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How To Use Compound Exercises To Build Strength and Muscle

Kyran Doyle

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compound exercises

You’ve probably heard that compound exercises are a great way to stack on muscle and increase your strength.

If you’re looking to gain strength there is no question that your workout should be featured heavily with compound movements.

If you are looking to build muscle and put on size some argue that isolation movements are safer and will get you the same results.

In this article you’ll learn the pros and cons of compound exercises and whether they fit your fitness goals. We’ll also cover some of the best compound exercises to use in your workouts.

 

What is a Compound Exercise?

deadlift

A compound exercise is a movement that uses two or more joints and muscle groups to complete the lift.

So for example a deadlift involves the ankles, knees and hip. The deadlift is a whole body movement but the quads, glutes, hamstrings, traps and rhomboids are responsible for the majority of the load.

Compare this to a movement like a preacher curl. With the preacher curl the only joint that is moving is the elbow and the purpose of the exercise is to isolate the bicep muscle.

So a deadlift would be considered a compound exercise whereas a preacher curl wouldn’t.

 

Compound Exercise Benefits

compound exercise squatCompound exercises lay a foundation of strength and muscle that will cary across into any other activity you are engaging in.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re working out is misunderstanding the importance of compound exercises.

Heck, I even made this mistake when I started out.

I used to follow the traditional bodybuilding magazine advice that would recommend doing lots of high rep isolation exercises in my workouts.

I did start to see an improvement in my physique but it wasn’t quite where I wanted to be.

Now I have changed my workouts to focus more heavily on compound movements that allow me to improve my strength and as a result build more muscle.

Here are a few reasons why compound exercises should be the main exercises you focus on in your workouts.

 

They train many muscle groups at once:

The first big benefit of compound exercises is that they allow you to train multiple muscle groups in the one movement. This means you can do less sets of different exercises and make better results.

A workout routine based around compound exercises is much quicker than one that requires you to do isolation movements for each muscle group. The more muscle groups that you hit in the one movement the more overall strength and muscle you will build from that exercise. That is why the deadlift is such a great exercise.

 

They allow you to lift heavier weights

Because you are using multiple muscle groups compound exercises give you the ability to lift heavier weights.

This will help grow your strength through the roof. Lifting heavier weights also allows you to progressively overload your muscles better.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.

Progressive overload is the key to getting bigger and stronger. If you don’t continue to subject your muscles to increasing amounts of stress you will stay the same.

It’s that simple, keep getting stronger and lifting heavier or you won’t continue to get bigger.

 

Improves Intermuscular coordination.

intermusclular coordination

Human kinetics gives a good definition of intermuscular coordination.

“In a sedentary person, when motor neurons discharge their electrical impulses, they do so in a disorderly fashion. The muscle fibers contract in a random, and therefore inefficient, way. Through training, these discharges become synchronized. The fibers begin contracting in a coordinated manner. Muscles become more efficient. You can achieve this by doing weight training exercises with a weight that is close to your repetition maximum.”

Compound exercises require multiple muscles to work together to perform a lift. As you train them they begin to become more efficient at moving the weight. This allows you to lift heavier weights without requiring more strength.

This is great if want your workouts in the gym to enhance other areas of your life too. If you play a sport or just want to be more athletic and functional outside of the gym, improving your intermuscular coordination will help with that.

Think of it this way. Which person do you think is going to be more athletic overall.

Somebody that trains with heavy deadlifts and squats?

Or the person that spends most of there time on the machines doing leg curls.

The deadlift is an exercise that mimics movements that you will do in your day to day life and strengthens and coordinates your legs, back and arms.

Isolation movements can help to train one muscle group but in real life it doesn’t matter if one muscle group is strong if you have other muscle groups that aren’t as strong you won’t be able to perform as effectively.

That’s why some of the big muscular guys at the gym can seem like they aren’t very athletic at all. Often they move around awkwardly almost like a robot between the machines.

This is because training one muscle group at a time doesn’t teach multiple muscle groups to coordinate their contractions and firing rates, which is how muscles work in real life.

 

Heavy Compound Training Is Key

If you are looking to get stronger and put on more muscle than lifting heavy is vitally important.

A good workout program will focus on 70-80% compound movements. Isolation exercises still have a place in workout routines however the main focus should be on heavy compound movements.

Of those compound movements best strength results can be seen at 80-85% of your 1rm.

This might sound like a big change if you have based your workouts around chasing a pump, by doing drop sets, supersets and other variations.

It was for me when I changed.

I now focus on the 4-6 rep range and focus on getting stronger every session. This has helped me to gain size and strength.

If you want to build muscle and strength you need to focus your workouts around heavy compound exercises.

Try it and see the results for yourself.

 

Best Compound Exercises

The following is a list of compound exercises that you should think about including in your workouts.

 

Squat

squat compound movement

The Squat is a full body compound exercise. Like the deadlift the squat is one of the best compound movements you can perform. It works more muscles with heavier weight than other popular exercises.

The squat works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, core and back. Although the squat is thought of as a compound exercise for the legs it actually has benefits for much more than just the legs.

The barbell back squat is the most common form on squat performed in the gym. The barbell allows you to load up on the weight and squat heavy.

Proper squat form is key to avoiding knee and back pain and staying injury free. Make sure you go all the way down until your hips are below your knees.  Push your knees out so they’re in line with your feet and make sure they don’t buckle in when you stand up. Brace your core and keep your back neutral, don’t let it round down.

 

Deadlift

compound exercise deadlift

The deadlift is another full body compound exercise and is probably the best one you can do as it involves just about every joint and major muscle group in the body.

The main muscles worked in this lift are the posterior chain. The posterior chain is made up of the muscles on the backside of your body: glutes, hamstrings and back muscles. Because of this the deadlift is often thought of as a compound exercise for the back.

However pretty much every other muscle in the body is active in assisting with this lift.

There are a lot of variations of deadlift that work slightly different muscles.

Conventional deadlift form starts with the weight on the ground. Grip the bar with your hands on the outside of your legs. Lift the bar to your knee height, then lock your hips and knees to finish. Return the weight to the floor by sliding your hips back and while bending your legs.

The deadlift is a safe exercise when done correctly. If proper form isn’t used you can leave yourself at risk of getting hurt. Make sure you start with lighter weights and work your way up, focusing on perfect form on each rep.

The best way to increase your deadlift is to improve your form. Like we talked about earlier with intermuscular coordination, the more efficient you are at lifting the weight the heavier the weights you will be able to lift.

 

Bench Press

chest exercises

A staple in every guys chest workout,  the bench press is one of the best upper body mass building exercises you can perform.

Working the pecs, lats, shoulders, triceps and even legs to a small degree the bench press deserves its spot at the top of the pecking order for upper body compound exercises.

Like all compound exercises form is key to making gains on the bench press.

Take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip, retract your shoulder blades back and down. This will create a small arch in your back. Plant your feet into the ground, brace your core and you are ready to begin the lift.

 

Military Press

military press compound exercise

The military press or overhead press is one of the best shoulder exercises that you can do.

It also hits the triceps and works the back and core when done standing.

A common problem people have with the military press is pushing the weight up and out in front of them. You want to push the weight up and directly above your head to perform this lift with correct form.

