Interestingly enough, arms are one of those areas of the body in which isolated work can develop a major set of “guns” without giving you loads of functional strength. A lot of people can look amazing when sleeveless without being able to lift even a fraction of what another person with smaller and less defined arms can tackle.
Because it is healthiest to have both toned arms and functional strength, we’ll look at workout ideas that provide a bit of both.
3-Day Workout Plan General Tips
In order to really get the most out of any workout, though, we’ll need to look at some general tips and pointers to use when designing your arm workout program.
Frequency – Arm muscles need to recover and so it is best to use a split routine. Every other day is fine, and it is best to do arm workouts more than just once per week for the best outcome.
Pace – Whether you call it the pace or the tempo, the speed that you do reps has a lot of impact on the results of your workouts. It is best to use a controlled tempo that is a bit slow during any lowering and a bit more forceful when lifting.
Building Up – Never start your arm workouts at your goal weight. Instead, just slowly progress up in weight with each workout. Yes, every workout, but not in huge increments. The arms respond best to small changes over a long term.
Rest or No Rest? – You will see suggestions about the use of super sets in many articles or guides to workouts. These are just sets of exercises done with little or no resting in between the exercises. This gives maximum gains and is good for building muscle.
Antagonist/Same Muscles – This is a hot topic and often heavily debated. Essentially it looks at whether it is best to use antagonist exercises (such as tricep and then bicep workouts) or same muscles. Most experts lean toward the same muscle sets for specific results. For instance, going for defined arms would mean using same muscle sets at a rapid pace. However, those who want a lot of strengthening use the antagonist model. What is your goal? If it is good looking arms, go for the same muscles. If it is strength, mix it up with antagonist or different muscles worked in sets.
The ideal and balanced blend of exercises for a total arm workout can be done in three days. You can just skip a day and then do one set, skip another day and do the second set, and so on. Using this approach is going to give you strength, but also a lot of definition.
3-Day Workout Plan
Using a preacher bench, grab the front bar from its rest and use an underhand grip. Raise the bar and stop when your forearms are vertical, then lower it until the arms are extended. Repeat.
Hold the weight bar at shoulder width, using a strong underhand grip. Raise it up so the elbows actually slide back when flexed. Allow the bar to follow the contour of the front of the body and keep moving the bar upward and over the chest until forearms are perpendicular and elbows are pointed toward the floor. Lower until fully extended again. Repeat.
Lying Tricep Press
Lie on your back on the bench. Use an overhand grip on a barbell and hold it over your forehead with your arms fully extended. Lower it by bending your elbows, and as the bar gets close to your head, move the elbows back enough to let the bar pass over the head. Extend the arms to bring the bar back over the head and pull the elbows into their original positions.
Overhead Extension Tricep (with rope)
Use a pulley system to do this one. Attach a rope to a pulley and use an appropriate weight for your level of fitness. Face away from the cable and position your hands behind your head with the elbows pointed up. Elbows will be flexed and your feet will be separated to allow for a strong stance. Extend the elbows and raise above the head, and slowly lower back into position.
Barbell Wrist Curl (Palms Up)
On a flat bench place one barbell along one side. Kneel in front of the bench with the barbell on the opposite side. Grab the bar in a palms up position and bring the bar up with the forearms resting on the bench. Curl the wrists upward and bring the weight upward. Uncurl the wrists to slowly lower the weight. You should not move the arms at all.
None of these movements is easy, and so it is important to give a lot of attention to form. When you do, you will see and feel gains immediately. Remember to just adjust the weights in small amounts. Never go from a ten pound to a 20-pound barbell and never use jerky movements that force you to rely on other muscle groups.
The key here is to isolate the different muscle sets in the arms and to get maximum results from minimal input. You can blend up this routine, but try not to do all of your arm work in one day. The arms like to rest, recover and then get a bit challenged again.