Many athletes and strength coaches question the effectiveness of arm training. For quite some time, arm training has been completely frowned upon. Yes, you should focus more strongly on pillar development—i.e, your hips, core and shoulders—and your arms should not take up the majority of your training. That said, I believe that there is a place for direct biceps and triceps training in a well-rounded athletic development program.
Weekly gym-based training time with our athletes comes at a premium, so it's important to train the arms in an effective and efficient way. Compared to the big foundational compound movements like the Squat, Press and Hip Hinge, the arms play a minor role in overall athletic development and sport-specific skill enhancement. The arms usually receive ample amounts of strength training stimulus from the big movements. But athletes often lack a metabolic stress-based training stimulus—a.k.a. the pump effect.
Bigger upper-arm mass can contribute to an increase in glenohumeral (true shoulder) joint stability, a decrease in elbow and shoulder chronic stress, and an overall enhancement of upper-body strength. Also, most young athletes aspire to increase their arm size for aesthetic reasons.
A great way to tack on some direct pump-based arm training in an efficient manor is to use paired movements in superset or compound fashion. To create a push-pull upper-arm superset, program a triceps exercise followed by a biceps exercise with little or no rest between them.
RELATED: Why Hammer Curls Build Bigger Arms
The video above shows the Triceps Rope Pull-Down paired with Supinated Dumbbell Biceps Curl:
- 1A. Triceps Rope Pushdown - 4x10 with 30 sec. rest
- 1B. Supinated Dumbbell Biceps Curl - 4x8 with 30 sec. rest
Go through this superset 3 to 5 times, resting no more than 30 seconds after the Curls. This will elicit a cumulative fatigue effect in the arms and increase local blood flow, contributing to the increase in metabolic stress and the pump effect.
Program this on the tail end of your training week and only after your big muscle work has been completed. It also works extremely well as a finisher (the last sets of the training day) on upper-body days.
You can pair almost any biceps and triceps movements in this scheme. Tip: always perform the triceps movement before the biceps movement. You will use the triceps movement to improve positioning of your shoulders, thereby making the biceps move more effective.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock