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8 Unusual Arm Exercises You Have To Try!

So you want to increase your arm size by next month rather than next year? Great! I want you to do a few things:

  • Read or at least scan this list of eight great arm movements, many of which you’ve never tried before.
  • Pick two that seem appealing. These will form part of your next scheduled arm workout.
  • Hold up, you haven’t scheduled your next arm workout yet? Do that before you even read this piece.
  • When the time comes to head to the gym, dial in two or three tracks guaranteed to send your intensity through the roof. Crushing your reps will feel like nothing once you start training.
  • Slug down a preworkout like SuperPump 3.0 to make sure you’re ready to rock.
  • Enter the gym for the best arm thrash you’ve had in months. You’ll own the weights now!

Triceps

Constituting two-thirds of your upper-arm development, the triceps typically demand more volume than biceps do. In this age of rope press-downs and dumbbell kickbacks performed on Swiss Balls, many good old-fashioned triceps smashers have fallen by the wayside. Triceps typically respond well to all forms of extension exercises involving dumbbells, which allow for a greater range of motion compared to barbells.

The exercise forces you to work against gravity, as the shoulder joint stabilizes the upper arm. While it can be done with a barbell, this dumbbell version with palms facing in can isolate the triceps more effectively to build more mass.

Lying dumbbell triceps extension

Start by lying on a bench with your arms extended forward and your palms in. Slowly lower the dumbbells until they nearly touch your forehead. Pause for one second and then straighten arms and flex the triceps. It’s important here to keep the elbows in a fixed position and control each dumbbell through a full range of motion for maximum effect.

This heavy overhead extension targets an oft-neglected region of the triceps. It won’t be easy. So many people avoid doing it, and suffer incomplete development as a result.

Seated reverse-grip overhead dumbbell triceps extension

While seated, hold dumbbells with an underhand grip—as if performing a biceps curl—and extended your arms until the dumbbells are overhead. Maintaining a straight back, slowly lower the dumbbells to your upper traps until you achieve 90-degrees of flexion. After a moment’s pause, flex your triceps to raise the dumbbells back to the starting position. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and avoid letting your elbows fall forward.

Deemed potentially injurious and less beneficial than other moves, parallel bar dips have been swept under the rug. However, when correctly performed, they can stack more mass on the back of your arms due to their ability to overload all three triceps heads. To perform this move safely and correctly, hang between two parallel bars and use your triceps to push up until the arms are almost straight (not to complete lockout). Slowly lower your body, keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides and legs behind your body, until the upper arms run parallel with the floor. You know you’re on the right track when you form a 90-degree angle between the upper arms and forearms.

Parallel bar triceps dips

Biceps

The high visibility of impressive biceps commands respect and conveys a respectable degree of upper-body power. Although they are beauties to be admired, the volume of work is often overstated. Because they already receive indirect tension from other upper body training, 2-3 movements per session for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps each is ample for maximal recruitment. Add these three rather obscure movements to have your biceps reaching new developmental “peaks.”

The biceps ladder is a great movement for extending the time under tension while enabling maximal contractibility of both biceps heads. It also emphasizes the negative part of each rep to promote more muscle micro trauma (and subsequent growth) compared to other movements.

Biceps ladder

This movement is best performed on a power rack or a Smith machine. Set bar at a level low enough for you to fully extend the arms, with your back just clear of the floor. Begin by grasping the bar with an underhand grip, arms fully stretched; then contract your biceps while curling your upper body to the bar until it touches your forehead. Squeeze hard at the top, and then slowly lower back down to starting position. After completing as many reps as possible from this position, raise the bar a notch and immediately complete another set to failure. Continue in this fashion until you reach the farthest notch.

Concentration curls have always been a favorite of people pining for that coveted biceps peak. The cables will allow more tension to be placed on the biceps long head and recruit a greater number of muscle fibers as a result.

Seated cable concentration curl

Start by attaching a single handle to a seated row cable. Position yourself seated and facing the machine, then rest the back of your upper arm on your knee and curl weight until the palm almost touches the front deltoid of the working arm. Remember to squeeze and slowly extend your arm to the starting position.

