by Scott Thom T-Nation
Here's what you need to know...
Stubborn "Hollywood" muscles like biceps and triceps need increased volume, frequency, and variability, hence the extreme and brutal nature of these arm finishers.
The effect of these grueling finishers is increased time under tension, increased growth hormone release, and pumping the muscle full of blood and oxygen - all the ingredients needed for growth.
Do a different arm finisher every fourth day of training.
The goal of these five different arm finishers is insanely high volume with limited to zero rest. They're a definite improvement to the boring and virtually useless 3 sets of 10 reps of preacher curls that are so pervasive in gyms across the country. The effect of these grueling finishers is increased time under tension, increased growth hormone release, and pumping the muscle full of blood and oxygen - everything needed for fast growth.
I've used these on myself and my clients for quite some time now, and as the new strength coach for the Washington State basketball team, I'm definitely going to have my players doing these too, especially those that need some size on their arms so they can feel more confident in their jerseys. The idea is to do a different arm finisher every fourth day of training. Remember, these are finishers, so do them at the end of your workout. You won't need to do any additional arm training.
1. The 10/20
Start by picking two biceps exercises, one that you can do for 10 reps at a moderate pace (1:1 tempo), and one that you can do for 20 fast reps fast (your form might slip a bit here, but that's okay). Some sample pairings include:
Straight-bar curls paired with dumbbell hammer curls
EZ-bar curls paired with standing cable curls
Preacher spider curls paired with preacher curls
Do 10 moderately paced reps of the first exercise and then do 20 quick reps of the second. Rest briefly and do another. Go back and forth for 10 sets for a total of 300 reps! Then move on to triceps and pick two exercises:
Close-grip bench presses paired with triceps rope extensions
Behind-the-head dumbbell extensions paired with reverse-grip triceps cable extensions
Skull crushers paired with dumbbell kickbacks
Again, do 10 moderately paced reps of the first exercise and then do 20 quick reps of the second. Rest briefly and do another set. Go back and forth for 10 sets.
2. The Dixon 3-Way
Forget that it sounds awkward. The Dixon 3-Way is as intense as it gets. Grab a pair of dumbbells and do the following in quick succession, without resting:
5 reps of dumbbell curls
5 reps of hammer curls
5 reps of cross-body curls
After the last cross-body curl is done, do a drop set by grabbing the next lightest pair of dumbbells (5-10 pounds lighter) and go through the same progression - 5 curls, 5 hammer curls, 5 cross body curls.
Then move on to triceps:
5 Tate presses*
5 reps of overhead dumbbell extensions
5 reps of dumbbell kickbacks
After the last kickback is done, grab the next lightest pair of dumbbells for each exercise (it's unlikely you'll be able to use the same weights for each exercise!) and do another drop set by going through the same progression - 5 Tate presses, 5 overhead DB extensions, and 5 kickbacks.
* To do Tate presses, lie on a bench with a pair of dumbbells and extend your arms towards the ceiling as if you were doing presses. Your palms should be facing your feet. Without moving your upper arms and bending only at the elbow, lower the dumbbells so they barely touch your chest. At this point, your elbows will be pointing straight out to the sides. Raise the dumbbells back to the starting position by extending the upper arms.
After finishing with the first round of triceps, go back to biceps and do another tri-set and then do the second round of triceps exercises. Do this for 5 rounds.
What makes this workout a beast is that there's no rest between sets. You go non-stop.
3. Hold Reps
1. Grab a pair of dumbbells. While standing, curl one arm at a 90-degree angle and hold that position (a static hold) while you do 10 reps of hammer curls with the other arm.
2. After 10 reps, switch arms and do the same thing.
3. After you finish the 10 reps with the other arm, do two-arm curls for an additional 10 reps.
4. Then grab another pair of dumbbells and assume a triceps kickback position. Hold one arm straight out (another static hold) while you do 10 reps of kickbacks with the other arm.
5. After 10 reps, switch arms and repeat.
6. After you finish the 10 reps with the other arm, do 10 triceps kickbacks using both arms simultaneously.
7. Start round two of the dumbbell curl hold reps.
8. Go back and forth for a total of 5 rounds.
4. Run The Rack
Do 10 dumbbell curls. Then pick up two dumbbells that are 10 pounds heavier and do 9 reps. Pick the next heaviest pair of dumbbells and do 8 reps. Continue doing this, best as you can, until you're down to 1 rep.
Now do the same thing with overhead dumbbell extensions. Do a weight for 10 reps, pick the next heavier weight and do 9 reps, etc.
After finishing with the dumbbell extensions, go back and repeat the dumbbell curl protocol. Go back and forth between them and the dumbbell extensions for 3 rounds, or a total of 300 reps of biceps work and 300 reps of triceps work.
5. Arm Tornado
This one is all about bringing the energy, so grab your workout partner and crank up some adrenaline music. Set up the triceps pressdown at a weight you can do 20 times. Set a pair of dumbbells on the ground next to the press-down (one that you can also curl for 20 times). Start doing triceps press-downs while your partner cranks out dumbbell curls. When you're both done, switch exercises. Continue doing this for 7 super sets and a total of 140 reps on each exercise.
It takes a few days to recover from this type of training so you're going to attack the arms again with a different finisher every fourth day. This will induce more damage and create more soreness than doing the same arm finisher each fourth day for consecutive weeks.
Being a college strength coach, I'm a firm believer in having 4-5 week phases where you increase the load in a linear fashion, but for these stubborn "Hollywood" muscles like biceps and triceps, we need to increase the volume, frequency, and variability, hence the extreme and brutal nature of these arm finishers.