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Stoppani's Six Tips for Sick Arms

Take your biceps and triceps development to the next level with these simple tricks of the trade.

Stoppani's Six Tips for Sick Arms

If you're doing my Sick Arms Challenge here on JimStoppani.com, you're currently in the trenches of my popular Six Weeks to Sick Arms program. This is one of my favorite routines I've ever designed because it maximizes biceps and triceps development while not ignoring the rest of the body. A full body mass-gainining, strength-building program with special attention paid to growing your guns – what more could you ask for?!

To help you squeeze every last inch of effectiveness (and arm size) from the Sick Arms program, here are six arm-training "tricks" that you can use throughout the six-week plan – each including a video demonstration to ensure proper implementation. Employ these tips as you follow Six Weeks to Sick Arms to a T, along with a proper mass-gaining nutrition plan, and you can expect your guns to grow an inch or more.

Sick Arms Tip #1: Perfect Your Grip on Preacher Curls (Biceps)

Dumbbell preacher curls first show up in Six Weeks to Sick Arms in Week 2. And when they do, make sure you follow one simple technique cue to put your biceps in the strongest position possible to maximize overload and the potential for growth. The technique is this: Hold the dumbbell at the top of your palm, up near the wrist, and at a 45-degree angle. As I explain and demonstrate in the below video, with this grip the wrist is no longer the weak link (compared to when you hold the dumbbell in the middle of the palm, like most people do) and you'll be in a biomechanically stronger position for a more forceful curling motion.

Sick Arms Tip #2: Get a Bigger Stretch on Cable Overhead Extensions (Triceps)

The standard way of doing a cable overhead extension is to place the pulley at the highest setting, grab the rope, face away from the stack and lean forward with the torso to allow for the motion to occur. There's nothing terribly wrong with doing it this way, but at the same time you're not maximizing the stretch of the triceps long head (and maximizing the stretch is the best way to isolate that section of the muscle). I have any easy fix for that: To place the most stretch possible on the long head, lower the pulley on the cable column so that you don't have to lean forward. As you'll see in the below video at around the 3:30 mark, the pulley should be just above hip height (or somewhere in that vicinity) to achieve this. I highly recommend doing your cable overhead extensions in this manner at least some of the time for maximal triceps long head development.

Sick Arms Tip #3: Get a Better Handle on Supination (Biceps)

Most experienced lifters know that supinating the biceps when doing dumbbell curls can go a long way toward developing the peak of the biceps and maximizing overall biceps development. But very few people take notice of the fact that when you grip the middle of the dumbbell handle when doing curls (which is the natural thing to do, right?) the outer plate of the dumbbell is falling toward the floor with gravity to more or less the same degree as the inner plate is being raise via supination. This basically cancels out the supination. But there's one way to offset this to make sure you're supinating with maximal force: Grip the oustide of the dumbbell handle so that your thumb is right up against the outer weight. Maintain this grip throughout the entire set of dumbbell curls to force your biceps to supinate against more weight. Over time, this simple sleight of hand can pay big dividends in your biceps development. I explain it all in this video:

Sick Arms Tip #4: Achieve Full Isolation on Cable Pressdowns (Triceps)

This may seem obvious to some, but it's shocking how many people still flare out their elbows and put "body English" into cable pressdowns, an exercise intended to be an isolation movement for the triceps. When doing pressdowns, keep your torso stationary, your elbows pinned to your sides, and don't come up too high at the top of the rep (forearms just above parallel is ideal). Of course, always reach full elbow extension at the bottom of the rep and squeeze the contraction in the triceps. The below video shows proper strict form on cable pressdowns. Adhere to this technique for full isolation of the triceps and maximal development.

Sick Arms Tip #5: Vary Your Grip on Barbell Curls (Biceps)

One habit most people fall into on barbell curls is using the exactly same grip every time. It makes, I guess, since the standing barbell curl is such a staple meat-and-potatoes biceps lift that getting creative with it doesn't seem necessary. But like I always say, variety is key, even with utterly foundational exercises like this. Feel free to keep using your standard curl grip with the hands just outside the legs in the down position, but also, rotate in both wide-grip and narrow-grip barbell curls to maximize biceps short head and long head development, respectively. With wide-grip curls, spread your hands just outside shoulder-width on the bar; on close-grip curls, pull the hands just inside shoulder-width so that they're touching your thighs in the down position. In the context of a workout, alternate your grip every set – ie, shoulder-width on the first set, wide-grip on the second set, close-grip on the third set. If the workout calls for more than three sets, feel free to go back to shoulder-width for remaining sets.

Sick Arms Tip #6: Find Your Width on Close-Grip Bench Press (Triceps)

When it comes to isolating the triceps via close-grip bench press, the more narrow the grip the better, right? Wrong. Research has shown that triceps involvement is no greater on close-grip bench when the hands are very narrow (four inches or so apart) as compared to using a shoulder-width grip. Moreover, such a narrow grip (again, four inches or so) has been found to increase stress on the wrists joints, which can cause discomfort and possibly lead to injury. Going too close will also limit the amount of weight you can use, thus decreasing overload on the muscles. So the prescription here is pretty obvious: Stick to a shoulder-width grip on close-grip bench press. 


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