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Arms Like Whoa

Build arms like the pros by following their absolute best advice for bigger biceps and triceps.

Somewhere in a franchise gym near you, there’s a client asking his trainer how to build bigger arms. The client, probably going through the motions of his balance ball-heavy first session, is fixed on the idea of beefier, shirt-stretching triceps and sickly striated biceps peaks. The trainer, who probably landed his certification through a one-day seminar, is more comfortable espousing the virtues of single-leg overhead presses than heavy barbell curls — his spindly arms are telltale evidence. 

When you want to figure out how to get something, it’s good practice to find someone who already has it. So if an Arnold-like set of arms is your ultimate goal, you might be better off asking guys who have something in common with The Oak. Soak up every bit of wisdom that men of exceptional brachial swagger have to offer. Here, submitted for your hypertrophic enjoyment, we’ve assembled a panel of a half dozen well-armed IFBB athletes — men whose biceps and triceps are the ideal “after” to your “before” photo. So step away from the BOSU ball and read on for a VIP collection of arm-training strategies.


Hidetada Yamagishi

Hometown: Fullerton, CA
Height: 5´8˝
Contest Weight: 220 pounds

“I always think about my elbow [position] to ensure I hit each and every major aspect of the biceps and elbow flexors.”

When it comes to biceps training, for this Japanese phenom variety is the key. Upon closer inspection, his relatively “vanilla” selection of exercises reflects several arm angles, each putting a different stress on his biceps.

MMI: Do you always start your routine with the barbell curl?
Hidetada: Yes, this exercise is the best way to handle a lot of weight with the biceps. I switch between the straight bar and the EZ-bar each week for variety.

The incline dumbbell curl isn’t part of most guys’ routine. Why do you use it?
HY: This exercise really stretches the biceps and works the outer (long) head. But to keep the form good and avoid risk for injury, you don’t need to go super heavy.

MMI: The preacher curl is an excellent short head exercise. How are you able to get a good peak contraction?
HY: Well, I always aim to achieve a good peak contraction with this exercise. It’s about weight selection. You have to use a weight that lets you really feel the squeeze and hold it.

MMI: Are hammer curls important for total biceps development?
HY: Yes. Hammer curls and reverse curls — I switch from week to week — are important because they target the brachioradialis and brachialis, which help your biceps look bigger. If you want to get bigger arms, you need to train these muscles.

Do you have a favorite advanced technique for biceps?
HY: I think the easiest technique to use is forced reps, where you have a partner help you get 1–2 extra reps after failure. But if you train by yourself, I like rest-pause. So with barbell curls, if you want to get 10 reps but fail at eight, you can set it down for 5–10 seconds, and then continue for two more reps.

Do you have a favorite biceps exercise?
HY: If I had to pick only one exercise, I’d pick the preacher curl with a barbell or dumbbell. On this exercise, I feel the biceps very easily. Because it focuses mainly on the short head, it’s probably not the best exercise for everyone.

Do you like to train biceps alone, or with another bodypart?
HY: I train biceps with triceps. I’ve tried so many body splits but I found that when I train arms on the same day, I can get a greater pump and can focus more.

What do you think about heavy training for biceps?
HY: A lot of people tend to go too heavy for biceps; they’re small muscles so you shouldn’t worry so much about weight. You’re better off focusing on feeling the biceps.

MMI: Do you change anything about your biceps training at contest time?
HY: For me everything stays the same, not just for biceps but also for all my bodyparts, pretty much all year-round.

MMI: Your routine changes a lot but do you have a general plan of attack when training biceps?
HY: Yes, I always think about my elbows. I do one exercise with my elbows by my sides like the barbell curl, elbows forward like the preacher curl and elbows back like the incline dumbbell curl. Then, I do something with a neutral or reverse grip. That hits each and every major aspect of the biceps and elbow flexors.

Hidetada’s Biceps Routine

(1) Hide adds weight each set.
(2) Hide uses the same weight each set, striving to stay within the 8–12 rep range.