You'll never look at direct arm work the same again. I saw an arguement about this on here. I do believe this article:


by Bill Piche

From Hardgainer #53 - Mar/Apr 98'

Can someone build their arms to their maximum potential without direct arm training? Without hesitation, my answer is resounding YES! This contradicts what is often published in the mainstream publications. Mr. Bodybuilding champion typically recommends 20-set arm routines with such nonsensical tips as "go for the maximum pump" and "go for the burn." Over the last ten years I have been asked numerous times how to build big arms. Most people are puzzled by my answer, which advises doing little to no direct arm training. Recently I had the opportunity to personally perform an arm experiment to provide a good example to those who were non-believers.


Before I describe my personal experiment and the results, I would like to touch on what I believe are two of the most important factors for obtaining big arms.

1. Genetics

You have to face facts: the size of your arms are limited by your genetics–what you were blessed with from your ancestors and parents. A common belief that contradicts the role of genetics is "building the peak." You can't simply build a peak on your biceps. Your genetics determine what your biceps will look like when they are fully developed. If you could build a peaked biceps, then why doesn't everyone have a great peak to their biceps? The common myth portrayed is that there are some special biceps exercises to build peak. Well, there aren't. Besides, how do the biceps know the difference between a so-called "peaking exercise" and a "mass-building exercise"?

2. Body size

If you want to get significantly bigger arms you must increase your overall muscle mass. You can't have 18-inch arms and have a bodyweight of 160 lbs. How do you gain more overall muscle mass? You gain more muscle by performing compound, multiple-joint exercises such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, dumbbell row, or dip. Exercises such as the dumbbell triceps kickback or the biceps concentration curl aren't going to get the job done. If you train consistently hard, consume enough good food, get enough sleep at night, and allow enough time for muscle recovery, your overall muscle mass will increase. When this happens, it's a sure bet your arm size will increase as well.


In my training, have all but eliminated any direct arm training. In fact, in the last few years the only direct arm training I did was an afterthought. One significant observation I made over the last few years was that when my upper-back strength improved, so did my performance in any direct biceps training. The opposite was not true, however. When I totally cut out direct biceps training, my upper back size and strength increased. Was I sacrificing anything by not doing any direct biceps training? Everything in my training log pointed to "no" as the answer. However, I wanted to add a final exclamation point on the answer.

I saw my opportunity when I discovered that the Natural Athletes Strength Association (NASA) Iowa Regional Powerlifting and Power Sports Championships was being held within a short driving distance, and included the strict curl as an event. The strict curl is an arm-curl event (no cheating) where an ez-curl bar is used. Could I be successful in an arm curl contest without doing any direct biceps training prior to the competition? My experiment was now clear.

The training and results

I basically did not perform any direct biceps training before the competition. Since an ez-curl bar would be used for the meet, I knew I had to at least practice the event. Therefore, I did a few sub-maximal singles with less than 100% effort once a week for five weeks prior to the competition. I did this to get the feel of the ez-curl bar since I had not used one in more than ten years.

What I considered my real training was simple. I tried to train my upper back as hard as possible in the five weeks before the competition. >From past experience, I've found that performing one set of negative-only chins (4-second negative) for 10-12 repetitions over a short period of time (3-4 weeks, once a week) would boost my upper-back strength. An increase in the strength of my biceps always followed. So, that is how I decided to train for the competition.

The results of my experiment? I weighed in at 202 lbs and was in the 205-lb weight division. In the competition, I made all three of my attempts and finished with 67.5 kgs (148.5 lbs). I considered this to be a personal record. The lift was a new Iowa state record, but another lifter got the record because he weighed 4 lbs less than I did.

Let me also mention that my arms have never been bigger. Fifteen years ago, when I was 19, I curled a personal record 150 lbs, but this was in training and was done with a slight cheat. At the time, I was also doing direct biceps training.


The results of my personal experiment provided me with irrefutable evidence that you don't need any direct biceps training if you are working your upper back hard. I don't believe the triceps to be any different. If you perform a major pressing movement, and you do it with gusto, no direct triceps training is necessary. The key to big arms is not direct arm training. The key is to train hard, brief and infrequently using basic compound exercises that hit the major musculature of the body (legs, glutes, chest, back). Throw in some good food and sleep into the formula, and you will develop your arms to their maximum potential. The answer has never been more clear.