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“My arms are my worst body part and I’ve been training them 2-3 times a week.  But I’m tired of the same old arm workouts and I need something to get my biceps growing – got a killer routine?” – Trevor Baker

Training arms is definitely a love / hate relationship for most lifters.  They love to train arms and feel the ‘pump’, they love to have their arms grow, and they love to be noticed for having a great set of guns. But this love comes at a cost. 

Most lifters train arms with too much volume and too frequently. This leads to overuse injuries, inflammation, and (wrist, elbow, shoulder) joint pain – especially if they’re using a straight barbell for most of their exercises. Using dumbbells can add some relief to your joints, and training smarter can get you in and out of the gym faster.

Train Smart

Training smarter means understanding that you DON’T have to perform six different exercises for biceps and six different exercises for triceps in one workout – to see gains.  If you can perform 2-3 exercises for each muscle group and see explosive gains if the intensity is high and you focus on good quality repetitions.

Intensity doesn’t only mean lifting a maximum weight, it can also involve making every rep and every set count, and two ways to do that are to control the tempo of the rep and attack the muscle from different angles within the set.  And, as always, we want to try and perform a full range of motion for each and every rep, which would define good quality form and engage the maximum number of muscle fibers.

In summary, to increase the intensity of a set and to improve your muscle building potential, you need to:

– Perform a full range of motion

– Challenge the muscle from different angles

– Create a lot of tension, stress, and damage in the muscle fiber

See this in action on the next page.

Barbell curl 22

Here is my take on an old school classic – 21’s. You’ve all heard of 21’s, right? 

21’s are where you grab a barbell or EZ curl bar and perform the following:

7 reps – with partial range of motion at TOP of curl

(from the top of the curl, only curl down to halfway, and then curl back up)

7 reps – with partial range of motion at BOTTOM of curl

(from the bottom of curl, only curl up halfway and then back down)

7 reps with a full range of motion

While partial reps DO work (regardless of what many internet warriors say), I never really liked 21’s.  I would prefer doing a full range of motion as long as possible before switching over to partials to finish the set.

The New 21’s

With the New 21’s for Bicep Mass, I perform a full range of motion, control the negative for a 3-5 second count, and hit the biceps from 3 different angles. Try this routine and let us know what you think.

Special Notes:  This type of high intensity finisher is typically thrown in once a week. Progress through each 7-7-7 set adding a small amount of weight with each set. We usually work through 3-4 sets. If the straight bar hurts your wrists or elbows, switch to an EZ curl bar. 


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.