Workout Your Arms - Ideal Strength
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February 25, 2010, last updated September 24, 2014
By Rory McClenaghan, Contributing Columnist

An Intense Day-Light Day Rotation Workout for Building Arm Strength

The only way to great guns is to lift huge weights as often as you can,
right? Wrong. As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to
skin a cat and the same is true with arm strength.

The fact is that as you are pumping iron in the gym your muscles and
strength are not actually growing. They are in use, sure, but they only
really grow in rest periods. If you can turn these rest times into periods
of lighter exercise then you give your muscles time to recover as well as
keeping the blood flowing through them. As a result your strength will
increase more than if you worked out intensely every day.

The Glycogen Connection to Building Up Arm Strength

When you do a heavy arm workout you are basically using up the
energy in your muscle and therefore it becomes weaker and depleted.
What you need to do then is build it back up. The key for this is
glycogen, which returns during a light workout, replenishing size and
strength. There are a number of studies which support the idea that
this kind of light workout, or active recovery is better than simple rest
alone. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that people who
performed light exercise, at 25% of their capacity between sets of
exercises were able to carry on significantly longer than those who
rested totally or exercised at 50% of their capacity.

Ideal Workout Rotation to Build Up Your Arm

The biggest danger is doing too much on your light days. You may feel
like you are going easy on yourself but remember it is important to give
muscles the chance to build up again. Whatever you do, resist the
temptation of stepping things up on light days.

Here is an ideal intense day and light day rotation program you can
follow to boost your arm strength.

Intense Day


Great for your triceps and your pecs too. Changing the positioning of
your arms will change which muscles are doing more of the work. You
should use three positions:
1.        Your hands shoulder length apart
2.        Your hands closer than shoulder length
3.        Your hands spread wider than shoulder length
Repeat each position until you can do no more, a stage called muscle
failure. This will ensure maximum muscle growth. Rest between each
position for two to three minutes. Completing all three stages
constitutes a cycle. Make a note of how many you managed each time.


Pull-ups are a real bicep-builder and a great way to increase strength
very quickly. Make sure that when you hang from the bar with straight
arms your feet don't touch the ground, this should stop you cheating.
Start with your arms straight and exhale as you pull your face level
with the bar. Hold for a moment then lower yourself until your arms are
straight. Repeat until muscle failure. Rest for two minutes then try for
another set. Make a note of your total number of pull-ups.

Tricep dips

Use a small chair, sit on the edge on lower yourself slowly to the
ground with your hands at the side of your hips, then slowly lift
yourself back into the original position. Repeat this 10 to 12 times.

Bicep curls

Use free weights for your bicep curls. They don't have to be the biggest
ones on the rack, for the heavy day use 15lb weights. Do 12 to 15
curls, rest for two minutes and then do another set.

Light day

Using the principle of the University of Kansas study you should aim to
do a quarter of the work on your light day. Take your number of reps
for each exercise and divide it by four. For the bicep curls keep the
same number of reps but use 5lb rather than 15lb free weights.

In combination with this, add a cardiovascular element for some
variety. Cycling for twenty minutes is ideal as well as a short jog. Abs
work is also very important when building arm strength, so include two
sets of thirty sit-ups on your light days with a three to five minute gap
in between.

The Importance of Doing Explosive Exercises

Scientists have found that , to maintain strength or to increase it, one
of the best types of exercise you can do are "explosive" exercises.

Boxing is the best explosive exercise for your arms. Try boxing,
throwing a medicine ball, or using a kettle ball at least twice per week,
with two days rest in between, to improve the explosive power of your

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