Minimalists will tell you that all you have to do to build gargantuan biceps and triceps, is focus on getting as strong as possible on your basic pushing and pulling compound movements; bench & overhead pressing, as well as barbell rows and pull-ups. Getting stronger on your compound movements over time will most certainly result in increased arm size, but if your goal is to build the BIGGEST arms that you possibly can, then you MUST isolate them.
Compound movements are multi-joint exercises that utilize multiple muscle groups and joints in order to execute a movement. Because of this, they have the greatest capacity to build strength, as well as overall muscle mass. An example of this is the bench press, which involves both the shoulder and elbow joints, and very effectively works the chest, shoulders and triceps.
Isolation movements on the other hand are single-joint exercises that utilize only one muscle group and joint at a time in order to execute a movement. An excellent example in this case, is the barbell bicep curl, which involves only the elbow joint, and very effectively works the biceps.
That being said, most people, that is, unless you naturally have big arms or find that your arms respond really well when training solely using compound movements, will require specific isolation work on both their biceps and triceps, in order to maximize their growth. In addition to that, triceps development must take precedence over the biceps. The triceps, as their name suggests, are comprised of 3 separate heads, namely the long, lateral and medial heads respectively. The biceps on the other hand, only have 2 heads; the long and short heads. From this we can see that the triceps make up 2/3rds of your total arm size! Meaning that in order to build the biggest arms possible, you MUST have large triceps!
Okay, now we know that we need to isolate our arms in order to build them optimally. But how often should we train them? My personal recommendation would be anywhere from 2-4 times a week. Start off with 2 days a week training and see how your arms respond to that. Over time, if you are feeling adequately recovered and like you can do a little more, add an extra day of training, up until you reach 3-4 days total. The arms are small muscles and can withstand quite a bit of punishment. They also recover quickly and don’t place a massive recovery burden on your CNS (Central Nervous System) as compounds do, making it easy to train them more frequently, without any consequences.
As for how many exercises to use, 1-2 exercises for both the biceps and triceps per session will more than suffice. An example of which can be seen below:
ARMS TWICE A WEEK EXAMPLE SCHEDULE.
Day 1 (Monday)
Exercise 1: EZ Bar Skull-crushers – 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Exercise 2: EZ Bar Curls: 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
Exercise 3: Rope Triceps Pushdowns: 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
Exercise 4: Dumbbell Drag Curls: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 2 (Thursday)
Exercise 1: Incline Bench Overhead Triceps Extensions: 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps
Exercise 2: Rope Hammer Curls: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
Exercise 3: Dip Machine/Triceps Dips: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps
Exercise 4: Dumbbell Spider Curls: 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
This is just an example arm routine designed to target all the heads of both your biceps and triceps to promote rounded, complete development. Use any two days in the week. Make sure however, that they are spaced out by at least a day in between in order to facilitate optimal recovery and growth.
Perform the routine either at the end of your workouts or at the beginning (if you really want to maximize your growth). A word of caution about starting your workout with this arm routine; your compound movement strength will inevitably suffer because your arms will be fatigued. Therefore, only start with arms if you have been consistently training for a while (2-3+ years) and are focused on bringing them up. Beginners SHOULD NOT DO THIS. If you are a beginner, your focus should ALWAYS be on building strength on your basic compounds, after which, you can train your arms.
And that’s all she wrote! Enjoy tearing through your t-shirt sleeves.
You’re welcome in advance :p