can work up to 8 reps and then move up in weight, dropping to 4.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Santiago

        Hey, thanks a lot! Just beginning to feeling my own “proper weights” for training, the first couple of weeks were finding the right weight for exercises. Just another thing, the link for the bonus “The Year one challenge” that appears in the PDF apparently does not work, is there another link or source for getting it?

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Yup that’s how it goes. Oops sorry about that. Shoot me an email and I’ll hook you up.

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  • Devon

    How long should I stick to this routine? I’ve been doing this for about 2 months and am still seeing growth in both strength and size, but everyone seems to think I need to switch up my rep ranges and workouts.

    • Michael Matthews

      I like to change things up every 8-10 weeks but never drop out certain key exercises like the Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, and Military Press. For arms I rotate between BB and DB curls, Hammer Curls, Close-Grip Bench, Overhead DB Tris Press, and Pushdowns.

      So long as you keep getting stronger, you’ll keep seeing gains…

  • Bud

    Matt. Great stuff. Just a quick question. I broke my wrist and even tho it is healed it still hurts when doing heavy barbell or ez bar curls (form is pretty close to perfect just) what do you recommend for a sub to that? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I fractured my wrist playing football years ago so I know how that is. You can drop the weight or maybe do hammer curls?

  • Samuel Sander

    Is there a 4-day split you would recommend where arms get a separate day? Been doing chest with tri’s and back with bi’s but my arms are lagging behind and I want to start hitting them separately. Just not sure if I can do the 5-day split timewise :/

    Also would you recommend going reverse pyramid with 4 reps on the 1st set, 6 on the 2nd and 8 on the 3rd over the standard 4-6 reps per set approach? (as a sidenote, looking forward to the new BLS book, as you mentioned earlier it will include RPT style training in some earlier post) So far I’ve been doing some exercises RPT style and some BLS style. Many, many thanks in forward 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Sure:

      Push
      Pull
      Legs
      Arms

      Kind of a weird split but hey it would work. 🙂

      You could do that but remember you’d have to adjust weights accordingly. BBLS is ready to rock and my typesetter is just finishing the bonus report and then we’re launching so soon soon! 🙂 Thanks man glad to hear you’re doing well.

      • Samuel Sander

        Oki, so basically:
        Day1) Chest (9 sets) , shoulders (6 sets)
        Day2) Back (9 sets +could add some ab work perhaps)

        Day3) Legs (9 sets)
        Day4) Arms (9 sets)

        I’ll give it a go. If it seems that I can’t give as good of an effort that I’d like to on shoulder exercises (as I’ve fatigued them with chest push movements), then I guess I got squeeze that 5th day in there somewhere 😀 Thanks man and yea, looking forward to BBLS :))

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup and you can add some bis to back day if you want.

          Great let me know how it goes!!

  • Ct

    Hey just bought bls good stuff so far! Just a question on the 2 1 2 second hold tempo thing. Do you go up on 2 second and so on for arms and etc or just confound movements

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! For all. 2-1-1 is fine too.

  • Syros35

    Hi man. Everywhere I read things about bodybuilding it says that for building mass you should stay in the rep range of 8-12, and for strength 4-6, so that means your workout is more for strength than mass?

  • Kris

    Hi Mike,
    Great stuff (all of it, really), but I was wondering if you have these ‘ultimate workout guides’ in a bare-bones version, i.e. no equipment except a set of weights, for those who can’t make it to the gym everyday. In particular I’m referring to lack of access to larger equipment such as weight benches, dip racks etc. any ideas for alternative exercises to these (or even everyday objects that could suffice as a stand-in for said equipment)?
    Cheers!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm you could go the bodyweight route:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

      Otherwise you would need some basic equipment:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/affordable-home-gym/

      • Kris

        Hi,
        Thanks for that. Home gym it is… Just wondering – is that ‘basic equipment’ list specific to the regime you’ve got in the book (Sorry, it’s still on it’s way to me so haven’t yet read it. Your stuff is really hard to get in New Zealand…) or is it based around the best exercises you COULD do? If the latter, what would be the key equipment I would need to do your regime? I currently have adjustable weights, a swiss ball (which I see you don’t mention) and that’s about it. Space is more of an issue than money so if you’ve got ideas for portable-type pieces that’d be great.
        Thanks again.

        P.S. What are your thoughts on the attached piece of equipment to stand in for a dip-bar station (as per top encircled example in picture).

        • Michael Matthews

          The home gym article lays out everything you need, really. You don’t have to get fancy at all.

          That thing is good for pullups.

  • Jay

    Michael,
    I’ve been following your Thinner Leaner Stronger for a few months now, broke my weight loss plateau and lost another 10 lbs, not to mention I look and feel stronger than ever, so thank you!
    I have a question on what type of weight training works best. When lifting, sometimes I do supersets of opposing muscle groups, 3x through, rest, then move on to another superset, etc.. and other times I do a circuit of 6 exercises, rest, then do that whole thing again 2 more times.
    Is one method more effective than the other? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. And great job! I’m really glad to hear it.

      I’m not a fan of supersetting because it limits the amount of weight you can actually lift. That’s why you want to be resting 60-90 seconds in between each set. Save the high-intensity stuff for your cardio…

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Jay

        Yes, I have noticed that I lift a little less when doing supersets. In that case, is it better to do 3 sets of one exercise then move on to the next exercise, or do all the exercises in 3 rounds format? Thank you!

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah that’s the downside. I like to do one exercise at a time.

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  • Josie

    Hi Mike, I’ve been following your TLS routine for almost 6 months now, and I have seen improvement in literally every single area of my body except my blasted bingo wings (triceps). I have muscle definition around my shoulders, biceps, chest, and back etc. but for some reason I just can’t get my wobbly, doughy triceps to follow suit. I know you can’t target stubborn fat and that it is notoriously difficult to shift, but if there’s anything extra I can do to speed things up? I’d love some advice. I am also nearing the end of a period of reverse dieting (for about a month now), which I’m guessing hasn’t helped matters particularly. Thanks.

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  • aj

    will your workouts lead me to a bigger (massive body)? or it can make my body ripped? thanks!

  • David

    Hi Mike,
    When you say put ’emphasis’ on heavy compound lifts, does that still mean I should still include isolation excersises in my workout (this is not just for arms im asking about but for training all my muscles)? I’ve been doing supersets and so forth and I’ve definitely stopped with progressing (8-12 rep range), but should i skip these 8-12 rep range all together?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah some isolation exercises are definitely worth doing. Side and rear raises are examples of good isolation exercises.

      You can include higher rep stuff but it should come at the end of your workouts. The bulk should be heavier lifting.

      • David

        Thanks for the advice! So if I include them would that say replace the compound excersises I do at the end or just add them on. (lets say for arms should I add them on and hence do more than 16 sets?)

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! No don’t replace your compounds. For example, my shoulders workouts are always heavy pressing followed by some isolation work for side and rear delts.

  • Jorge

    Hi mike, I just ordered your book as I am very impressed with your articles. Hats off to you for the most condensed, precise, and detailed information I’ve come across. I just have a question that you probably get a lot.

    I am a naturally skinny guy (ecto) and struggle putting on mass. Now I’ve stuck to a regimen for quite some time now (chest / tri / shoulders , legs, back and bi , rest , and repeat) and was working great but im hitting plateaus probably due to disproportionate muscle groups. I feel my chest and triceps gaining fast -almost weekly i add weight to my reps. But my biceps and shoulders gain extremely slowly -as in I’ve had nearly the same weight as when I started (25 lbs), I just don’t get stronger in those areas and it is affecting my gains in other areas. I use a lot of the exercises you recommend. What should I do for growth in mainly my biceps?

    • Jorge

      Btw, been lifting for about 6 months.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

      Bis and shoulders are just slow. They’re small, stubborn muscles for most. That said, you should be able to progress.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      Plus we just need to get you going on BLS and see how your body responds.

  • Gab

    Hello again, Mike. Can I just choose exercises from “The Best Arm Exercises” instead of doing the exercises from “The Ultimate Arms Workout?” It’s because I couldn’t even do a single dip.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah part of the game is learning what works best for your body.

