Gifted Guns

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



“Dumbbells rank right up there with barbells for adding size. I actually prefer them because each arm works independently, and that’s a great way to overcome any imbalances between the lef and right arm. Symmetry is something every bodybuilder needs to train for.”

“I also supinate, which means that I start with the dumbbells facing each other at the bottom, but as I bring them up, I start turning my wrists out so that by the time they are at the top, they’re in the standard curl position. The biceps, in addition to bending the arm, also help to turn the wrists outward, and this takes advantage of that movement.”

“I usually alternate each arm, but every now and then I’ll do a bunch of reps for one arm while the other one just holds the dumbbell, then I’ll do that one arm. For example, let’s say I’m doing 10 reps. I’ll do five reps with one arm, then five reps with the other arm, come back to the first arm and do five more reps, and finish the last five reps for the second arm. I just feel like I can focus more on each arm and get more quality reps that way. I stole that from Jay [Cutler] in a Battle for the Olympia DVD.”


Unlike lots of guys who start out lifting weights, Heath focused more on triceps than biceps. That came about from two things. The first was basketball. “It was drilled into us in basketball camp,” Heath recalls. “You need strong triceps for long-range jump shots. I still remember to this day, Dan Majerle hitting a game-winning three-pointer practically from midcourt, and he didn’t even heave it; it was a set shot with textbook form, and you need some pretty strong triceps to pull that off.” The second motivation came during Heath’s college days. “A friend of mine had a picture of Kevin Levrone on his laptop, and I remember being really impressed by his triceps,” Heath says. “They were so thick and striated to hell. They didn’t even look real. The outer heads just popped out to the side when his arms were hanging. I’d never seen anyone with that development. Whenever I trained triceps, I would visualize Levrone’s.”


“I like to start with some form of pushdowns to get some blood flowing and warm up the elbow joints. I definitely don’t recommend jumping right into heavy extensions because that can really thrash your elbows over the long haul.”

“I’ll alternate between a bar and a rope handle. When I want to go heavier, I’ll use the bar. But with the rope, because I can spread the handles apart at the bottom, I get a longer range of motion and a tighter contraction. When I go really heavy with the rope, I have to keep the handles together, but I still get a great pump.

“I like to do my own version of trisets with these. I’ll start off with 10 reps, then increase the weight by 10 pounds and do 10 more reps, and then increase that by another 10 pounds and get 10 more reps with that. That counts as one set. My next set starts 10 pounds heavier than the last so that by my last set I’m starting with the same weight that I ended with the first time.”

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