Your Guide To Bi’s & Tri’s

Everyone loves to finish their workout with a little bit of a gun show. Get your arms pumped and walk out the gym looking like Thor. However, does that ever really get you the arms you want?

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This article is going to help explain the best methods to get you the arms you want.

Train Your Triceps

When it comes to training your triceps, you can’t really look any further than powerlifters. This isn’t me just saying this because I’m a powerlifter myself. Their style of training allows for maximum tricep growth. I mean, the research speaks for itself;

  • Multi-/Single-Joint Exercises: similar tricep stimulation can be seen when comparing multi-joint exercises (bench, shoulder press, press ups etc.) and single-joint exercises (tricep extensions). However, this is only applicable when using loads that you can complete around 10 reps of (Gentil, Soares & Bottaro, 2015).
  • Barbells Rather Than Dumbbells: in most cases there isn’t much difference when performing the same exercise with a barbell or dumbbell, unless your goal is tricep growth. This is because you’ll be able to lift more weight and engage the triceps more than using dumbbells (Saeterbakken, van den Tillaar & Fimland, 2011).
  • Go Heavy: muscle activity increases the more weight you try to lift. To really get your triceps working, stick some weight on the bar (Gotshalk et al, 1997).

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  • Close Grip Over Wide Grip: bringing your hands in slightly will significantly increase the activation of the triceps compared to the standard powerlifting wide grip (Lehman, 2005).

So how do you put all this together?

Looking at the points above, it’s clear to see that the main tricep stimulator is the bench press. It should also have become apparent that you want to be performing heavy bench presses, and using a close grip rather than wide grip, for maximum tricep stimulation. Then, once you’ve finished benching, you can go into lighter weight, higher rep isolation work like the table below;

Exercise Sets Reps
Cable Rope Pulldown 3 15
Diamond Push Ups 3 15
Skullcrushers 1 50

Build Your Biceps

If powerlifters know how to get the most out of your triceps, then bodybuilders are the king of the biceps. Similar to the triceps, going heavy will lead to maximum growth. Your biceps love this as they have around 60% more type II muscle fibres than your triceps.

Here’s everything else which the research is saying;

  • Chin Ups: your biceps crave heavy loading, and nothing does this more so than the chin up (palms facing you) (Youdas et al, 2010).

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  • Add Some Rotation: the biceps help rotate the forearm and flex the arm. If you add these two movements together you create maximum stimulus.
  • Seated Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curl: this exercise is the ultimate bicep builder as it forces your biceps to do extra work. This is because the shoulders are taken out as a stabiliser which leads to your biceps being stretched and asked to take on the entire load to curl the dumbbell (Oliveira et al, 2009).

Adding this all together, you want to activate the type II muscle fibres in your biceps by performing your big, heavy movements. This is where your chin ups come in to play. From there, if you’ve got other big exercises, try to involve some rotation to work the biceps. For example, if you’re doing a single arm row, add a rotation and feel the difference in your arms. Then, to finish off, get that pump performing the seated incline dumbbell bicep curl;

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curl 3 8
Standing Barbell Curl 3 12
Cable 21’s 3 21

Take Home Points

Judging from the references I’ve made and the research that has been invested into finding out the right method for bigger arms, I hope you’ve started to think a little more about not just smashing out some curls at the end of a session.

There’s a time and a place for it don’t get me wrong. I myself have added in challenges of 50 rep bicep curls and tricep extensions for my clients to get a bit of a pump at the end of their session. However, this has always been complimented by the heavy work and technique changes I’ve highlighted in this article.

Thanks for reading,

Coach Steve

References

Gentil, Paulo, Saulo Soares, and Martim Bottaro. “Single Vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects On Muscle Strength And Hypertrophy”. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine 6.1 (2015).

Gotshalk, Lincoln Allan et al. “Hormonal Responses Of Multiset Versus Single-Set Heavy-Resistance Exercise Protocols”. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 22.3 (1997): 244-255.

Lehman, Gregory J. “The Influence Of Grip Width And Forearm Pronation/Supination On Upper-Body Myoelectric Activity During The Flat Bench Press”. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19.3 (2005): 587.

Oliveira LF, Matta TT, Alves DS, Garcia MAC, Vieira TMM. Effect of the shoulder position on the biceps brachii emg in different dumbbell curls. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2009;8(1):24-29.

Saeterbakken, Atle H., Roland van den Tillaar, and Marius S. Fimland. “A Comparison Of Muscle Activity And 1-RM Strength Of Three Chest-Press Exercises With Different Stability Requirements”. Journal of Sports Sciences 29.5 (2011): 533-538.

Youdas, James W et al. “Surface Electromyographic Activation Patterns And Elbow Joint Motion During A Pull-Up, Chin-Up, Or Perfect-Pullup™ Rotational Exercise”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24.12 (2010): 3404-3414.

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