Crank Up the Intensity to Add Inches to Your Arms

Jordan Wheeler
Jordan Wheeler
Author: Jordan Wheeler

Who out there wants bigger arms? Just what I thought, everyone wants bigger arms. There’s just something about having big arms that draws attention rather than a thick back that screams strength.

Arms can be difficult to grow for a lot of people. They might grow a small amount and hit a plateau because they continue with the same training routine, their diet is not where it needs to be, or lack of sleep & recovery time hinders progress. Genetics also plays a part, but that’s an entirely different ball game.

Hitting that plateau is the point when you need to act. Get your diet in check, or find a good personal trainer to guide you with nutrition or training if that seems to be the struggle. I’m sure there’s plenty of you out there right now saying “man my diet is clean and I eat a ton of food. And I’ve been killing my lifts, my arms are always sore”. That’s great and all, but if that was the case, you would still be making progress and there would be no need to google ‘how to get bigger arms’.

With that said, let’s put the egos aside for the time being and open the mind to some arm-shocking intensity techniques.


The Basics

We’ll start things out simple with your basic drop sets and rest/pause sets. Drop sets are one of those fundamentals when it comes to training. Dare I say it, but drop sets are a necessity in 99% of bodybuilding training programs. For those of you that are new to lifting and aren’t familiar with these techniques, a drop set is where after you reach failure for reps you immediately drop the amount of weight and perform another set (although it is more of a continuation of the last set).

Usually the amount dropped is anywhere from 20-50% of the original weight. Personally, I don’t like to do just a single drop set, but rather a couple or more drop sets to totally exhaust the guns. The arms are such a small and very active muscle group, so they can perform a large number of reps & drop sets and still recover fairly quick (same goes for calves).

The other basic intensity technique is one of my favorites, especially for compound/mass building lifts. The rest/pause set method utilizes brief 10-15 second moments of recovery after a set followed by lifting the same weight as many times as you can. Now these can be brutal when you end your last set with 2 or 3 more rest/pause sets. If you’re doing it right, you might feel like your bi’s are going to rip off the bone or like your tri’s are about to explode. And if you really want to throw your arms a curveball, use both techniques together.

For example, say you’re doing preacher curls and for your last set you have 10-12 reps. You would finish the set, rest for 10-15 seconds and then crank out as many more as you can. Then you’d immediately drop the weight by 20-30% and do as many as possible. And rest 10-15 seconds one last time and finish the set off strong.

A few other noteworthy techniques include forced reps, partial reps, supersets/tri-sets, and isometric holds.

Increasing the Intensity

So, does anyone know what part of the movement is responsible for muscle breakdown & growth? Well you had a 50/50 shot, pat on the back for those who said eccentric portion of the lift. First thing that should spring to mind are negatives. It’s probably the most widely used rep variation.

Negatives work great for biceps training, and to really target them choose a couple exercises where your front delt activation is minimized (preacher curls, spider curls, standing concentration curls). The length of time for negative reps can vary from 5 seconds to 15 seconds is the longest I’ve ever tried.

Alright, enough with the basics let’s get to the more intense methods. The one-and-a- half method is a pretty good burner, and a good one to start a solid pump! Just like the name says, you do a full rep followed by a half rep. Pretty straight-forward and hard to mess up. Throw in some drop sets with this and you might be cursing this article during your workout.

I like to call this the “twice as nice” method. Say we’re training tri’s, you will start by choosing two lifts. The first one you will want to pick a lift that you can do about 10 reps for at a moderate controlled pace (1:1 or 1:2 tempo), and a second exercise that you can do 20 reps for at a quick pace. So, you would start by doing 10 moderately-paced reps of close grip bench press immediately followed by 20 fast-paced reps of triceps rope pushdown. And repeat that for 4-6 sets resting 45-60 seconds between sets.

This next one might not sound all that bad, but I can assure you it’s painful and the pump is insane! It’s a variation of 21’s (for barbell biceps curls) that I call “crazy 8’s”. You start by doing 8 curls at a moderate pace. Then you slow the pace down and do 8 more reps with a 5-6 second negative and slow & controlled on the way up. Lastly, you do 8 top half curls really squeezing at the top, and then 8 bottom half curls holding it at half curl position for a count each rep. To amp up the intensity even more here try cutting down rest time between sets.

Last but not least is one of my favorites, the pre-exhaustion method. It works well with all muscle groups, but from my own training I found that my arms responded best to this. There’s a couple ways to employ this method. You can do the high rep exercises first and the heavier lifts toward the middle and end of your workout. Or you can superset exercises with the first exercise in the 30-40 rep range, and the second exercise is heavier with reps in that 8-12 range. Below is a list of good exercises to superset along with a sample workout.



Putting It All Together

There ya go, you have more than enough to throw at your arms to force them to grow. The great thing about all these different intensity methods is that they can be used together or one right after the next. So, go ahead mix and match techniques, throw your own twist on a method, and do some experimenting in the gym to see what methods your body best responds to.

Everyone is different, so an exercise that activates my muscle well may not be the same case for someone else. Don’t worry, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it wrong. It simply means that particular exercise is not the best fit for your muscles, and it can be easily fixed by substituting that exercise for another one that targets the same muscle.

Bonus Workout:  Receive couple of best arm blasting workouts and force those arms to grow! 


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In addition to the intensity techniques, there’s a couple other things you should make note of. First of which is that you don’t want to train hard like this for over a month. These types of workouts are meant to shock the muscles, not allow them to adapt to the training. So, make sure to space them out up to twice a month. You can sure go hard for 4 weeks, but after that you will want to tone it back and let those guns recover.

Secondly, make sure to give the arms their own day at least once or twice a month. You can still do bi’s after back or tri’s after chest, but if you want them to grow like your back and your chest they better have their own day like any other muscle group. Personally, I like to split them up into two separate workouts. So, I will usually train biceps in the morning and then triceps in the afternoon/evening. But I switch things up almost weekly, so I’ll also throw in a session or two each month of some biceps/triceps superset training.

Lastly, the mind is a very powerful tool, so use it! Visualization has proven to be very beneficial when it comes to success and achieving goals. If you’re not already doing this, I would start practicing now. My take on this is that you’re creating positive thoughts and energy which makes you feel good. And when you’re feeling good, your body is better able to handle the physical stresses you demand from it and better able to recover.

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