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  • Dan Florin Eduard

    I have a question, do I have to alternate the exercises for arms? or I can do the whole biceps exercise, go to the whole triceps exercise, back on biceps, so on and so forth….

    • Michael Matthews

      I like to alternate but I rest 60 seconds in between each.

  • Ryan Burke

    The workout looks good but 4-6 reps? Lol for arms?

  • drew wolf

    If im working out four days a week how many days should i workout my arms

    • Michael Matthews

      1 x per week is enough if you’re also doing heavy pushing and pulling.

  • LifeForMuscle

    amazing article, i started to see my gains :).

    i began doing BLS for like a month (been lifting for 4 months) and my gains are skyrocketing. thanks!

    the only thing i am worried about is that how can i fix my bicep muscle imbalances… my right arm (non-dominant) is bigger than my left arm (dominant) its really weird and very visible. my left is stronger than my right. what should i do? add set to my left? remove a set from my right? i need help .please!

    thanks again. your the best!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That’s great!

      Imbalances are common and it usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

      • LifeForMuscle

        sure thing!

        thanks for the fast reply man! (probably said “thanks” to you like a billion time XD).

        thanks again 😉

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! Haha.

          • LifeForMuscle

            back after 6 months. damn time passes by so fast! still have the issue bro?? and now its annoying me in my bench as my left bicep hurts when i bench!

            what can i do to fix the muscle imbalances!!??

            thanks bro!

          • Sorry but I’m not sure what you’re talking about?

          • LifeForMuscle

            lol… this is awkward XD

            i think you delete the previous replies. because we had a long ass conversation about muscle imbalances on my left biceps… and then you told me to reply after 6 months and here i am 😀 check the replies before this you will find it…

            i wanted to know what to do because you told me to come back after 6 months if my muscle balances are not fixed and here i am! what do i do!?!?

            please focus XD!

            thanks alot mike for the immediate help when i need it 🙂

          • I don’t delete replies.

            You can do additional sets for lagging body parts but if you’re dealing with a lot of injuries you need to get over that first…

          • LifeForMuscle

            how many sets do i add? please specify

            thanks alot mike. sorry for bombarding you with questions!

          • I talk about it in BBLS. Have you read?

          • LifeForMuscle

            no. i buy all your books (well most 🙂 ). i would love to buy BBLS but i have only been lifting for 7 month. you said that book would be for advanced lifters (like you) im still far from that :/. so when i reach the advanced stage i would buy that book for sure! 😀

          • Oh yeah you should check it out even if you’re not ready for the program. You’ll like it!

  • Elliot

    Hi Mike, Great no nonsense article, that is actually about something relevant rather than trying to get the readers to buy supplements like most other websites and articles!

    My issue is I am 20 Yrs old, 5 Ft 9/10 , and 70Kg.
    I have been going to the gym regularly for 9 months now and have seen my weight and size increase very slowly. I have taken Creatine,Protein and Weight gainer. However I have never stuck to creatine properly due to going out drinking at the weekends etc.

    I have tried drop sets, lifting heavy, lifting low good form etc. I agree with your 4-6 reps and will give this a try however my form becomes poor on the 5th rep?

    I also eat fairly well and 4-6 meals per day.

    Any advice and tips you can give me on why i am struggling to see gains and definition would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      Cool on what you’ve been doing. I like it.

      If your form falls apart, end your set. You’ll get stronger if you just keep working.

      This will help ensure you’re eating right:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Manoj Krishna

    Hey Mike.. I’ve been following BLS for 6 months now and happy to tell you my strength is more than ever. My question is in BLS the adviced workouts are different. Here mentioning of close grip press, hammer curls, dip which I’m not doing. I workout only 45 mins so which are best ones should i continue with.
    Persent workout:
    1. Barbell curl
    2. Cable push down
    3. Alternate Dumbell curl
    4.Overhead Tricep press
    5. Reverse curl(forearm)

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome man! Glad to hear it.

      I like what you’re doing but would do the overhead press before the pushdowns.

  • David Staten

    Just want to leave a big tip is to have your hand relax especially for them guns, you’ll be surprised how much stress it takes off your forearms.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks David!

  • Roy

    I love your articles Mike, read lots of them.

    As a newbie, i still got a lot to learn.

    What do you think of this site?
    I think that it makes sense but it recommended higher reps (12)
    I really got the pump after following its guide.
    http://www.howtogetbigarms.com

    PS not ad

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Roy!

      Generally speaking you’re going to get more bang for your buck with heavier lifting but you can include some higher-rep stuff as well if you’d like. I wouldn’t neglect the heavy though.

  • Mike

    Mike, Great article! Is this for beginners/intermediate or advanced? I have been using weights for years now and recently lost some weight and muscle. I am looking to get some if it back. Any thoughts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      I would say it’s for anyone who hasn’t emphasized heavy weightlifting before, regardless of how long they’ve been lifting.

      Give it a go and let me know!

  • Justin

    Great stuff. I’ve been using your workouts for just over 3 weeks now and I feel like I’m already seeing results. One issue is the soreness in my forearms and elbows. I notice you said this is fairly normal early on so I’m hoping it goes away. Can’t wait to see how I’m feeling in another month!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That’s great. Yeah it will get better. Reduce weights to the 6-8 range if necessary.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Chris Cusimano

    Mike, My arms don’t get too sore at all. I do the full range of motion and copy the instruction videos to a T. Do you have to get sore for growth? After two phases and week one of phase 3 I maybe have gotten sore twice after an arm day… Any ideas as to is what’s up? I do the max weight that I can for 4-6 reps/full range of motion/good form (so I think). Thanks brotha.

    • Soreness isn’t necessarily an indicator of a good workout. Genetics, nutrition, and conditioning all play a role.

      Check out my article on this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reduce-muscle-soreness/

      As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.

  • Shariff

    Hei Mike,
    What do you mean by; “I like to alternate between biceps and triceps sets to save time.”
    What’s the execetcises?
    Thanks & regards.
    Shariff

    • For instance biceps curls, rest 60 seconds, close-grip bench, rest 60 seconds, curls, rest, etc.

      • Shariff

        Got it!
        Thanks Mike.
        …….. this new gym I went to DO NOT have any BB. What them have are DB, lat machine & some others.
        Can you kindly advise how I’m gonna go about for the chest, shoulders & abs with these?
        ps; I’ve seen someone posed these questions too, but can’t seem to find it.
        Thanks Mike

        • Lame! Well you can just stick to DBs I guess. Pressing and such.

  • Shariff

    *exercises

  • Eli

    For the passed few weeks I have been experiencing this sort of pain in my forearms (especially in my wrists) when I do any sort of curl besides for hammer curls. It used to be only while I’m curling, but now it aches regularly and is effecting my rows, deadlifts and pull-ups. If I switch to just hammer curls will I lose size in my biceps or strength in my barbel or dumbell curls?

    • The forearm ache can happen, it’s being caused by the heavy arms training. The solution is simple: let’s cut the weight back to the 6-8 rep range on your arms training and it should be fine.

      Give that a try and let me know!

      • Eli

        Thanks for the fast response! I will definitely give that a shot.

        • YW great! LMK how it goes.

          • Eli

            So I decreased the weight I usually curl with to get me 8 reps but still had considerable discomfort. I noticed I get this with many exercises requiring dumbells. Can it be my forearms are just much weaker than my bigger muscles? My biceps measure 15 inches but my forearms are 11 and the imbalance is quite obvious.

          • No worries. Just back off and let it heal up. Nah it just happens to some people. I used to deal with it too.

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  • Justin Sayn

    Quick question. What is the overall benefit of doing curl type movements for the arms? In the process of doing chest, back and shoulder work, shouldn’t your arms be getting the workout of a lifetime already? Or at least, instead of curls, wouldn’t chin ups/pull ups and dips be better?

    • If you want to get the most possible growth out of your arms you’ll need to include some arm-specific training. Your big compounds are enough to maintain size though.

