Ask the Professional: Building Huge Arms

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building arms workout

Ask the Professional: Building Huge Arms

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing professional wrestler Jeff Bearden (a.k.a. Giant Warrior, formerly Tiger Steele).  Sure, there’s a lot to ask a guy like that, but the first thing many people want to know is how he got arms that could choke out your average python.

His tips and advice on how to get 23″ arms can work for anybody.  Plus, this workout can be easily modified to be suit women who are not looking for mass.  If that’s you, remember to stick with high weights and a low number of reps. Jeff’s experiences can lend a good deal of sage advice on the subject.  He’s not just a big guy — he’s a tall guy too.

He Said

“People always ask me how I got such big arms.  I am a 7 foot person, but more often than not, when people see me, they notice my arms first; ‘Whoa… did you see that guy’s arms?  He’s tall too.’  It is funny at such an imposing height that it’s not the first thing people notice.”

“The most important things to remember in building massive arms are not to ignore your triceps, which account for about 60% of your upper arm mass, work every head of the muscle from every angle, and to keep changing up your routine to keep your body reacting and building muscle.”

“The number one mistake I’ve seen, both with personal training clients and observing others in the gym, is training with weights that are too heavy.  It’s a macho mentality that the bigger weight you lift, the more impressive you are to other gym-goers and yourself and the bigger your muscles will get.”

“I train at a lower weight than my capability, focusing on form and completing sets rather than weights; increasing your range of motion by selecting the right weight will do a lot more to increase size and cuts than picking the biggest weight you can manage without getting a hernia.  Showing off should not be your top priority when you’re training.  Remember, no one else is watching you, nor do they care.”

Don’t Forget Your Triceps

We’ll start with the triceps since they are so often ignored.  Take each exercise as a challenge to build your strength.  So many people deal with the flab in their arms and stop working.

Why wouldn’t you continue working and build strength in your triceps?  You can create so much leverage with your triceps you can get strong pretty quickly.It won’t be just about the inches, it’ll be about the power.

Tricep Cable Pushdown

Muscle Worked: Triceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Chest, Back

Equipment:

  • Cable Machine
  • Straight or Angled Bar Attachment

Tips: The keys are maintaining posture, keeping your elbows tight to your sides, and using a full range of motion.  I pyramided my reps down, going from 10, 8, 6, 4, to 2, increasing the weight on each set.  This is a great tool to help you push past your next weight plateau and build the size of your triceps; eventually the weight you were doing 2 reps of becomes the weight you’re doing 4 reps of, and so on.

How to do it:

Face high pulley and grasp the bar using an overhand narrow grip. Find a comfortable stance, either a few steps back from the machine placed slightly apart or with one foot in front of the other. Begin with the bar at about shoulder height, keeping elbows tucked close to your sides. Extend arms down, squeezing your triceps at the bottom. Return to starting position. Pyramid your reps (10, 8, 6, 4,2) increasing weight as you decrease reps.

Superset of Single Arm Pushdowns and Reverse Grip Pushdowns

Muscle Worked: Triceps

Equipment:

  • Standing cable machine
  • Single arm attachment

Tips: This is a super set, so there is no rest between sets.  Keep your form strict!

How to do it:

Face high pulley and grasp the single arm attachment using an overhand grip. Find  a comfortable stance, either a few steps back from the machine placed slightly apart or with one foot in front of the other. Begin the exercise with the handle at your chin and elbow close to your body.
Keeping elbow locked in place, sweep the weight from your chin to your waist using a smooth motion. Lock your elbow at the bottom of the motion and squeeze your triceps. Return your hand to the top of the motion and repeat ten times. To complete the super set, switch your grip to an underhand grip and repeat steps  1-6. Do 3 super sets of 10.

Overhead Extensions

Muscle Worked: Triceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Shoulders

Equipment:

  • Single Dumbbell
  • Seated Bench or Preacher Curl Bench

Tips: Easier if you use a seat with back support.  If you can’t find a seated bench, sit into a preacher curl bench backwards, resting your back against the armrest for support.

How to do it:

Using a heart-shaped grip, position both hands under the inner plate of the dumbbell , keeping wrists close together and holding the dumbbell overhead. Keeping your elbows overhead, flex them to lower your forearms behind your head. Avoid hitting your neck with the dumbbell by flexing your wrists at the bottom of the motion. Extend elbows and hyper extend wrists to raise dumbbell back to starting position overhead. Do 3 sets of 10.

French Curls (a.k.a. Skull Crushers)

Muscle Worked: Triceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Shoulders

Equipment:

  • Dumbbells
  • Flat Bench

Tips: Don’t hit yourself in the forehead!

How to do it:

Lie on flat bench with your arms fully extended and your palms facing outward.Bending only at the elbows, lower the dumbbells to your forehead, simultaneously rotating the weights until your palms are facing inward in one, smooth, continuous motion.Reverse the motion, rotating your palm back outward and the weights above your head in an equally smooth and controlled motion; ensure that you use your triceps to do the work.Do 3 sets of 10.

