Arm Training for Strength Athletes
Training arms is reserved for gym bros, right? WRONG!
As a strength athlete there is no reason to neglect any muscle group. Doing so is a huge rookie mistake. Take a look at any top level powerlifter, Olympic lifter, or strongman competitor and you will see they all have big arms.
This didn’t happen by accident. These mammoth and powerful guns came from training. Now a lot of arm size will come from your initial base building, meaning the work that most lifters do when they first start out.
When you begin your journey in the gym you need to invest time in building muscle and strength from head to toe. Later in the development of a lifter, there is less focus placed upon base building as the emphasis switches to the improvement of weak points.
For the more experienced lifter arm training is also used to stave off injuries and nagging pain such as tendinitis.
Properly Targeting Your Biceps and Triceps
So how do you train your arms like a strength athlete?
Training arms for a strength athlete is a balance of give and take. Unlike many gym-goers, “arms” aren’t typically given their own training day. Any focus on the biceps and triceps usually follows the training of the main movements and assistance work. It is done so with a specific goal in mind.
If the goal is to fight off tendinitis and nagging pains, a training session would normally start or end with high repetition hammer curls. This would be done in the 30+ rep range using a light weight. The goal is to simply get plenty of blood in the area, not to increase muscle size.
The same will be done for the triceps using a push-down exercise. From my personal experience, a band rather than a machine is the best choice for this exercise. A machine limits the tension placed upon the elbow through parts of the range of motion.
The Argument Against Direct Arm Work?
The argument against doing direct arm work is that you can achieve arm strength and size using heavy rows, presses and lockout movements. While this is very true, adding additional muscle to the arms from doing direct work can only add value to your training.
Although we all have seen the guys who do it, an arm movement is not something you should be maxing out on. This is very true for strength athletes, but does not mean that you shouldn’t be pushing for strength progress at all.
Another point I would like to make is that you do not need to use perfect form when training arms, so ignore the form police. So what if your form breaks down the last last few reps and you have a little body sway? To quote a good friend of mine,
“This is about strength, not getting a 10.0 form score from the Russian judge.”
My Arm Training Plan
So my go to arm training for strength athletes doesn’t involve some super complicated plan. In fact, it’s pretty damn simple.
- Single arm hammer curls: Seated, heavy, and a little momentum if you need to 3-5 sets 8-15 reps.
- Curl bar curls: Seated or standing, same rules apply 3-5 sets 8-15 reps.
- Band push down. For the tricep the band push down is really my go to favorite. There are so many different variations, it makes the movement almost limitless. Use as much band tension as you can successful push down for a minimum of 15 reps, and try to hold each one at the bottom.
- Chained skullcrusher. Another great triceps movement for strength athletes is a skull crusher with chains. The addition of the chain often limits the pressure put on the elbows.
- Tate press. The last direct arm work suggestion I have for you is the Tate press. This is a staple in many powerlifting movements and again should be done heavy!
You will see a noticeable difference in arm size with the addition of direct arm training. The additional size and strength will make a difference in your given sport, no matter your goal or level. Besides…at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to have big arms?