Class is in session. The subject is everyone’s favorite: arms. The teacher is Roelly Winklaar, fresh of a breakout year and owner of arguably the two best arms in the world. Anyone who wants to debate his arm superiority, raise your hand and wait to be called on. (We see you, Phil Heath.) Now, take careful notes as our teacher explains his arm alphabet. With a few digressions as the lecture progresses, these are the tenets of Winklaar’s bi and tri construction from A to Z.


Roelly Winklaar 1
This is typically the second exercise in Winklaar’s biceps routine. “I do these either standing or seated,” he says. “I turn my head to the working arm to really focus on the contraction.”


Winklaar’s biceps training has changed little over the years. He typically does three or four exercises for a total of 12–15 reps. Bi’s are trained with tri’s on their own arm day, but, pre contest, he’ll often add some biceps sets to the end of his back workout, as well. 


Winklaar was born and raised on this tropical island in the southern Caribbean Sea of the coast of Venezuela. In late 2012, he resettled there, and now attributes the gains he's made to his peaceful homelife and warlike gym life. He 

Roelly Winklaar 10
shed many of the modifications his previous trainer had made to his workouts, and instead focused on maximizing his strength (for 8–12 reps) in free-weight basics. This had less of an effect on his strong point—his arms—than his weak point—his back.


Machine dips work the tri’s, but also the pecs and front delts. That’s why Winklaar does these near the end of his triceps routine when his tri’s are preexhausted by isolation exercises.


Roelly Winklaar 7
If he had to choose one exercise most responsible for ballooning his bi's, this would be it. "I almost always begin my arm routine with EZ-bar curls," he says. "I'll sometimes take a standard-width grip and sometimes a narrow grip. A narrow grip works the outer biceps more."


Like most pros with football-size forearms (and even—to their detriment— those with lagging forearms), Winklaar never directly trains his lower arms. They grow from merely gripping weights.


This is the nickname given to Sibil Peeters, who was previously Winklaar’s trainer, nutritionist, and all-around drill sergeant. After four years, her most celebrated client parted ways with her when he returned to Curaçao. He also shed her greater reliance on intensity techniques like dropsets, supersets, and reduced rest between sets. Over the past year, working without a “guru,” Winklaar relied more on straight sets with longer rest periods.


Roelly Winklaar 5
Winklaar does no forearm isolation exercises, but dumbbell hammer curls work the meaty brachioradialis (located at the top of the forearms, near the elbow joint) along with the biceps and brachialis. Winklaar raises the dumbbell across his body, curling it toward the opposite shoulder and alternating arms on each rep. “Hammers are great because they fill out the whole arm,” he says. “You’ll see who did their hammers in a rear double-biceps shot, because hammers add depth to the outer arm.” 

Click "Next Page" to continue >>


He utilizes less intensity techniques than he did in the past when Peeters was barking orders, but Winklaar spent the past year pushing his sets to failure. Thus, his intensity remained high. “I’ve been working at getting stronger in the basic lifts, and that’s helped me add new muscle and keep the muscle when I diet,” he explains.


Roelly Winklaar 4
He never forgets that all biceps and triceps exercises are focused on the movement of the elbow’s simple (and fragile) hingelike joint. Therefore, on all of his exercises except dips, he locks his elbows in place and moves only his forearms.


Winklaar is always learning new ways to stimulate growth. It was his desire to learn that led him to take on such an unorthodox trainer/ nutritionist as “Grandma.” He seeks out advice from legends like Dennis James. And he approaches every workout as an opportunity to gauge what works best for his changing physique.


He’s long relied on this free-weight basic to pack muscle on the long head of his triceps. “This has always been a staple of my arm workouts,” he says. “Don’t get sloppy with these just to use more weight. Keep your elbows locked in place and focus on keeping your arms tensed.” 


Overall, Winklaar focused more on free weights over the past year, but his triceps workouts consist of mostly mechanical exercises. He finds that cable pushdowns and machine dips allow him to keep more tension on the crucial contractions of triceps exercises.


This is where the Dutch-speaking Winklaar lived for 31 years. After his father’s death, when Roelly was 4, his mother moved the family to the Netherlands from Curaçao. Still, Winklaar often felt the island of his youth tugging him home. He’s the rare top IFBB pro who’s never lived in the U.S., and was also the highest placing non-American resident in the last Olympia.


Roelly Winklaar 8
A couple things make these unique. First, Winklaar does them with an underhand grip. Second, he pulls the cable not just down but also across his body. In this way, these pushdowns function like a combination pushdown–kickback. “Doing them the way I do them lets me focus more on the contractions,” he says. “And that’s what pushdowns are all about. I hold [the contractions] for a second or two and squeeze hard.”


