Fill out your tees in time for summer with workouts, wisdom and strong-arm tactics to grow your guns and torch your triceps.
1. Tri Harder
Triceps training is fundamental to growing your arms. That’s because the three-headed triceps muscle comprises 75 per cent of your arm, so it follows that if you want bigger arms you need to pay close attention to it.
“When training your triceps you need to focus on making sure you target the long and short head of the triceps using movements such as push-downs and overhead extensions to really isolate these areas,” suggests PureGym trainer Peter Williams.
2. Get a Grip
“Any deviation in your grip will change the part of the muscle that’s being worked,” says Adam Kiani, trainer and CEO of PT Academy. “You see bodybuilders seemingly working the same muscle, but a subtle variation in their grip will mean they’re hitting different muscle fibres to ensure all-round development.”
For example, a manipulation technique used with dumbbells would be to switch from a neutral grip – holding the middle of the handle to target the biceps – to a reverse grip with palms facing down, which instead engages the deeper brachialis muscle in the upper arm.
3. Enter the Compound
“Your biceps and triceps are the secondary muscles involved in a lot of compound movements,” says Williams. “Your biceps are worked during most back exercises, while your triceps are recruited when you train chest. So even though it’s good to isolate your arms with more specific movements, compound lifts ensure they’re working, too.”
Remember, regular stimulation and recovery are the keys to muscle growth, so as long as your training has plenty of both you will be able to grow those guns.
4. Build with Bodyweight
Lifting weights will get those arm muscles moving in the right direction, but to naturally engage, challenge and grow, don’t neglect bodyweight training.
“It’s a myth that you can’t train certain muscle groups without having free weights, and biceps are a classic example of that,” says Kiani. “My go-to finisher drill with clients is ‘21s’: seven bottom-half reps, seven top-half reps and seven full reps. These can be done with dumbbell curls, but they’re equally effective with chin-ups or press-ups. Triceps can be trained the same way, by using dip bars.”
5. Divulge your Delts
Give due attention to deltoids and make sure you’re training shoulders once a week.
“Many gym-goers follow split routines – working two muscle groups each session – but overlook the shoulders, considering them as a secondary group,” warns Kiani. The negative effects of that can be front delts that are bigger than the side or rear delts, or under-developed trapezius muscles.
“It’s not only aesthetically displeasing,” continues Kiani, “but it highlights how the shoulders are intrinsically linked to other muscles in the arms and back, and deserve equal attention.”
6. Double Up
Supersets are the perfect way to blitz your muscles in double-quick time. For a biceps and triceps superset, pair incline hammer curls with dips, or EZ bar skull-crushers with EZ bar curls.
Supersets have the effect of pumping the muscles – encouraging the rush of blood to the worked area – and allowing you to be more efficient in the gym.
7. Nail your Nutrition
Along with protein, big arm muscles require essential nutrients, so spend as much time in the kitchen as you do the weights room to get the results you need.
US research shows that, for maximum muscle growth, you should feed on fibre to repair torn muscles and build new tissue rapidly. Porridge, peanut butter and fresh fruit are good choices.
8. Supplement for Size
Ensuring muscles are healthy enough to reach their full growing potential means fuelling effectively. First and foremost, that’s about following a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, but you might also want to think about supplementing real-food meals with some muscle-building extras.
Protein shakes are the obvious choice, but other supps can also help. One study published in the Journal for the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that a mix of beta alanine, arginine and creatine prior to training contributes to increased muscle mass.
9. Up the Frequency
The muscles in your arms are small (no offence) compared to the likes of your back and legs. That means they can recover faster, so you can train them more regularly. The more you can stimulate a muscle, the more likely it is grow, so working your arms more than once a week is a good idea.
“You can afford to train arms up to three times a week,” says Williams, “either alone or as part of another session.”
10. Use the Force
Set the bench to the decline position for drills like triceps extensions to provide a whole new challenge to your arm muscles. As you lower the weight, the forearms drop lower than parallel to the floor, targeting those triceps with a direct hit.
Decline dumbbell bench press and barbell triceps extensions will also be taken up a notch when you add gravity to the mix like this.
Words: Rob Kemp