The Perfect Arms Workout Routine

What it means to be “physically fit” is an ever-moving target that changes depending on our age, our goals in life, and what we do on a daily basis.  For me, fitness is being able to travel well, feel good, and feel mobile and spry while taking on my favorite adventure sports.  This most commonly involves suspension trainers, functional lifts, and gymnastics style workouts.

but…

Both my experiences in adventures and vanity convince me that a strong, good looking pair of arms is both attractive, and useful.  Whether this “usefulness” is simply good on a beach in Thailand or the function of being able to lift up a motorcycle or throw around a surfboard.  In any case, adding a strong pair of arms to an already well-conditioned physique is a good equation.

As a lean guy, gaining muscle on my arms is no easy feat, but the 9-week program to follow achieves just that.  Every year, during a lull in my travels, I set aside 9 weeks of training at a gym (with a full set of weights) and easily put on an extra inch onto my arms – muscle and strength to last me until next year’s arm training season.

I can’t remember where I found this workout, I just remember that it works and I’ve had it scribbled on an old piece of notebook paper for a decade.  I hope it helps you achieve your goals just as it helped me achieve mine.  If anyone is aware of the true source of this workout, please let me know so I can properly credit the author.  Cheers

THE PERFECT ARMS WORKOUT ROUTINE

WEEK 1 | PRIMING THE PUMP

Total Workouts this Week: 3

  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Kickback
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Skullcrusher
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Overhead Extension
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Close Grip Bench Press
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Straight Bar Curl
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Preacher Curl
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Incline Curl
  • 2 sets,  15-25 reps  – Overhead Cable Curl

(Click for Week 1 Explanation)


WEEKS 2+3 | LIGHT—HEAVY—LIGHT

Total Workouts per Week: 2

  • 10, 5, 2, 5, 10 – Skull Crushers
  • 10, 5, 2, 5, 10 – Hammer Curl 
  • 10, 5, 2, 5, 10 – Reverse Grip Cable Pressdowns
  • 10, 5, 2, 5, 10 – Preacher Curl
  • 10, 5, 2, 5, 10 – Close Grip Bench Press
  • 10, 5, 2, 5, 10 – Straight Bar Curl

(Click for Week 2/3 Explanation)


WEEKS 4+5 | LOWERING THE BOOM

Total Workouts this Week: 2

  • 1, 5, 10, 5, 1 + Dropset – Decline Cable Curl
  • 1, 5, 10, 5, 1 + Dropset – Close Grip Bench Press
  • 1, 5, 10, 5, 1 + Dropset – Overhead Cable Curl
  • 1, 5, 10, 5, 1 + Dropset – Cable Press Downs
  • 1, 5, 10, 5, 1 + Dropset – Incline Cable Curls
  • 1, 5, 10, 5, 1 + Dropset – Overhead Cable Extensions

(Click for Week 4/5 Explanation)


WEEK 6+7 | TWICE THE ARMS

Total Workouts Per Week: 1

  • 4 Sets, 6 to 8 Reps – Straight Bar Curl
  • 4 Sets, 6 to 8 Reps – Hammer Curl
  • 4 Sets, 6 to 8 Reps – Incline Curl
  • 4 Sets, 6 to 8 Reps – Bench Dips
  • 4 Sets, 6 to 8 Reps – Close Grip Bench Press
  • 4 Sets, 6 to 8 Reps – Overhead Tricep Extensions

(Click for Week 6/7 Explanation)


WEEKS 8 | RUN THE RACK #1

Total Workouts per Week: 2

  • EZ Bar Curls
  • Hammer Curls
  • Overhead Cable Curls
  • Horizontal Cable Curls
  • Cable Press Downs
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Skull Crushers
  • Weighted Dips

(Click for Week 8 Explanation)



WEEKS 9 | RUN THE RACK #2

Total Workouts per Week: 2

  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Kickback
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Skullcrusher
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Overhead Extension
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Close Grip Bench Press
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Straight Bar Curl
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Preacher Curl
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Incline Curl
  • 2 Sets, 15-25 Reps – Overhead Cable Curl

(Click for Week 9 Explanation)


For the next 10 weeks, we’ll turn typical training progression on its head. Instead of gradually adding more volume, we’ll start it high and then slowly decrease it. We’ll compensate for the taper in volume with a drastic, weekly increase in intensity, allowing you to keep strong and on the path to bigger arms throughout the program.


