A Call to Arms or Which Way to the Gun Show? Spring Fitness tips for the week
By Ken Hunt
A Call to Arms or Which Way to the Gun Show? Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun. Now admit it — who doesn’t like a great set of arms? And, let’s have a show of hands â€“how many of you have bought a size smaller t-shirt just to make your arms look bigger? But aside from flexing, your bis and tris are involved in many daily activities. For maximum results you need to separate you bicep and triceps workouts. I’ve got some advice and tips to share —
But, first, here are some facts I want you to think about:
1. You work your triceps when you do any pushing movement for the upper body, i.e. Bench press, shoulders, and pushing movements…
2. You work your biceps every time you use a pulling exercise i.e., back and moving weights around the room…
3. If you are doing a work your whole body two- to three-times a week workout and you have two to three arm days per week, you are actually working out your arms four to six times a week. Four to six times a week is way too much!!!
4. The biceps and triceps are very small muscles and do not need much exercise to grow. In most cases, the less the better. (Now how many times have you heard that?) You have to remember that they are constantly being worked out from other exercises, as well.
5. Think about your legs for a minute. Do you have a separate leg biceps day, a separate quads day and finally a separate squats day? If you do, let me know your results.
6. In order to get big upper arms you must workout your forearms and grip. If you cannot hold the weight you wish to lift, then what good are big biceps? You need large forearms as well. Trust me I have hurt my wrists so many times that I have lost count. If you build up your wrists now, this will lessen the chances further down the road of wrist injuries. A simple test of this can be demonstrated by pinching two 10-pound weights and trying to curl them up. This isn’t easy. There are some people at Steel Gym that can do it with 25-pound disks!!! That is an awesome feat of strength. A person like that can grab you and throw you around. (And who knows –you might really like that!)
The point is that if you are not getting any gains on your arms then you should cut down the number of sets that you are doing for arms. You must squeeze and focus on your muscles through the whole range of movement. The goal to building muscle is not the number of the poundage you are using. If you have to cheat during you first three reps (even just a little bit), it is too much weight! During your weekly workout cycle, you find out that your arms are sore before you start your arm workout, then by all means either cut back that day or take the day off. I often skip my arm days, because they are already sore from other things. (If it hasn’t healed yet then why hamper the healing process?)
Here is a basic program that you might want to consider.
Straight Bar Curls = (2 warm up) sets 3 working sets and pyramid up in weight (10-10)-8-8-6 (to warm up and work the mid-range of the movement.) If you want to get the most out of this exercise, try this. Do not grip the bar hard. Keep a loose grip. This works great.
Incline Curls = 3 sets and pyramid up in weight 10-8-8 (to stretch out the biceps)
Preacher Curls = 3 sets and pyramid up in weight 10-8-8 (to work the lower and upper range)
Tricep Push Downs = (2 warm up) and pyramid up in weight (10-10)-8-8-6 (to warm up and work the whole range)
One Arm Triceps Extensions = 3 sets and pyramid up in weight 10-8-8 (to stretch and work all 3 heads)
Skull Crushers (lying triceps extensions)= 3 sets and pyramid up in weight 10-8-6
Behind the Back Wrist Curls = 3-5 sets and 15 to 25 reps
Reverse Curls = 3 sets and pyramid up in weight 10-8-8 (also help build the biceps)
Hammer Curls = 3 sets and pyramid up in weight 10-8-8 (also help build the biceps)
For your grip!!! This is important. Here is a good program to get your grip up to par.
Look before you go hit your grip with full intensity. You can hurt yourself if you train the wrong way. Now there are some people that think that using heavy grippers are the way to go. And they are great for TESTING strength. Training with these things will really screw your hands up. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is easily achieved with these. Why? You put so much strain on your grip. Also, the pressure you can create using these grippers presses down on the veins in the hands causing poor circulation. In fact many of the gains from these grippers probably come from better nerve activation and not from mass gained. The average gripper is not fitted perfectly to how you normally close your hand. Look at your hand as you close it and make a fist. You will notice that no gripper on the market closes like you hand. So you need to modify your program for your hand’s sake. The safest way to get a strong grip is to do bar hangs and weight pinches.