6 Spider curl (AKA: the Larry Scott curl)

The spider curl is so named after the eight-legged bench it was originally performed on. It was popularized by the first-ever Mr. Olympia winner, Larry Scott, who rocked unmatched biceps. The movement helps to lengthen the long head to promote greater fullness while building the short head to create more biceps width.

Spider curl

Now comes the fun part! Lean forward on a vertical preacher bench with the triceps pressed flat against the front padding and arms fully extended, thus achieving a nice stretch. Now raise weight to shoulder height by squeezing the biceps and repeat. Simple yet effective!

Forearms

Aside from titanic triceps and biceps, no other muscle grouping is as routinely displayed as the forearms. Comprising many individual muscles, the forearms are notoriously a stubborn group of muscles to train. Given their involvement in almost all exercises, they need both volume and massive weights to be properly hit. The exercises featured below will have yours larger and more impressive in no time.

Isometric training (static contractions held for 10 seconds or longer) is an effective way to build muscle endurance and provides one hell of a mean burn. When the forearms are subjected to such a stimulus, the results can be truly spectacular. The plate pinch-hold is a classic and easy to perform.

Grasp two weight plates of the same size and resistance at arm’s length, between your thumb and fingers. Extend toward the floor and hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch to opposite side. Flatter plates can be difficult to grip so it’s worth experimenting with flat plates or hollowed-out plates.

“The forearms are notoriously stubborn to train. They need both volume and massive weights to be properly hit.

The bulk of forearm mass can be found in the flexor muscles situated on the underside of this grouping. Rather than hitting them with variants of the underhand wrist curl, change up your flexor training with behind the back overhand curls. This seldom-performed exercise will pump your forearms to great effect and gains.

Hold a dumbbell with an overhand grip and fully extend your arm to the back of your body a little wider than shoulder width. Keep your arms steady and curl the weight toward your forearm flexor; squeeze hard at the top. Slowly lower and repeat.

Mixing it up for further arm mass gains

If your goal is Hulk-like hypertrophy, the right combination of exercises for the greatest growth stimulus is the key. Remember that all arm movements will build mass, but it is the training style, rep range, and volume of weight lifted that will help determine growth. Try incorporating the above exercises into your arms regimen or even increasing your training volume by adding an exercise to your current routine. Then improved size and shape will be yours forthwith!

References
  1. Stoppani, J. Climb the Ladder for Bigger Biceps. Muscle & Fitness [Online] http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/arms-exercises/climb-ladder-bigger-biceps retrieved on 22.4.14


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Over 40 Amateur Of The Week: Barbara-Mae Hits The Stage

QHow did your fitness
journey begin?

I was not always a heavy person. Growing up in school, I had been a star athlete competing in all manners of sports: Basketball, volleyball, track and field, and competitive ladies fastpitch, to name a few. When I had reached my early twenties, I became a stay-at-home mom and a certified fitness instructor and trainer. This allowed me to combine my duties to my family as well as still be able to motivate and train clients. Even at my heaviest weight, I was still exercising and training others as manager of a community fitness center.

In 2000, my struggles really took off when my dad was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. He declined rapidly and passed away six months after diagnosis. This event took a huge toll on my mom. Shortly after, my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a form of blood cancer). Unfortunately, the cancer eventually progressed too much, and she passed in January 2009.

After my experience with caring for others and noticing the illnesses that pervaded my family’s history—cancer, hypertension, heart failure, and kidney failure—I decided I needed to truly monitor my own health. Later that April, I decided I needed to lose the weight and get back into the shape I longed to be in again.

“Although I did not place in that November competition, I was very proud of my accomplishment and how far I had come.”

How did you accomplish
your goals?

I am a very goal-oriented person. The story of how I stumbled across figure competitions is quite amusing! One morning over coffee, I confessed to my husband, “I need a new challenge and I need to work toward a new goal. Things are getting stale!” After that, we both left for work. Later that morning I emailed him and told him, “I am going to enter a figure competition.” He replied with: “You don’t even wear a bikini.”

