Although training the arms can be frustrating at times since it can be difficult to make them grow, most weight lifters really enjoy training them.
They have a relatively low burn factor and are one of the most visual muscle groups to train.
When you curl a weight or perform a triceps cable press down, you can easily watch your arms in the mirror, swelling up after each contraction.
If your body fat is low enough, you may even be able to see the veins engorged with blood and pumping!
Since the arms are not as complex as some of the other muscle groups like the back or legs, training them effectively isn’t rocket science.
There are a limited number of exercises that can be performed for the arms, and often the only way to add variety to your routine is to change the position of your hands on the piece of equipment you are using.
That being said, there are some important things to keep in mind before you design your arm routine.
Don’t Over-train Your Arms
Over-training can make building muscle nearly impossible, and the arms (along with the shoulders) are the most commonly over-trained muscle groups.
This is because they are used for nearly all of the compound movements required to train the back and chest muscles.
Before you determine the number of sets you will perform for your arm workout, make sure you take the other compound exercises in your routine into consideration.
Don’t Forget the Triceps!
Many beginners often focus solely on the biceps, thinking that this will help them build significantly bigger arms.
This is a mistake however, as the triceps muscle makes up two thirds of the upper arm mass!
Train the Arms Near the End of the Workout
Since the arms are considered one of the smaller muscle groups, they should normally be targeted later in your workout if you are training multiple muscle groups during each routine.
If you train them before the larger muscles of the back and chest, you will sacrifice your strength for compound exercises like pull-ups and bench presses.
Change Your Hand Grip to Add Variety
When targeting the beceps and triceps muscles, you will be performing mostly isolation exercises that involve either elbow flexion (biceps), or elbow extension (triceps).
This limits the variety of exercises you can perform.
A good way to combat this issue is to change your hand positions to target different areas of each muscle.
There are three hand positions that you can use on most arm exercises.
Each hand position will put more emphasis on a specif part of the muscle.
The three hand positions are as follows:
Palms up – This position targets both the short and long head of the biceps, and the the lateral (outer) head of the triceps muscle.
Palms down – This position targets mostly the forearm muscle in the front, and the medial (inside) head of the triceps.
Palms facing each other – This position targets the long head of the biceps, the brachioradialis muscle in the front of the arm, and all three heads of the triceps muscle.
The Anatomy of the Arm Muscles
The upper arm consists of the biceps brachii muscle in the front,biceps and triceps anatomy and the triceps brachii muscle in the rear.
The “biceps” are responsible primarily for flexion of the elbow joint, but also assist movements of the shoulder joint, and the forearm.
During any movement that involves elbow joint flexion, the biceps are activated.
The biceps come in to play not only in isolation exercises like arm curls, but also in compound exercises like chin ups and rows.
The “Triceps” are located at the back of the arm. amd consist of three heads.
The long head, lateral head, and medial head.
The main responsibility of this muscle is to extend the arm, and assist extension of the shoulder joint.
This muscle also comes in to play not only in isolation exercises, but also compound movements like dips, and bench pressing.
Origin: Scapula (shoulder blade)
Insertion: Radius (forearm)
Primary Action: Elbow flexion, forearm spination, shoulder flexion
The biceps muscle consist of a long head, and short head.
Each head originates at a different area of the scapula (shoulder blade), but attach at the same point on the radius (forearm).
The biceps muscle is responsible primarily for flexion of the elbow joint, moving the forearm towards the biceps muscle.
Exercises: Barbell curls, cable curls, dumbbell curls, any form of rows, pull-ups.
Origin: Scapula (shoulder blade), humerus (upper arm bone)
Insertion: Ulna (forearm)
Primary Action: Elbow extension, shoulder extension, shoulder adduction
The “triceps” muscle consist of the later head, the medial head, and the long head.
Each head originates at a different location near the shoulder joint, but inserts at the same point near the elbow joint ( on the ulna).
The primary purpose of the triceps muscle is to extend the elbow joint, moving the forearm away from the biceps muscle.
Exercises: Bench dips (narrow grip), cable extension, dumbbell extension, narrow grip barbell press, push-up (narrow hand position)
What Are the Best Biceps and Triceps Exercises?
Dumbbell Curl – A simple, exercise yet very effective. Can be performed in a variety of different ways including concentration curls, hammer curls, reverse curls and more.
Barbell Curl – Barbell curls allow you to lift more weight then dumbbells. Some us a flat bar, while other prefer the EZ-curl bars.
Cable Curl – Cable curls are similar to a barbell curl, but allow the convenience of quickly changing the weight for drop sets, pyramid sets etc.
Preacher Curl – The preacher curl can be performed with a barbell, cable pulley, or dumbbell. It alters the position of the shoulder joint, putting more emphasis directly on the biceps muscle.
Cable Extension – The cable extension is an excellent exercise, and be performed with a number of different attachments.
Bench Dips – Bench dips are an excellent triceps exercises. Keeping your elbows tight to your body is the key to targeting the triceps on this exercise.
Push-up (narrow grip) – Commonly used to “burn out” directly after performing a subsequent triceps exercise. As with bench dips, the narrow grip push-up requires you to keep the elbow tight to to body to really target the triceps muscle.
Dumbbell Extension – Dumbbell extensions are a good exercise to perform in your home gym, as they require only a dumbbell.