WEEK 1 | PRIMING THE PUMP

Total Workouts this Week: 3

You’ll focus on familiar exercises. The goal? to flush the muscles with a good pump of water and blood. The influx of nutrients will promote an environment of growth, allowing the muscle cells to expand and contract as they prepare for the work ahead. Think of this week as a primer—a wake-up call for your arms that will lay the first brick in your growth pyramid. You’ll train arms three times this week—we told you we’d start with higher volume with only two sets per exercise in the 15–25-rep range. You’ll hit your arms from every angle (a harbinger of what’s to come), since varied angles are critical to complete arm development. However, this week isn’t an all-out blitz, so don’t go anywhere near failure this week. Focus instead on getting a good contraction and forcing as much fluid as possible into your muscle bellies. Rest periods should be relatively short—about 60 seconds— allowing you to maximize the pump you get in these quickie sessions.


WEEKS 2+3 | LIGHT—HEAVY—LIGHT

Total Workouts per Week: 2

The mighty pyramid has been a staple for strength- and size-building since weight training came into vogue. During this phase, we’ll employ one version of the pyramid—where you work your way up in weight while decreasing reps, only to work your way back down the other side with lighter sets and more reps.

The first few sets help prepare your muscles for the heaviest set in which you’ll target the fast- witch muscles, scratching the top threshold of the strength rep range, before lowering the weight back down to the first set levels. As opposed to Week 1, you’ll alternate between biceps and triceps moves. This allows you to take advantage of the agonist-antagonist relationship, which keeps your biceps and triceps strong throughout the routine while adding a mild increase in intensity. For each rep range listed, select a weight that induces failure at, or just before that number. Try to keep rest periods to 60 seconds or less, as training with heavy weights and shorter rest periods has been shown to increase the release of growth hormone. On your last two sets, you’ll rest even less since you’re reducing the weight.


WEEKS 4+5 | LOWERING THE BOOM

Total Workouts this Week: 2

It’s through the careful implementation of two fairly familiar advanced techniques that we’ll set the stage for growth. The first tactic is forced reps. By having a training partner assist you (just enough effort to keep the weight moving) with a few extra reps at the end of a set, you can work past the point of momentary failure, triggering a slew of muscle-building events. You’ll also use drop sets, in which you continue a set with a lighter weight after initial (and total) failure. This allows you to recruit any muscle fiber left untouched by the heavy work, giving you a through-and-through burn that both induces growth and ignites a wicked muscle pump. Further, instead of following the standard triangle scheme you did in weeks 2–3, after your warm-up sets you’ll do a reverse, or inverted pyramid, where you’ll start heavy, work your way to a lighter weight, only to go heavier for low reps again.


WEEK 6+7 | TWICE THE ARMS

Total Workouts this Week: 1

Starting in week 6, you’ll perform one early workout that’s composed of basic, heavy moves and low rep ranges. This iron-laden session is designed to batter your muscles, leaving them damaged and inflamed. The happy part of that menacing prescription is that you’ll leave the gym looking huge, even though you’ve performed only half of the day’s workout. The later session—about 4–6 hours later—is very cable-focused, allowing you to concentrate on constant tension and ease of movement from one high-rep exercise to another. This session, combined with your intense morning session, will contribute to an extraordinary pump. This all-day boot camp places an extraordinary stretch on the muscles’ outer membranes, which can contribute to new growth. Since the demand placed on your biceps and triceps necessitates more rest, you’ll perform this workout (both sessions) only once per week.


WEEKS 8+9 | RUN THE RACK

Total Workouts per Week: 2

All done at the dumbbell rack, you’ll start with very light weights doing 20 reps on your first set, immediately racking the weight and moving to the next heaviest pair of dumbbells and performing the move to failure (or close to it). You continue moving up the rack until you can’t perform even one repetition. At that point, you rest only one minute, then begin with your heaviest pair of dumbbells and start working your way back down the rack, sans rest, to your starting weight. You’ll perform only one set of an exercise before moving to another, doing the entire workout twice per week. Allow 3–4 days recovery between sessions. While some of these exercises can be done one arm at a time, work both arms simultaneously so there’s no resting while the opposite side is working.