See the example images below. Start with the bar on your chest and then push the bar up and over you head. Make sure you don’t lean too far backwards during the movement.

military press

 

Row

 

barbell row

Wether it’s with a barbell, dumbbell or cable it’s a compound exercise.

The main muscles targeted are the back with involvement from the forearms and biceps.

To perform the barbell row set the barbell up in a rack so it is raised off the floor. Plant your feet with a sight bend in your knees. Keeping your back flat, lean forward until you’re on an angle that is comfortable. Your flexibility will have an impact on this angle. Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and row it up and towards your hips.

 

Lunge

barbell lunge

The lunge is a great compound exercise for your lower body.

The lunge works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. To add weight you can add a barbell to your back or perform the lift with dumbbells in each of your hands.

Focus on keeping your front leg perpendicular with the floor and not letting your front knee push out over your toes.

 

Leg Press

leg press compound movement

The leg press allows you to push a large amount of weight in a safe way. As a compound exercise the leg press trains all major leg muscles during the lift.

The main muscles under tension are glutes, hamstrings and quads. The higher you place your feet on the platform the more glute activation you will get and the less work your quads will do.

Make sure you don’t lock out your legs at the top of the movement as this puts the strain directly on your knee joint and not on your quads where you want it.

 

Pull Ups

pull up compound movement

Pull ups are a great bodyweight compound exercise. The advantage of the pull up is it can be done anywhere you have a bar.

Training the chin up will work your back and arms slightly.

Grip the bar wider than shoulder width apart and pull your chest up towards the bar squeezing with your back as you do. Lower yourself to a dead hang and then repeat.

To continue improving with this exercise you can use a dip belt to add weight and work your way up in weight.

 

Dips

chest training principles

Dips are an awesome compound exercise that will train your chest and triceps.

There are two slight variations in movements of dips depending on whether you want to emphasis your chest or triceps.

Chest Variation

Grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip, let your elbows flare out and lean forward. Brace your core to prevent swinging and to maintain proper position throughout the exercise. Lower your body until you feel a stretch in the chest. To raise push through your chest back to the top.

Triceps Variation

Grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Keep your elbows tucked in by your sides and allow your body to hang straight up and down. Lower your body until your arms make a 90 degree angle and push through the triceps to raise.

 

The Final Word On Compound Exercises

Compound exercises should make up the majority of the exercises you do at the gym.

If you want to improve your athletic ability (run faster, jump higher be more explosive and powerful.) Then compound exercises will benefit you much more than isolation.

If your goal is to improve your whole body strength then compound exercises are the best choice for you.

If you want build more muscle and look the best you ever have. You’ll achieve this the quickest by sticking to mostly compound movements and adding a few isolation exercises when necessary. Make sure the majority of your sets are coming from compound exercises.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

The Best Chest Workout

Push Pull Legs Workout

 

Whats your thoughts on compound exercises? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Training

Ultimate Tricep Workouts – 4 Exercises for Serious Size!

Kyran Doyle

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tricep workouts

If you are looking for workouts to build bigger and stronger triceps then this is the article for you.

Most guys start training at the gym chasing bigger arms, and that usually means doing all sorts of bicep curl variations.

What most people don’t realise is that the bulk of the arms isn’t actually made up by the biceps.

In fact it’s the triceps that makes up much more of the size of your arms.

So if you are looking for bigger arms, it’s the triceps that you want to develop.

This image highlights my point pretty clearly.

tricep exercises

 

In this article we are going to break down exactly how you can build big, horseshoe triceps.

Before we jump into the workouts it is helpful to have an understanding of the tricep muscles so we can get the best results when training them.

 

A Breakdown of the Tricep Muscles

triceps workouts for mass

 

The Triceps Brachii or triceps is a three headed muscle group that forms a horseshoe shape and makes up the entire back side of your upper arm.

triceps muscle breakdown

Looking at this picture you can see that when each of the three heads are developed they create a horseshoe shape on the back of your arm.

Sadly, the biceps are usually given the focus in most people’s workouts.

The triceps play an important role in stabilising the shoulder. Therefore underdeveloped triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and overcompensation of other muscles.

The lateral head is the largest of the three heads which means it develops the fastest and has the greatest overall impact to the look of your triceps.

However a good tricep workout will develop all 3 heads to give you the full horseshoe shape that makes your arms look big from all angles.

 

Tricep Training Principles

When you ask someone “what’s the best way to train your triceps” you can get a lot of answers.

Some advise you to focus on high reps to get a pump and really feel the burn.

Others say you need to hit your triceps multiple times a week to get real growth.

Then there are the people that say simply doing a lot of heavy compound pressing movements will grow your triceps and you don’t need to train them directly.

With all of this confusion out there it can be difficult to really understand what you should be doing in your tricep workouts.

What I’ve found works best is a combination of the above. The best way to grow your arms is through heavy compound lifting and directly training them with both high and low rep training. Like all muscle groups heavy weightlifting is key to maximising muscle growth.

When it comes to building lean muscle there are two key factors:

1. Performing the right exercises.

Performing the right exercises in your tricep workouts is very important. Simply because some exercises are better at progressively overloading your triceps than others.

For most people it will be necessary to directly train your triceps to get the size and definition you are after. Heavy pressing will help to build the triceps and is a good foundation however it works best when accompanied by some direct training of the triceps too.

Heavy compound exercises are the key to adding strength and size to your triceps. As a general rule of thumb barbell exercises are going to be more effective than machine exercises.

2. Achieving progressive overload on your muscles.

Achieving progressive overload in your training is the only way that you are going to see results on your triceps.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

 

Volume

best tricep workout routine

When it comes to training the triceps (or any muscle group for that matter) getting the right volume is key. This becomes even more important when you are focusing on heavy weightlifting.

As a general rule of thumb the heavier the reps you’re doing the fewer you can perform each week.

Makes sense right!

Heavier weights mean you need to give your muscles more time to recover or you can risk overtraining.

Usually when training with heavy weights the optimal volume is 60 to 70 reps every 5 to 7 days.

This rule isn’t just for the triceps but every other muscle group as well.

When it comes to triceps you need to take into account the amount of work they do in your other pushing workouts. Your triceps are heavily involved in benching and overhead, shoulder pressing.

If you are doing a heavy chest workout and additional heavy overhead pressing each week, then performing an additional 60 reps of heavy tricep training is going to be too much.

If you fit the criteria above around 30 to 40 heavy reps of tricep training per week along with the right diet should be enough to stimulate growth without pushing yourself into the danger area of overtraining.

 

Best Tricep Exercises

tricep exercises

As we talked about earlier in this article, the triceps make up the bulk of the arms mass. So if it’s bigger arms you’re wanting you need to be hitting your triceps hard.

When it comes to exercises that build serious mass in your triceps you need to forget what the bodybuilding magazines have told you.

You don’t need to do twenty different isolation exercises mixed with supersets, drop sets and other tactics to “keep your muscles guessing.”

There are a few tricep exercises that bring in the bulk of the results when training your triceps.

Here are the best exercises to build bigger triceps:

 

Close Grip Bench

Don’t mistake the bench press for just a chest exercise. The close grip variation activates your triceps heavily as well.

The close grip bench allows you to safely push heavy amounts of weights and will help your chest a bit too. Remember if you want to build muscle you need to lift heavy.

Quick tip: When performing the close grip bench grab the bar with a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip.

