When people think arms, they immediately think about isolation exercises like curls – biceps – and skull crushes – triceps. And they’re awesome exercises that I implement into my training and they work. But that’s not the only way to train your arms.
I’m doing 3 challenge workouts a week right now. One of them might include an isolation exercise or two, but for the most part they’re completely dominated by compound exercises. For a couple reasons:
1. Challenge workouts are ridiculously hard. They kick my ass every single time in the gym because I’m constantly trying to improve my score (the time it takes to complete a set workout). You can only fit so many exercises into one day of training and I want each exercise to benefit me as much as possible.
Exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time – compound exercises – give me more benefit (they let me work more than one muscle, but also allow me to lift heavier weights, in turn, building more muscle).
2. I’m concerned with more than just a good-looking body. I want a body that’s healthy and performs freaking amazing. If I have to choose between supine chin-ups and curls, more often than not I’m going to choose chin-ups. If I have to choose between triceps extensions and close grip bench press; I’m choosing close grip bench.
The compound exercise allows me to perform a more athletic movement, I can lift more weight, and benefit other muscle groups at the same time.
A Bit of a Surprise
By cutting out isolation exercises my arms have actually gotten bigger. Now, I haven’t completely cut them out of my training. But I’ll only do a maximum of 2 isolation exercises weekly, and my arms are getting noticeably bigger.
It makes sense in a way. For one, I’m lifting decent amounts of weight for high reps. Two, the workouts are INTENSE. I’m gasping for air on multiple occasions in each session. But if you think about it, I’m giving those muscles more work then they’d normally get anyways.
Any upper body pushing exercise works the triceps. So let’s say a challenge workout consists of the following pushing exercises with the corresponding rep counts:
- Inclined Bench Press – 50 reps
- Dips – 50 reps
- Military Press – 50 reps
That’s 150 reps working the triceps (750 reps in a week!).
Any upper body pulling exercise works the biceps. Let’s do the same for biceps:
- Supine Chin-ups – 50 reps
- Yates Row – 50 reps
- Upright Row – 50 reps
Again: 150 reps – 750 in a week.
Even though I’m not isolating the muscle group, it’s still getting a lot more effective training that it would were it being put through a traditional 3 sets of 10 reps program.
Give it a Shot
I’m going to get some flack for this article because isolation exercises are great exercises for the bi’s and tri’s. I’m not discounting that by any means. What I am saying, however, is that they aren’t the only way to train our arms. By placing heavier weight on the muscle, with that intensity and those rep counts, combined with training only 3x weekly (I also do 1-2 heavy lifting days, and a boxing day) and the extra recovery we’re giving every muscle group. They’ve actually responded quite nicely.
So, give it a shot, see how your body reacts to a different stimulus.
Tired of Skinny Arms?
So was I.