  • Jimmy Bills

    First of all Mike, I owe you so much for being the first person to really get me in shape. I’m damn near your disciple with how I tell my co-workers about your site/book. I can’t wait to email you some transformation pics, but I’ll do that in June when I progress even further. I have a quick question though, I’m pretty satisfied with my arms as they are, I’ve always had pretty large biceps (too big IMO), so I never do bicep exercises, and I don’t do tri’s either because I don’t want my overall arm to look any bigger than they are. What I do want is more definition, which I know will come with losing body fat. As long as I continue doing heavy compound lifting (I personally follow your 5 day plan, but I just do abs and HIIT on arms day, and I do some shrugs too since I want larger traps), is it okay to not do any bicep or tricep exercises if I’m satisfied with the size now? I just don’t want them too look…I guess un-developed? when I finally do hit that sweet 8% body fat target. Thanks again for everything Mike!

    • Thanks Jimmy! I really appreciate the support. 🙂

      Yeah you just need to get leaner and yup you will maintain arm size and much of your strength with just your heavy pulling and pushing!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Trollslayer

    Mike, I love all your articles, and follow all your advice – including the switch from lower-weight/higher reps to higher-weight/lower-reps. Its already making a big difference. Only problem is, and forgive me if you’ve posted about it already, but I haven’t seen a definitive guide to the warm-up sets, especially with regard to chest, arms, and shoulders. I’m afraid to warm up with too low of a weight and initiate too much hypertrophy before lifting heavy, and afraid of warming up too heavy and expending needed muscle energy to lift during my sets. Can you refer me to an article or thread where you discuss this? Thanks so much

    • Thanks man!

      I think the only place I talk about warming up is in Bigger Leaner Stronger. Have you read it?

  • Ivo Naves

    Hi Mike

    I’m doing your Y1C, just finished week 4 of Phase I.

    I was doing Barbell Curls and got into 60 kgs, but when I tried to move to 70 my LEFT wrist and left elbow begun to hurt. I changed to spider curl in a EZ bar, and doing so the total weight dropped to 25 kgs.

    What can I do to add more strenght to those joints? Just being patient and keep on the spider-EZ?

    Thanks

  • Curious Guy

    Hey Mike. Great article. Just wanna ask. If i do these ultimate workouts, (for shoulders, back, chest, arms, legs) would i get lean muscles or would i bulk up? Cause i dont wanna end up having big arms but look more fatty than muscular. I just want to build the “athletic” kind of body ir what they call the “beach body”. In that case, should i be doing these workout planss? Thanks in advance!

  • DV

    The arm workout is quite different than the “upper body” workout in the book Bigger Leaner Stronger…which so you suggest – I’m a bit confused

  • Sam

    Hi Mike, when I work my arms (for eg. barbell curls), after few reps I feel my forearms giving in before my biceps, also my forearm and wrist are compartively narrower than average. Do you think this could hinder my arm growth?
    Just read about fatgripz, does it really help improve your arm strength and size?

  • Lakatos Andrei

    Hey Mike, what is your opinion on using chin-ups (a compound movement) for biceps instead of a barbell curl. Wouldn’t it be better in your opinion?
    Thanks in advance

    • I’d say both. Arms do respond very well to direct training.

      • Lakatos Andrei

        Yeah, i made some research and i reached the same conclusion. Barbell curls ftw

  • Hi Mike!

    What do you think about the close-grip pullup as a brachialis/forearm exercise? It is compound (and heavy!) and it works the brachialis maybe more than the hammer curl because of the palm position.

  • Jim Walker

    Hey mike awesome routine,
    If a beginner gains 20 pounds of muscle in a year how many total pounds would they have to gain to achieve this usually? Thanks

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  • Shogungts

    Hey Mike – I just found you website a couple of weeks ago, am currently making my way through BLS and starting to incorporate some of the exercising that you recommend that I was not already doing….

    Today I tried your arm workout, but one exercise stood out in that I seem to be doing an unproportional amount of weight compared to the other exercises. I used a V Bar to do tricep push downs and had to keep increasing the weight until I was maxing the cable machine (150lbs) for 6 reps. Now while I would love to brag, I am thinking I am doing something wrong given my other max numbers:

    Close Grip Bench: 115 lbs
    Lying Tricep Press: 60 lbs
    Dumbbell Overhead Press: 50 lbs (although my wrists seemed to hold me back on this exercise)

    I watched the video you linked before and after and I think I am doing it right, but the amount I am doing for tricep push downs seems way too high. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.

    Marc

    • Thanks Marc!

      It sounds like it’s a double-pulley stack? If so look for a single-pulley stack or just sub for another exercise.

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  • Bjarni Tomlinson

    Hey Mike
    Should the 5/6th reps of the 3rd set be really difficult to perform?Regardless with your workouts I spend half the time in the gym but have seen twice the gains, so thanks!

    • Glad to hear you’re doing well! Yeah last set is usually rough. If you get 6 though it’s time to go up in weight!

  • Rajith

    Mike,

    What do you think about Curls 21’s with EZ bar? (i.e. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXnBcWEOGv8) I tried it and felt super pumped than normal EZ bar curls. But I could only curl like half of the weight that I normally used to curl. Does it really helpful to grow the Biceps? Please share your thoughts. Thanks!

    Rajith.

  • Sy

    Mike,

    Triceps always seem to be a bugbear of mine. I’m using free weight as thats all I have access to but can’t get the benefit from a close grip bench. Can you critique my current set of exercises and tell me wether or not I’m impacting the heads in the right way? Nb: I’m working tri and bi as suggested above.

    I start with bench dips (weighted)
    into triceps extension and closed with skulls, all heavy with a total set range of 12 max inclusive and a rep range of 4-6 .

    I certainly feel the benefit but it’s early days , so along with nutrition and rest I’m hoping that this routine sits ok? Your comments are appreciated.

    • Hmm bench dips are pretty shitty IMO. It’s hard to really add weight. I much prefer a traditional triceps dip on the dip station.

      That said, I would start your tri work with heavy close-grip bench presses. What’s the problem with them exactly?

  • Raj

    Has anyone ever had the issue where your non-dominant arm feels off (feels loose, numb, strained, etc.)?

    I am following the BLS 2.0 5 day split, and I did chest on Tuesday and back on Wednesday. I have been doing incline and flat dumbbell bench press instead of barbell, and I have been using 60 lb for incline and 65 lb for flat. I noticed when I would get the weights up for the presses, my left forearm would feel pain (I’m right handed).

    On back day, I did deadlifts, and while doing kneeling dumbbell rows with an 85 lb dumbbell, my left-hand grip was failing on the second and third sets when I was doing 6 reps.

    I couldn’t even do pullups and chinups because of left-hand grip failure.

    My arm is still feeling off, and I don’t remember my left arm feeling like this at any time in the past. Does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions on what to do? I still have full control of my arm, and I can move it around but it doesn’t feel normal like my right. I don’t know whether to rest, take ibuprofen, or go see a doctor.

    • Hey hey,

      It sounds like you just need to give it a rest. No aggravating it for a week and let’s see how you’re feeling?

  • OKD

    how would you periodise an arm workout keeping the intensity between 30-40 like u said ? would u still perform the really heavy 3 rep exercises ?

    • I would do 3 to 6 sets of 4 to 6 reps and 3 to 6 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

  • Mitchell Butler

    Hey Mike, what’s your opinion of preacher curls (DB or BB)? They seem effective but you never talk about them

    • They’re fine I guess but I gave them up for strict BB and DB curling.

  • Anthony Renzi

    Hey Mike, first off I wanna say thanks for your book “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger”, it’s my bible now.
    My question is about Arm Day, I’m a little confused about the order.

    “To help cut down on the time, what I do is a bicep exercise, rest 1 – 2 minutes, a triceps exercise followed immediately by an abs exercise, rest 1 – 2 minutes, back to a bicep exercise, and so forth.”

    What confuses me is the warm up. Do I warm up Biceps, then do a set, then warm up Triceps and then do a set? Or warm up followed by warm up? And would it make a difference if I do the whole abs exercise after the biceps and triceps? I’m following your whole program the only thing i’m doing differently is the abs because I don’t have access to a machine or anything for say cable crunches. I assume doing the p90x abs routine will be just as good.

