Back to Basics | Erin Stern

March 23, 2016

I was talking with a friend of mine about how to build great arms. She told me that she was doing a workout from a fitness magazine, but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. She was in the gym for over an hour, and didn’t feel like she was maximizing her efforts. I asked her what exercises were in the program, and she went through the list. Here’s the original workout:

  • Cable pushdowns – 3x15
  • Seated biceps hammer curls – 3x15
  • “Skullcrushers” with an EZ bar – 3x15
  • Preacher curls – 3x15
  • Triceps kickbacks – 3x15
  • Concentration curls (single arm) – 3x15
  • Single-arm cable pushdowns – 3x20
  • Single-arm cable curls – 3x20

I offered to redo her plan, and she agreed. I incorporated a couple of basic lifts and their variations: compound movements which burn more calories, help the muscle groups work together better aesthetically, and put less stress on the joints than an entire workout of isolation movements (like the workout above). The two basic lifts that help build and shape arms are chin-ups and bench press/push-ups. The revised plan looks like this:

  • Plank pull-ups on Smith machine (underhand grip) – 4x10
  • Close-grip bench (elbows in) – 4x10
  • Pulldowns (underhand grip, leaning back slightly) – 4x10
  • Weighted bench dips – 4x10
  • Drag curls with EZ bar – 4x10
  • Triceps pushdowns superset with rope curls – 3x12
  • Dumbbell overhead triceps extension superset with seated hammer curls – 3x12

The goal during the workout is to focus on performing each exercise with either the triceps or the biceps - pull the weight with just the biceps or push the weight with just the triceps. Slow and controlled movements will help with strengthening your mind-muscle connection, which can cause a greater muscle fiber recruitment through the exercise.

The workout finishes with isolation movements in supersets. This is great for working on aesthetics, keeping the heart rate up, and to save time in the gym. Does your exercise program need an overhaul? Consider going back to the basics! The six basic lifts have thousands of variations!

Supplementing with BetaTOR has been helpful for gaining lean mass and maintaining strength. I love how I’m able to get those last couple of reps during each exercise!

Thank you for reading! Until next time, train hard y’all!

-Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia Champion

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