 

Dip

There are two main dip variations that you can do to target the triceps. Both are good exercises and can be interchanged depending on the equipment you have available to you.

The first variation of dip requires a dip station like the one in the video below.

This exercise can be altered to target either the chest or the triceps.

To keep the focus on your triceps make sure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and keep your body relatively upright.

The further you lean forward the more emphasis is put on your chest and shoulders in the movement. We don’t want to do this for our tricep workout.

This is how you do it:

The second variation of triceps dips is on a bench like this:

 

Skullcrushers

Scull crushers are a great exercise for activating the triceps and emphasises the medial head.

You can perform the movement with the bar coming down to your forehead or down behind your head for a different angle on the arms.

This has been a staple in many tricep workouts because it gets results.

 

Overhead triceps press (french press)

Another great exercise to really hit the long head of the triceps hard. The overhead triceps press allows you to safely press heavy weight and progressively overload your triceps.

 

Tricep Pushdown

You’ve probably seen this done a lot by people at the gym. It’s by far one of the most popular triceps exercises out there and it is pretty good for isolating the triceps.

I like to save this exercise for the end of my workouts after I have done some other heavier lifts first.

The Best Tricep Workout Routine

The keys to a good tricep workout are:

  • It hits each of the heads of the tricep.
  • It’s made up of heavy lifts, focusing on progressive overload.

The lateral head of the tricep is going to be where you get the most mass out of the triceps. Exercises like dips, close grip bench and tricep pushdown are all good exercises to target the lateral head.

With that said you don’t want to overlook the other two heads either.

Skullcrushers and overhead pressing are good exercises to target the long and medial heads.

If your workout hit all three heads of the triceps the second thing you need to do is focus on lifting heavy and achieving progressive overload in your workouts.

Achieving progressive overload in your workouts is the best way to see results on your triceps.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger your triceps won’t keep getting bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

Do this tricep workout ever 5 to 7 days along with a correct diet and you will see results on your triceps.

Close Grip Bench Press

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Weighted Dips

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets 4-6 reps

The aim is to start with a weight that you can do 4-6 reps with. Once you hit 6 reps, the next set you up the weight and aim to get 4+ reps with the heavier weight.

This way you are always progressing in your workouts.

 

Final Word On Tricep Workouts

Training triceps is the same as training any other body part. If you want to get results and see that horseshoe shape on the back of your arms you need to:

  • Do the Right Exercises
  • Achieve Progressive overload through heavy weightlifting
  • Do enough volume without overtraining
  • Eat right

Consistency is key. Stick with this workout for 2 months and you will see results on the back of your arms.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

Ultimate Arms Workout

The Best Forearm Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

What do you think of this tricep workout? Are there any other tricep exercises that you like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How To Achieve Muscle Hypertrophy [Get Bigger Muscles]

Kyran Doyle

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muscle hypertrophy training

Muscle Hypertrophy to put simply is the ability to build and gain muscle mass. It’s probably the reason you started going to the gym. Well that and losing some body fat.

There are lots of different voices out there sometimes spreading opposing viewpoints on the best way to achieve muscle hypertrophy.

  • Some people say lifting heavy is the key to building the most muscle.
  • Others say your muscles don’t know weight they only know time under tension.
  • While another trainer will say you need to trick your muscles with different workouts each session to keep your muscles guessing.

I don’t blame you if you’re scratching your head a little.

Muscle hypertrophy is a complicated subject but in this article we are going to break down the fundamentals that make muscles grow.

So if you are looking to build bigger muscles then keep reading.

 

What is Hypertrophy

muscle hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is the fancy term for muscle growth. Without it you can not grow muscle size or strength. So whether you’re looking to get bigger or stronger you need to be focusing on hypertrophy.

There are two types of hypertrophy:

– Myofibrillar hypertrophy, which focuses more on increased myofibril number and size.

The “myo” stands for muscle and the “fibril” is a threadlike cellular structure.

Myofibrils are made up of proteins and are what allow us to contract our muscles.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is an increase in the number and size of myofibrils in your muscle fibres.

This increase in myofibrils increases the force at which you can contract your muscles.

 

– Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which focuses more on expansion of the sarcoplasm inside the muscle.

Sarco stands for “flesh and plasmic refers to plasma.

Sarcoplasm is the plasmic parts of muscles cells that include proteins, glycogen, water, collagen and other substances.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the fluid in the muscle.

This picture shows the difference between the two types of hypertrophy.

hypertrophy

These both sound daunting and will be revisited later, but they basically refer to strength gain and size gain.

There is a lot of conjecture about whether or not sarcoplasmic hypertrophy actually happens and wether you can directly target it with specific exercises. Various studies have been done but none have really been conclusive enough to confirm one way or another. If you would like to see a breakdown of the studies you should check out this article by Stronger by Science.

The big argument for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy comes about when comparing bodybuilders to powerlifters. How is it that a 280lb bodybuilder get out squatted by a 180lb strength trainer.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is usually used to explain this. The bodybuilder simply has more non functional sarcoplasmic hypertrophy making his muscles bigger but not stronger as it is the myofibrils that are responsible for contraction of the muscle.

That sounds like a fair explanation right?

The argument against that is that strength training requires a large skill component like any sport. Strength athletes are squatting heavier loads more often than a bodybuilder and therefore are more skilled at that performing that lift. In fact a lot of bodybuilders that switch to powerlifting can rapidly increase there numbers in all of there lifts.

So that leaves thing up in the air a little bit.

As there are two types of hypertrophy both definitions will be looked at here.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is what most people will think of when it comes to the idea of hypertrophy, this is where the size of the muscle increases and not necessarily with an increase in performance or strength.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is where the muscle’s myofibrils increase in size and number which is responsible for the contraction of the muscle (strength.)

You might think that someone training for size would only need sarcoplasmic, whereas someone training for strength would only need myofibrillar.

However, a bigger muscle has far more potential to gain strength whereas a stronger muscle can deal with more volume (which we’ll look at later) which then means that size gains can come more easily.

So, you can see how they work in together.

Any kind of strength training plan will include some kind of hypertrophy, whether that be in a specified block, usually lasting 3-8 weeks, a specific day, often seen during undulating periodisation, or the plan could almost purely based around hypertrophy (such as in bodybuilding or muscle gaining plans).

The accepted consensus is that sets comprised of repetitions of 1-6 are for strength, whereas sets of 6-12 would be more for hypertrophy – as well as the repetition range being adjusted, you would also find the intensity or the weight itself being adjusted in order to fit in to this scheme or range.

However, it has been shown that strength work can lead to as much muscle growth as bodybuilding hypertrophy work – which then leaves some of the traditional thinking around resistance training up in the air.

Sets of 8 is a very simplistic way of looking at hypertrophy as you could easily do 8 sets of 3 (rather than 3 sets of 8) and still end up with the same volume, however the intensity would be vastly different. This would make a phase like this more of an intensity block than a hypertrophy one.

Clearly this needs more explaining, so let’s take a look at the factors involved in programming, and programming hypertrophy specifically.

These factors will include:-

  • Volume.
  • Intensity.
  • Frequency.
  • Fatigue, and
  • Your overall goal.

 

Volume (Progressive Overload).

muscle hypertrophy training

Volume and progressive overload has been proven to be one of the largest factors when it comes to gaining strength or size.

The really simple way to determine volume is to figure out the weight lifted throughout a training session and it is simply:

The weight x sets x reps = total weight or volume.