    Thanks a lot for your guidance.

    • Thanks Anthony!

      I warm up back-to-back because we’re just getting the blood flowing. It goes quickly.

      You can do the abs after the arms training yes.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Ivan

    Hey Mike, is it ok if I do all the bicep exercises first and then the tricep excercises or is this not recommended?

    • Yeah that’s fine.

      I just alternate them because it requires less rest.

  • Kevin

    Mike, what exercise would you recommend if one doesn’t have access to dip bars?
    Also…I’ve been bustin my arm for awhile now(yes to failure), compound & isolation..and not seeing even the smallest growth. Definetlly getting my protein…I have gone low on carbs(not no carbs) to get as lean as I can before trying to focus on putting on some mass. Is it really a matter of upping carbs!?!

  • Mourad

    Hi Mike, I am a skinny beginner less than 1 year Exp., recently I was following the same arm routine for a couple of months but I noticed slow progress I do it with the LEG day, I read in one website that training bigger muscle with smaller one decrease the small muscle progress. is that correct? shall I train arms separately or with abs for example?

  • gurdeep singh

    what is the solution of displacement of neval button lifting heavy weights?

  • gurdeep singh

    sometimes it happen when lifting heavy weights the balance of stomach is out is called imbalance of navel button ,it causes pain in the stomach,its basically due to heavy lifting (imbalance in stomach inside belly button)

    • Are you talking about the distended stomachs you see on bodybuilders?

      • gurdeep singh

        no its something else its basically losing of body balance by heavy jerks or lifting ,you will feel a ball under your belly button which denotes balance of the body but which got displaced by some jerks or lifting ,however it comes back to its normal position by exercises or yoga but i am asking the way you people are not effected by this while heavy lifting -pl reply

  • gurdeep singh

    i am surprised to know that you have no idea about the imbalance of stomach muscle due to heavy lifting and you are keep on writing books on the subject ,pl explain

    • BoomBoom

      I am surprised you are surprised since I have never heard of imbalance of stomach muscle due to heavy lifting.
      Squats and deadlift do train your abs very well on their own. If you also train abs your results should be kicking! And no imbalances there.

      • gurdeep singh

        thanks for advice Bro

    • It’s a myth…

  • Alvin Javier

    Is it okay to use dumbbells instead of a barbell for the close-grip press? Also, is it okay to throw in a shoulder exercise in between each set of arm exercises and train arms and shoulders in the same day?

    • I would stick to the BLS routine for now. If after a few months you have lagging parts we can add extra sets to help catch them up.

      I don’t how well dumbbells would work for close grip bench…

  • Kal-El

    Hey Mike, in my 6th month of BLS. My arms have started to slow down. Haven’t seen any growth in the last 2-3 months. Nutrition and rest is good. I’ve also been adding weight to the curls and triceps excercises. Should I try adding another excercise? What would you suggest?
    Do people with longer arms find it more difficult to add mass?

  • Rob

    Hey Mike!

    I really like that you go against “Bro Science” and B.S., and are a NATURAL lifter.

    But I’m confused, theres a picture of Arnold at the top of this page. A few other sources have indicated that getting the size and definition of his arms is impossible to do naturally, but you’re natural and no B.S. so it must be possible!

    Should I do chins AND curls in the same workout with similar rep ranges? How long will this take? Is there a supplement I’m missing?

    Thanks!

  • Tyler Moll

    Mike,

    At what point would someone benefit from higher rep ranges? I see workouts all over the internet that tell you that the 12 rep range is the best way to achieve hypertrophy, but I haven’t had much success with it. I’ve been working out for about a year total (with some gaps from deployments) and I just finished a 3 month stint on the 5×5 stronglifts program. How long should I stick to 4-6 rep ranges?

    Also, I’m 6′ 2″ 205lbs, but my wingspan is 6’9″. How do abnormally long arms effect certain exercises, if any at all?

  • Miguel Rodrigues

    hi mike nice article again i follow you since 2012 when i bought your first book on holidays in a librabry in brazil ah ah.just one question i am na intermediate lifter and i feel that my lats are underveloped and for that reason i will sitch close grip weighted chin ups for weighted pull ups.would that decision hinder my bíceps overall volume and progression?

    • Thanks for your lasting support!

      That’s fine on switching to weighted pull ups.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Miguel Rodrigues

        Definetely mike thanks again youhave been my role model and maybe if i didnt find your book in the rio janeiro airport i would be stuck with the fuckarounditis disease.getting in your best shape requires hard effort with easy principles the problema is people play to much wiht the methods that they neglect the principles(progressive overload,energy balanceetc).Now i am close to my genetic potential just by sticking to the basics and adding weigh to the key lifts day after day week after week -month after month year after year and i carry this principle to life of trying to progress and be better than i was before thanks your books and your vídeos made wonders in this awesome journey

        • My pleasure man. Glad you found the book too. 😉

          Great job on the results you’ve gotten so far just sticking to the basics!

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • fraz_Mc

    Hi Mike, in the arm workout above which I have been following, all the bicep exercises are isolation while the tricep exercises are compound apart from the optional overhead press. I understand the biceps are worked during a back workout, with the triceps worked during chest workouts and a military press.
    What I’m looking to understand is why minimal tricep isolation compared to all bicep isolation during this workout? I’ve been tempted to switch the dips for lying tricep press and move the dips to where the optional overhead press is i.e replacing compound for isolation, also because I’m doing dips on chest day I’m thinking of doing tricep (close hand placement) press ups in this arm routine, your thoughts and advice appreciated? I’m not doubting your methods, just looking to have a better understanding so I can maximise and have efficient workouts. Thanks again.

    • Simply because those are the tris exercises that are going to give you the most bang for your buck. And they’re still considered isolation exercises–more than compound, at least.

      • fraz_Mc

        Cheers for the reply, I’ll stick with your plan and might chuck in skull crusher now and then.

  • Patrick

    Hey mike when I do the bicep curl should I be changing my grip each set or just staying with shoulder width ?

    • Keep your grip consistent with each exercise. It’s difficult to measure progress otherwise. If you want to do another exercise for 3 sets with another grip, that’s totally fine.

      • Patrick

        Thanks I will just stay with shoulder width and with all your programs like legs back chest arms shoulders you say to do three sets I do four sets of every exercise Is that to much or is that fine ?

        • Sounds good!

          If you do close-grip bench for arms, it’s of course okay to use a narrow grip. FYI.

          That’s fine on the 4 sets too if you like. Just make sure you’re keeping your workouts to 9-12 heavy sets.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike my arms just wont GROW! Here’s my current regiment.
    Bicep day is Wed.
    1-set 4 reps bicep curl 100 lbs.
    1-set 5-6 reps bicep curl 90lbs.
    2-sets ez bar extensions 4-5 reps 110 lbs.
    2-sets dumbell curls 50 lbs. 4-5 reps.
    2-sets tight tricep bench press 4 reps 140lbs.
    2- sets sarcop decline dumb curl 11-12 reps 30lbs.
    2-sets sarcop tricep pushdowns 9 reps 90lbs.

    On Saturdays I do additional training 2-sets bicep curls 5-6 reps 90lbs.
    2-sets sarcop barbell curls 80 lbs 10 reps.
    2-sets tight grip bench 4 reps 140 lbs.
    2-sets sarcop tricep pushdown 9 reps 90lbs.

    I also do additional chest training on Saturdays 2-mayo sets 2-sarcop sets.

    What gives? am I overloading here? Other parts are growing just not the arms.

    • Hey man!

      Wow that’s a LOT of arms training. I assume you’re doing this in addition to your compounds?

      Are you bulking?

      • Brian Giffin

        Yes in addition to my compunds. On my way back up on a reverse diet. Looking at this I’ve been treating my bi’s and tri’s as one group.
        BBLS suggests only training two at a time for week point training. Last week “Saturday additional training” I cut this down to bi’s and chest. Next Saturday I’ll rotate tri’s and chest.

