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Thread: Would you like big and strong arms?

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  1. #1
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Would you like big and strong arms?

    Well, I posted my pics with the hope of gaining some credence for what I have to say on the topic. Just to give you some basic information, most of the measurements you read about in the magazines and online are bullshit. Nearly all of the pros exaggerate their measurements, and most people online also exaggerate a tad. This really would be no big deal except for the fact that it creates a sort of arm dysmorphia. In other words, I have seen posts on this site that a 18" arm is no big deal. Well, if that arm is all fat I suppose it isn't, but if it is a muscular arm that measures 18" or more, cold (not pumped), and at a right angle to the bone of the upper arm, that is a big stinking arm! Arm size has a lot to do with bodyweight. The biggest pros of today who weigh 275 lbs + in the off-season obviously have 18" plus arms, some of them getting over the 20" mark. Not as many of them have arms that measure in excess of 20" as claimed, not nearly as many.

    Ok, enough preaching, let's get down to how one gets big and strong arms. I would like to think that I know a bit about this as I have arms that have both good size, and good strength (check my journal for more info.). Now, I do not base my ideas only upon myself, I have 4 good friends who have/have had 18" + muscular arms (plus myself, at my largest my right arm measured just under 19.5"). Of the 4 mentioned, 3 of them had arms that measure(d) in excess of 19" (cold, properly measured). For you forearms freaks, I have 2 friends who have forearms that measure(d) in excess of 15" (cold, properly measured).

    Wait, I did say I would get to it, didn't I? Ok, let's roll. Of the guys mentioned above, not one of them (including myself) performs more than 5 hard sets for their biceps and triceps. If you didn't read that last sentence slowly, read it again! Each of these men perform 5 sets (not including warmups) or less for their biceps and triceps. Why is that? These men train with intensity, they take each post-warmup set to failure (concentric---positive failure---or beyond). They train using 10 reps per set, or less. They train as heavy as they are capable of, and they constantly try to increase the amount of weight they can handle, or the repetitions with the same weight, or both.

    When I first began weightlifting, 14+ years ago, I read Arnold's Education of a Bodybuidler. I also got my hands on all of the muscle magazines I could, and devoured them. It will not surprise you to learn I was soon doing 5 sets per exercise, 3-4 exercises per bodypart, 5-6 days per week. I got bigger and stronger. I didn't keep getting bigger and stronger for long. My weight plateaued at 180 lbs (I am 5'11"). I couldn't get any bigger, and I wasn't getting any stronger. By this time, I not only would buy all of the magazines, I would go the bookstore at the mall and buy all of the bodybuidling books (the internet was a relative non-factor back then). Luckily, I came across a book called Super High Intensity Bodybuilding by Ellington Darden PhD. This book, and many others by the same author, opened my eyes to
    the world of low volume, high intensity training. I decided to dramatically alter my routine and reduce the volume considerably (I was already training intensely). Wonder of wonders, I started to grow almost immediately, and I kept growing.

    Ok, let's summarize how 5 people I know well (including me) got big and strong arms:
    5 sets or less for bis and tris, taken to failure (or beyond)
    low overall volume for the entire body
    10 reps or less per set

    If you want big and strong arms, there are only a few keys needed for your success. For most people, I recommend 3-4 sets to failure (post warmup) for your bis and tris. I recommend you perform the first set to failure for low reps, 2-4. For your next 2-3 sets, I recommend 6-10 reps to failure. Without getting too wordy, you need to mitigate the frequency of your workouts in order to allow for complete recovery between workouts. Too many people get set on training specific days of the week, without regard to whether or not their bodyparts have fully recovered between sessions.
    These are the same people who never get any bigger and stronger. You know them, they are the bulk of the population at your gym! Don't let this happen to you!

