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A Call To Arms

Big arms command respect from the Scotland Yard to the prison yard.

By Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS

Far too many folks drink the Kool-Aid of “the pump” is all that matters when training arms, pumping out set after set, using very high reps with pygmy weights. Sure the pump matters, but when it comes to arm development, there is no way to circumvent heavy-ass pig iron.

We’re going to have you in and out of the gym in 40 minutes with a purposeful path to an arm growth Valhalla.


Because triceps comprise two-thirds of the upper arm we ‘ll target that area first, starting with dips.

From the biggest “back arms” on the prison tier, to old-school bodybuilding legends like Reg Park and modern-day behemoths like the greatest bodybuilder of all-time, Ronnie Coleman, dips were a mainstay. The strongest overhead pressers and bench presses to walk the face of the earth have also trained with dips.

But I’m not talking about some short range of motion, cutesy bench dips—I am talking about old-school blood and guts parallel-bar dips.

In addition to the anecdotal evidence, scientific evidence shows that dips are the only exercise that provides significant overload to all three heads of the triceps, as demonstrated by MRI scans in Per Tesch’s epic classic book Targeted Bodybuilding.

Do three sets of five reps; add weight if possible. For the first two sets do a weight you are capable of doing six to eight reps with; on the final set go to failure. Upon failure, do two more dips, step back up to the extended position and lower yourself for a steady five-second tempo until reaching the bottom position (arms parallel to the floor). We can do more eccentrically so we will—the goal is to build as much muscle as fast as possible.

Important Note: Stay as upright as possible to keep emphasis on triceps.

Hercules Chin-Up

The Hercules chin-up is a creation of the Jailhouse Strong training system that uses incremental movements to build Herculean biceps. Using an underhand grip, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar and hold for two seconds. Descend halfway down and hold for two seconds. Repeat this movement for the prescribed number of repetitions. Finish with arms fully extended at the bottom.

Do this for three sets of four reps and add weight if possible. Perform the Hercules Chin-Up immediately after dips. Rest two minutes after each superset.

Important Note: Make sure chin is completely over the bar and focus intentionally on the biceps contraction.

IFBB Pro Cory Matthews Demonstrating Hercules Chin-ups

Dicks Press

This triceps movement was developed by legendary powerlifter Paul Dicks. It’s a favorite among the bodybuilders I train because it slaps slabs of meat on the triceps.

Lower the weight to approximately one inch above your chest, push your elbows up and shift the bar toward your chin. Then shift the bar back to one inch above your chest, forcefully press up and repeat.

Do this movement for three sets of six to eight reps as heavy as possible while maintaining great technique.

Dicks Press in Action

Incline Dumbbell Curls

For generations, strength athletes have increased strength with extended range of motion movements like deficit deadlifts, cambered-bar bench presses and Olympic pause squats to build strength. Smart bodybuilders have maximized muscularity by including extended range of motion movements because they prolong time under tension and cause greater muscle damage (a good thing for hypertrophy).

For the biceps, look no further than the incline biceps curl for extending your range of motion. Do this for three sets of six reps as heavy as possible.

Important Note: Hold each rep in the bottom position for one second, emphasizing the stretch. Hold weight for one second in top contracted position—range of motion should never be sacrificed for weight.


Since triceps are the key to arm growth, we will finish just like we started by giving the triceps a brutal beat down. Do bodyweight triceps extensions with bodyweight exercises to make them more difficult and to decrease a mechanical advantage. In this case, the further your feet are from the bar, the more difficult the movement. The more elevated the feet, the more difficult the movement. The path of least resistance is the path of the least results, so be honest with yourself.

We’ll use the total repetition method, meaning achieve the desired number of reps in the fewest number sets possible. Using the total repetition method, 100 triceps extension might look something like this:

  • Set 1: 15 reps, Set 2: 12 reps, Set 3: 11 reps, Set 4: 10 reps, Set 5: 10 reps, Set 6: 9 reps, Set 7: 8 reps, Set 8: 7 reps, Set 9: 7 reps, Set 10: 6 reps, Set 11: 5 reps.

Your goal is to complete 100 repetitions inside of 10 minutes. Rest as needed. At 10 minutes you stop regardless of whether you completed the 100 reps or not—time is of the essence.

Final Thoughts

Big arms fascinate the lay public and the hardcore bodybuilding aficionado alike. If your arms have not grown since the second Bush administration, you have to try something different—give this fast, effective routine a shot; you have nothing to lose!


Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, trains some of the strongest and most muscular athletes in the world in person at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and via the Internet. He is the co-author of Amazon # 1 selling book, Jailhouse Strong. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to sign up for his free training tips newsletter, visit