Just hang from a bar and time yourself. Try to use a thick bar to hang from. Try to improve your time and your grip will get stronger. The main focus of this is to strengthen the tendons and ligaments in your forearms and fingers. The stronger these are, the stronger your grip becomes. You can also weight yourself down as well. You can also fill a fabric bag with weight and hold it. Also, holding dumbbells can be used. Don’t hang from a rope though. That causes a lot of stress on the elbows. Definitely don’t train every day. Two times a week at the most. Three to four sets should be enough.
Weight Pinches = Pick up two smooth weights and pinch them with your hands and fingers flat and grip the plates. Start with 5- to 10-pound plates and try to hold for 30 seconds. Once you can hold for 10 seconds, then go up in weight. Once you can pinch grip 45-pound plates, everyone will be cutting a wide path around you. Or giving you their phone number.
You’ve got to STRETCH between every set PERIOD!!! The more you stretch the more room for growth. You also have to have a good diet — one that supports growth. If you are not gaining weight, then you are not growing.
Here is a quick list of Ken Hunt No No’s
Do not do cheat curls.
Do not swing up the weight.
Do not pretend you are Superman.
Do not do those stupid roider arm workouts.
Make sure you do squats. This will help to raise the growth hormone levels in your body to help you get bigger arms. No kiddingâ€”give it a try for a few months and you will see the difference.
One good indicator of over training with your arms is the measurement of them. Measure your arm in the morning before you workout and then the morning afterwards. If the arm is the same size, you are good to go. If the arm is larger, then great. If the arm is one-quarter inch smaller, you are pushing them too hard.
Now I know I have you a lot of information and advice. Even the most careful and conscientious gym goer can have an injury.
If you are injured, then you can’t train. Thus, no big arms. I will address some common arm injuries and some ways to protect yourself from being injured.
1. Keep track of what you do in the gym. If you try a new exercise and the day after you hurt in the wrists or elbow, then don’t keep doing that exercise. Trust me I do it all the time.
2. Tendonitis of the triceps or tennis elbow is a serious condition (pain around the elbow area that extends up or down the upper and lower arm). This can keep you out of the gym and off your routines for a long time. Your triceps do not like fast negatives or sudden jolts. So, you must be aware of sudden shocks to the triceps. So make sure you lower the weight and do not jerk any weight up or down. Some of the forearm flexors extend and clamp into the elbow area. Having your wrists bent can cause pain in that area. So keep your wrists straight. It is always a good idea that if you can wrap your thumb around the bar when doing triceps, you do it. This helps to keep the wrists straight, thus preventing strain on the tendons.
3. Wrist pain is another common problem. Keep the wrists straight with the thumb around the bar as you do with your fingers. Whenever possible, use wrist straps to take some stress off of your wrists. Avoid any exercise that bends the wrist in an uncomfortable position. As much as I like rope push downs for triceps, I have a fear of wrist injuries. Don’t wait until you are injured before you play it safe.
I hope I have shown you the way to the gun show. Now, go aheadâ€”make a muscle.
Ken Hunt is an AFI-certified trainer and owner of Steel Gym in New York City. Ken’s articles have been featured in The New York Times, Compete, Horizon Barcelona, La Cosmopolatina, Dignity, Men’s Fitness, Genre, HX, Stonewall News and EXIT South Africa, and he’s a frequent guest on Sirius OutQ Radio. Ken also travels the country lecturing on physical fitness and sharing his workout secrets. He is currently finishing his new book â€œThe Hunt for Fitness,â€ and working on a new cable TV project. Steel Gym has been named one of the top five gyms in the U.S. by Muscle and Fitness Magazine. Steel is also ranked as the “#1 Gym in New York” by the American Fitness Institute for “cost, cleanliness, equipment and service,” and has been called “the last real gym left in New York” by famed bodybuilder Victor Martinez. For the second year in a row Steel was awarded both the â€œTalk Of The Town Awardâ€ for outstanding customer service, and received the â€œNew York Awardâ€ for physical fitness. The gym is located at 146 W. 23rd St, New York, NY 212.352.9876