Arm Workout Routine | No Curls or Pressdowns

Pop open any popular muscle magazine and you are going to get an arm workout routine in almost every issue. The fact is that men just love to work out their arms and show off the big guns. I can't say I'm any different, having big arms is very important to me and I do what I can to keep building bigger biceps and triceps.

That being said there is a huge difference between my arm workout routine and those you will find in the magazines. Now I'm not some massive gorilla but I do have a pretty impressive 16" arm measurement even though my arms are pretty long. What's more impressive than the raw measurement is that I have grown them a full inch in the last 5 weeks doing absolutely no isolated arm exercises at all.

Now before we dive into what arm workout routine I actually do, let's hit the facts about muscle development. Without being scientific about it, here is what happens. You go lift some weights, muscles get damaged, then you rest and eat and your body repairs the muscles. Your body is pretty smart so it attempts to build them back stronger than before so they are not damaged as easily. That's the process in a nutshell.

Arm Anatomy Chart

Your upper arm is essentially made up of 5 major muscles. In your triceps there are 3 major muscles and in your biceps there are 2. These muscles are used to extend and contract your arm. Now from your bodies point of view it can really care less what you did to extend or contract your arm it just know you did it and tore down some of the muscle in the process. Once the damage is done the body is going to get to work fixing you up so that next time this happens it can better deal with the stress.

Since our goal is bigger arms we want to teach our body that we need stronger and therefore bigger arms in order to handle this kind of stress. To teach our body to focus on bigger stronger arms we need to hit our arms with heavy weights and low reps.

Fair enough, I don't think anyone would really disagree with those points too much but here is where we start to part ways. The muscle magazines will tell you the best way to stress the muscles in your arms is to hit them with an arm workout routine consisting of 3 sets of 8 of about 3 different movements for your triceps, and three different movements for your biceps. Some programs have an arm workout day, others split the triceps and biceps into separate days based on the push/pull breakup. I personally think both are a waste of time and I'll tell you why.

Your arms have fairly small muscles compared to the larger muscles of your chest and back. Your triceps assist in pushing motions and your biceps assist in pull motions. They are assistant muscles not muscles to be targeted directly. Have you ever seen someone with a massive chest and back with tiny little arms? I haven't and unless you run across someone with some kind of weird medical condition I doubt you will either. I guess if all you ever did was the pectoral fly machine you could build a chiseled chest without involving your arms too much but it would be a very long road to take with minimal results.

This is why my arm workout routine consists of no direct arm work at all. I follow strength training programs like starting strength, Westside Barbell, 5/3/1, and variations of those programs which focus on the big compound lifts and minimal to no assistant work. For the last 5 weeks I have been doing the following:


The Original Starting Strength Novice Program

Workout A

  • 3x5 Squat
  • 3x5 Bench Press
  • 1x5 Deadlift

Workout B

  • 3x5 Squat
  • 3x5 Press
  • 5x3 Power cleans

Workouts A and B alternate on 3 non-consecutive days per week

Or you could go with the variation he made in his Practical Programming Book.

I have consistently added weight to my lifts and while doing so I have added an inch to my arms, 2 inches to my chest, and 2 inches to my thighs. My bench press has went up 50 pounds and my waist has shrunk by 1.5 inches. So there you have it, the best arm workout routine that involves absolutely no curls or press-downs. Don't take my word for it, give it a try yourself and see what happens.

gain 41 lbs of muscle in 24 weeks