Here’s how to add pounds to your big lifts with bicep and tricep finishers. Oh yes, you’ll also build bigger arms.
Some people argue that direct arm work won’t add weight to large compound lifts. Those people were wrong. Completely ignoring direct biceps and triceps work will hinder your big moves.
But many lifters are confused about when and how to add direct arm work to a strength-based program. So here are the most effective supersets that combine biceps and triceps with a compound movement pattern. Just add a few of these at the end of your workout.
For pull-ups, emphasize the biceps by pointing the hands back towards you. Use the same supinated position as the bicep curl.
If using a standard straight bar, hold your hands in a mid-width position with your palms facing you. (Many gyms will have transition handles that place your hands between the supinated and neutral grips, so feel free to use them.)
Avoid jumping on bars. Not only does shoulder position and sway affect your muscle targets, but it can put your shoulders in a dangerous position. Instead it is set on a box.
Pull straight up, hold the peak contraction for a split second, and then control it on the way down. Just make sure you don’t end up in a “dead end”. This limits the constant tension you’re shooting. Do 4-10 rigorous reps, utilizing the mind-muscle connection on the biceps.
Now move on to prone dips to crush curls. Use your core and glutes to support your chest on an incline bench. Rest your sternum on top of the bench and allow your arms to move freely without being restricted by the sides of the bench.
From here, supinate your hands and bring the sides of the dumbbells together as hard as you can, squeezing them hard. Slight shoulder flexion increases biceps activation. Then curl, maintaining a squeeze on the dumbbell, to the peak of the curl contraction, then move down through the full range of motion.
For those who struggle to get through the amount of curl needed to achieve pain-free training results, the squeeze press is a game-changer. Repeat 8-15 times.
Curls are one of the worst exercises to fail because most people don’t understand anatomy and mechanics.
The biceps is not just one muscle, but two muscle bellies located on the front of the upper arm. The long head of the triceps is another two-joint muscle that straddles the elbow and shoulder joints, which means you have to manipulate the shoulder position in biceps curls for the strongest contraction and activation.
By combining biceps curls with compound movements like rowing, we can achieve a high level of biceps activation during curls and overload the biceps with compound movements.
Grab the dumbbells and bring your body into a strong, athletic position, hinge your hips slightly back, and lean your torso slightly forward. From this position, tense your glutes, abs, and shoulders before the weight begins to shift.
Now curl the weight by bending your elbows. Strengthen the contraction at the top by bringing the shoulders into a slight bend.
A big mistake is to bend the shoulders too much and bring the forearms perpendicular to the ground. In this fault position, the load is perpendicular to the ground, which disables the prime mover.
We avoid this by focusing on flexing the biceps hard through the elbow and shoulder motion, rather than aimlessly moving the weight from point A to point B. Focus on peaking each contraction and squeezing as hard as you can. The biceps respond best to internal tension.
From here, move on to supersets of compound movements and hammering home machine loads.A preferred addition to attention-based curls is a row variation such as an inverted row on a barbell, rings, or horizontal bar transceiver equipment.
Focus on lifting the body as a stable unit and using a full range of motion. Adding a slight rotation in the hands (if using straps or a suspension trainer) will increase the emphasis on the biceps.
Use a rep scheme between 8-15 reps, keep your form tense, and build up the stress beyond 2-4 sets at the tail end of your pull or upper body day.
3. Overhead Triceps Stretch + Pushups
Hitting the triceps from a novel shoulder angle stimulates growth while also training the triceps to activate from the extended position.
The long head of the triceps has the highest level of function of all the upper arm muscles. It acts as a strong stabilizer for the shoulder joint. It also has great growth potential, as it is often undertrained. That’s why training the triceps from the overhead position is one of the highest-yielding straight-arm exercises for any strength athlete.
Sitting is best for avoiding heavy torso leaning and cheating. Engage your core, engage your glutes, and drive your feet to the ground.
Using an elastic band or rope set with rope, perform 8-20 slow and controlled stretches, focusing on using a full range of motion at the bottom to stretch the long head of the triceps while maximizing flexibility at the top .
With your arms overhead, you’ll get tired quickly. Blood flow will leave the arm more quickly. So lose weight and focus on the rhythm and quality of your contractions, not the weight you’re moving.
Now match the slightly bent shoulder position with a push-up with the feet elevated. This makes the upper chest and triceps the primary movers. Move slowly through the entire range of motion, locking out at the top, and repeat 8-15 times with perfect form. Alternate 2-4 rounds between these two exercises.
Due to the lack of cable setups in many hardcore facilities and garage gyms, it can be easy to skip triceps isolation staples like push-downs while overusing joint-bad variations like triceps extensions.
Work your triceps with high-intensity pumps like using Set up bands on a pull-up bar or squat rack. For pumps, using an elastic band is preferable to using a rope, which maximizes muscle tension during peak contraction while protecting the elbow and shoulder joints.
How to do it
To emphasize the triceps as much as possible without cheating, get into a kneeling position with a strong core and engaged glutes. Set up a neutral grip at the top of the movement and gently rotate the hands outward with the pinkies to maximize each repetition.
Set slow and constant tension for super high reps (15-30) and peak bend with each rep. When you can no longer do crisp reps, jump straight into chain pushups to work your triceps.
Remember, we’re programming pushups here after pre-exhausting the triceps to maximize response, so keep your elbows close to your sides and full-body tension radiating through the glutes, core, and upper body.
Adding chains to your mid and lower back is the best way to load up this move while emphasizing the hard locks at the top. Now is not the time for sloppy representation. Do 8-12 perfect pushups, locking out the triceps at the top.
Complete 2-4 sets of these supersets as the final move of your bench press or upper body day and watch your arms grow.
Want more arm workout ideas?Check Bigger arms are faster.
T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. read more About our policies.