3 Exercises For Massive Arms
There are plenty of exercises for building up your arms, but you want to build MASSIVE arms. The 3 exercises for massive arms that I’ve used for years without fail involve the barbell. Most guys like using dumbbell exercises, which is fine, but it is not as efficient as certain barbell exercises.
Barbell Exercises For Massive Arms, It’s That Simple
In biomechanics you have closed-chain and open-chain movements. Closed chain refers to the feet and hands being fixed in-place and moving in a linear motion (i.e. squats, deadlift, bench press, etc.) Open-chain involves exercises that are not always fixed (i.e unilateral exercises with cables, dumbbells, etc.) or are angular in motion (curls, leg extensions, etc.)
Open-chained exercises generally isolate muscle groups and limit the amount of total-weight that can be handled. Less volume / intensity in a workout = less adaptation. Heavier, closed-chain exercises with the barbell recruit multiple muscle groups ranging over various joints working together. More volume with higher intensity = greater adaptation.
Specifically Closed-chain Barbell Exercises For Massive Arms
Here are the three barbell exercises for massive arms you need to hammer regularly and heavy in the gym:
- Barbell Curls w/ full supination (Biceps)
- Powerlifting-Style Bench Press (Triceps)
- Conventional Deadlift w/o Straps (Forearms)
That may be a disappointment to you, but it’s the truth. I’ll break down why these are the best exercises for massive arms and also how to do them correctly.
#1 Barbell Curls W/ Full Supination
Walk in to any commercial gym and you’ll see guys huddled around the mirror / dumbbell rack doing endless curls. That’s fine, but they’d be better off curling with the barbell for the reasons discussed above. The reason why many guys don’t like barbell curls is because they feel that they can’t get the full supination.
The function of the biceps is to turn the radius around the ulna; to turn the hand. Place your left hand on your right bicep and flex. With the bicep flexed rotate the hand back and forth 180 degrees. When you turn the hand pointing away from your body you feel your bicep slacken and when you turn it back facing towards you you feel it re-engage. That is your bicep supinating your hand.
You want to implement this movement in arm curling exercises to fully develop the biceps. This can be accomplished with barbell curls by doing a simple trick. Grab the barbell with your palms at an angle so that the bar is in the groove between your thumb and index finger. With that angled position, grasp the bar with tight thumbs but loose fingers, this way when you curl, the bar can pivot in your palms, allowing you to fully supinate the arms.
#2 Powerlifting-Style Bench Press
Many make the mistake of bench pressing with arms out 90 degrees from trunk and lowering the barbell straight down to their nipple line. This puts way too much torque on the shoulders and overloads smaller, weaker stabilizing muscles like the rotator cuff. It also places greater emphasis on the smaller, weaker clavicular head of the pectoralis major.
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You want to adopt a powerlifting-style bench press in order to A. take pressure off of the shoulders and lift injury-free, B. shift emphasis to the bigger, stronger sternal head of the pectoralis major, and C. have greater involvement of the triceps.
First, set up for the bench press by transversely flexing your shoulder blades (pinching them together like you’re trying to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades) and externally rotate them (roll them back). Arch your back by sliding your glutes up the bench, splay your feet out wide with your toes slightly in front of or beneath your knees.
With this neutral position (maintained throughout the set) grab the bar with a 1.5 – 2.0 x biacromial grip-width with the bar as close to the base of the palm as possible. Lower the bar to the base of your sternum near the xipohoid process (or to the xipohid process, depending on your elbow angle from trunk) and have your elbows between 40 – 70 degrees from trunk.
With this setup you will be activating leg drive, thus turning the bench press into a major compound, full-body exercises that can handle extreme weights for extreme adaptations.
#3 Conventional Deadlifts W/O Straps
This one probably seems odd for forearms. But it’s true: the deadlift is one of the best exercises for massive arms, forearms, back–anything. It’s the heaviest closed-chain exercises that moves the biggest weight, thus it will give you the greatest growth, especially in the forearms. Here’s why…
Your forearm has about 20 different muscles making up the various layers of your anterior and posterior compartments. Isolating the muscle groups with their various functions can be tedious and won’t yield much (remember the open-chain discussion earlier). Progressively heavier deadlifts force the lifter to develop a strong grip. All muscles of the forearm are engaged to hold and stabilize the weight.
Even though it is isometric for the forearms, the load that the forearms have to grasp for an entire set increases, causing an overload effect. That is why you DO NOT want to use straps when dedlifting. It takes grip / forearms out of the equation and you won’t be developing your forearm’s muscles.
Watch the informative video I put together for actual video on how to correctly do these exercises for massive arms. Train hard and train heavy with the barbell and you can’t go wrong.
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