Maybe for an upcoming spring break trip, a scheduled Caribbean getaway, or just to fill out your t-shirt a bit (dudes), or look great in your sleeveless dress on Saturday night (ladies).
But how exactly do you go about "growing the guns" or "toning the bi's and tri's"?
Try out these 4 tips, and then get ready for the results to come rolling in!
#1 – Take pre-measurements
Wait…what? How does this help me get bigger and more defined arms?
Well, it doesn't...but...
Taking pre-measurements before you start a dedicated mass or toning phase is paramount to truly knowing you have made quantitative progress.
If you don’t have anything to compare your “after” measurements or photos to, it becomes very tough to know how different your arms are.
Yes, you will have the subjective assumption of your improvements, and probably notice them in the mirror and your clothes. But to be able to quantify is also a great (arguably most important) piece of information. Because let's be honest, we all don't give ourselves enough credit when it come to subjective self-assessment.
We suggest taking 2 pre-measurements.
First, have a pal take the tape measure and put it on the end of your collar bone near your shoulder. From there, measure down to the crease of your elbow pit. Then find the point at the halfway mark of the tape, and measure the circumference of your arm at this spot.
Secondly, flex your arms into the classic “biceps pose,” and have someone measure around the largest area.
Along with these measurements, make sure to take your "before" photos. Again we would suggest both relaxed and flexed. These will be great for your before / after post on Instagram. :)
#2 – Volume is KING
We love training full-body, functional things with most of our clients at NSS. But if the focus for the short term is bigger or more toned arms, we need to shift the volume toward that area, along with not being afraid to train arms and upper body multiple times in a week.
By volume, we mean hitting 12 to 15 sets for each area of the arms, up to twice per week. Reps should range between 10 to 15 reps per set, but we will also utilize a form failure or “burnout” set here and there within the week.
Shoot for your goal being around 150 to 225 reps on the area you are hitting, each day.
So here is an example of how you might schedule your weekly workouts and suggested lift, sets and reps.
Day 1 – Deltoids and Shoulders
Lateral, front and rear raises 4 x 12 reps of each
Dumbbell overhead press 4 x 15 reps
Farmers carry 2 x time to failure
Day 2 – Upper Back
Barbell bent over row 4 x 15
Single arm kettlebell row 4 x 12 reps per side
Seated banded row 2 x form failure
Day 3 – Chest
Barbell bench press 4 x 12 reps
Single arm dumbbell alternating bench press 4 x 10 reps per side
Push-up descending ladder (10, 9, 8 down to 3, 2, 1)
Day 4 - REST / Cardio
Day 5 – Biceps & Triceps
Double arm dumbbell bicep curls 4 x 12 reps
Alternating dumbbell bicep curls 4 x 10 reps
Chin-ups 3 x 10 reps (band assist if needed)
Dumbbell tricep extensions 4 x 15 reps
TRX tricep extensions 4 x 12 reps
Banded tricep push-downs 2 x form failure
Day 6 - OFF
Day 7 – REST / Cardio
#3 Utilize Drop Sets
Drop sets are a secret weapon for getting bigger or firming up the arms.
To perform a drop set, you will choose an exercise and do a set to failure with a moderately heavy weight. Immediately after completing this set, grab a slightly lighter weight and do another form-failure set. Then immediately after this set, grab an even lighter weight and perform a final (3rd) set to failure.
It may look like this:
Dumbbell bicep curls at 35#’s x form failure
Dumbbell bicep curls at 25#'s x form failure
Dumbbell bicep curls at 15# x form failure
The amount of reps in total will really depend on the lift performed and the weight you start at.
However, your goal with these drop sets is to work hard and push out as many reps as possible (safely) to really produce fatigue (i.e. stimulus).
Drop sets can be peppered into the above training plan 1 or 2 times per week, and be a great stepping stone for size.
#4 Calories are the fuel that drives the gain train.
One thing that is important to remember: when you are looking to put on size or shape you need to maintain a caloric surplus. Meaning, you will need to consume more calories than you burn through daily metabolic processes, activity and exercise each day.
For example, if your resting metabolic rate is somewhere near 2,000 calories (you can equate your own estimated metabolic rate HERE) and you burn 500 calories in training, it will be necessary to consume upwards of 2,500 calories for that day.
Now remember, you aren’t just looking to get 2,500 calories of anything. We still want to be conscious of body composition and eat a balanced diet of proteins, carbs and fats.
But just be aware, you will want to work in a calorie surplus, especially on your training days.
Including things like post-workout protein can help to ensure you get your daily calorie needs.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, four proven steps for pumping the pipes or sculpting for the sleeveless.
Now go get after it, your vacation is only twelve weeks away!