Tricep Kickbacks

Muscle Worked: Triceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoids, Serratus Anterior, Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus

Equipment:

  • Single dumbbell
  • Flat bench

Tips:Keep your elbow high and choose an appropriate weight to allow for full extension.  This is generally a lower weight exercise, done slow and very strict.

How to do it:

With one hand and one knee on bench, grab a dumbbell in the hand furthest from the bench. Keeping the dumbbell at your side, point your elbow towards the ceiling.
With your elbow locked in place, extend your arm slowly until it is straight. Hold at the top for one second and then lower. Do 3 sets of 10.

Flip To The Bicep Side

That was only half the workout though.  You have to balance your tricep work with bicep work.  Your triceps only have 11.5 inches of the 23 you need to be in Jeff’s neighborhood.

Because Jeff found that most people ignored their triceps, you can view this portion of the workout as a change of pace.  Perhaps you don’t do these exercises in this order, or you don’t do them at all.

It’s best to use a method that works for you, and this is merely a starting point.  You can use my form or the “proper” form.  As long as you’re working out — it’s working!

Straight Bar Curls (Standing Barbell Curls)

This is by far the best workout for arms, incorporating all of the muscles into the movement…

Muscle Worked: Biceps Brachii

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Deltoid Anterior, Trapezius Upper and Middle, Levator Scapulae, Wrist Flexors

Equipment:

  • Straight Bar
  • Weights
  • Cable Machine if desired
  • EZ Curl Bar for variation

Tips: Start using the low cable pulley until you get used to the motion, make sure you always do this exercise with control, maintain your posture, and don’t cheat.  As you progress, mix up your workout by using an EZ curl bar.

How to do it:

Using a shoulder-width overhand grip, lock your elbows an inch from your sides. Curl the bar towards your chest, making sure you do the work with your biceps and not your moment. At the top of the motion, squeeze your bicep. Lower with control to your starting position. Do 3 sets of 10.

Seated Dumbbell Curls (Cheating it a little)

Muscle Worked: Biceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Serratus Anterior, Flexors, Traps, Rotator Cuff, Flexors, Anterior Deltoids, Medial Deltoids

Equipment:

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench

How to do it (Proper Form):

Sit with your back against a head rest, firmly planting your feet on the floor.With palms facing forward and thumbs wrapped around the handles place your arms close to your body.Keeping your elbows and back in place and shoulders depressed, bring the dumbbells up to your chest in a unified motion.  If you cannot maintain posture, reduce your weight.With control, slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position, making sure not to use momentum or gravity.  Do 3 sets of 10.

How to do it (My Form):

This is the one exercise I always cheated on in order to build strength.  This is a great tool for pushing your limits and building your strength to break into the next weight, so despite all my warnings about cheating and using the proper weight, sometimes cheating is a necessary evil.

Lying Down Cable Curls

Muscle Worked: Biceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: brachialis

Equipment:

  • Cable Machine
  • Straight bar attachment

Tips: It’s very similar to the skull crushers.  Your form is important because of the angle.

How to do it:

Lay down flat on a bench taking an underhand grip with a straight bar.Once you are laying down, curl the weight to your forehead. Return to starting position with arms straight up. Check your form and ensure that your back is making firm contact with the bench.Do 3 sets of 10.

Muscle Worked: Biceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked:

Tips:Use 50% or less of your usual weight as this is a very fatiguing exercise.  For a challenge, increase from 7 of each motion to 8 or more.

Equipment:

  • Weight bar
  • Appropriate weights
  • Flat bench

How to do it:

Glue your upper arms to the sides of your body and grasp the bar shoulder width apart.Curl the weight up slowly from your thighs to sternum-level 7 times.Curl the weight up slowly from sternum-level all the way into your chest 7 times.Curl the weight up slowly from your thighs to your chest 7 times. Do 3 sets of 10.

Concentration Curls

Muscle Worked: Biceps

Ancillary Muscles Worked: Brachialis

Tips: Start with a lower weight than you usually use because the bicep is completely isolated in this workout.  Executing this move with absolute control and slowness is a MUST!

Equipment:

  • Single dumbbell
  • Bench

How to do it:

Sitting at the end of a flat bench with legs apart, tilt your upper body forward marginally.With one hand grab a dumbbell using an underhand grip, resting your elbow on your inner thigh near your knee and allowing the dumbbell to hang.Veerry slooowly curl the dumbbell up, simultaneously twisting your wrist to the outside.  This should be done in one, smooth, unified movement.Squeezing your bicep at the top of the movement, hold for a one count.Return equally slowly and smoothly to the start position, twisting your wrist back to the inside as you do so.Do 3 sets of 10.

Bottom Line

How do you get 23 inch arms like Jeff Bearden?  Jump in the ring?  Put down a piledriver on someone?

No.  You work your tail off in the gym.  This collection of exercises can put you on the road to 23 inch arms, and it’s a good start.  With many hours logged in the gym you, too, can have arms the size of a woman’s waist. It won’t just be something fun to talk about parties.  Your arms will look great and you’ll feel an even greater since of accomplishment.

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