Building Biceps and Triceps
I do get a lot of questions at the gym.
But most of those questions,
at least from men,
have to do with building ‘big guns’,
especially in relation to the biceps.
it’s interesting how much focus people put on such a small, relatively insignificant muscle group.
I say ‘insignificant’ because bicep size usually only constitutes less than 35% of arm circumference, and even less in terms of strength.
If you really want to grow your arms,
you gotta focus on developing not only the biceps,
but more importantly, the triceps–
(and don’t forget the forearms).
But this isn’t as hard as it sounds.
It simply requires the right amount of resistance,
applied in the right way,
….. added to the right nutrients,
… the right hormones
and the right rest.
It does require some effort.
And, you kinda knew it would, right ?
I teach the ‘push-pull’ system to my mature clients, and it certainly works, without causing the kind of exhaustion, pain and recovery issues of other methods.
If you’re 20, maybe you don’t need push-pull — if you’re 50, you’d better use it.
Here’s how it works:
In terms of the push-pull system of implement rotation,
every set you ‘pull’ using your arms, you’re working your biceps,
every set you ‘push’- your triceps.
So, to use the push-pull rotation, you might do
three sets of bench presses (triceps) ,
then three sets of curls (biceps) ,
then three of military presses (triceps) ,
then heavy rows (biceps), and so on, etc.
Of course, you’re working other groups here as well, but you get the operative principle.
Just remember – push (triceps) , pull (biceps).
A partial list of triceps movements would be:
push-ups, benches and inclines, mp’s and shoulder presses.
A partial list of biceps movements would be:
pull ups, rows, pull-downs, and curls.
A real consideration here will be your choice of weight (resistance).
While it’s not necessary to use a great deal of weight when growing these groups, the resistance level should be enough to stimulate growth, with 3 sets of 12 reps in the 55-65% of 1RM range.
Injuries to the tendons and joints are common- so don’t lift with your ego.
That said, I like to use elbow wraps when I do go heavy.
Watch your form – don’t slouch, slop the weight around, cheat, or hyperextend.
The arm is not just bi’s and tri’s, though…
Despite the fact that most everything you do when working your bi’s and tri’s also works your forearms, the muscles of the forearm must also be targeted in order to achieve the perfect arm symmetry.
This is accomplished through the flexing and extending of the forearm muscles through the wrist, using movements like wrist curls and squeeze grips…
(This will have the added advantage of strengthening the grip, which will be of great use in amping up your workouts in general),
…… and curls folcrumed at the elbow, like hammer curls.
Again, careful attention should be given when selecting the training weights, though….
— the wrist is easily injured through sloppy form, shock, too much resistance, etc.
Wrist straps can be helpful in this regard.
what about all those guys who work their arms extremely hard,
and get no size increases at all?
Increasing the size of ANY muscle group isn’t JUST a matter of a willingness to work them hard.
There are three other things to consider…..
Remember the first rule of building muscle size:
you don’t grow when you’re working out…
you grow after you’ve worked out- during your recovery.
If your muscles haven’t had time to recover, they can’t grow.
So, number one– rest is just as important as work.
Don’t target a group more than twice a week.
Two – remember your muscles need food to grow – lots of proteins.
Supplementing with whey protein before and immediately after will provide the basic building blocks your body needs for muscle hypertrophy.
Three– the proper metabolic state to build muscle must be present- this includes having the necessary balance of hormones and enzymes.
Getting the proper amount of rest will help keep your growth hormone and testosterone levels in the right range, and there are perfectly legal, wholesome supplements available to further assist in this….
I always recommend Creatine Monohydrate to people wishing to increase muscle size, not only because of the dramatic volumizing and strength gains, but also due to it’s very low incidence of side effects. It’s safe and effective for the vast majority of people. I like EAS’s Phosphagen HP.
I train mostly for strength, so I also like Beta-Alanine… eventually, strength gains translate into size if you train hard enough, in which case, you might want to try it, too.
Don’t forget your BCAA’s for workout fuel and Glutamine for recovery.
There is also a valuable supplement that I highly recommend if you can afford enough of it — HMB — β-Hydroxy β-methylbutyric acid, otherwise known by the brand names “Juven” or “ReVigor”.
It’s basically a metabolite of the branched chain amino acid Leucine, but acts somewhat differently in this form.
It works by conserving existing muscle after workouts, promoting additional muscle growth, faster muscle development and better overall recovery.
The problem is that it’s kinda expensive, and you’ve simply got to take enough for it to work—- so, figure about .03 grams per pound of body weight.
For those of you (like me) who hate math, this equates to 4.5 grams for a 150 pound adult.
For more on supplements, see my extensive post on the subject.
Now, go get it.