10 Arnold-Approved Tips For Growing Your Arms

Arnold’s arm training can be broken down and discussed in terms of macro principles (sets, reps, and any other non-exercise-specific practices) and micro principles (specific exercise technique). If you haven’t already, check out our piece on Arnold’s arm training philosophy. As you can imagine, the Oak was extremely particular about how he performed each exercise…

Arnold’s arm training can be broken down and discussed in terms of macro principles (sets, reps, and any other non-exercise-specific practices) and micro principles (specific exercise technique).

If you haven’t already, check out our piece on Arnold’s arm training philosophy.

As you can imagine, the Oak was extremely particular about how he performed each exercise in his routine. Strict form was a high priority. Hence, the following principles that applied to his biceps and triceps exercises.

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Use Supersets

Arnold was a proponent of supersetting biceps and triceps, just as he did with chest and back. Going into a competition he wanted to achieve a maximal pump during each work- out and, as he once put it, “zoom in on chiseling in all the cuts and shape possible.” Supersetting provided him that oppor- tunity. Off-season, he often trained bi’s and tri’s individually with straight sets, even if he did them in the same workout.

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Use Fewer Sets, Higher Reps, Less Rest

Arnold did slightly fewer total sets and used higher reps for arms precontest. Off-season biceps or triceps workouts might feature four exercises with five to six sets of six to eight reps each. His precontest routine still includes four exercises but with four sets of eight to 10 reps. He also cut rest periods to a minimum; he didn’t rest during supersets and often wouldn’t even rest between supersets.

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Use a Higher Frequency

In the off-season, when maximum size was his goal, Arnold would typ- ically train arms twice a week. Precontest, this was bumped up to three days a week, again to fully pump and define the arms. This essentially negated the lower volume he used in each workout.

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Don’t Forget Forearms

Arnold didn’t rely on biceps or back training to work his forearms; he regularly performed wrist curls and reverse curls both off-season and pre- contest.“You must bomb your forearms with as heavy a poundage as you are capable of,” he once said. “The laws of muscle physiology…apply to the forearms in the same manner as they do to all muscle groups.”

At certain times in his career Arnold liked to train forearms daily. We don’t expect you to do that, but his set total from workout to workout is doable. He aimed for at least 10 sets of forearms after bi’s and trio’s. Arnold’s off-season forearm training split up forearm flexion exercises (wrist curls) and extension moves (reverse curls, reverse wrist curls). As you can see from the routine, his superset incorporates a flexion and an extension exercise, as his precontest program wasn’t designed to build bigger forearms as much as more detailed ones.

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Find the dumbbell rack and supinate

Arnold wasn’t concerned with building only bigger biceps, he was über-focused on accentuating his biceps’ peak. To achieve this, he trained with dumbbells as well as barbells. “No amount of barbell curls could produce the same intense contraction and resulting soreness of the biceps that I got from rotating the palm outward as far as I could at the top part of the dumbbell curling motion,” Arnold was quoted as saying in an issue of Muscle Builder (the forebear of M&F).
This palm rotation, called supinating, is what Arnold believed helped him peak his biceps more than anything. It’s simple, yet painful, to do: At the top of each rep of a dumbbell curl, turn your palm outward to where your pinkie finger is closer to you than the rest of your hand, and squeeze the peak contraction hard. “The pain of con- traction is incredible! Remember, there’s no growth without pain.”

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Let the Hand Lag

Arnold also believed in another technique to bring out the peak in his biceps, which involved letting the hand “lag.” Most people keep their wrists straight and turn them only at the top of each rep when curling with dumbbells. Arnold let the dumbbell settle on his fingers, keeping the wrists extended as he curled the weight up. He felt this resulted in a longer lever arm and allowed him to achieve a stronger contraction.

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Slow Down the Reps

When shaping and peaking was the objective, Arnold stressed applying strict form to all biceps exercises, using moderately slow rep speeds so “the biceps feel it every inch of the way up and down.”

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Don’t Go Too Heavy on the Tris

Using a manageable weight is a good tip for any body part, but Arnold was adamant when it con- cerned the triceps. He felt many bodybuilders went way too heavy with this muscle group. On cable pressdowns, he once said: “Many guys pack on so much weight that they’re forced to depend on the pectorals, the front deltoids, the abdominals, the intercostals, and the triceps. This means the effectiveness of the movement is split up too many ways.”

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Isolate the Heads

Look at Arnold’s exercise selection for tri’s: one overhead movement, one using a reverse grip, another ly- ing down, and then a standard press- down. The Oak masterfully varied exercises to focus on the particular triceps heads individually. “Triceps exercises must be isolated to work all three muscle heads properly,” he said. “Consequently, you must know which exercises best affect each head.” Overhead triceps exercises target the long head; pressdowns
hit the lateral head; and reverse- grip variations zero in on the `medial head.

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Again – Don’t Cheat!

Arnold noticed lots of guys letting their form slip on triceps moves. “You mustn’t take the cheating prin- ciple too far,” he said. “Each exercise is designed to work a specific muscle in a particular way. Focus your full attention on each repetition.”

This story originally appeared on: Muscle & Fitness - Author:Joe Wuebben And Shawn Perine