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STRONGMAN ARMS

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Have you tried everything to make you arms grow with very limited, if any success? You’ve done supersets, drop sets, giants sets, trained arms on a full moon after sacrificing a goat yet, and they are still the same size? Well, try this strategy!

It’s based on maximizing fiber recruitment through supramaximal loading, then doing hypertrophy work while those fibers are still more sensitive to being recruited.

It’s also very fun to do and will make you look like a beast! It will translate to positive gains in pressing strength and will make your squats and deadlift numbers go up. Not a bad deal for an “arm” program!

The workout uses two antagonist pairings. The first pairing is a supramaximal lifting combo and the second one is more of a pure hypertrophy superset.

PAIRING A

Your first exercise is a partial range, close-grip overhead press. Use a shoulder-width (or slightly narrower) grip and work the last third of the overhead pressing range of motion. Start fairly conservative to get the groove of the exercise, but eventually you should shoot for about 110-120% of your maximum full range overhead press.

You do 6 reps. Be careful to control the eccentric: the natural tendency is to simply drop the barbell down on the pins; don’t do it! This exercise is the best movement to strengthen the long head of the triceps which has the greatest impact on pressing strength.

 

The second exercise is a half range Zercher lift. Basically, a Zercher from a position where the knees are at a 90-100 degrees angle. This will allow you to use a bit more weight, which will overload the arms a lot more.

Use a fat bar, this will increase the tension in the biceps (a regular bar will be deep in the crook of your elbows, requiring a lot less active biceps contraction to stay in place). As with the earlier exercise, do the eccentric/lowering back on pins in control. You will do two 3/2/1 waves.

The prescription looks like this:

A1. Partial close-grip overhead press
6 x 6
Control the eccentric
90 seconds rest

A2. Half range Zercher lift
1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1
120 seconds of rest

Notes:

A1 & A2 means that you alternate both exercises. One set of A1, rest 90 seconds, one set of A2, rest 120 seconds, back to A1, etc.

With 3/2/1 waves you increase the weight on each set within a wave and the second wave should be heavier than the first one. For example: 275 x 3, 285 x 2, 295 x 1, 285 x 3, 295 x 2, 305 x 1

PAIRING B

The first movement in this second pairing is the decline triceps extension with an EZ bar. The decline angle increases triceps recruitment over the same movement done on a flat bench. Lower the barbell to your eyes, avoid spreading the elbows out. Lower the bar in about 3-4 seconds.

The second exercise is a thick bar standing curl. The thicker grip increases brachialis activation which is great to increase arm thickness. Do not swing the weight up and avoid bringing the elbows back when you lower the weight; make the biceps work harder keeping the elbows in line with the front of your rib cage. Also, lower the weight in 3-4 seconds.

The prescription looks like this:

B1. Decline EZ bar triceps extension
3 x 6-8 reps
3-4 seconds eccentric
90 seconds of rest

B2. Standing thick bar curl
3 x 6-8 reps
3-4 seconds eccentric
90 seconds of rest

For maximum results this program should be done twice a week for three or four weeks, and it doesn’t have to be on its own day. Since it revolves around two performance exercises that have a positive transfer on pressing and lower body exercises you can do it along with some work for the squat, deadlifts or overhead press.

For example, a schedule could look like this:

Monday: Bench press, pectorals and deltoids work
Tuesday: Deadlift, strongman arm program, farmer’s walk
Wednesday: OFF
Thursday: Upper back and traps
Friday: Overhead press, strongman arm program, Zercher carries
Saturday: Squat, quadriceps and hamstrings work, prowler pushing
Sunday: OFF

Even the guy who has tried everything to make his arms grow has not tried this program! And trust me, it will lead to changes in arm size. On the plus side, it will also lead to strength gains. It will lead to gains in pretty much every big lift you can think of by making the core and back a lot more solid.

— CT

Christian Thibaudeau

Written by Christian Thibaudeau

Christian Thibaudeau has been involved in the business of training for over the last 16 years. During this period, he worked with athletes from 28 different sports. He has been “Head Strength Coach” for the Central Institute for Human Performance (of…