The Best Arm Workouts for Strength-Focused Lifters

The Best Arm Workouts for Strength-Focused Lifters

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4 Effective Supersets

Here’s how to use biceps and triceps finishers to add pounds to your big lifts. Oh yeah, you’ll also build bigger arms.

Some believe direct arm training doesn’t add pounds to your big compound lifts. Those people are wrong. Completely neglecting direct biceps and triceps work will hold back your big lifts.
But many lifters are confused about when and how to add direct arm training into a strength-based program. So, here are the most effective supersets that combine biceps and triceps work with compound movement patterns. Just add a couple of these to the end of your workout.

1. Chin-Up + Smash Curl

For the chin-ups, emphasize the biceps by pointing your hands back toward you. Use that same supinated position with the biceps curls.
If using a standard straight bar, get your hands in a medium-width grip with your palms facing you. (Many gyms will have transitional handles that place your hands between a supinated and neutral grip, so feel free to use those.)
Avoid jumping up to the bar. The shoulder position and swaying will not only take away from your muscle targeting, but potentially place your shoulders into a dangerous position. Set up on a box instead.
Pull straight up, hold the peak contraction for a split second, then control on the way down. Just make sure you don’t come into a “dead hang.” This limits the constant tension you’re shooting for. Do 4-10 strict reps, tapping into the mind-muscle connection on the biceps.
Now move to the prone incline smash curl. Support your chest on an incline bench with your core and glutes engaged. Place your sternum on the top of the bench to allow your arms to move freely and not be limited by the sides of the bench.
From here, supinate your hands and drive the sides of the dumbbells together as hard as you can, squeezing them with loads of tension. The slight shoulder flexion increases biceps activation. Then curl up, keeping the squeeze on the dumbbells, peak the contraction of the curl, and move back down through a full range of motion.
The squeeze press is a game-changer for those who have trouble curling with the volume necessary to achieve a pain-free training effect. Do 8-15 reps.

2. Biceps Curl + Inverted Row

Curls are one of the most butchered exercises because most people don’t understand anatomy and mechanics.
The biceps aren’t just one muscle but two muscle bellies located on the front side of the upper arm. The long head of the triceps is another dual-joint muscle that crosses both the elbow and shoulder joints, meaning you must manipulate the shoulder position in a biceps curl to get the strongest contraction and activation possible.
By combining the biceps curl with a compound movement like a row, we can achieve high levels of activation on the biceps during the curls and overload them with a compound movement.
Grab the dumbbells and get your body into a strong, athletic stance with the hips slightly hinged back and the torso leaning forward just a bit. From this position, tense your glutes, abs, and shoulders before the weight ever starts moving.
Now curl the weights up by flexing your elbows. Accentuate the contraction at the top by bringing the shoulders into slight flexion.
A big mistake is over-flexing at the shoulders and getting the forearms into a vertical position to the ground. In this faulty position, the load is perpendicular with the ground, which deactivates the prime mover.
We’re going to avoid that by focusing on flexing the biceps hard with both elbow and shoulder movement instead of aimlessly moving the weights from point A to point B. Focus on peaking each contraction and squeezing as hard as you can. The biceps respond best to internal tension.
From here, move to the compound movement of the superset and hammer home mechanical loading. The preferred addition to a concentration-based curl is a row variation like the inverted row on a barbell, rings, or a TRX device.
Focus on driving the body up as a stable unit and using a full range of motion. Adding a slight rotation at the hands (if using straps or a suspension trainer) increases the emphasis on the biceps.
Use rep schemes between 8-15, staying tight with your form and accumulating stress over 2-4 total sets at the tail-end of a pull or upper-body day.

3. Overhead Triceps Extension + Push-Up

Hitting the triceps from a novel shoulder angle stimulates growth while also training the triceps to activate out of a stretched position.
The triceps’ long head has the highest functionality level out of any of the upper-arm muscles. It acts as a powerful stabilizer of the shoulder joint. It also has great growth potential because it’s usually undertrained. That’s exactly why training the triceps from an overhead position is one of the highest-yielding direct-arm training movements for any strength athlete.
The seated position works best to avoid heavy torso lean and cheating. Fire your core, turn on the glutes, and drive your feet into the ground.
Using either bands or a cable setup with a rope, hammer out 8-20 slow and controlled extensions, focusing on using a full range of motion to stretch the long head of the triceps at the bottom while maximizing the flex at the top.
You’ll tire quickly due to the overhead position of the arms. Blood flow will leave the arms quicker. So go lighter and focus on the tempo and quality of the contractions, not the weight being moved.
Now match that slightly flexed shoulder position with a feet-elevated push-up. This allows the upper chest and triceps to be the primary movers. Move slowly through a full range of motion, locking out at the top for 8-15 reps with perfect form. Alternate between these two exercises for 2-4 rounds.

4. Banded Pushdown + Chain Loaded Push-Up

Since many hardcore facilities and garage gyms lack cable setups, it gets easy to skip triceps isolation staples like pushdowns while overdoing less joint-friendly variations like triceps extensions.
Hitting your triceps with hard pump work is as easy as using a band setup on a pull-up bar or squat rack. For getting a pump, using bands is preferable to cables to maximize the tension of the muscles at peak contraction while sparing the elbow and shoulder joints.
To place as much emphasis on the triceps as possible without cheating, get into a kneeling position with a strong core and engaged glutes. Set up with a neutral grip at the top of the movement and externally rotate the hands slightly with pinkie fingers out to maximize each rep.
Program ultra-high reps (15-30) with slow and constant tension and peak flexes each and every rep. When you can no longer do crisp reps, move directly into the chain-loaded push-up to finish off your triceps.
Remember, we’re programming the push-up here after pre-fatiguing the triceps to maximize the response, so position your elbows closer to your sides with full body tension irradiating through your glutes, core, and upper body.
Adding chains to your mid and lower back is the optimal way to load this movement while emphasizing the hard lockout at the top. This isn’t the time for sloppy reps. Hit 8-12 perfect push-ups, locking out the triceps at the top.
Knock out 2-4 sets of these supersets as the last movement of a bench or upper-body day and watch your arms grow.

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