Why I Hate Training Arms

March 25, 2014 | 11 Comments

Direct arm training

Okay, ‘hate’ is a strong word but I’m really not a huge fan of direct arm training.

While most guys would love nothing more than to do 10 sets of bicep curls each workout, I just don’t find direct arm exercises to be all that exciting or effective for that matter.

The 2 main problem with direct arm exercises:

Progression sucks on direct arm exercises

For example, let’s take a dumbbell curl for example. Most guys start off by curling 20-30 pounds, then within a year they’re up at 50 pounds. And after that…progression slows down to a halt.

You’re not going to see many (if any) guys in the gym curling past 60 pounds with strict controlled form. Sure you can find a bunch of guys curling 100+ pound dumbbells on YouTube but they are always using shit form or they’re juicing.

The truth is, you won’t be doing 100 pound dumbbell curls with good form no matter how many years of you have been training. The biceps are just too small of a muscle to handle that load.

And this goes for any isolation exercise such as tricep extensions or even lateral raises – you will very quickly hit your upper weight limit very soon and after that increasing the weights you do will be next to impossible.

At this point the only variables you can manipulate are: rest time, number of total sets, rep tempo, and training frequency. And I know this is just my opinion, but I find direct arm training to be pretty boring after 1-2 sets.

Direct arm exercises don’t build a good foundation

Virtually every major pushing or pulling movement will train your arms. And as you get stronger at them, your arms will grow proportionally in size.

Understand that the majority of your arm gains are going to happen by getting really strong at a handful of compound movements.

Big arm equation:

80% = getting really strong at compound movements

20% = high rep direct arm work

So think of direct arm exercises as icing on the cake.

Weighted chins and dips – my favorite ‘arm’ exercises.

If you really want to get bigger arms, focus on weighted chin ups and weighted dips. That’s my best advice.

Someone who’s doing dips and chins with 135 pounds strapped  to them, won’t have small arms. I guarantee it.

You probably don’t need a dedicated arm day

Unless you’ve been training for 5+ years and can already do weighted chins and dips for 8+reps with 3 plates strapped to yourself, then you really don’t need to dedicate a whole day of training just for your arms.

You don’t need to ditch arm exercises altogether, but they definitely shouldn’t be the focus of your program.

Main Points

  • Direct arm exercises are just icing on the cake. Don’t structure your workout around these movements.
  • If you want to build a some nice big arms focus on getting stronger at compounds, especially dips and chins.
  • If you do direct arm training, I wouldn’t do more than a total of 6 sets per week split over 2 days (3 sets per workout).
  • If you need a minimalist yet badass program to help you get insanely strong at compound movements and skyrocket your arm growth, I recommend checking out Jason Ferruggia’s Minimalist Training Program.

What’s your take on arm training? Let me know in the comments below.

11 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. I agree with you. Broader shoulders looks alot better.
    In my case, my delts seem pretty weak…can barely do like 6-7 reps of 15 lbs DBs. In that case, should I concentrate on the current weight/rep-range or should I do lower weight for 12 reps/3 sets? I want to build size and strength. But don’t know if I’ll build size if I can’t lift big weight there.

    1. Which exercise are you referring to for your delts?

      Yes focus on doing more reps, until you hit 9-10 reps then increase the weight.

      1. Sorry. Was referring to fully extended lateral raises. I always did them with my elbows bended, looking forward. I can do 12 reps with that, 3 sets. I also do front raises for the same amount (3×12).

        1. Yeah that’s the thing with lateral raises, you never really get to go heavy on them since it’s nearly impossible to do with with good form. Once you go past the 25-30 pound mark, you pretty much need to swing your body in order to lift the weight no matter how big you are.

          Yes I would lower the weight in your case and do more reps.

  2. I have started incorporating weighted pull-ups lately . Is that helpful/enough to build big arms or do I still need to do weighted chin ups ? Thanks in advance !

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