    Nutrition is important, but not in the manner you think. Nutrition is important with respect to how much you eat, not as much what you eat. You need to consume adequate calories to allow for growth to occur. How much you need to eat depends on you and your unique metabolism. It is very age dependent. Younger men (23 and below) with quick metabolisms will need large quantities of food, older trainees, or trainees with slower metabolisms will not need nearly as many calories, and will only get fat if they overeat. The younger, quick metabolism, trainees need not pay a huge amount of attention to the makeup of their calories. Older, slower metabolism, trainees should pay closer attention to the makeup of their calories, comsuming relatively higher percentages of proteins and carbs, and lower percentages of fatty foods.

    Big and strong arms will not come overnight, however, they will come quicker than you think if you follow the principles I have mentioned above. There is one more very important factor, overall body size. If you want big arms, you must train your entire body. Training your legs properly (same basic principles as above) will help to ensure your ownership of a pair of big and strong pythons! Don't neglect your legs!

    Follow the principles above, don't get confused by all of the flavor of the month routines, and you will be bigger and stronger than you ever imagined you could be!


    p.s. If you want more on this topic, let me know and I will write a more extensive article with specific routines, calorie counts etc.

  2. #2
    MA's Bionic Creation syntekz's Avatar
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    I noticed my arms getting bigger when I started to bulk a while back. They grew quick, but I was gaining too much fat at the same time.

  3. #3
    As I Am Paul Stagg's Avatar
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    Chris -

    Good stuff.

    Write the article.
    Squats work better than supplements.
    "You know, if I thought like that, I'd never put more than one plate on the bar for anything, I'd never use bands or chains, I'd never squat to parallel or below, and I'd never let out the slightest grunt when I lift. At some point in your lifting career (assuming you're planning on getting reasonably strong and big), you're going to have to accept that most people think you are some kind of freak." -Sensei
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  4. #4
    Pocket Canuck
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    Awesome post!

    I could feel my arms grow by the time I was finished reading it!

    Last edited by Sheik; 02-19-2002 at 08:11 AM.
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  5. #5
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    I couldn't have said it better myself. All of those training principles I follow, and in my journal today I'm posting about last nights workout, which coincidentally included arms.
    "He's the best damn rollerskater that ever lived...probably in the whole town" - Chris Pontius

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  6. #6
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    Less is more.

    People also forget that you don't work your arms in a vacuum... when you squat, deadlift, row, dip, chin, and so on, you are warming up and working your arms. Not to mention your arm muscles benefitting from the anabolic effect of those exercises.
    The weights won't lift themselves.

  7. #7
    Joey54's crazy partner DumbbellTosser's Avatar
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    Yeah.. Low sets on arms! (should you listen to me? Well I think I have pretty damn big arms too)
    I wish all the new BBers would get that through their thick sculls. Good post, CHRIS!
    It's like I'm a juicer... but I'm not.

  8. #8
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    Chris, good post, this should be a sticky so we dont have all these "how do I get my biceps big" threads.

    I have two questions though.

    1. In your opinion, what is a better mass builder for triceps (from your experience and research), skulls or close grip benches. Im talking about direct tricep work.

    2. What are your opinions on direct forearm work, do you think it is needed, or will it lead to overtraining because the forearms are worked in other movements?

  9. #9
    Banned David's Avatar
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    Awesome post, Chris. i just have a quick question. i know that this has been asked like a million times but i need help with a routine split....or just tell me if my looks alright, ok?

    mon-legs
    tues-shoulders+arms
    thurs-back+traps+rear delts
    sat-chest

    i kinda like the above split but i was wondering if my body recovers from it? also when i work out on saturday i feel like it goes by way too quickly, maybe because i am only working out one body part!

  10. #10
    Senior Member hemants's Avatar
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    Chris, one question.

    When you say

    "5 sets or less for bis and tris, taken to failure (or beyond) "

    do you include things like chinups and dips or do you mean 5 or less isolation sets?

    Thx!

  11. #11
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    Write the article. NOW.