It’s true, I don’t. Yet here I am with one competition under my belt and working toward at least two more this year. I hired a trainer and a nutrition coach (who happen to be husband and wife duo) named Tracy and Jeff, respectively. I worked with Tracy to develop a 4-day weight program and a 6-day per week cardio program. I worked with Jeff to develop a nutrition plan that allowed me to drop another 27 pounds before the competition last November.

I was focused and determined. When I make up my mind to do something, I go all-out 100 percent! Although I did not place in that November competition, I was very proud of my accomplishment and how far I had come from that person who weighed in at almost 250 pounds. Now I am striving to do better in the 2014 shows and hoping to place in at least one of them.

Cool Fact

Barbara is an independent country recording music artist with three albums released to date.

What workout regimen delivered the best results?

Negative Reps: One or two spotters help you lift a weight up to 10-50% heavier than you would normally lift to finish point of movement. Then you slowly lower weight on your own.

Varies typically done in a circuit format 10-15 reps each.

Amateurs Of The Week

Bodybuilding.com honors amateurs across all categories for their hard work, dedication, and great physiques. Learn how our featured amateurs built their bodies and hit their goals!

What nutrition plan fueled your body?

What supplement schedule gave you the greatest gains?

“For anyone out there saying they can’t, you need to change that to ‘I can.'”

How did your passion for fitness emerge?

As I mentioned, I was already very active. The most recent turning point arose from my desire to improve my health and better myself. Changing my diet was most difficult, but not in the way you would think. It was mainly about learning to eat more. Typically, I used to eat too little for the amount of activity I had been doing. I was very lucky to have someone create my diet and training regimens. I needed to learn my body for what it was.

I mean I am a 52-year-old grandmother, who had lost almost 130 pounds altogether and totally transformed my body.

What or who
motivated you?

Backstage at my first competition, I started to doubt myself and became intimidated by all the other amazing physiques. My coach, Tracy, pointed out, “Everyone here has a story and each story is unique. That includes you and your own story.” You know what, she was right! Tosca Reno was a real inspiration to me when she chose to go back out on the stage after age 50!

What motivated me to live healthier was that both of my parents have lost their battle to cancer. When I look at them and my other family members who have passed, I realized I had to get my act together. I was overweight—albeit “healthy” so far—I wanted to get to an ideal body weight and be healthy. I wanted to be here for my children and my grandchildren.

Where did you go for inspiration?

My inspiration came from a variety of sources. I did a lot of research on the web looking for women my age and what they have accomplished. I read articles on Bodybuilding.com for inspiration and support. I also have excellent coaches, who push me every step of the way.

What are your future fitness plans?

My future plans are to compete this year in two figure and fitness competitions, hoping to place in at least one of them. I may do another show in November. I am also competing for the first time in a FemSport competition this year. Beyond competing, I’m passionate about motivating people and want to do some speaking engagements for women to show them that anything can be done no matter what the age.

What is the most important fitness tip?

For anyone out there saying they can’t, you need to change that to “I can.”

The cliché is true: Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Not everyone can do exactly how I did it, but each person can develop the necessary determination and drive to succeed in anything. Yes, there are going to be ups and downs, but that’s life. We can just work to keep it from spinning out of control. Don’t think that age is going to slow you down. I have been around a while, and I’ll tell you what: I am no “spring chicken.”

Who is your favorite bodybuilder/fitness athlete?

I would have to say that Tosca is my favorite. Erin Stern and Jamie Eason are also strong women to look up to.

How Bodybuilding.com helped me reach my goals?

Bodybuilding.com has always been a personal favorite of mine. The articles on lifting and dieting are great. There’s nothing like reading the transformations for a little push in the right direction. Thank you, Bodybuilding.com, for giving me the opportunity to be featured as one of those transformations. Maybe I can be the little push that helps another person reach their goals.

Barbara’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Dance Again” by Jennifer Lopez
  2. “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele
  3. “What Doesn’t Kill you Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson
  4. “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood
  5. “Believe” by Cher
Competition History

My very first competition was November 13th of last year (NPAA in Calgary). I did not place, but I had no expectations than to enjoy the experience and meet some wonderful people. I am competing this year on May 31st at the INBF (Calgary) and the IDFA (Calgary) and have greater expectations of placing this year.


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