Winklaar uses palm pads to provide a more comfortable grip. In the past, he used sponges. He now uses neoprene pads that stay in place via fabric rings that slip over his fingers. “They keep my grip secure and comfortable,” he says. Check out his arm-training photos, and you’ll notice he’s always “padding.”


This could be Roelly Winklaar’s motto: Quality muscle comes from quality sets. By doing strict reps with full stretches and contractions, he’s avoided gym injuries and built arms bigger than most people’s legs.


The rope lets me separate my hands at the end, to get a stronger contraction and focus more on the outer heads of my triceps,” he says of his favorite pushdown handle.


This term simply means sets done without such intensifying techniques as forced reps, dropsets, or supersets. Training under “Grandma’s” tutelage, Winklaar loaded up his workouts with all sorts of intensifiers. They limited the amount of metal he could move. In 2013, he returned to mostly straight sets, and the result was a bump in strength and size.


As with biceps, for triceps he typically does three or four exercises for a total of 12–15 reps. Pre-contest, he’ll often throw in some triceps sets after working chest.

Roelly Winklaar Rotator


He does at least one exercise for biceps and another for triceps that hits each arm individually. This exercise is placed at or near the end of his routines. Going unilateral lets Winklaar better focus on the contractions of his left and right biceps and triceps. 


Roelly Winklaar 3
If you built 22-inch guns like Roelly, you probably wouldn’t do a lot of tampering with your arm routine. And so it is with Winklaar. “I change some things some times,” he says. “But nothing too crazy—just a different order or different grip or maybe a machine preacher curl instead of dumbbells or a barbell.”


Most of the time, he trains arms once weekly, though he will do some extra work for biceps (with back) and triceps (with chest) during his contest prep.


Roelly Winklaar 9
In his first contest, the 2005 IFBB World Championships (won by Dennis Wolf), 28-year-old Winklaar failed to even place. He was a smooth 190-pound light-heavy who looked like he couldn’t win a local novice show in America. He didn’t have a strong point—not even his arms. The next month, he suffered a devastating car accident. He couldn’t even move his left arm for weeks, and stayed out of gyms for 13 months. But when he finally did return to the weights, it was with a new vigor and purpose—first to rehabilitate, and then to prove his doubters wrong.

In 2009, at 227 pounds, he won the super-heavyweight and overall Arnold Amateur titles. When the rookie won the 2010 New York Pro, his arms were among the best ever seen. All of which is to say, the most important component of his success is not sets or reps, but DNA mixed with willpower. Unlocking his genetics for packing on arm mass is the X-factor that took him from nobody to legend in one giant leap.


Winklaar is so soft-spoken and his eyelids are so heavy (a lingering result of the car accident, which nearly caused him to lose his sight) that he sometimes seems to be sleepwalking. Many assume he just doesn’t care enough to be an Olympia contender. Nothing could be further from the truth. What drives him more than anything is the need to prove his doubters wrong. His 2013 season shut a lot of Internet smack-talkers up, but, to Winklaar, it was only Step 1. He has a yearning to keep improving and to show everyone, especially himself, that he fulfilled every ounce of his potential.


Roelly Winklaar 6

In his time in the IFBB Pro League, Winklaar has entered numerous pro shows, won two, and finished in the top four of eight others. And yet he hasn’t cracked the top six in either the Arnold Classic or Mr. Olympia. In 2012, after his disappointing 12th in the Olympia, he seemed to be just “a guy”—as they say in the NFL. Like a veteran football player who can always make a roster and sometimes make a highlight reel but never make a Pro Bowl, Winklaar seemed destined for a mid-level career that would never propel him to bodybuilding’s upper echelon.

But then came 2013. After triumphing at the Chicago Pro, he finished a startling seventh in a deep Olympia lineup (many thought he deserved at least sixth). He was no longer just “a guy.” Instantly, the conversation changed from “wasted potential” to “unlimited potential.” Roelly pictures himself in the first callout next time—and last man standing the time after that—fuels set after set, rep after rep. Roelly Winklaar’s greatest lesson is this: “Do not doubt me or my drive to be the best.” 

Click "Next Page" for Winklaar's full arm routine >>

Roelly Winklaar 2



EZ-BAR CURL: 4 sets, 10-12 reps

ALTERNATE DUMBBELL CURL: 4 sets, 10-12 reps

ONE-ARM PREACHER CURL: 3 sets, 10-12 reps

HAMMER CURL: 3 sets, 10-12 reps


ROPE PUSHDOWN: 4 sets, 10-12 reps

LYING TRICEPS EXTENSION: 4 sets, 10-12 reps

MACHINE DIP: 4 sets, 10-12 reps

ONE-ARM PUSHDOWN: 3 sets, 10-12 reps