Since I covered some cool variations on the squat, bench, and deadlift, I believe it’s only fair that I perform the same for many of the major body parts, starting with everyone’s favorite: Arms. Actually, exercise selection is crucially essential for effective arm training.
Since you most likely aren’t (and shouldn’t be) hitting all of them with insane volume, make the job you do do really count. Here are a few variations on popular arm exercises you can test to jumpstart your guns’ growth!
1. 1-Arm Tate Presses
Regular Tate presses (named for that great Dave Tate, in the event you were wondering) are occasionally called elbows-out dumbbell extensions, and they’re a terrific way to strengthen your bench lockout, since use a fairly heavy weight together.
However, the reason use a heavy weight with regular Tate presses involves leverage. By angling the dumbbells against one another at the end of the movement, you cut a few of the range of motion, and it is even easy to generate a bit of momentum when you get the rhythm right. That’s great if you’re using them like a bench accessory. It isn’t so excellent if you’re looking to get huge triceps.
For the latter goal, you want to make use of a full-range of motion and a very controlled eccentric. This is a lot easier with Tate presses should you perform them only using one arm a period, like this:
- Position yourself on a set or incline bench as if you would do a bench press, but don’t retract your scapula or arch your back.
- Grab an easy dumbbell (I personally use 25-30 pounds) in a single hand and hold it at arm’s length (again, just like if you were performing a one-arm dumbbell bench presses).
- Slowly lower the dumbbell towards your opposite shoulder, keeping the wrist neutral, as well as your elbow pointed directly at the ceiling. You should use your opposite arm to support your working arm by placing other hand on the inside of your elbow joint.
- Lower the dumbbell so far as possible. You may need to lift the shoulder of the working arm a bit off the bench C that’s okay. Keep your lats relaxed so that they don’t restrict your movement.
- Reverse the motion, extending your elbow until your arm is straight.
This exercise will inflate the outer head of the tricep, providing you with that nice, thick horseshoe shape.
2. Reverse-Grip Dumbbell Kickbacks
Dumbbell kickbacks get a bad rap. The logic goes something like this: because they do not let it make use of a large amount of weight in the first place, they’re not great mass builders, and they are really hard to coach progressively. I assumed that sort of logic for a long time because, hey C it seems sensible.
Here’s the thing, though: not every one of your training must be progressive. There is a lot to become said for techniques where you can do things like learn how to make use of your body in different ways, relieve stress, or build a massive pump. Now, reverse-grip dumbbell kickbacks probably aren’t going to relieve lots of stress in your life, but they very well could accomplish the other a couple of things I simply mentioned.
First, the reverse grip enables you to easier concentrate on the long head of the triceps, the largest from the three and so contributes probably the most to overall triceps size. Running out of energy easily recruit their long head when training movements which have the load overhead (like overhead dumbbell or rope extensions), but once you learn to believe that particular part of the muscle employed in other applications, it gets easier and easier to develop with a number of different exercises.
Second, the positioning of your arm within the dumbbell kickback allows you to really squeeze the heck from your triceps. Which means, particularly when you do them for top reps, that kickbacks can give you a massive pump. Besides looking cool and feeling good, some research suggests that the pump can bring about muscle growth.
Kickbacks shouldn’t be the meat and potatoes of the arm training, but coupled with heavier movements like close-grip bench presses and skullcrushers, they can be a real winner.
3. Seated Barbell Curls
I actually first read about these inside a book called Beyond Brawn by Stuart McRobert. Terrible book C it resulted in more than a year of wasted training for me C but these are a cool exercise nonetheless.
Performing a seated barbell curl is almost as easy as it sounds. The movement is essentially an incomplete curl, since your legs avoid the barbell from heading down past the point where your elbows are bent about 90 degrees. There’s a couple of performance suggests note:
- You should lean forward just slightly to limit the involvement of the front deltoids.
- Allow your elbows to come forward while you perform the motion, so they remain directly under the barbell.
- Try to maintain constant tension around the biceps C don’t relax so much that the elbows are totally closed.
Unlike a regular barbell curl, this movement enables you to use a fair amount of weight without allowing you to cheat. You will find pretty quickly that it’s tough to create any kind of momentum whatsoever from the seated position. The partial range of motion is also a nice way to mix things up if you’ve stalled with regular BB curls.
4. Banded Concentration Curls
Regular concentration curls are one of my favorite biceps exercises, however they are one of those movements in which the beginning area of the flexibility is much harder than the end. Any time you have a workout where this is the case, you should consider adding bands to provide accommodating resistance during the easier part.
Westside Barbell (this program that popularized using accommodating resistance in powerlifting) recommends that whenever you do add bands or chains, they are being used to add about 10-15% of your 1RM to the weight around the bar for exercises like the squat, bench, and deadlift. Now, because you probably can easily see the issue: 10-15% of the 1RM concentration curl isn’t a large amount of weight. Don’t get too hung up on that, though: we only want to give a really small amount of potential to deal with the very end from the range of motion. Otherwise, we’ll be making the movement way to hard to perform for the high reps that we want.
So, start with the lightest band you can find (I use Elitefts micro bands). Position one end of the band around the dumbbell handle so the band is completely slack at the bottom of the curl C in which the movement has already been the toughest C and offers a noticeable, although not huge, amount of resistance towards the top of the curl. That might take some experimentation, but it really should not be way too hard. You can use your foot to anchor another end of the band.
Then, rep away!
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein as well as in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.