They might be 20 inches around now, but even for years after I started training, my arms were one of my weakest body parts. Because I started out with a powerlifting approach to training, I didn’t give much dedicated attention to my biceps. Then, when I did start training them specifically, they didn’t respond in the way I wanted. Frustrated, I started overtraining. When I finally gave my arms a break, they blew up like balloons.

My story is a defense of overtraining; if you have a body part that won’t respond, you’re not going to get it to grow through old-fashioned straight sets. Three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane believed this as well, and it worked wonders for him. The concept is not dissimilar to that of cheat meals. We don’t just eat cheat meals to give our minds a break, we do it to overclock the metabolism and get us burning calories at a higher rate when we return to clean eating. The same wisdom applies here. Straight sets are more effective after you’ve hammered your biceps with an ultra-intense workout like the one below. Hit it this week, then every week after, alternate between conventional sets and balls-to-the-wall intensity.

“If your biceps are like mine used to be and refuse to grow, then it’s time to overtrain them—the smart way.”

The Workout




EZ-bar Cable Curl*



Incline Supinating Dumbbell Curl**



Barbell 21s***



Standing Concentration Curl****       


20 (each)

*Performed as a warmup.

**Exaggerate the twist, with your palms almost facing out to the sides in the top position. Squeeze hard at the top.

***Do 7 top-half reps, 7 bottom-half reps, then 7 full-range of motion reps. If working with a partner, use partner rest, or no more than 30 seconds between sets if you’re flying solo.

****Alternate between your right and left arms without resting until four sets are complete for each arm. Use a weight that would make it impossible to get all 20 reps on sets 3 and 4.