1-arm dumbbell curl

With any undertaking, the goal should always be to maximize efficiency. You’d rather be getting more done in less time than the other way around. Building heaps of new muscle should be the same way.

Doing 12-16 sets each for biceps and triceps is pretty much par for the course for most gym rats but what if we told you that you could experience crazy gains with — get this — just one set? One set for bi’s, one for tri’s, head home, eat, rest and grow.

Pish-posh, say you? ACSM-certified trainer Adam Zickerman, Founder & President of InForm Fitness Studios, says it’s entirely possible.

“The best way to maximize muscle fiber recruitment is to reduce momentum from the movement, thereby forcing the muscles to do all the work,” he says. “By lifting weights slowly and deliberately and exhausting each muscle group, you will get to the deepest layers of muscle fibers in less than 130 seconds per set.”

The underlying principle is the manner in which muscle fibers are recruited. When using a slower cadence, your slow-twitch muscle fibers act as the primary movers but as they fatigue, your growth-happy fast-twitch muscle fibers come to the rescue to assist with the movement. The result? A through-and-through muscle burn that kicks off a new wave of fiber growth.

How to

To take advantage of this recruitment pattern, Zickerman says to select one exercise for your targeted muscle group and aim to take a full 10 seconds on the positive, a full 10 on the negative and to throw in a 2-3 second squeeze at the top of each movement. To do this, select a weight that you can handle normally for 15-25 reps and count on getting 5-7 total reps done. It may not sound like much, but trust us — it’ll feel like your muscle bellies had been doused in jet fuel and set ablaze.

Zickerman, whose two-exercise, two-set arms blast is listed on the next page, says that the same approach can be taken for any bodypart. But, he cautions, man cannot rest on exercise alone. “Exercise, nutrition and rest should each be given proper attention for complete muscle repair and total body health.”

barbell curl

Try this routine in place of your existing arm workout for a day, or vary the exercise selection and continue this method for up to four weeks. Allow 4-7 days to recover between workout days.

Exercise Sets Reps
Supported biceps curl 1 To failure *
Rope extension 1 To failure *

*If you’ve selected the proper weight load, you will be failing in the 5-7 range.

Supported Biceps Curl

Start: Hold a barbell or dumbbells at the tops of your thighs with a narrow, underhand grip. Carefully lean back against a wall or stable pillar with your feet hip-width apart.

Execution: Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides, slowly contract your biceps to raise the weight. Take a full 10 seconds to get the bar into the top position, pause for 2-3 seconds at the peak and then lower the bar along the same arc for another 10 seconds. Repeat to failure.

Rope Extension

Start: Grab the handles of a rope attachment at a high-pulley cable station. Pull the ropes into position alongside your body, your arms pinned to your sides, elbows flexed at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be hip-width apart or staggered, one slightly in front of the other.

Execution: Without using momentum, contract your triceps to push the weight down in an arc toward the tops of your thighs. Take a full 10 seconds to reach the point of peak contraction for your triceps. Squeeze your tri’s hard for 2-3 seconds, then take a full 10 seconds to return the weight to the starting position. Repeat to failure.