  12. #12
    Geordie The_Chicken_Daddy's Avatar
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    what article?

    oh, and Chris, don't use the phrase "Pythons" in it, or else... tuttut
    "Geordie/'d3c:di/n. & adj. Brit colloq. n. 1 a native of Tyneside. 2 the dialect spoken on Tyneside. adj. of or relating to Tyneside, its people, or its dialect. [the name George + -IE]

  13. #13
    Focus on your goals El Kelio's Avatar
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    Congratulations Chris. This post really deserves to be continued, write the article.

  14. #14
    decease, RIP
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    I like it.
    big.

  15. #15
    Senior Member therhoads's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    Thank you Chris! Many times experienced bodybuilders like yourself do not want to share their experiences. It is refreshing to hear some GOOD ADVICE!

  16. #16
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    No how do I convice my trianing partner of this/
    I trian chest and legs with him
    I could not get to the gym on saturday so missed back and biceps.
    He does chest and biceps.
    We started chest at the same time. I finished my chest, back and biceps and had a shower and waited 10 minutes after before he finished. I am quite a bit bigger and stronger than him, but he does not listern.
    my exprience - joined gym 10 years ago, 6 1/2 years hard weight training exprience.

  17. #17
    Senior Member MonStar1023's Avatar
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    GREAT article chris..


  18. #18
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    Chris,
    You are the man. This is indeed a good article which will inspire others to post messages like this.

  19. #19
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    When you say 5 sets for bis and tris, do you mean 5 each for bi and tri or total of 5??

  20. #20
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Originally posted by the_hall
    Chris, good post, this should be a sticky so we dont have all these "how do I get my biceps big" threads.

    I have two questions though.

    1. In your opinion, what is a better mass builder for triceps (from your experience and research), skulls or close grip benches. Im talking about direct tricep work.

    2. What are your opinions on direct forearm work, do you think it is needed, or will it lead to overtraining because the forearms are worked in other movements?

    1. Well, I think you more or less answered your own question. Close grip bench presses are not direct work for your triceps, the chest and deltoids are strongly involved in the movement. Skulls are, more or less, an isolation exercise for the triceps. In my opinion, and for my body, skulls are the best tricep developers. I also like pulley pushdowns a great deal (straight bar, no ropes etc.).

    2. I don't do any direct forearm work. Forearms, like calves, are a genetic have or have not, for all intents and purposes. If you are going to need a strong grip for competitive purposes, or just for your own satisfaction, I think direct work is applicable. Personally, I have gotten all of the forearm development I want from training my major bodyparts.

  21. #21
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Originally posted by wannabebeigger
    When you say 5 sets for bis and tris, do you mean 5 each for bi and tri or total of 5??
    5 for each. Remember, that is the upper limit. I think most people require 3-4 sets.

  22. #22
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Originally posted by TripleP
    Awesome post, Chris. i just have a quick question. i know that this has been asked like a million times but i need help with a routine split....or just tell me if my looks alright, ok?

    mon-legs
    tues-shoulders+arms
    thurs-back+traps+rear delts
    sat-chest

    i kinda like the above split but i was wondering if my body recovers from it? also when i work out on saturday i feel like it goes by way too quickly, maybe because i am only working out one body part!

    The quick Saturday workout is not a bad thing. I think that split looks great, but as to whether or not you are recovering sufficiently, only you can answer that. Are you progressing regularly?
    Last edited by chris mason; 02-19-2002 at 12:48 PM.

  23. #23
    Banned David's Avatar
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    hey, Chris thanks for replying - yes i am progressing so i will continue using it.

  24. #24
    Senior Member MonStar1023's Avatar
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    HST is basically a progression program if you ask me. With BB curls for example I am starting with around 60 lbs. and doubling it over the course of 8-weeks.


  25. #25
    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Good stuff Chris. Wish you had used the phrase "hyooge GUNZ", though. That usually gets me psyched.
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