How I added an inch to my arms… in a caloric deficit! (with 8 tips for arm growth)

Posted: July 6, 2013 in fitness
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Assessing my own physique I’ve learned pretty quickly that triceps are a dominant muscle group for me, even to the point of appearing slightly over-developed, so when I put a lot of work into arm training the main focus was on biceps.

Especially in the case of biceps I have found that the best results seem to come when you strengthen as many functions and parts of their full range of motion as possible. Here are some specific tips:

TIP 1: Training Split

Since arms are a small muscle group they can be trained more frequently than larger parts, so I’ll often pair biceps with chest, triceps with back (or shoulders) and do an arms-only day at the end of the week. Doing this sort of split gives you three days of training both biceps and triceps (since triceps will also be stimulated with chest and biceps will be stimulated with back).

TIP 2: Iso-Flex

In between work sets, doing iso-flexes are also a good way to build the biceps. Do this by first supinating your are maximally, then extend your elbow up to put your arm behind your head. Squeeze the flex for a good 20 seconds. Below is a visual of how I do the flex:
bicep iso-flex

TIP 3: Wrist Manipulation

One of the principles I’ve found to be highly effective in ALL muscle-building is to consciously make it more difficult on the working muscles using as little weight as possible. This often means create a situation where you’re fighting gravity.

To do this with bicep training you can use wrist manipulation. At the top of the rep extend your wrists out from your body, then as you lower the weight move your wrists into flexion. Doing this allows for a slightly greater range of motion, and also helps to strengthen your forearms.

TIP 4: Flex the Antagonist

A trick you can use for both triceps and biceps is to flex the antagonist to ensure a full stretch. In the case of biceps it would mean flexing the triceps at the bottom of a curl. For Triceps press-down you could flex the bicep at the top position.

TIP 5: Cable Twists

One of the functions of the upper arm muscles is rotating the forearms; this function can be trained really well using rope attachments on cable machines.

For biceps you would have the cable at face-level starting with palms in a neutral position (facing in). Keeping the elbows stationary curl your arms while rotating your hands/forearms outward.

For triceps you would do a standard cable pushdown while rotating your palms outward as you push down.

TIP 6: Tension… “Pull the bar apart!”

Keeping constant tension on the arms while training them seems to give me extremely good results, and lots of beautiful pain. Consciously keeping the muscle flexed during the movement is one way, but training with Rob Snider among others I have learned improved ways of ding this.

For biceps try using an EZ-bar, only instead of using the “comfortable” position, grasp the inner part of the bar so your palms are facing outward. Bend forward slightly to give yourself a better range of motion, and while curling try to “pull the bar apart”.

For triceps this notion can be used while doing a close-grip bench press. While lowering the bar think about “pulling it apart”.

TIP 7: CNS Training

I often stress the importance of stimulating the Central Nervous System at the start of a workout, and on arms only I like to do that as well. CNS training is often thought of as simply lifting heavy or doing compound movements. However an important part of the CNS is the BRAIN.

One way to stimulate the brain on arms day is to work opposite muscles on each arm.

With one arm do a triceps cable pushdown and with the other do a bicep curl.

You can also tag this little move at the end of a workout, but it really takes a toll on you mentally!

TIP 8: Body-weight Training

If you are doing a split similar to the one I mentioned, adding in bodyweight exercises to the larger muscle groups such as dips, pull-ups and push-ups tend to have a really noticeable effect on arm development.


The cool thing is that these tips can be combined and built upon each other. One of my stable movements for a while was what I dubbed a “buff curl”, where I would do standard dumbbell curls but would incorporate the wrist manipulation, flexing the triceps on the bottom as well as supinating throughout the movement.

Good luck and big guns!

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