So, if you were to do 3 sets of 8 with 100kg your total volume would be 2400kg. if you were to go with a simple progressive overload, your next session might simply be 3 sets of 8 with 102.5kg, taking your volume to 2460kg. You can see how the volume can easily be built up in this manner.

 

Intensity.

Intensity is the qualitative aspect to training, whereas volume is the quantitative one.  The intensity depends on the following:

  • Load
  • Speed of performance
  • Variation of rest between sets/reps.

In terms of strength and size training the main point here will be the first one – the load or weight that you are using.

You now know that your sessions should be within the 40-70 repetition range. The intensity range is going to be dependent upon your goals, a strength athlete should have 66% – 75% of their training in the 1-6 rep max range.

Whereas a hypertrophy athlete should be 66% – 75% in the 6-12 rep max range.

 

Frequency.

The frequency is where the training can differ the most between individuals. Not everyone has the same goals or the same time available, and what works for you as an individual now might not work for you 6 months down the line. Meaning that your training may need overhauling at various points.

When your training emphasises heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

The general rule of thumb is:

The heavier the reps, the less you can do each week.

Makes sense right.

Heavier weights require more recovery. This means that you will be doing less reps and sets than you would be with a lighter weight program.

 

Fatigue.

Fatigue is basically the amount of tiredness you build up both within a session and within a training programme. The more work you do, the less energy you will have to do it, and obviously this means that if fatigue builds up you will have little energy to actually train.

The idea of intra-session fatigue dispersing is generally correct. However, this is only in relation to acute fatigue – i.e.  fatigue built up over a short period of time and work.

The other, nastier, type of fatigue is chronic fatigue, this builds up and lasts over a period of days, weeks, and sometimes even, months.

To avoid the negative side effects of chronic fatigue you can utilise a deload week ever 4-6 weeks or as you feel necessary.

Acute fatigue will not always dissipate in between sessions, particularly if you train with a good amount of frequency.

A failure to manage fatigue will result in a drop in performance and adaptation and will also likely increase your risk of injury.

The volume recommendations above are within a large range, and each person will be able to deal with volume differently, when it comes to finding your correct volume you will need to figure out the maximum recoverable volume (MRV) for you as an individual.  Once you have figured out your own MRV you will be in a good stead for the rest of your training.

If you do find that you are becoming more and more fatigued then you can do a number of things, such as :-

    • Altering the type of lifts – more machine work than free weights would be less fatiguing.
    • Improve technique – making the movement smoother will limit the amount of energy expended

Studies had shown that of each of these factors of hypertrophy progressive overload is the most important for muscle growth.

So if you want to build muscle as quickly as possible you’ll want to make sure you are continually getting stronger.

I should also mention that in order to build muscle you have to be eating enough of the right foods. Performing a clean bulk is becoming a popular to eat enough calories to support hypertrophy while not putting on loads of fat

 

Your Goal.

arm workouts

As you can see above, there are different considerations for whether your goal is more strength gain or size gain. So you would need to adjust these factors in the way it says in order to suit you as an individual in terms of your goal, training level and the length of time with which you want to achieve it.

If your goal goes beyond just “get bigger,” or “get stronger,” then you will still need to incorporate these considerations.

 

Beginner.

If you are a beginner, it is probably worth going for some size initially for a couple of reasons –

      • Again, a bigger muscle has more potential for strength.
      • The higher repetition range literally means more practice for you to put yourself through.

This idea of practicing the movement is often forgotten as most people don’t think of the lifts as skills within themselves. Remember that improving technique leads to a less fatiguing workout, also.

 

Weight loss.

If you’re someone who has been training for a while and are looking to lose weight while also maintaining your strength then you would be best to focus more upon strength training – but you had better keep in mind that the more severe your weight loss goal the less likely you are to gain strength rather than simply maintain it.

In some cases such as if you were overweight then following a more size type of plan could be more beneficial to you. This would encourage more muscle mass to grow and also increase your chances of fat loss due to an improved metabolism.

 

Progression.

push pull legs routine

This section will cover progression – what it is, how to implement it and how to monitor it.

The most commonly known term in this area is ‘progressive overload.’ Which is where you will slowly increase your volume, or intensity (depending upon what phase of training you are in), in order to gradually improve your size or strength over a long period of time.

The simplest way to do this is to imagine you’re doing a strength routine where on week 1 you are doing 5×5 with 100kg – as you’ll know from above – the volume equates to 2500kg of volume. If you add 2.5kg to this each week for 4 weeks by the end you will be at 5×5 with 110kg which equals 2750kg of volume. In theory this would mean that you have added 10% to your volume and therefore also to your strength. 

The above progression example would be beneficial for a beginner lifter, however, a more experienced lifter may find that they can not make these gains in such a linear fashion.

This is where varying the type of training you do may come in.

 

Periodisation.

The example in the last section was a classic iteration of linear periodisation (increasing the weight the same amount week after week). If you find this stops being effective for yourself you may decide to try undulating periodisation.

This means that the volume and intensity is manipulated session to session, with an eye on the overall volume and intensity throughout the phase, in order to keep pushing the volume up and get the strength levels higher.

An example of this might be if you were benching three times a week. One day you could be doing 4 x 8 with 100kg, the second day might be 5×6 with 105kg, and the third maybe 6 x 4 with 110kg.

You can imagine that trying to do 8 reps with 110kg would be far more difficult than getting it for 4 reps, so to get around this you can do more sets of a smaller rep range.

 

Monitoring your progression.

The value of volume has been mentioned various times throughout this article so you can probably guess where this is going – a good way to measure your progress is to see how much volume you are doing at one point compared to an earlier one.

If you’re focusing more upon hypertrophy as a goal to get stronger then a simple way to test is to see if your 1 rep maximum has increased – or even just if you’re working weights have increased or feel easier. A 1 rep max test can be quite taxing on the body so make sure you appropriately programme yourself to do one.

If you’re training for hypertrophy for size you could measure to see if your muscles are getting bigger with a tape measure, visual reference or even your own bodyweight.

You could even programme in some AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) sets, this is where you have one set where you go to just before failure – that is do as many reps as you can without failing or your form giving in.

If one week, or phase, you can do more than the last then you are definitely improving.

 

Conclusion.

Hypertrophy is massive part of training and just human life in general. Without hypertrophy we wouldn’t get stronger, we wouldn’t get bigger and we’d always be weak. Learning how to manipulate and use it in order to reach your goals is always worth doing.

What do you think about muscle hypertrophy? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

References –

The Scientific Principles of Strength Training – Mike Israetel, Chad Wesley Smith, James Hoffman

The Muscle and Strength Pyramid Training – Eric Helms

 

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Training

The Best Forearm Workouts To Improve Grip Strength

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

forearm workouts

If you are looking for the best forearm exercises and tools to create a forearm workout that really works, then you’ve come to the right place.

Forearms are the often overlooked but incredibly necessary muscles of the arms.

From an aesthetic point of view, no physique is complete without a set of strong muscular forearms.

However your forearms are much more important than just looking good.

The forearms are the major muscles responsible for your grip strength, and if you’re looking to get stronger and build muscle you are going to need a strong grip to pull and push heavy loads.

Your grip strength is a vital component of any pulling exercise like the variations of deadlifts and rows. They also help to progress your pushing movements like bench and shoulder pressing as well.