        Too much?

        • Hmm I guess we’ll have to see once you get into a surplus. Personally my arms didn’t get anywhere until I started bulking for 4 to 6 months and really pushing for heavier weights…

          • Brian Giffin

            Got it. Do you use the easy curl bar at all ?
            I listened to Mark rippetoe go off on one of his tangents on how ez-curl bars are worthless other than for decline tricep extensions. He also thinks biceps should just get built by compound movements.
            Personally I think it’s both. I did recently try weighted chin ups for my biceps with my palms facing in. I like this much better and my elbows don’t hurt.

            Thanks.

          • Yeah I use the EZ curl bar sometimes. I disagree it’s worthless. Just puts less stress on the wrists than the straight bar, which is nice.

            If you don’t directly train arms you will leave some growth on the table. No doubt about it.

  • David Dietsch

    So I can’t do heavy back workouts like deadlifts and leg workouts like squats. I have had back surgery before and my back will not allow me to do that:( I lift heavy on chest day, shoulder day, & arm day. I have leg genetics on my side.

    Anywho, I have two questions..
    My weak points are my triceps and the medial shoulder head. How can I work in the side laterals for a weak point? I use to do incline bench for 3 sets, Thursday before my leg day. Should I switch Monday for shoulders?

  • David Dietsch

    So I have a bad back. I’ve had two surgeries in total. I can’t do heavy pressing like deadlifts or squats. I’m recovering from a left lat muscle strain but I normally would lift heavy around 5-7 reps on all back exercises. I lift heavy on everything else. (4-6 rep range) shoulders, chest, arms.

    My question is my biceps are great and my triceps are”meh”. I’ve normally been doing 9 sets for biceps and 9 for triceps. Is this too much volume? I never feel over trained because I can’t do deadlifts or squats. Am i shooting myself in the foot for doing too much volume to force tricep growth? I do close grip bench press, skull crushers, seated dip machine, & tricep pushdowns. All of them burn! Mind muscle control is perfect. I am starting a lean bulk. It’s been about 6 months from last bulk so that might be why my triceps are still weak looking. Thoughts!? Thanks beast!

    • Understood on the back situation. Good you’re still lifting heavy on everything else.

      You should bring the volume down. I usually recommend doing 6 sets of tris and 6 sets of bis on arm day. 18 working sets is a bit much.

      Are you lifting heavy in the 4-6 rep range?

      • David Dietsch

        Yeah, both biceps & triceps for about 4 months! My biceps have defiantly transformed even without a surplus in calories! Luck i guess. For triceps not so much… Maybe I’ve been doing too much volume.

        So for triceps, I’ve been doing close grip bench for 3 sets 4-6 , skullcrushers 3 sets 4-6.

        Would it be ok if i did tricep pushdowns for 2 sets 6-8? What would you recommend ? 8 exercises doesn’t sound like that much for a weak point.

        Quick note, my right wrist hurts like a mother after doing overhead press with dumbbells. Sports injury in high school:( So count that one out! I personally prefer skull crushers anyways.

        • Cool on the tris exercises. Are you in a calorie surplus?

          The reason why I ask is I’ve seen MANY times that guys’ arms just WON’T GROW unless they’re in a surplus…

          • David Dietsch

            Yeah, I just started. I’ve gained 1 pound! Trying to gain 10 pounds and then lose the 5 pounds of fat.

          • Good! Let’s keep it going and see where your arms are at around +5 pounds.

  • Joel Kelly

    Hey Mike, I have been bulking for the past 4 months and have seen significant gains when it comes to chest, back and shoulders while following your BLS program. My only issue is my triceps. I train my arms really hard and i’m eating a lot of carbs and at least body weight in protein. My weight has been gradually increasing at a constant rate every week. My biceps are growing pretty good so there not as big of an issue, but my triceps are really lacking and it’s especially noticeable when i’m flexing. Do you think this could be genetics or a matter of just not using the right exercises for myself? Any help would be greatly appreciated

    My routine for arms is:
    3 sets of 6-7 reps tricep push down
    3 sets of 6-7 reps Dumbbell Overhead Press
    3 sets of 6-7 reps close grip bench press
    3 sets of 6-7 reps wide grip barbell curls
    3 sets of 6-7 reps dumbbell curls
    3 sets of 6-7 reps Cable curls

    Thanks,

    -Joel

    • Awesome! I’m really glad to hear you’re doing well.

      Let’s add 3 sets of tris to your chest day, 8 to 10 rep range. Let’s do pushdowns.

      Can you take a before and after measurement? Now and in 4 to 6 weeks?

      • Joel Kelly

        Of course! I’ll measure them and reply to this thread on my progress. I think a big problem with me is that there are certain exercises that I have trouble getting contractions with. I find exercises like Skull Crushers and Close Grip Bench don’t work very well for me and I just end up putting more strain on my elbows. But exercises like Overhead Dumbbell Press,Overhead Cable Press and Pushdowns seem to respond well. So should I cut out the exercises that don’t seem to work for getting a full contraction and focus on the exercises that work the best for me such as pushdowns and overhead? Once again as always thanks for the reply and advice! Very grateful for your help!

        -Joel

        • Great let’s do it.

          That’s common actually. Part of the game is learning your body and some exercises don’t suit some people as well as others.

  • Matty_McFly

    I weigh 165 and I’ve been lifting for almost 2 years already. I started paying close nutrition only at the beginning of this year and it obviously paid off. Just finished cutting a bit and looking to add size. I’m eating at about 230g’s of protein, 140g Carbs, and about 90g fat and staying around my maintenance calories (about 2300). Anything I should change? I’m working on a 6 day split hitting each group twice a week but that may change because of school and work.

  • Miguel Rodrigues

    Can i work my triceps in a push session after incline and military only for one exerciseofdips 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps and make progress or do you find it mandatory to have an overhead exercise in order to work thek the long head of the tri plus averaging 28 reps of tris is not enough volume?thanks in advance mike you re great

    • If you’re doing a lot of pressing an overhead movement would probably be best. You could try both ways those and see…

  • Anthony Renzi

    Hey Mike,
    Question about seated triceps press.
    I have 2 50lb dumbbells.
    I have been using 1 dumbbell for the STP, but now that I am able to do 50 lbs, should I use 2 dumbbells instead, or not do this exercise anymore. I don’t think it would be beneficial to continue doing the exercise without increasing resistance. Should I do the lying tricep press from now on (I only have a straight bar, not an ez bar)?

    • I would move to a BB and yeah lying is fine.

      Sometimes you gotta do that. Not a big deal. Are you resting enough in between sets? About 3 minutes?

      I’ve always done BB curls standing. Never even tried seated…

  • Aleksandr Prilepa

    hm, “30 – 40 reps of direct training for both the biceps and triceps in your arms workouts”. so on an arms day that would basically be 2 exercises for bi’s and 2 for tri’s. thanks:)

    • Yup 2 to 3 exercises for each is all you need if you’re also doing your heavy compounds.

  • Steph

    For your 5 day workout, could you give example of what compound exercises you should be doing on which day? Thanks.

  • Andrew

    Due to bad rotator cuff issues I don’t get to close grip bench as much because it’s too stressful for my rotator cuffs after all other pressing movements throughout week. What’s the two best tricep exercises to go heavy for 4-6 instead of close grip? Thanks!

  • ryan

    Hi mike. great article as always. just wanted to ask something. I recently got a wrist injury, and although it’s slowly getting better, it still hurts when i do curls. I have noticed that it does not hurt as much if I used the EZ bar. I just wanted to ask since you said that you switched between them from time to time. Is one better than the other? which one is better for size overall? which one is better for the bicep “peak”?

    • Thanks!

      You can’t really train for a “peak” so don’t worry about that. Do what you can do until your wrist is better. If that means just EZ and maybe hammers, that’s totally fine.

      • ryan

        thanks for the tip and the quick response. I’ll see what i can do for now. hammers dont strain my wrist at all, so i’m focusing on that for now. anything i can do to reach that golden ratio is good for me. Didn’t really have a solid goal for bodybuilding til i read that article, so thanks for that.

