Building jacked arms is simple. There are four muscle groups-the shoulders, the triceps, the biceps, and the forearm. Grow each one of these, and you’ll have arms that fill sleeves and elicit envious glances.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In order for a muscle to grow, it must be introduced to stress. This means that after a certain point, 3 sets of 10 of the same old movement isn’t going to cut it-your body has adapted. It now considers that stress normal. There is a misconception about the idea of muscle confusion. Oftentimes, programs involve “muscle confusion” tactics believing that by forcing your body to adapt to different movements, it will grow or become more efficient. This is wrong.
Your body becomes more efficient when it costs you less energy to perform the same movement. Instead of changing the exercise you’re doing 3×10 on, just change the volume and intensity. Instead of 3×10, do 4×8 at a heavier weight, or 10×10 with 15 seconds rest between sets. Incorporate negative work (lowering the weight very slowly to keep the muscle under tension) or the opposite-explode into the rep with as much contractive force as possible. This puts the fibers under more stress, and forces them to grow. In the case of weight-training, more of the same is better than different.
CHASE THE PUMP
The mythical pump that is promised by so many pre-workout formulas and touted by so many gym-bros is a simply this: your muscle fibers filling with blood. If you’ve ever caught sight of yourself in the mirror with a pump, it can be a tremendous thing: you appear suddenly as a He-Man version of you, 3-dimensional and taut, as though you were imagined by Stan Lee and Zeus himself.
The pump is an important indicator of hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of a tissue from the increase of cellular size. It works like this: when you do a ton of reps and contract a muscle properly, blood is forced into the muscle. Over time, capillary density increases and allows for more oxygen and nutrient delivery. The fascia (the tissue encasing the muscle fiber) stretches to accommodate, and eventually stays that way.
If you want to appear jacked, and you’ve already done the prerequisite work of laying strong foundation for your body, then training for hypertrophy can have an incredible effect. Coupled with low bodyfat, hypertrophic muscles are eye-popping.
TICKETS TO THE GUN SHOW
The principles for building jacked arms apply to every body-part. This bears repeating: an impressive physique is more than just one decently developed body part. No one will give a shit about your swole biceps if your back, chest, and shoulders aren’t wide and your legs aren’t powerful. Invest heavily in heavy compound movements, and you will have a head-start on every body part. My arms grew tremendously when I incorporated bent-over barbell rows, and I never did curls.
Here’s how you build jacked arms.
The shoulder is comprised of three parts: anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, and posterior deltoid. Poor form (not pulling scapulae together and not bridging) on the bench press causes the anterior deltoids to take on an unnecessary load. Many a fine anterior deltoid has been built from this. A better way to stimulate it is to hit the overhead press. For my money, this is hardest lift, and the greatest indicator of overall strength. You’re not strong until you can military press your bodyweight.
Now, overdeveloped anterior delts causes hunching and poor posture. When you’re hunched, you appear weak and unconfident. Counter-act this by utilizing the behind-the-neck press. This is the same movement, but done with the bar starting on your trapezius muscle, instead of roughly your clavicle. You should use behind-the-neck presses for sets 0f 8-12 for 4-8 sets, with very little rest in between each set. You will get a tremendous pump in your posterior delts. Posterior delts are critical to building cannonball shoulders.
The medial deltoids are tiny muscles that assist in bigger movements. As such, train them in isolation. Use lateral raises to hit them. These can be done torched with heavy partials followed by full reps with a lighter weight. Take a heavy dumbbell and raise it laterally 2 feet from your body; resist gravity on the way back down. Then reduce the weight by 50 or 60% and raise your arms laterally to eye-level, hold briefly, and lower them.
Your triceps comprise the majority of your upper arm. As such, if you want big, strong arms, you need big, strong triceps. The aforementioned presses with do a real number on them. Follow them with isolation work. Milton Harris, Slim Thugg and Z-Ro’s trainer, turned me on to a deceptively difficult tricep movement: single arm dumbbell skull crusher.
Dips can also be done to emphasize your triceps. The more upright you perform a dip, the more work your triceps must engage. Again, heavy work and hypertrophic work can be alternated. Do weighted dips for lower-reps, followed by doing bodyweight dips to failure. Your triceps will blow up.
Ah, yes-the muscle you’ve all been waiting for. While boulder shoulders and tremendous triceps do more for your arms than all the curls in the world, the illusion of hiding citrus fruit in your arm caused by developed biceps always widens eyes.
Here’s the thing: conventional curls are great-to an extent. A conventional curl, with palms facing the ceiling, is great for stimulating the biceps brachii, the short head of your bicep. Think of this as the cherry on top of your biceps sundae. It looks great, but it’s not impressive without the good stuff below.
Underneath the biceps brachii is the biceps brachialis. This is the larger, longer head. As it grows, this muscle pushes your triceps further apart from your biceps. That results in an increase in arm circumference, giving you…bigger, badder arms.
To hit this muscle, you’ve got to keep your palms facing each other, or towards the floor. This is why hammer curls and cross-body hammer curls are key weapons in your big-gun arsenal.
Incorporate them at the end of a work out when you want to isolate your biceps. Don’t be surprised when people use any excuse to touch your arms…and feel a little longer than they should.
Wrist curls and other such nonsense will waste your time. For forearms that make you look useful instead of like a soy-noodle, there is only one solution: hold heavy shit often. The function of your biceps is to help control the movement of your elbow and shoulder. Basically, your biceps help you move things. You can’t move things if you can grab them, and if you can’t hold onto them for very long, you’re rather useless. To hold things, you’ve got to have strong hand and finger strength, also known as grip strength. Do this: make the tightest fist you can. What muscle group flexes? Your forearm.
We already know that to make your muscles grow, you need to put them under more stress and induce hypertrophy. Therefore, you’ll need to hold heavy amounts of weight for longer periods of time in varying positions. As a result, you’ll be able to lift more weight, and a killer forearm pump will always follow.
This is due to what is known as irradiation. A muscle group can contract with more force if the surrounding muscle groups are also contracted. Irradiation gives your nervous system permission to fire on all cylinders with the muscle group you are targeting. Basically, your arm growth will be limited without utilizing irradiation.
- Put your muscles under stress to make them grow.
- Chase the pump-it means your muscles are growing. Contract your muscles fully on each rep, and go nearly to failure.
- You need to develop your shoulders and triceps. You will be tempted to neglect long-head of your biceps. Don’t be-it is what separates the men from the boys, the .50 cal from the .22.
- Grip the shit out of everything.
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