Training

Armed For Battle

A plan to blow up your biceps.

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Photos by Jason Breeze

Since turning pro at the 2003 Canadian Championships, where he won the superheavyweight class and the overall title, Frank McGrath hasn’t competed a lot, but his physique is one of the better known in the IFBB ranks. “It’s weird to think that,” says McGrath, “because I’m just a normal dude who likes to train. “There was a time I was poor,” McGrath recalls. “I’ve worked out having to wear the same clothes for days in a row. I remember getting ready for a show, and I had to drink protein powder all day long because I couldn’t afford food. Maybe people read about that, see the images, and think, ‘Hey, he did it, why can’t I?’ ”

“When I train arms, I train triceps first because I see them as an area that needs improvement,” explains McGrath. “My biceps and forearms have always responded.” This 5'11", 240-pounder mixes his routine up frequently. Here, we’ll follow him through his latest arm workout to see how he trains his upper limbs.

 EXERCISE: 1 CABLE CURL 

Biceps follow triceps when McGrath trains arms. “This will be my first biceps movement, and I’ll use a straight bar or a cambered bar attached to a cable. Sometimes I’ll do dumbbell curls instead, seated or standing.” Again, McGrath mixes it up from workout to workout and does what he feels his body needs and would benefit from.

His biceps and forearms are some of the best in the IFBB. McGrath admits, “My biceps never needed a lot of work. Sometimes I’ll only need to do two exercises for biceps. They’ll get so pumped I just can’t do anything else.” For this first biceps exercise, McGrath will get 4–6 sets of 10–15 reps. He has been known to go heavier. “Sometimes I’ll do eight reps as heavy as I can, but I usually end up doing dropset if I do that.”

 EXERCISE 2: PREACHER CURL 

“This is my favorite biceps exercise,” McGrath says. “Whether it’s on a machine, seated or standing on a preacher bench, lying flat on an incline bench, or using a dumbbell on an incline bench, I just love the feel I get with this move.” Four sets of 10–15 reps are the norm here.

When asked if he feels preacher curls in his forearms, McGrath laughs. “Everything I do for biceps I feel in my forearms. Everything I do I feel in my forearms—I can train legs and feel it in my forearms! I rarely even train forearms anymore because I don’t have to.” But when he does train his forearm flexors and extensors directly, Frank opts for wrist curls off a flat bench.

 EXERCISE 3: HAMMER CURL 

McGrath might not train forearms directly, but his pump in them will continue when he targets his brachialis and brachioradialis with hammer curls. Whether he does these with a rope or dumbbells, McGrath gets 3–4 sets of 10–15 reps.

 EXERCISE 4: DUMBBELL CURL 

Sometimes a fourth biceps exercise isn’t necessary or possible. “Sometimes I try to do these, but my arms are so pumped they hurt,” says McGrath. “There are times I can barely move a 30-pound dumbbell.” If that’s the case, then McGrath’s biceps workouts end here. If he’s got anything left to give, he’ll get a few sets of these for 10–15 reps. “Periodically I alternate between cables and free weights for my biceps,” explains McGrath. “Once in a while I’ll try something I don’t usually do—like seated one-arm concentration curls or cable curls with the cable set at head height—to mix things up and keep my muscles responding.”

OVERCOMING INJURY AND ADVERSITY

McGrath’s bodybuilding career nearly came to an end twice—and on one of those occasions, his life as well. In 2008 he tore a triceps training. Two years later he was in a horrible car accident that resulted in the loss of his spleen. Now, McGrath asks rhetorically, “How does someone keep going every day when they’re older? When life hits you pretty hard? Most people give up because life becomes too hard. They’ve asked me, “ ‘How do I keep going, mentally?’ ” And he has an answer: “You either give or up be strong, and I can’t give up. I won’t give up.” 

 McGRATH'S BICEPS WORKOUT 

  • Cable Curl | SETS: 4-6 | REPS: 10-15
  • Preacher Curl | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-15
  • Rope | SETS: 3-4 | REPS: 10-15
    • or Dumbbell Hammer Curl | SETS: 3-4 | REPS: 10-15

 FLEX 

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