Leroy Colbert was the first bodybuilder to build 21-inch arms. That was impressive 60 years ago, and even in today’s ultra-competitive IFBB pro bodbybuilding circuit, 21-inch arms are still considered massive.
Leroy was born in 1933, and in 1952 before he could legally drink, the 19-year-old Colbert became Mr. New York. By 1953, Cobert was Mr. Eastern America. However, in 1955, as things really began to get going, Colbert’s competitive bodybuilding career was ended by a severe motorcycle accident.
Colbert may not have had some of the titles of other famous bodybuilders of his era but he always had a cult-like following because of his massive arms and uncanny, upper-body development. Colbert's massive arms were built before the arrival of anabolic steroids. Genetics played a role, but with such massive development, it would be naïve to not investigate and experiment with someone’s methods that arguabably built the greatest set of arms in the history of weight training.
Colbert trained his arms three times a week, and each workout consisted of 8–10 sets of biceps and 8–10 sets of triceps. He performed two exercises for each biceps and triceps. Flying in the face of most modern-day science, Leroy most certainly do did not look to the lab for hard data; instead, he relied on intuition and hard work.
Setup:Stand upright and grab a barbell with an underhand grip. Place your hands shoulders-width apart and allow your arms to hang toward the floor. Tuck your elbows tight to the sides of your body.
Execution: Curl upward until you make a 90-degree angle at your elbow. Relax your arms back to full extension and repeat six more curls reaching the 90-degree angle at your elbow. Now, from the 90-degree at your elbow position, curl the weight up until the barbell is one to two inches away from your shoulder. Lower the weight back to the 90-degree elbow position and repeat six more times. This time, curl your arms from full extension all the way to full extension. Keep curling until the bar is about one to two inches away from your shoulder.
Josh’s Notes:Rest two minutes between sets.
Setup: Hang a plate from a dip belt and find a set of dipping bars that lets you take a grip just outside shoulder width.
Execution: Center your body with your arms locked out and, without letting your elbows flare outward, lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Josh’s Notes: Keep your torso upright to place emphasis on triceps; add as much additional weight as possible for each set. Rest three minutes between sets.
Dumbbell Concentration Curl
Setup: Sit at the end of a bench with your feet shoulder-width apart. Plant your right elbow against your right inner thigh and let your arm hange straight down while holding a dumbbell with an underhand grip in your right hand.
Execution: Contract your biceps to curl the dumbbell up toward your shoulder, then lower it under control all the way down to the starting position. After completeing your reps on one side, repeat on the other side.
Josh’s Notes: Go as heavy as possible but use 100% strict repetitions. Rest 90 seconds between sets.
Standing Overhead French Press
Setup:From a standing position, grasp an EZ-bar loaded with the desired weight and raise it above your head extending your arms. Palms face forward. Don't bend your wrists. Slightly bend your knees to find a stable position. Keep your core tight.
Execution:Lower the bar behind your head, slowly, focusing on the movement. Then lift it again to the initial position. Keep your elbows high in the same position, don't swing your arms. Lower and lift the bar in a semicircular arc behind your head.
Josh’s Notes:Emphasize the stretch at the bottom of the movement. Rest 90 seconds between sets.
Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl
Setup:With your knees slightly bent and your feet about hip-width apart, grasp a barbell with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Let the bar hang to your thighs. Keep your abs pulled in and your elbows stationary.
Execution: Without swaying, slowly curl the bar in an arc toward your shoulders. Pause at the top of the move and slowly lower the bar to the start position.
Josh’s Notes:Go as heavy as possible, each set with strict repetitions. Rest two minutes between sets.
Setup: Using a close grip, lift the EZ-bar and hold it with your elbows in as you lie on the bench. Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor.
Execution: Keeping the upper arms stationary, lower the bar by allowing the elbows to flex. Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement. Pause once the bar is directly above the forehead. Lift the bar back to the starting position by extending the elbow and exhaling.
Josh’s Notes:Lightly tap the forehead each rep, and keep the elbows in tight. Go as heavy as possible but there is absolutely no room for cheating. Rest two minutes between sets.
Incline Dumbbell Curl
Setup: Grasp a pair of dumbbells and lie back on an incline bench set at about 60 degrees, allowing your arms to hang straight down toward the floor by your sides. Use an underhand grip, with your palms facing forward.
Execution: Keeping your shoulders back and upper arms in a fixed position perpendicular to the floor, lock your elbows at your sides and curl both dumbbells toward your shoulders. Slowly return to the start position.
Josh’s Notes: Keep palms supinated through the entirety of each repetition, emphasize the stretch at the bottom of the movement holding it for half of a second. Keep the movement strict and go as heavy as possible without sacrificing technique or range of motion. Rest two minutes between sets.
Bent-Arm Barbell Pullover
Setup: Lie on a flat bench with a barbell using a shoulder-width grip. Hold the bar straight over your chest with a bend in your arms.
Execution:While keeping your arms in the bent-arm position, lower the weight slowly in an arc behind your head until you feel a stretch on the chest. Return the barbell back to the start position using the same arc that you used when you lowered the weight. Pause and repeat.
Josh’s Notes: Emphasize the stretch; this will hammer the long head of the triceps. Purposefully focus on the triceps while performing the pullover. Rest threee minutes between sets.
If your measurement hasn’t improved since the second Bush Administration, then why the hell not? Give this thrice-weekly routine a shot. Sure, it’s outside your comfort zone but how many natural pros today can match the arm development of Leroy Colbert?
Time to hit the pig iron!