Hi Chad, can you tell me how many exercises I should do to build my biceps and triceps? Also, how many times per week should I train them?
Hi, Ezequiel. I can’t tell you exactly how many exercises you should do for your arms because of the fact I don’t know enough about you or your approach to training. However, I will tell that the number of arm exercises you perform will depend on several specific different factors.
In regards to how many times per week you train your arms, I almost always instruct my clients to never train arms more than once per week due to overlapping muscle groups, which I’ll explain later. The only exception to this rule would be someone with extraordinary genetics which allows them to recover at a remarkable rate. I will tell you that people like this are far and few between.
First of all, how intensely do you train? As a general rule of thumb—the more intensely you train a muscle, the briefer and less frequent your arm workouts should be. You see, the more intensely an exercise is performed, the deeper the in-road will be that cuts into your muscles recovery ability.
You don’t need to perform innumerable exercises for your biceps and triceps to make them grow if you have an efficient mind-to-muscle connection. For example, if you can activate more muscle fibers within a muscle, you won’t need to perform a ton of different exercises from multiple angles. Realistically, doing just 1-2 good exercises for both your biceps and triceps should be sufficient to actualize some noticeable progress relatively quickly if you push your muscles to a point of momentary muscular failure.
When I suggest pushing a muscle to a point of momentary muscular failure, that means you carry out a set until there is no conceivable way you could possibly perform even one more repetition on an exercise. In other words, you’re going to push that muscle until you’re unable to push anymore—and it’s going to hurt! It’s also worth mentioning that for arm exercises, a rep range of 8-12 reps is ideal for maximum hypertrophy.
When you’re able to reach this brutal level of training intensity, it’s easy to overtrain if you perform too many sets for your arms. This is because your muscles’ recovery ability is further cut into before it fully recovers. Especially when you consider the aspect of overlapping muscle groups, where your biceps and triceps are significantly stressed while training other muscle groups.
For example, when you train your back, various rows and pull-downs will also engage your biceps. When you perform pushing exercises during your chest and shoulder workouts, you will also stress your triceps to a great degree.
This is also why you see powerlifters with massive arms. Most powerlifters I know don’t even have an arm day in their training regimen, nor do they include any isolation exercises. Instead, they primarily stick with compound exercises such as the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Various rows are also often included as assistance exercises to enhance the deadlift.
If you happen to be somewhat of a beginner, you may not have trained long enough to develop a concrete synergy between your brain, nervous system, and muscles required to push them hard enough to a point of momentary failure. Moreover, you might not have built up your pain tolerance to such a level either.
In these instances, you can afford to follow a higher volume protocol that involves more exercises. However, after a few months of training, when you’ve grown stronger, developed a greater pain tolerance, and have established a more rooted mind-to-muscle connection, you will need to switch to a lower volume to avoid overtraining your arms.
Arm Workout – Advanced
Now, here is an example of an arm workout for someone who trains brutally hard and possesses exceptional pain tolerance with a solid mind-to-muscle connection.
(Note: You won’t work to failure on your warm-up sets. Your first warm-up set use about 50% of the weight used on your 1 set to failure. Your second warm-up set should be about 75% the weight used on your 1 set to failure.)
Barbell Preacher Curl: Warm-up sets= 2 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to failure = 1 X 8-12 reps.
Weighted Dips: Warm-up sets= 2 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to failure = 1 X 8-12 reps.
Reverse E-Z bar Curl: Warm-up sets= 2 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to failure = 1 X 8-12 reps.
Seated French Press: Warm-up sets= 2 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to failure = 1 X 8-12 reps.
Arm Workout – Beginner
Here is an example of an arm workout for a beginner, or someone who hasn’t yet established a solid mind-to-muscle connection, or built up their pain tolerance enough to be able to train a muscle to a point of momentary failure.
(Again, for your first warm-up set use about 50% of the weight used on your more difficult working sets. When a second warm-up set is called for, use about 75% of the weight for your more difficult working sets.)
Standing Barbell Curl: Warm-up sets= 2 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to near failure 3 X 8-12 reps.
Weighted Dips or Dips: Warm-up sets= 2 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to near failure 3 X 8-12 reps.
Incline Dumbbell Curls: Warm-up sets= 1 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to near failure 3 X 8-12 reps per arm.
Behind head Triceps Dumbbell Extension: Warm-up sets= 1 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to near failure 3 X 8-12 reps per arm.
Dumbbell Concentration Curl: Warm-up sets= 1 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to near failure 3 X 8-12 reps per arm.
Triceps Dumbbell Kick-backs: Warm-up sets= 1 X 8-12 reps. Working sets to difficulty 3 X 8-12 reps per arm.
To novice lifters, this may seem like too little arm training for maximum results. However, I’ve been at this for 30 years now. Without a doubt, most people who fail to build their arms do so because they overtrain them. For this reason, overtraining any muscle group is a surefire way to put a major halt on your bodybuilding progress.
Prove ‘Em Wrong,
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