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Big, Strong Arms

How to build a set of major guns.

Most strongmen and powerlifters don’t really care that much about having huge arms, but it is important to have very strong arms and—let’s be honest—it’s kinda fun to put on your shirts and have the arms tight! obviously, this is the one body part that gets the most attention among bodybuilders and hardcore lifters in gyms coast to coast. So it stands to reason that as the world’s Strongest man, I really don’t want to have shapeless arms that don’t impress! 

As a competitive strongman, it’s very important to train accessory movements and muscles, in addition to the standard competitive lifts for whatever sport you compete in. And even if you’re just a lifter in the gym who likes the feel of heavy iron when you bench, squat, or deadlift, working the “minor” muscle groups is critical to your overall success.

CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS

I use between 3–12 reps and will typically do my heavier sets first and then drop the weight to get in more reps for the last set. This is not the typical recommendation, but if you spend all your effort moving up to a heavy weight, you are preventing yourself from getting maximum time under the heaviest load, which will better yield greater strength and size gains. So after 1–2 warmups, throw the weight on and get started!

You can vary the motion range of this movement very easily by using boards to adjust the press point on your chest. (You need a training partner to help you, as he puts the board—typically two-by-fours nailed together—on your chest as you exercise.) This will help you handle more weight and concentrate more on the lockout, where you need the work. I like to vary my range of motion on this from week to week to keep my body guessing.

SKULL CRUSHER

A tip I would impart on this movement is to fnd the range of motion that works best for you in terms of strength and comfort. Some people bring the bar to eye level and some to the top of the head. I recommend keeping your upper arms pointed directly at the ceiling and then lowering the bar as you bend your elbows, taking it as far as possible without joint pain. For these I stick to 6–12 reps per set.

CABLE PRESSDOWN

I use a variety of different bars and attachments when I perform pressdowns and normally rotate from week to week. The goal here is to not lean too much into this so you isolate the triceps instead of involving the pecs. Concentrate on form and complete 8–12 reps per set.

STANDING DUMBBELL CURL

Be sure to turn your palms forward immediately after you lift the weights past your thighs and turn your wrists outward at the top (supination) to peak the bi’s at full contraction. Do 8–12 reps per set. Note: I like to do these both in alternating fashion and both arms at the same time, so I change these from workout to workout.

HAMMER CURL

This is one of my favorite biceps-training movements. Obviously, you also recruit the other elbow flexor muscles to perform the exercise, but this is a big arm flexor strength movement that carries over well to strongman competition. I advocate 8–12 reps per set with moderate weight.

STANDING EZ-BAR CURL

I find using the EZ-curl bar instead of a straight bar is less stressful on my inner elbows, yet it still allows me to get a good contraction at the top of each repetition. Be sure to work on going through a full range of motion and controlling the weight on the eccentric/lowering phase of the movement. I sometimes do slow negatives to concentrate on holding strength, which is critical to strongman exercises. Perform four sets of 8–12 reps per set.

In closing, you will notice that I never go below eight reps on biceps training. With all of the other exercises for strongman events and upper back, my biceps get a lot of heavy work, so when I train them I never use super-heavy weights or go below eight reps. - FLEX

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