Gifted Guns

How Phil Heath built two of the best arms on the planet.


With a nickname like the Gift it’s no secret that Mom and Dad passed along more than a fair share of favorable muscle-building genes. But like all great champions, even Heath has had to put in his work to make pretty good arms really good, and then even more to take really good arms to the next level and beyond, to where they are now. The gains may not come as easily for us, but the Gift’s training wisdom is something the rest of us can apply in our own quest for attention-grabbing arms. So, here’s how Mr. Olympia built two of the best guns on the planet. 

"For guys with lagging arms, I would suggest training them twice a week. Hit biceps and triceps after a big body part on separate days, then devote a single day later in the week to just arms.”


Heath usually performs 8–12 reps for each exercise, which research shows is the ideal range for building muscle. “I get real good-quality reps in this range,” Heath says. “It’s heavy enough that I can get a good contraction and feel the muscle working through the full range of motion. However, sometimes I’ll go heavier and do 6–8 reps, just to build more strength and give the body something a little different. It’s important to keep things fresh so that your body doesn’t adapt to one type of stimulus and stop growing.”


“Next to the bench press, it’s the most popular exercise ever invented, and for good reason: Nothing packs on sheer size like barbell curls. Keep your elbows stationary—you don’t want to let your elbows drift up, because that shifts the stress from your biceps to your front delts. If you have to, use an old-school Arm Blaster to make the movement strict. Plus, the Blaster makes your arms look freaking huge.”

“Vary your grip. The standard shoulder-width grip will hit the entire biceps, and that’s best for mass-building purposes, but you should change it up every now and then. For example, grabbing the bar so that your hands are inside shoulder width will focus more on the outer biceps. A grip wider than shoulder width will work the inner biceps more. You want your arms to look impressive from every angle, so make sure all areas of the biceps are developed equally.”

“I like to force a lot of blood in [my arms] and there’s nothing like 21s. You start off with seven reps, raising the bar up to the halfway point. Then you do seven more from the halfway mark to the top. Finally, you do seven full reps. That’s 21 reps total for one set. Now do that for three sets. Obviously, you can’t use as much weight as you would if you were doing a straight set, but the tradeoff is the insane blood volume, which I’m a big believer in. The burn will be intense and your arms will blow up like crazy!”


“You don’t get more basic than this. These are great for building mass, especially in the upper triceps near the deltoid. Keep your head up and your body as vertical as possible to keep the stress on your triceps. If you lean too far forward, you end up working your chest. I generally do these last and don’t need to use a ton of weight. It’s a great way to finish off the tri’s and get a massive pump. Sometimes I’ll do the bench version or use a machine to add variety.”


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