        • NP! Sounds good.

          My pleasure Ryan! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

          • Ryan

            Sure Mike! thanks for the info again. I just ahve one question. I’ve noticed this happen to me on 2 of my big lifts, The dead lift and bench press. I bench 2 times a week, and dead lift once a week. There are times when my lifts are so good, and im feeling strong as hell, and hitting epic PR’s on these lifts with good form, but there are days when, no matter how hard I try, i feel week as heck on the exact same lift, and cant hit the same PR, even having to drop a few plates so that I can finish my sets. any thoughts on this? have ou experienced the same?
            One good example would be, one week, my deadlits were great, Hitting a PR of 395lbs for 2 reps, then, the following week, I couldnt even finish 4 reps with 350lbs. It was very disappointing for me..

          • That’s pretty common actually and especially after you PR a deadlift. It’s very tough on the body.

  • Austin Hennrich

    Hey Mike what is the best way to do dumbbell rows? Trying to get stronger in the 10-12 range for each side, or should I go heavier and try to get stronger in the 6-8 range?
    Also I have plateaued on barbell curls so I am switching to seated dumbbell curls. With the barbell I was trying for 3 sets of 10 before I increased the weight, how many should I am for with seated dumbells? Still 10 but on each side or 5 on each side?
    Thanks

  • Jiawook

    Hey mike, can you please provide me full training session i started 2 month ago, thank you.

  • Joe

    Hey again Mike, quick question about biceps (and arms in general really) I’m on week 8 of BLS and I’ve seen some changes for sure but I’m worried that i didn’t make much progress with my biceps. I feel like there’s no real difference in size or appearance. I’ve been doing the program exactly and with at least decent form. I’m wondering what it could be. Or if just isn’t going to be as big of a difference as I might be expecting

    • If you’re sticking to the program, progressively overloading and dieting properly, your arms will grow. They can be stubborn sometimes though.

      Feel free to add 3 sets of bis to the end of your back day for a little boost. 🙂

      • Joe

        As far as dieting goes, I upped my calories a few weeks ago because I had only been on a half a pound a week weight gain average. So I corrected that as best as I could. As far as progressive overload goes, I started very light the first week and went up by 10 pounds or so each week for the first 5 weeks at least, then I got to the point where 4 reps was really difficult and haven’t really added weight on things like the bench press and curls and deadlifts etc since. The last couple weeks of phase one started to become pretty weak and I was wondering if I just used too much weight at the end or if I’m just burnt out a little bit. I definitely feel like I’ve been eating more than enough. Any answer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again and sorry for the long comment haha

        • While bulking the goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week. So, as long as you’re in that range, you’re good.

          To help with the plateaus, check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

          Also, when was the last time you took a week off or a deload week?

          LMK and no worries! Happy to help!

          • Joe

            I’m actually on my rest week now and start phase 2 on Monday. Also, I started at about 133 and after around 8 1/2 weeks I’m right about 140 so I suppose I’m within that range. Hopefully half of that is muscle haha

  • Ivo Naves

    Mike,

    What do you think of spider curls?

    And in Y1C you put on A-Day 2 exercises to triceps and 2 for biceps. Because triceps are a large stronger group I think in trading 1 biceps for a third triceps exercise. Like this:

    Weighted Chins
    Weighted Tri-Dips
    Close Grip Bench
    Overhead Triceps Press

    If I have the CNS stamina this could be a very cool and functional Arms Day, what do you think?

    • They’re fine. I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily better than traditional curls though.

      Tris generally grow quicker than bis so I wouldn’t train them more. I would do the opposite if anything…

  • Azouri

    Hey mike is it mandatory to do the optional two sets for the arms or can I get away with just doing the 6 sets for bis and the 6 sets for tris?

  • Anthony Renzi

    Hi Mike.

    My bicep curls have not been increasing since the beginning (4 months). I go back on weight if my form is bad, and I make sure not to move my elbows as much as I can, but every week I hover around the same weight. I have been increasing in everything else, including bench press. I am thinking this may be a forearm related issue, because even during the warmup my forearms kill. Do you recommend fore arm exercises for me, and if so when should I perform them. Also off topic but, I somehow managed to not see the programs layer out in the bonus report until my third 8-12 week rotation, and now I am doing your 1st 5 day split. However on day 5 I am finding myself taking about 1.5 hours to finish the whole workout, and I remember you saying that cortisol levels elevate beyond 45-60 mins, which is how long the other days take. Do you think I am doing something wrong or is this day just extremely long? Perhaps I need to decrease weight so that I can take 2 min rests instead of 3.

    Anyway thanks so much for all your help. And sorry for any Grammer errors I’m using my phone.

    • I hear you Anthony!

      Take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      As to the forearm pain, it isn’t uncommon to occur while doing heavy curls. The solution is to lower the weight and work in the 8-10 rep range for a few weeks. That normally handles the pain/aches and allows you to return to the heavier weight. What do you think?

      Sorry you didn’t see the year of workouts in the bonus report for the first bit! Now you know what to do!

      Hmm. Day 5 shouldn’t be taking that long. A couple things to make sure of to save time: rest 3-4 minutes on the main compound lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift), 2-3 minutes on all other 4-6 rep sets, 1-2 minutes on all 8-10 rep sets and rest 60 second on all 10+ rep sets.

      Lastly, make sure you’re actually under the bar and pushing/pulling right when the rest is up.

      Try those out and LMK how it goes.

      My pleasure. 🙂

      • Anthony Renzi

        Thanks Mike! That clears up a lot of confusion. Is it ok if I do my triceps and biceps seperate (but in the same workout) instead of mixing them? Its a hastle to quickly change exercises with the limited equipment i have.

        • Welcome! Yep, that’s totally fine. Just do the normal 2-3 minutes rest between sets.

          • Anthony Renzi

            Does close-grip bench press count as a main compound lift?

          • It is a compound lift for sure. I wouldn’t call it one of the main compound lifts. The main compound lifts are bench press, squat, deadlift and OHP or military press.

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,
    Should I also maintain an arch in my lower back when performing Lying Triceps Extension to the back of my head?

  • JR

    There is a slight difference in the 2 videos for the triceps pushdown (torso + position of arms). I’m referring to the video you embed here and the one you link in the year-one-guide. Do you have a preference? Thank you!

    • Oh okay I would go with the one here. I’m going to update the links in the bonus report.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Just to clarify, are you suggesting to do a full set of tris then full set of bis, or to swap out after singles? Also, why do you recommend only 60 second of ready for these muscles instead of the three + minutes you recommend for others?

    • What I do to save time is I go back and forth. 1 set bis, rest 60 seconds 1 set tris rest 60 seconds, repeat.

      Normally I recommend resting 2-3 minutes between sets but since you’re switching between 2 different muscle groups, you can rest for shorter periods of time, workout faster and still be well rested each set.

      • Aikas

        Mike, can I go with 90s rest, I feel like I’m in a hurry when I go with 1 min. rest and switch between exercises..?

  • Alex

    But I believe hammer curls are not for brachialis, they train both bicep heads. To train brachialis, you should perform curls w. palms facing down?

    • Hammers emphasize the brachialis but don’t train it EXCLUSIVELY, of course.

  • sophie

    i have a question! so at the beginning of this article you mention guys want bigger arms and women more toned and lean arms. then you continue to give us an amazing workout to get bigger arms. I’m a girl and i don’t want bigger arms just sexy toned lean arms; should i still do this workout or will this make my arms big?

    • Good question Sophie–I should have clarified this.

      This workout is fine for both men and women, yes, although in my program for women (Thinner Leaner Stronger), all sets are done in the 8 to 10 rep range. Otherwise, though, the fundamentals are the same.

      This will help you understand a bit more about how to avoid getting “bulky”:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/workout-for-women/

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    I just want to say it’s very cool that you are so actively on these forums answering questions, thanks.

  • JR

    Does is make a difference if I alternate arms for dumbbell and hammer curls or do both arms at the same time? Do you have a preference? Thanks.

