Workout Tips

The Lift Doctor: Bigger Arms and Barefoot Training

Our Lift Doctor answers your questions about how to get bigger guns and how to train barefoot.

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The Lift Doctor: Bigger Arms and Barefoot Training

Question 1: “What are the best workouts for getting my arms bigger?” -Hanyo Straight-Edger

If you want bigger arms, you need to continue to challenge them and force them to grow. This could mean using heavier weights, shortening your rest periods between sets, hitting a higher volume (sets x reps), or picking different exercises. One thing that always holds true for building serious arm mass is that compound movements such as chin-ups and heavy bent over rows must be incorporated into your workouts. The problem is that crushing your arms with tons of chin-ups and rows, or performing lots of barbell curls, will eventually take its toll on your joints; specifically your wrists and elbows.

Fortunately, there are many ways to continue to train around wrist and elbow pain. First off, stop doing skull crushers. I know, I know, you’ve been doing them for years. Well, that is probably why your elbows sound like Rice Krispies cereal and you can’t brush your teeth without crying. They’re terrible for your elbows. I always recommend switching to a more neutral grip for your tricep work. 

What is a neutral grip? Stand up and look at the position of your hands. Your thumbs are facing forward and your palms are flat against your legs. That is neutral. Keep this same neutral hand position and grab the outside of an Olympic plate at the 9 and 3 position on a clock. Now perform your skull crushers with this setup instead of with an EZ curl bar. No pain, right? Perfect. 

Question 2: “Are Vibram Five Finger shoes good for lifting?” -Kevin Ruef

It really depends what you’re using them for. Vibrams are good for certain exercises and bad for others. If you’re pulling a heavy deadlift or hitting a high volume set of kettlebell swings, they’re perfect. Even squats are okay if you don’t have really tight ankles—Olympic weightlifting shoes would be better in that scenario.

But be careful, the very exercise that is all over their advertisements can mess you up if done wrong. Yes, I’m talking about running. Throwing on a set of Vibrams and going for a run will wreck your ankles, knees and hipsespecially if you run like an ox like me. Also, the stress from not having the support of your regular running shoes will most likely create some pain on the fascia on the bottoms of your feet. This is called plantar fasciitis. Now, I’m not saying Vibrams are bad for running, in fact, they are actually really good. But you must transition slowly to using them. Use them for short distances and focus on landing softer as your run. Here is a cool article I wrote for LIVESTRONG.com on the very topic of Vibrams and their benefits. 

Meet the Lift Doctor

Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the LIVESTRONG.com Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most "innovative strength coaches" in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach "beyond their potential". He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.

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