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The Great Arms Race - Casey Viator



Aug 11, 2010
Here's a superstar's arm routine for peak development that would be hard to beat.

When I'm preparing for a contest I train my arms daily -- biceps one day, triceps the next. I work biceps and chest together, then triceps and lats -- the push-pull concept. In that way I overload neither the arm flexors nor extensors.

When I'm not grinding toward a contest, I generally work each arm muscle three times a week. During this non-contest period, I reduce each exercise by one set, but I never reduce the amount of weight.

Before I go any further, let me repeat something about a rep performance method I've mentioned in the past. It's a way to think your muscle into more intense effort. After you've done 6-8 fairly strict reps, rather than relaxing your style to get extra reps, intensify by concentrating on speeding up the movement during the final few reps.

Actually, the movement doesn't speed up at all, but it seems easier because by concentrating on this effect, your brain has fired a volley of impulses to the muscle to recruit more fibers to do the work. You'd be surprised now this pumps your arms.

I should mention here that to build my arms, I use the Weider "flushing" method, in which I work one muscle are completely before going to another. In this way I keep the muscle area under tension and flushed with blood.

I start biceps work with One-Arm Concentration Curls, the first set with a 75-pound dumbbell for 10-12 reps. I do four sets, increasing the weight and finishing with a 100-pound set. On the final few reps of the heavier sets, I assist with my free hand by lightly pushing up on my forearm, a self-applied forced rep method. I then speed into the motion, but I carefully control the upward pressure to prevent careless acceleration.

Immediately following a two-minute break. I do One-Arm Standing Cable Curls. With my free arm, I grip an upright bar for support. I can then exert full power in curling without losing my balance. In fact, I like to add one balance-free exercise to each bodypart routine for maximum stimulation. I do four sets of 10-12 reps, starting with 70 pounds, finishing with 90 -- no cheating, no forced reps. Again, I think speed on the final reps.

Since I want every calorie I burn to be productive, I have eliminated the usual warm-ups. I started with the Concentration Curls because they're less stressful than the subsequent biceps movements, and therefore provide a substantial warm-up in themselves. This procedure had worked well for me so far. I would surely have to the the regular warm-ups if I didn't use the progressive system.

For the third biceps exercise, with my grip slightly less than shoulder width, I do the Standing Barbell Curl -- four sets of 10-12 reps, starting with 135 pounds and finishing with 225. On the latter I use the forced rep method by having my partner assist in the final reps with a slight boost. During the off-season I eliminate this tough final set.

The fourth and final biceps exercise is the Alternate Dumbbell Curl. I start each with my palm toward the thigh, and as I curl, I rotate my hand until it's fully supinated at the top of the movement. I start with 45 pounds, 10-12 reps, and in progressive jumps finish with 75 pounds. The weight is considerably less than I used for Barbell Curls. I alternate the two as a pumping exercise.

I must say that training for me has become a way of life, what with exhibitions, appearances and the frequency of contests. The term "off season" hardly applies to me. My routine remains unchanged for the most part, except for reducing the number of sets per exercise from four to three. My diet remains stringent now, I use the expression "No more cheesecake" as a constant reminder.

I start triceps work with the Lying Triceps Extension, done with a heavy barbell, unassisted. Pushing from the bridge of my nose, I start with 125 pounds, 10-12 reps, and finish with 155. Sometimes I'll call for assistance when forcing out the final three reps of the last set. For maximum benefit, the elbows should be held close to the body at all times. Don't let the bar swing toward the back of the head. I feel this one in the entire triceps area.

Next, I do the One-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension. This movement definitely works the outer head, the most visible area. Again, for stability, I hold.onto an upright bar with my free arm. I start with 45 pounds, 10-12 reps, and finish with 75. for the final three reps of the last set I look for assistance.

Warning: don't start your triceps work with this exercise. The movement is done under great initial stretch, and if the muscle is not sufficiently warmed up, strain could result. If done subsequent to other triceps exercises, however, no warm-up is needed.

On the final forced reps it's possible to assist yourself by using your free arm, pushing up against the forearm. I also find a certain stability in reaching across my body with my free arm to grip my lat. The more rigid you can make your body, the more directly the exercise movement is going to affect the triceps.

The third triceps exercise is the Bentover Kickback, one arm at a time. I keep my torso parallel to the floor, I extend my forearm back and up as far as possible. Of all the triceps exercises, this one peaks the muscle most fully. It builds the "horseshoe effect," an expression coined by old-time bodybuilders to describe the arch like curve in the fully contracted muscle. I start with 45 pounds, 10-12 reps, and advance in five-pound jumps, finishing with 60. I don't use assistance. During the last few reps of each set. I hold the arm in the fully extended position for a few seconds squeezing out maximum contraction.

I move fast through an arm routine, working up a good sweat. Though I may rest as long as a minute between sets. I work with enough intensity to boost my heartbeat and respiration rate, a sure sign of a high oxygen uptake.

I finish my triceps work with the Seated Triceps Extension, using a barbell. I grip the inner angle areas of the EZ-curl bar which puts my hands fairly close together. I keep my upper arms as close to my head as possible. From the extended position overhead. I lower my forearms to the point where they rest on my biceps. Being seated has a stabilizing effect on the body. I start with 135 pounds for 10-12 reps, finishing with 165. Again, I get assistance for the last three reps of the final set. This one works the entire triceps, a good mass builder.

During extended breaks between appearances, I drop a set from each triceps exercise, (going from four to three) use the same amount of weight and work the muscle three times a week.

For the forearms I start with the Seated Wrist Curl palms up, I sit on a high bench that puts my knees lower than my buttocks. In this position, with my forearms resting on my thighs, I'm able to curl my wrists so that a maximum contraction I'm getting the full resistance of the weight. I don't count reps on forearm work, doing usually 15-20 reps each set. I do four sets -- 135, 145, 155 and 225. I definitely need assistance on my last set and the heavy load gives my forearms the extra stimulation for build those desired bottle shapes.

The Reverse Curl, done standing with the elbow point. Plus it works the brachialis and the top part of the forearms, the wrist extensors. I do four sets, 10-12 reps of 100, 115, 125 and 135 pounds. This exercise cleared up a chronic brachialis pain that hampered my arm work.

Presently, the above is my arm training program. I change my routine about every month if my arms don't respond as expected. In my published training courses my arm-training routines are slanted to various stages of progress. My present arm program would be unproductive for a beginner. As this is written, I am only weeks from the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest, and I am bearing down extremely hard. But through ny own intense training efforts. I have unearthed facts about building arms that in proper context, can benefit anyone. I am basically a researcher at this point.
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