  • Siddhant Das

    Hey Mike , been following BLS for about a year now. Gained around 16 pounds of muscle ( i spent around 4.5 months cutting , otherwise would have had more time for “bulking” ) . I had a question regarding the arm workout, especially the tricep part. In BLS u stated that we could rotate our workouts by swapping one exercise for another. I used to do the same, for arm day i did Close grip bench press followed by dips, but gradually i got stronger on dips and had to add weight with a dip belt to stay in the 4-6 rep range. My apprehensions began when i had exhausted almost all the combinations in BLS ( Seated Triceps
    Press and Close-Grip Bench Press; and Close-Grip Bench
    Press and Weighted Dip) and was left with Weighted Dip and Triceps Pushdowns.

    I had become decently strong at weighted dips at this point, loading upto 50 pounds using a belt for 6 reps, since they were my first tricep exercise according to the last combination above therefore i was really strong at them( i am actually 155 pounds at 5’9” , so thats why i think i can use so much weight for reps due to my bodyweight not being that much). I heard a lot of horror stories about weighted dips causing injury and cracked sternums and whatnot, so had to check in with you regarding them. Btw my form is pretty clean , i keep my elbows tucked in as much possible and dont sway the weights, keeping the core tight and not going below parallel. What’s your take on the whole thing ? Because i might have to switch to Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger in about 6-8 months so i dont wanna visit Snap City before that due to weighted dips :p

    • Great job! That rocks.

      That’s interesting because I’ve never heard from anyone that has hurt themselves doing weighted dips, and I’ve heard from people loading 100+ pounds.

      So long as you keep your form in, you should be fine…

      • Siddhant Das

        Sure thing !

  • Hans Human

    Hi, I started hitting the gym about 8 months ago. I’ve lost about 50 pounds and got some nice definition in my arms and back. I started on a full body workout and after a couple of months switched to a push pull split. Now I’m on a upper lower split. But I’m not getting any gains. Im focusing on a 3 set 10 to 15 rep range, because that’s great for cutting the fat away. Question, will the lower rep range affect my fatloss? Should i rather try something like PHUT, where I train heavy and utilize hypertrophy? I don’t want get too lean and then have to start building from scratch.

    • Awesome job on the weight you’ve lost!

      Hmm. I recommend you work in a lower rep range and follow a 3 to 5-day split. Check these out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

      This will also be good to keep in mind:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      No, the lower rep range won’t negatively effect your fat loss.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Hans Human

        Thank you so much for the advice. I’ve been doing alot of reading and research and your articles really are the most informative and usable out there.

        I’m really interested by your article about reverse pyramid training. You warn that it could be hazardous to new lifters because you need reasonable strength to handle the workload. (I’ve been lifting for almost a year now) At the moment I’m doing 3 sets of 12 reps on the deadlift with 220 pounds of weight. On the other side, im struggling with the bench press at 140 pounds with the same set and rep range.

        Do you think reverse pyramid training is something that a could utilize or do I need to focus on building more strenth first before trying such a workout regime?

  • Alex Sean

    Good!! this is very helpful and effective workout.

    I recommend this blog: http://bicepdumbbellexercises.blogspot.com/

  • Max Green

    Hey Mike,
    Quick question: in my workout I do hammer curls and dumbbell curls after my barbell curls. Do you recommend me doing the hammer/dumbbell curls alternating or at the same time? Does it matter? What do you do and think? Also for the tricep workout does it matter if I do rope pulldowns (Using the rope attachment) instead of the v bar shaped one?
    Thank you,
    Max

    • Whatever you prefer is fine. I alternate on them.

      Totally fine to use the rope on the tricep exercise.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Hikmat

    Hi Mike

    I’ve been cutting for awhile and its starting to become obvious that my arms are lagging in terms of size.

    Im planning to add some tricep
    exercises on chest day and bicep exercises on back day in addition to this workout.

    My question for you is will this work while I’m cutting or should I wait till I start bulking.

    Thanks

    • Cool that makes sense. I would add them after the cut because you can’t really expect much grow while in a deficit anyway.

  • Imran

    I had a few questions based on this article compared to the BLS book:
    Should we rest 1 min or 3 min between the working sets?
    How should I do the sets for bicep/tricep exercises? … should it be:
    Bicep exercise 1
    Tricep exercise 1
    Bicep exercise 1
    Tricep exercise 1
    Bicep exercise 1
    Tricep exercise 1

    OR

    Bicep exercise 1
    Bicep exercise 1
    Bicep exercise 1
    Tricep exercise 1
    Tricep exercise 1
    Tricep exercise 1

    • I like to rest 1 to 1.5 minutes in between my arm sets and I do it the first way (bis, rest, tris, rest, etc.).

  • Rippa

    Hi Mike,
    I currently go to the gym three days a week, and work on major muscles on different days. Along side these muscles I do bicep and tricep exersizes on each day. Would this be more effective or should I switch to doing pure arm days once or twice a week?

  • Razvan

    Hi Mike,
    First of all, I’m glad I stumbled upon your site and I want to sincerely thank you for doing the great work that you’re doing, keep it up!
    As of this week, I started using these “ultimate” workouts you present here. The back one on Thu gave me a top to bottom sore back that I hadn’t had for ages! Yesterday, I’ve done the chest one. Every time I’m doing low reps on chest, I give my shoulders a hell of a workout, proof being my anterior shoulders are sore AF today. I’m not sure what happens, I really try to focus on form, on pinching my shoulder blades, on keeping my shoulders back and down with a slight arch in the lower back and chest pushed out. At least I setup this way, probably my form starts to break without even realizing it when things get heavy. What do you recommend doing here?
    You’re mentioning in all of these articles that optimal volume for 80-85% of 1RM is 60-70 reps/5-7 days. Still, this arms workout calls for at most 36 reps per muscle group (excluding the optional sets), whereas the back and chest ones for 54 (excluding the optional sets). This is my 6th year of lifting and I’ve tried it all over the course of years. I’m normally used to doing a lot more volume than this, do you think this would suffice for building muscle under these circumstances?
    Thanks again,
    Razvan

    • I’m glad you did too! My pleasure. 🙂

      I hear you on all the soreness! To help, check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/sore-muscles/

      It is normal for the shoulders to be worked during heavy bench pressing. You can make sure there isn’t a form issue here:

      https://legionathletics.com/bench-press/

      But other than that, I wouldn’t worry about the shoulder soreness.

      Yep, this is plenty of volume for the arms. Let’s give it a few months and see how you do. After that, if needed, you can add 3 sets of bis to your back day and 3 sets tris to your chest day for a little extra volume.

      Welcome. Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Roger

    Hi Mike,
    Just like many others, I’d like to thank you for the website. I have started your program about 6 weeks ago and have been enjoying it very much with lots of progress.
    I have a question concerning arms workout: my right arm is much stronger than my left, especially with biceps exercises — and my left arm is almost an inch smaller. What would you recommend to correct it? At one hand, I want to keep having the progresses that I’ve been having with both arms and I don’t want the left arm to dictate the pace of my right arm, but I also feel the left arm is constantly behind the right arm. Just for comparison, I can lift about 5 reps 35lbs dumbbells hammer curls with the right arm, but the left won’t go for more than 2-3.
    Again, thank you a lot for your amazing work!

    • Hey Roger! My pleasure!

      Glad you’re rolling on the program and enjoying it. 🙂

      Imbalances are common and they usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging arm.

      What do you think?

      Again, my pleasure! Talk soon.

  • Jerd Guillaume-Sam

    Mike I think you might of made a mistake. That last optional exercise you have as “dumbbell overhead press” which is a shoulder exercise. You might’ve meant “Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press”

  • Mariano Cortese

    Hello from argentina!

    I follow your site for a lot of time and really am impresed by the quality and organized information and your disposition to answer coments.

    Well i will say: thank you for your great site and for share so important information.