Most good workouts revolve around a lot of heavy pulling and pushing exercises like the ever popular push pull legs routine. So if you want to progress in your other lifts and build muscle across your whole body you need to be paying attention to your forearms and grip strength.

In this article we’re going to break down exactly how to build your forearms so they not only look good but improve your grip strength so you can perform better in your other lifts.

 

Forearm Anatomy

Before we get into the exercises it is good to have an understanding of the anatomy of the forearms and how the muscles work together.

Your forearms are made up of a lot of smaller muscles that are divided into two main groups.

Extensor muscles are used for extension of the wrist and fingers and run down from the top side of your forearm to the back of your hand like this:

forearm anatomy extensor muscles

 

The flexion muscles are responsible for flexion at the wrist (bending wrist and fingers.)

The flexors are also responsible for the rotation of the wrist (the ability to turn your palm face up and face down.)

This is how the flexion muscles look:

anatomy of the forearm

 

How To Get Bigger Forearms

If you’re looking to build bigger forearms it’s actually pretty simple.

  1. Do a lot of heavy barbell pushing, pulling and curling.
  2. Do some additional forearm exercises if necessary.

If you are following a workout program that involves a lot of heavy compound movements you may find that you don’t actually need to do any additional exercises for your forearms.

For some people heavy back, chest and arm training can be enough to get the forearms they desire.

However if you find yourself struggling with grip strength or your forearms aren’t looking the way you want them to you may need to add in some additional forearm exercises.

While your grip strength will naturally progress with the rest of your training there are some good tools and exercises you can use to help progress your forearms faster.

 

Forearm Workout Tools

After looking at the anatomy of the forearms it is pretty clear to see that the best way to train them is generally through gripping exercises.

There are some simple tools available that can let you train your forearms whenever you like.

 

Hand Grippers

forearm workout tools

Hand grippers are a great tool to train your forearms. The good thing about hand grippers is that you can get them in increasing resistance which is the key to increasing strength and muscle mass.

 

Wrist Curler

 

grip strength tool

 

The wrist curler is a simple device that allows you to add weight plates to increase the resistance. To use the tool simply hold your arms out in front of yourself and use your wrists to roll up the rope around the bar. Once the weight reaches that top you can reverse the movement and unwind the weight. You’ll feel the burn in your forearms and increasing the resistance is easy as you can simply add more weight plates to the bottom.

 

Fat Gripz

fat grips workout tool

Thick bar training is another way to add more emphasis to your forearms in your workouts. You can snap these onto the bar for any exercise you like. I find it works best on pushing and curling exercises as heavy pulling exercises already incorporate a lot of grip strength.

 

Best Forearm Exercises

We’ve gone over some tools that you can use in your training to build your forearms. Now lets look at some different exercises in the gym that you can add to your forearm workouts.

 

Barbell Hold

This is a really simple exercise to do. As your forearms are the major muscles behind grip strength, training with static holds and other gripping exercises are the best way to bring your forearms up to speed.

This is how you perform a barbell hold.

Aim for 10-20 second holds. Once you hit 20 seconds you can add more weight and work your way back up to 20 seconds again.

 

Plate Pinch

The plate pinch is another grip strength exercise that works the forearms. Again aim for 10-20 second holds with these.

To increase the weight on plate pinches, instead of going for bigger plates you can add a third plate. This is explained in the video below:

 

Dumbbell Farmers Walk

The dumbbell farmers walk may look simple but you’ll soon realise that it lights your forearms on fire.

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

Aim to walk around 30 steps per set and progress in weight as you get stronger.

 

Forearm Workout

Forearm muscles are very stubborn but you don’t want to overtrain them to the detriment of your other workouts. I like to throw in some additional forearm exercises at the ends of some of my workouts.

If you are looking to improve your grip strength without hurting your performance on other lifts follow these guidelines:

  • End one of your normal workouts with one of the above forearm exercises
  • Use fat gripz on your pushing and curling exercises

Depending on how many days per week you are training your forearm workouts might look slightly different but here is an example of a 5 day split following the above guidelines.

Day 1 – Chest with oversized grips

Day 2 – Back with Plate Pinches

Day 3 – Legs with barbell holds

Day 4 – Arms with oversized grips

Day 5 – Shoulders with oversized grips

Optional – rest days using hand exerciser tools.

 

Final Word On Forearm Workouts

If you are looking to get bigger and stronger your forearms are an integral part of the picture. Having a stronger grip will benefit you in a lot of your other movements.

Some people might not need to put much extra work into their forearms if they are following a good weightlifting routine.

But if you find your forearms needing a bit of extra attention, keep it simple and follow the exercises above to bring your forearms back up to speed.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

Ultimate Arms Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this forearm workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Continue Reading

Training

Ultimate Arm Workout – Arm Exercises That Add Serious Size

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

arm exercises

If you’re looking for an arm workout to build some serious pipes then this is the article for you.

Most guys start going to the gym to get bigger arms and a bigger chest. I’m betting bicep curls where one of the first exercises you ever did!

Am I right?

While arms make up just a small part of a well developed physique, there’s no way around it every guy wants a set of big, well defined arms.

After all your arms are one of the first things that get noticed in your day to day life. Your physique isn’t complete without a set of big arms.

In this article we are going to break down the best ways to build your biceps, triceps and forearms. We’ll go over the best arm exercises and put together a workout that will get you some serious arm gains, fast!

Before we can jump into the workouts it is helpful to have an understanding of how the arm muscles work together so we can get the best results when training them.

 

A Breakdown of the Arm Muscles

arm muscles

 

It’s easy to make the common mistake of when you are thinking about bigger arms to think biceps.

I remember thinking big biceps mean big arms.

Well, that’s not actually the case.

The triceps actually make up a lot more of the overall size of the arm than the biceps do.

You can see in a picture like this, where the mass of the arms is held.

tricep workout

So if you’re really wanting to build arms that fill up your shirt sleeves then you need to put a lot of emphasis on the triceps.

 

Triceps Anatomy

The Triceps Brachii or triceps is a three headed muscle group that forms a horseshoe shape and makes up the entire back side of your upper arm.

triceps muscle breakdown

Sadly, the biceps are usually given the focus in most people’s workouts.

The triceps play an important role in stabilising the shoulder. Underdeveloped triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and overcompensation of other muscles.

Overdeveloped biceps and chest can lead to rounded shoulders and the closed off, semi hunched over look you sometimes see in gym goers that don’t train everything evenly.

 

Biceps Anatomy

The biceps brachii or biceps is a two headed muscle hence the “bi” in the name and looks like this:

anatomy of biceps

 

The biceps brachii has two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head is found on the outside of the arm and makes up most of the biceps.

The short head is located on the inside of the muscle.

Another muscle you should understand is the biceps brachialis. It’s a muscle that is found deeper than the biceps brachii and although it is less prominent, it does play a role in flexing the elbow. The brachialis also helps to push up the brachii which helps with the overall appearance of your arms.

biceps brachialis

 

Forearms

forearms anatomy

The forearms are like the calves of the arms. They are easy to overlook in training but if they’re underdeveloped it’s very obvious. Having a good set of forearms really rounds out the arm and enhances the appearance of your bi’s and tri’s.

