Here is a question I received:
I do as you do- train less during the Winter months- actually for chest and back I almost only do 3-4 sets of Incline smith machine press and pull-downs, my chest and back grow from that- I can`t button my shirt after that. But my arms won`t grow. Would the conclusion be to train them as little as chest and back? Or to “specialize” on them like you do during “off-time”?
Your biceps and triceps will grow if you are able to isolate them during each set. In order to do this, you should not try to use a heavy weight but should be able to get 10 to 12 reps in good form. Let’s take curling for example. When you do barbell curl the heavier you go the more you bring your front deltoids into play. They are working hard anyway when you do curls but when you go heavy and rock your body slightly on each rep cheating the weight up you also do a great deal of back, trap, and forearm work along with biceps. The effect gets spread out, not localized, and your need isolation to target the biceps. The surrounding muscles can rob biceps of the stimulation they need. In order for biceps to grow you have to get a pump on every set. Here’s the rules I follow:
The smaller the muscle group the higher the reps each set and the fewer the total number of sets. Biceps are a small muscle group, so they don’t need a lot of sets, but each set has to be to a maximum pump. If you keep doing reps beyond what you normally do, say you push your reps into the 15 to 20 range, you will get a burning sensation by the end of the set. This is very desirable for definition as well as growth. Then during the first minute after finishing the set you will feel your biceps blow up to new dimensions.
It’s important to keep your wrists straight and supinate your wrist (turn it outward as the weight goes up). This is best done with dumbbells making dbs the best way to curl aside from pulley work. Also do not curl past the point of tension which is reached at about 3/4 of the way up in the positive phase of the curl. And do not turn your wrist inward as you curl as this transfers the load to forearms. Do these things and your feel it more in your biceps.
Triceps are a bigger muscle group than biceps so you can lower the reps, say 10 to 15 range, and get a burn at the end of each set. The key to triceps and biceps growth is to get a fantastic pump with each set. With forearms I always liked to do ultra high reps in the 25 to 30 range using a rapid rhythmic motion with no slow negative.
My policy is the more peripheral a muscle is the higher reps it gets; thus, calves and forearms get the highest number of reps (15 to 30 reps per set) biceps gets high reps in the 12 to 20 range, triceps in the 10 to 15 range.
My current arm routine in which I find myself growing is two exercise three sets each working up in weight doing 20, 15, 12 reps per set for biceps = a total of 6 sets for biceps, three exercises for triceps working up in weight each set for 15, 12, 10 reps for a total of 9 sets for triceps, and two exercises two sets of 15 to 30 reps for forearms. You don’t need a lot of sets for arms to make them grow but you must get a pump on every set. If not keep doing reps until you are experiencing a burn and then stop.
Your arms should be a little sore at least the day following a workout. If they are not but other bigger body-parts are sore, then you are using weights too heavy and cheating on your reps especially the last few reps of each set. So, lighten up and pump your arms. Learn to concentrate deeply and feel it in your arms when you are training them. Will massive amount of blood to flow into your arms which keep increasing in girth.
You don’t need lots of sophisticated equipment to grow your arms. In my new Let’s Grow book I’ve included a routine where all you need is one dumbbell to thoroughly work your bis and tris. I did it in 1976 training for the Mr. Olympia and my arms got better than ever. So, find two or three biceps exercises that feel good to you, three or four triceps exercises, and two forearm movements and you have all you need to create well developed arms.