    *sorry if my english is a bit odd

    I want to ask you 2 things that make me sad when training:

    1) since years i have soreness in fore arm, i do boxing when youngers and i ever had to quit because of this.

    past year begined to train heavy lifting sporadically and this year really beginned to try following your articles and using your the “progresion” and ” lift big, to get stronger” And i making great gains!

    but… i cant proogress in biceps/hamer curls nor pushups/ chin ups , Even badly my fore arms (flexors) have begined to ache when i do certain movements and they don”t stop..litle pain, but whit no ends.

    to ejemplify this: i can bench, squat, dead lift , military press for 3 sets of 6 repetitions of 35 Kilogram , but bicep dumbell curl stuck 10 kilogram ( for the past 3 months) and chin up 3 sets of 8.

    This torments me because i cant go more heavy because my fore arm begins to progresively hurt more…

    ¿May you have solution or idea what can this be? i stretch every muscle EVER before workout, warm up after it, eat well, but no cure for this…

    2) ¿How much my gain will be afected for not eating enought proteins? ¿ I need to eat the same amount of protein or i need to eat more one training days? y try to eat well: meat,egs, dairy, chia, peanuts, potato, vegetables, sesame seeds,etc
    But i don” fill more than 50 gr of protein per day ( don”t have money for suplements, they are VERY expensive here)

    Sorry for the big text, i was really shoked when i finded your blog…in years of seeking in internet i find a lot of divided and ilogical fitness trainers, and in local gyms wel…they know even less than me (pure machines, lot of isolation 12 -15 reps…aff)

    • Hey Mariano! Thanks for the kind words. 🙂 My pleasure!

      No worries.

      1. Hmm. Have you tried lowering the weight and going higher rep on those exercises? Forearm pain from heavy lifting is fairly common. Usually just a few weeks of higher rep training and it goes away.

      2. I recommend keeping your intake consistent daily. NP on the supps. You can get all the protein you need from wholefood sources. You just need to ear more meat, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.

      Yep, most trainers have no clue what they’re talking about, unfortunately…

      Hope this helps! Talk soon.

      • Mariano Cortese

        thank you for answering me!

        In fact i made a week of “deload” whitout lifting , nor making bad movements , just a litle of pc gaming, reading and a litle of work, had to lift things in (luggage) but nothing more of 15 k .

        Later i did some SOFT gymnastic, streched arms during the day, and all but in fact i just got elbows tight and forearms hurts more doing movements like curls ( push ups, pullups, lifting something from the floor).

        Im really sad, dont have a cue about what this is, sadly i think i can no take weights till i find capable medic

        • YW! Smart move taking the delaod week.

          Sorry to hear you experienced the elbow/forearm pain/tightness.

          I think you should try going higher rep on those exercises and seeing how it goes. If it’s still an issue, then yeah, I recommend checking with a doc.

  • Anthony Renzi

    Is it still worth using dumbbells once you use the heaviest ones in your gym?

    • Eh not really. The whole point is progressive overload. If you’re at the heaviest weight they go, you can’t really continue the progressive overload.

      Just stick to the barbell curls, ez bar curls and chin-ups.

  • Wayne Carlton

    What do you mean by warm up

  • Jay

    Barbell curls, EZ bar curls, skullcrushers and a few other exercises bother my elbows. Curls, in particular, make the tendon below the biceps pop and hurt.

    I just stick to heavy rope/cable push-downs and heavy hammer curls. Going to start doing dips, too, once my I’ve rehabbed my shoulders.

    My policy is to not do any exercises which give my joints discomfort since I still want to be working out when I’m old.

    Is there a way to improve elbow function so I can curl and do skullcrushers without pain?

    • Heavy curling (and sometimes heavy tricep exercises) do frequently cause pain or discomfort in the forearm/wrist/elbow.

      The solution is to work in a higher rep range (8-10) for a couple weeks. That normally handles it.

      Try that out and LMK how it goes.

      • Jay

        Thanks for your response.

        I tried what you said and unfortunately didn’t get much relief, even in the 10-12 rep range. It felt like the tendon below my biceps was going to be obliterated, haha.

        I’ve ordered fish oil and Animal Flex for my joints. I’m a fan of your site so I’d order Fortify but, as you know, it’s very pricey to get your stuff shipped to the UK Mike. Here’s hoping you get round to making Legion stuff more accessible in England!

        Sidenote for other people with the same problem: I get no pain from doing concentration curls using the rope attachment on a cable machine, plus I can perform the exercise in a way that keeps huge tension on the biceps throughout the whole movement.

        • YW!

          Damn. Alright. Let’s take a week or two off from those exercises then and see how it goes.

          Cool on the supps. No worries on the Fortify. I appreciate your support. 🙂

          I’ll have distribution set up in the UK later this year or early next!

          Cool the curls using the ropes don’t bother you! Stick with those for now then!

          • Jay

            I feel like this is a structural issue with my arm.

            When I originally started lifting , I had no problems with curls or skullcrushers, but they gradually became too painful or dodgy to do. I took about 2 years off lifting and, when I returned, BB bicep curls/skullcrushers were still not doable.

            No problem, your products are good so I’d buy them anyway, haha.

            I will stick with the rope stuff. I know you advocate for barbells and free weights but I really like how the cable/rope work allows me to keep maximum tension on the biceps through the full ROM.

          • It’s possible. Have you seen a PT or doc about it?

            Again, I appreciate you, brother.

            Sounds good! Cables are fine. Pretty much free motion.

            LMK how it goes.

  • ollie powell

    Hi Mike,

    Ive been training for 10 years and in a similar place where you are in regards to tried and tested everything.

    Im looking to help inform others of the flaws of certain types of training, as I’m developing into becoming a PT and strength coach. So i would like to hear much more from your views as i am collecting information from all types of strength athletes, trainers from around the world and correlating to help others when training.

    So back to my question, does this exercise need to be done biceps, triceps biceps, triceps etc.
    Can it just be done as is not the plan? Due to the fact when in the gym I’m using a variety of machines and if anyone comes to use them when I’m doing other exercises it will hinder the time etc.

    Many thanks and look forward to hearing from you.

    • Hey Ollie! Cool you’ve been training for a while.

      No, it doesn’t. You can stick to one exercise at a time and rest the usual 2-3 minutes between sets. If you’d like to save time and have the equipment available to use, you can alternate between bicep and tricep sets resting 1 minute between each set.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Welcome! Talk soon!

  • Jimmy Otis

    Hey Mike,
    So wrist pain/discomfort when barbell curling- would the solution to be just to lower the weight until my forearms/wrists can handle it?

    • Hey Jimmy! Yep. Forearm pain from heavy curling is pretty common. Drop the weight and go higher rep for a few weeks. That normally handles it.

      Hmm. For now, let’s take a break from the seated tricep press and any other tricep exercises for that matter that cause pain or discomfort. You can see what tricep exercises I recommend that you may be able to do here:

      https://legionathletics.com/triceps-workouts/

      My pleasure, man! Cool you’re a certified PT!

      Yep, that’s the sad truth of most PTs in gyms today. Glad you found my work and are now back on track. 🙂

      Welcome! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Jimmy Otis

        Thanks man! I’ll let you know how it goes!

      • Jimmy Otis

        I know you’re a busy dude so no rush on this one, but another dilemma is oddly enough there’s no standard seated calf raise or standing calf raise in the LA fitness here on Long Island….what they do have: a “horizontal” seated calf press, and a goofy ass ‘free-motion’ calf press, haha.
        Would it be ok to do my standing calf raise on a V-Squat machine/or smith machine?
        And for the seated; I’ve heard quite a many things. some suggest using a weighted barbell on your lap but that just doesn’t seem very effective or efficient to me.
        What are your thoughts?
        Thanks, Mike!

        • No worries! I’d just stick to the horizontal seated calf raise and then calf raises on the leg press.

          Thoughts?

          Welcome!

  • Phillip

    Hi Mike, quick question:
    If you had to choose between straight barbell curls and EZ bar curls, which one would you choose and why?
    Thanks

    • Technically, because the straight barbell has you curling with palms up, you get full activation of your biceps. The EZ bar recruits your brachioradialis in the movement a bit more (and less for biceps). Is the difference significant? Not much. If your wrists don’t feel good doing straight bar, EZ bar is a great alternative.

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