Not to mention the carryover benefits strong forearms give to your other exercises. A large amount of compound movements require a strong grip. If your forearms aren’t up to scratch you aren’t going to be able to lift as much weight in other exercises which will cost you gains across all of your muscle groups.

The forearms are made up of a number of smaller muscles that run down into your hand.

Arm Training Principles

arm workouts

There are a lot of strategies out there when it comes to training your arms.

Some advise you to focus on high reps to get a pump and really feel the burn.

Others say you need to hit your arms multiple times a week to get real growth.

Then there are the people that say you don’t need to train your arms at all and simply doing a lot of compound movements will indirectly grow your arms.

With all of this confusion out there it can be difficult to really understand what you should be doing in your arm workouts.

What I’ve found works best is a combination of the above. The best way to grow your arms is through heavy compound lifting and directly training them with both high and low rep training. Like all muscle groups heavy weightlifting is key to maximising muscle growth.

When it comes to growing muscle there are two key factors:

  1. Performing the right exercises.
  2. Achieving progressive overload on your muscles.

Performing the right arm exercises is very important. Simply because some exercises are better at progressively overloading your muscles than others.

As a general rule of thumb barbell exercises are going to be more effective than machine exercises.

Achieving progressive overload in your workouts is the only way that you are going to see results on your arms.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

 

Volume

bicep exercises

When it comes to arm training getting the right volume is key. This becomes even more important when you are focusing on heavy weightlifting.

As a general rule of thumb the heavier the reps you’re doing the fewer you can perform each week.

Makes sense right!

Heavier weights mean you need to give your muscles more time to recover or you can risk overtraining.

Usually when training with heavy weights the optimal volume is 60 to 70 reps every 5 to 7 days. This is not just for arms but every muscle group in the body as well.

This is where it can get a little tricky for arms. Depending on how you are training the rest of your body will alter the amount of reps per week you will want to complete on your arms.

If you are doing a lot of heavy compound training for your chest and back then you will want to aim for a little less reps of your arms. This is because compound training involves your arms to train your other body parts too.

For example if you are doing heavy rows for your back there is also a lot of bicep involvement too. Heavy benching recruits a lot of tricep involvement etc.

If you are following the other workout plans we have laid out on this blog then you would want to aim for 30 to 40 reps per week on your arms.

 

Best Arm Exercises

arm exercises

I’ll break these exercises down into movements for biceps, triceps and forearms.

 

Bicep Exercises

There are dozens of different exercises that you can perform to target your biceps. However some are more effective than others.

Stick to these proven bicep builders in your workouts:

 

Barbell Curl

There’s a reason why the barbell curl is a staple in every bodybuilders routine. It’s damn good at building your biceps.

 

Dumbell Curl

A slight variation on the barbell curl that delivers great results. Single arm exercises don’t allow you to lift as much weight as their barbell counterparts but they do help to make sure you aren’t overly dominant in one arm.

Chin up

The chin up is a great functional bicep movement that allows you to target your biceps as well as your back. You can progress in this movement by adding weight to a dip belt as you get stronger.

 

Tricep Exercises

tricep exercises

As we talked about earlier in this article, the triceps make up the bulk of the arms mass. So if it’s bigger arms you’re wanting you need to be hitting your triceps hard.

Here are the best tricep exercises to build bigger arms:

Close Grip Bench

Don’t mistake this for just a chest exercise. The close grip bench activates your triceps heavily as well. The close grip bench allows you to safely push heavy amounts of weights and will help your chest a bit too.

When performing the close grip bench grab the bar with a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip.

 

Skullcrushers

Scull crushers are a great exercise for activating the triceps. You can perform the movement with the bar coming down to your forehead or down behind your head for a different angle on the arms.

Overhead triceps press (french press)

Another great exercise to really hit the triceps hard. The overhead triceps press allows you to safely press heavy weight and progressively overload the arm.

 

Tricep Pushdown

You’ve probably seen this done a lot by people at the gym. It’s probably one of the most popular triceps exercises out there and it is pretty good for isolating the triceps.

I like to do this at the end of my workouts after I have done some other heavier lifts first. You can try it out with a bar and a rope to see what you like best.

 

Dip

There are two variations of dip that you can do to target the triceps. Both are good exercises and can be interchanged depending on the equipment you have available to you.

The first variation of triceps dips is on a bench:

 

The second variation of dip requires a dip station like the one in the video below. To keep the focus on your triceps make sure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and keep your body relatively upright. The further you lean forward the more emphasis is put on your chest and shoulders in the movement. This is how you do it:

 

Forearms

Often your forearms don’t need a lot of direct work.

You see the forearms are used a lot in heavy strength training of your chest, back and arms. Simply having to grip and hold the barbell with a lot of weight on it is probably the best training you can do for your forearms and grip strength.

If you are following a workout program that is made up of mostly heavy compound exercises your forearms should be getting worked enough through your other training.

However if your other training isn’t mostly compound exercises or you feel you need to improve your grip strength the reverse curl is the exercise I would use to bring your forearms up to scratch:

 

Best Arm Workout

A good arms workout focuses on hitting all three heads of the triceps, the biceps brachii and brachialis as well as the forearms.

You should focus on heavy weightlifting with some higher rep work at the end of the workout.

Barbell Curl

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Dumbell Curl

3 sets 4-6 reps

Close Grip Bench

3 sets 4-6 reps

Weighted Dips

3 sets 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets 6-8 reps

 

Allow 2-3 minutes rest between each exercise so your muscles can fully recover. Perform this workout every 5-7 days to see the best results.

Remember progression is key in gaining muscle. Once you hit the top rep range for an exercise you need to increase weight. Then work with the new weight until you can hit the top reps range on a set and increase again.

 

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this arm workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Continue Reading

Training

Ultimate Arm Workout – Arm Exercises That Add Serious Size

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

arm exercises

If you’re looking for an arm workout to build some serious pipes then this is the article for you.

Most guys start going to the gym to get bigger arms and a bigger chest. I’m betting bicep curls where one of the first exercises you ever did!

Am I right?

While arms make up just a small part of a well developed physique, there’s no way around it every guy wants a set of big, well defined arms.

After all your arms are one of the first things that get noticed in your day to day life. Your physique isn’t complete without a set of big arms.

In this article we are going to break down the best ways to build your biceps, triceps and forearms. We’ll go over the best arm exercises and put together a workout that will get you some serious arm gains, fast!

Before we can jump into the workouts it is helpful to have an understanding of how the arm muscles work together so we can get the best results when training them.

 

A Breakdown of the Arm Muscles

arm muscles

 

It’s easy to make the common mistake of when you are thinking about bigger arms to think biceps.

I remember thinking big biceps mean big arms.

Well, that’s not actually the case.

The triceps actually make up a lot more of the overall size of the arm than the biceps do.

You can see in a picture like this, where the mass of the arms is held.

tricep workout

So if you’re really wanting to build arms that fill up your shirt sleeves then you need to put a lot of emphasis on the triceps.

 

Triceps Anatomy

The Triceps Brachii or triceps is a three headed muscle group that forms a horseshoe shape and makes up the entire back side of your upper arm.

triceps muscle breakdown

Sadly, the biceps are usually given the focus in most people’s workouts.

The triceps play an important role in stabilising the shoulder. Underdeveloped triceps can lead to muscle imbalances and overcompensation of other muscles.

Overdeveloped biceps and chest can lead to rounded shoulders and the closed off, semi hunched over look you sometimes see in gym goers that don’t train everything evenly.

 

Biceps Anatomy

The biceps brachii or biceps is a two headed muscle hence the “bi” in the name and looks like this:

anatomy of biceps

 

The biceps brachii has two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head is found on the outside of the arm and makes up most of the biceps.

The short head is located on the inside of the muscle.

Another muscle you should understand is the biceps brachialis. It’s a muscle that is found deeper than the biceps brachii and although it is less prominent, it does play a role in flexing the elbow. The brachialis also helps to push up the brachii which helps with the overall appearance of your arms.

biceps brachialis

 

Forearms

forearms anatomy

The forearms are like the calves of the arms. They are easy to overlook in training but if they’re underdeveloped it’s very obvious. Having a good set of forearms really rounds out the arm and enhances the appearance of your bi’s and tri’s.

Not to mention the carryover benefits strong forearms give to your other exercises. A large amount of compound movements require a strong grip. If your forearms aren’t up to scratch you aren’t going to be able to lift as much weight in other exercises which will cost you gains across all of your muscle groups.

The forearms are made up of a number of smaller muscles that run down into your hand.

Arm Training Principles

arm workouts

There are a lot of strategies out there when it comes to training your arms.

Some advise you to focus on high reps to get a pump and really feel the burn.

Others say you need to hit your arms multiple times a week to get real growth.

Then there are the people that say you don’t need to train your arms at all and simply doing a lot of compound movements will indirectly grow your arms.

With all of this confusion out there it can be difficult to really understand what you should be doing in your arm workouts.

What I’ve found works best is a combination of the above. The best way to grow your arms is through heavy compound lifting and directly training them with both high and low rep training. Like all muscle groups heavy weightlifting is key to maximising muscle growth.

When it comes to growing muscle there are two key factors:

  1. Performing the right exercises.
  2. Achieving progressive overload on your muscles.

Performing the right arm exercises is very important. Simply because some exercises are better at progressively overloading your muscles than others.

As a general rule of thumb barbell exercises are going to be more effective than machine exercises.

Achieving progressive overload in your workouts is the only way that you are going to see results on your arms.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym are usually the strongest.

 

Volume

bicep exercises

When it comes to arm training getting the right volume is key. This becomes even more important when you are focusing on heavy weightlifting.

As a general rule of thumb the heavier the reps you’re doing the fewer you can perform each week.

Makes sense right!

Heavier weights mean you need to give your muscles more time to recover or you can risk overtraining.

Usually when training with heavy weights the optimal volume is 60 to 70 reps every 5 to 7 days. This is not just for arms but every muscle group in the body as well.

This is where it can get a little tricky for arms. Depending on how you are training the rest of your body will alter the amount of reps per week you will want to complete on your arms.

If you are doing a lot of heavy compound training for your chest and back then you will want to aim for a little less reps of your arms. This is because compound training involves your arms to train your other body parts too.

For example if you are doing heavy rows for your back there is also a lot of bicep involvement too. Heavy benching recruits a lot of tricep involvement etc.

If you are following the other workout plans we have laid out on this blog then you would want to aim for 30 to 40 reps per week on your arms.

 

Best Arm Exercises

arm exercises

I’ll break these exercises down into movements for biceps, triceps and forearms.

 

Bicep Exercises

There are dozens of different exercises that you can perform to target your biceps. However some are more effective than others.

Stick to these proven bicep builders in your workouts:

 

Barbell Curl

There’s a reason why the barbell curl is a staple in every bodybuilders routine. It’s damn good at building your biceps.

 

Dumbell Curl

A slight variation on the barbell curl that delivers great results. Single arm exercises don’t allow you to lift as much weight as their barbell counterparts but they do help to make sure you aren’t overly dominant in one arm.

Chin up

The chin up is a great functional bicep movement that allows you to target your biceps as well as your back. You can progress in this movement by adding weight to a dip belt as you get stronger.

 

Tricep Exercises

tricep exercises

As we talked about earlier in this article, the triceps make up the bulk of the arms mass. So if it’s bigger arms you’re wanting you need to be hitting your triceps hard.

Here are the best tricep exercises to build bigger arms:

Close Grip Bench

Don’t mistake this for just a chest exercise. The close grip bench activates your triceps heavily as well. The close grip bench allows you to safely push heavy amounts of weights and will help your chest a bit too.

When performing the close grip bench grab the bar with a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip.

 

Skullcrushers

Scull crushers are a great exercise for activating the triceps. You can perform the movement with the bar coming down to your forehead or down behind your head for a different angle on the arms.

Overhead triceps press (french press)

Another great exercise to really hit the triceps hard. The overhead triceps press allows you to safely press heavy weight and progressively overload the arm.

 

Tricep Pushdown

You’ve probably seen this done a lot by people at the gym. It’s probably one of the most popular triceps exercises out there and it is pretty good for isolating the triceps.

I like to do this at the end of my workouts after I have done some other heavier lifts first. You can try it out with a bar and a rope to see what you like best.

 

Dip

There are two variations of dip that you can do to target the triceps. Both are good exercises and can be interchanged depending on the equipment you have available to you.

The first variation of triceps dips is on a bench:

 

The second variation of dip requires a dip station like the one in the video below. To keep the focus on your triceps make sure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and keep your body relatively upright. The further you lean forward the more emphasis is put on your chest and shoulders in the movement. This is how you do it:

 

Forearms

Often your forearms don’t need a lot of direct work.

You see the forearms are used a lot in heavy strength training of your chest, back and arms. Simply having to grip and hold the barbell with a lot of weight on it is probably the best training you can do for your forearms and grip strength.

If you are following a workout program that is made up of mostly heavy compound exercises your forearms should be getting worked enough through your other training.

However if your other training isn’t mostly compound exercises or you feel you need to improve your grip strength the reverse curl is the exercise I would use to bring your forearms up to scratch:

 

Best Arm Workout

A good arms workout focuses on hitting all three heads of the triceps, the biceps brachii and brachialis as well as the forearms.

You should focus on heavy weightlifting with some higher rep work at the end of the workout.

Barbell Curl

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Dumbell Curl

3 sets 4-6 reps

Close Grip Bench

3 sets 4-6 reps

Weighted Dips

3 sets 4-6 reps

Overhead Triceps Press

3 sets 6-8 reps

 

Allow 2-3 minutes rest between each exercise so your muscles can fully recover. Perform this workout every 5-7 days to see the best results.

Remember progression is key in gaining muscle. Once you hit the top rep range for an exercise you need to increase weight. Then work with the new weight until you can hit the top reps range on a set and increase again.

 

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this arm workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Continue Reading

Training

The Ultimate Back Workout To Add Size and Strength To Your Back

Kyran Doyle

Published

on

best back exercise

If you’re wanting a wide, thick back then this article is for you.

Most people at the gym don’t put enough emphasis on their back workouts. So much time is spent on the chest and biceps which can often lead to the back becoming neglected.

This is disappointing though as a strong muscular back is the key to a good physique.

If that’s not enough reason for you to train your back hard, then this should be. If you’re back is lagging you can become more prone to injuries through training.

Fear not, in this article we are going to break down the best back exercises and workouts so you can bring your back up to speed.

If you follow the steps laid out in this article and eat the right macros your back will get bigger and stronger than ever before.

 

Anatomy of the Back

The bulk of the back is made up of a range of different muscles.

  • Trapezius (traps)
  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Rhomboids
  • Erector spinae
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres major and minor

This is how they look on your body:

back muscle groups

If you want to have an aesthetic and powerful back you need to follow these rules:

  • Make sure you are training your traps with heavy weight.
  • To create the “V-Taper” in the back you need to build your lats.
  • Heavy rowing exercises will build the mid back and rhomboid muscles
  • Deadlifts develop your back like no other exercise. They work the whole back and bring about serious gains.

A lot of guys just train their lats and end up with a slight V-Taper from exercises like lat pulls downs etc but they are often lacking the other areas that make up a truely powerful and aesthetic back.

If you want to build an incredible back there are a few principles you need to know…

 

Back Training Principles

back workouts

There are a few key rules to follow if you want to build a big, strong, aesthetically pleasing back.

1. Focus on the right exercises.

If you’re like me when I first started training, I spent the majority of my time on machines and doing isolation exercises to try and target each of the back muscles individually. I should have been spending my time on compound exercises like the deadlift and barbell row.

2. Focus on heavy strength training.

I used to train to get a pump (rather than increase my strength.) I thought that it was better to do multiple variations of drop sets and super sets but found myself hitting a plateau fairly quickly.

In fact you should aim for the majority of your back exercises to be compound movements and heavy lifting (80 to 85% of 1RM and higher.)

That means heavy barbell pulling exercises are going to become your new best friend.

When you’re focusing on lifting heavy your reps are going to be in the 4-6 range.

Performing heavy compound exercises in this rep range allows you to safely achieve progressive overload in each of your workouts.

Progression is the key to building muscle naturally. You see the human body is naturally quite lazy. We could quite easily just plod along without growing in strength or size.

In order to keep getting bigger and stronger we need to continue to subject our muscles to more and more tension over time.

So put simply:

If you don’t keep getting stronger you won’t get bigger.

You can accomplish this by adding volume (reps) but eventually you will need to add weight to the bar. That’s why the biggest guys in the gym usually lift the most weight.

Lets say you are deadlifting 230lbs in the 4-6 rep range. As soon as you are able to perform 6 reps in a set it’s time to up the weight for the next set and aim for 4+ reps again.

Each time you walk into the gym you should be looking to improve on your last workout. Whether it be adding an extra rep or increasing your weights.

 

Back Workout Volume

Getting the right amount of volume in your back workouts is essential to your success.

If your weekly volume is too low you will see smaller results than you should be getting.

If your volume’s too high you’ll run into problems with overtraining. Recovery is an essential part of building muscle and strength. If you are training too frequently your body will fall behind on its recovery and eventually your results will start flatlining.

Heavy weightlifting requires a significant amount of recovery time. So when you are training your back using heavy lifts there are only so many reps you can do per week before it has a negative effect on yourself.

I find training falls inline with two reviews on this topic which have shown this:

When your training consists of mainly heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

A Bigger Back Makes Bigger Arms

Your back is the foundation of a lot of heavy lifts. So the stronger your back is the heavier your other muscle groups can lift on their exercises.

Your body works in symmetry so having a strong back will help you press more on the bench and curl more with your biceps as your muscles work together through functional strength.

This is where a push pull legs style of working out can be beneficial as it makes sure you are training your back as much as the rest of your body.

Back Exercises

Barbell Deadlift

compound exercise deadlift

The barbell deadlift is more than just a back exercise. It hits the entire posterior chain (back side) from your calfs to your upper traps. It’s an absolute must have in your back workouts.

Performing the deadlift correctly is very important as incorrect form can lead to injuries.

Once you have your form nailed down you can progress to lifting incredible amounts of weight and build a huge amount of strength and muscle while you’re at it.

There are a number of variations of deadlift but the ones most people will perform for back training is the standard or sumo deadlift.

This video explains how to set up for the standard deadlift.

Barbell Row

barbell row

Barbell rows are a staple in any good back workout. Alongside the deadlift the barbell row is one of the best back exercises you can perform. You’ll feel it working the whole back throughout the movement.

The barbell row is the back exercise that you can lift the second most amount of weight. You’ll want to perform this towards the start of your workouts when you’re at full strength.

This is how you perform the barbell row.

 

Pendlay Barbell Row

Another variation of barbell row is the pendlay barbell row.  The pendlay row is similar however you start with the bar from a dead stop on the ground.

Here’s how you do it:

T-Bar Row

t-bar row back exercise

The T-bar row can be performed with a machine or a barbell. Generally it’s best to stay away from machines in favour of barbell exercises but this is one exercise where you can make an exception if you like.

This is how to perform the barbell version:

 

Dumbbell Row

dumbbell row

The Dumbbell row is a great single arm compound exercise for the back and in particular the lats. This variation is good if you need to give your lower back a break from barbell rowing.

Here’s how to do the dumbbell row:

 

Chin-up and Pull-up

The chin-up and pull-up are serious back exercises. They train every muscle in your back and involve the biceps as well.

Chin ups get more bicep emphasis in the movement so you should use these in conjunction with pull-ups as well.

Here’s how to do a chin-up:

The pull-up is one of the best exercises you can do to build your whole back.

Here’s how to do it:

What if you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up yet?

That’s fine there are plenty of ways to work your way up to a bodyweight pull-up or chin-up. One option is to build strength in other exercises like the lat pulldown and inverted row. This will allow you to build up your back strength to a point where you should be able to start doing band assisted pull ups and chin ups.

To do band assisted chin ups simply wrap a resistance band around the bar and hook your knee through it. This will make it easier for you to ascend to the bar.

You can then gradually work your way onto less and less resistance bands until you can do a few reps on your own.

Another option to build up your strength would be to do negative reps. So basically jump or use a step to get your chin above the bar and then begin by descending down. Try and resist gravity and don’t just let your body fall. Once you get to the bottom jump or step back up to the top of the bar again and repeat.

Progressing the pull-up and chin-up

Once you can do 10 chin ups easily it’s to to add some weight. Use a dip belt around your waist to strap plates to the exercise. You can then build  this exercise up as you would any other exercise.

 

Lat Pull Down

The lat pulldown is a machine variation that allows you to activate the same muscles as pull-ups and chin-ups while adjusting the weight.

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

 

Standing Cable Pushdown

The standing cable pushdown is an isolation exercise for the lats. If you want to really tear your lats up, this is an exercise to throw in at the end of your back workouts.

This is how to do it:

 

Best Back Workout

This back workout is made up of mainly compound exercises to train all the major muscles throughout the back. If you want to through in some isolation exercises at the end you’re welcome to but they should always come second to heavy compound lifts.

The back exercise below is designed to be performed once a week.

Deadlift:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Barbell Row:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Pull ups:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

Close grip lat pull downs

3 sets 4-6 reps

 

That’s it!

Remember to focus on progressive overload in each of your workouts. Once you hit the top of the rep range for an exercise it’s time to increase the weight.

Allow a full 3 minutes between each set so your muscles can fully recover and go again. You want to be able to give it your maximum effort on your second and third sets so make sure you don’t rush your rest time.

Like This Workout? You’ll Love These:

The Best Leg Workout

The Ultimate Chest Workout

The Ultimate Arm Workout

The Push Pull Legs Bible

The Best Tricep Workout

What do you think of this back workout? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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