Building stronger arms is a simple affair. All you need to do is bend or extend your elbow. However, despite the simple nature of effective arm workouts, there can be a few pitfalls that will sabotage your progress.
Check out these 5 tips to take your workouts to the next level and build bigger and stronger arms today:
#1 Improve tension control
As mention in my book, Smart Bodyweight Training, bigger and stronger muscles are the result of the tension you place in those muscles. The equipment you use, the routine you practice and even the exercises you do are influences for that muscle tension.
Controlling muscle tension is a skill that can be improved over time. Practicing tensing up your arm muscles is key to improving the quality of your arm workouts. This especially goes for keeping tension in your muscles in an elongated position. It’s easier to keep tension in your biceps when you flex your elbow, but what about when your arms are straight?
Practicing placing tension in your arm muscles through a big range of motion will not only help keep your joints safe but will also make your arm workouts more effective.
#2 Focus on compound exercises
The lions share of effective arm training will come from compound exercises like dips, push-ups, pull-ups, and rows. These moves allow you to place more total tension in your arm muscles (provided you tension control is on point) which will help you build bigger and stronger muscles.
#3 Supplement with curls and extensions
Biceps curls and triceps extensions are still a valuable part of your arm training program, just use them in a supplemental way after your primary compound lifts.
You won’t need to do a lot of curls and extension either. Just 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps should do the trick. Consider them to be more like a finisher rather than the main objective in your workouts.
#4 Allow some shoulder movement
Back in the day, the rule was to try and isolate the arm muscles as much as possible. Part of this strategy was to keep the elbow locked in place so your upper arm didn’t move during curls and triceps extensions.
While this strategy did make the exercise more difficult, it also placed more stress on the elbow joint and made is slightly more difficult to bring more tension to the biceps and triceps.
That’s why I recommend using the elbow for 90% of the range of motion and 10% of the motion can come from the shoulder. This little bit of shoulder motion will ease stress on the elbow while allowing more tension to flow along your arm muscles.
#5 Keep your back and core stable
You can only be as strong as you are stable and arm training is no exception. The more stable your arms and shoulders are the more tension you can bring to your biceps and triceps.
Most of your stability will come from your back and core muscles. Keeping tension in your lats will bring your shoulders down and away from your ears to effectively “pack” your shoulders. (Think of driving your shoulder blades together and down). Not only will this help ease stress on your shoulders and elbows, but it will also make it easier to bring more tension to your biceps and triceps.
Check out the podcast below for more tips to build stronger arms in your next workout: