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Bigger Arms in Half the Time

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Building better arms is not just about working your triceps and biceps. Learn how to work the two "hidden" muscles within the arm for greater results in less time.

Person performing a bicep curl with a dumbbell

No matter how much extra time you spend trying to fill out your sleeves, the minuscule payoff at the end is never worth all the effort. There's a reason for that, although you may not want to hear it: You're exercising the wrong way.

Bicep Muscles Most guys work only about 60 percent of their arms. The reason is that the two basic arm exercises most men do, the biceps curl and the triceps press-down, only work three of the five muscles of the arm.

The common belief is that the upper arms are made of two muscles (biceps and triceps), but they really divide into five. They are the triceps, (lateral, medial and long heads), the biceps and a broad, flat sinew called the brachialis anticus, which is sandwiched between the bone and the biceps.

Most popular triceps exercises challenge the first two heads but never stimulate the long head around the inside of the arm. Big mistake, because building this portion gives your arms a wider appearance from every angle (unlike the other two, which can only be seen from the back and sides).

Developing the brachialis, meanwhile, has the same miracle effect of a saline implant inside a 34A chest. With nowhere else to go but up, the brachialis pushes against the biceps, which makes them seem larger than they actually are. Unfortunately, most conventional exercises, such as barbell, dumbbell or preacher curls, never challenge this hidden muscle. The only way to stimulate it is by curling with the hands either palms down or palms facing each other -- arm positions most guys never bother to try.

That's where this four-step plan can help. Here is a fast, comprehensive routine that targets all five muscles in one workout. The end result: bigger arms in less time. Because you use the biceps and triceps whenever you work your upper body, it won't take much to exhaust them, so do only three sets of the following exercises for 10 to 12 repetitions each.

For the front

Wall curl:
Stand against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a light barbell with an underhand grip by your thighs, hands shoulder-width apart. Press yourself along the wall so that your head, back, triceps and heels touch the surface. (If any of these four come off during the exercise, you're cheating, so concentrate on keeping them flat at all times.) Tuck your elbows in at your sides; then slowly curl the barbell up until your hands are by your shoulders. Flex your biceps (squeezing your muscles when they're contracted helps exhaust additional muscle fibers); then slowly lower the bar back to your thighs.


Alternating hammer curl:

Sit on the end of a bench, feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging from your sides. Turn your wrists so your palms face each other. Keeping your back straight, slowly curl the weights until your thumbs are by your shoulders. Flex your biceps; then lower the weights. On the next rep, turn your wrists so your palms face behind you. Slowly curl up until your knuckles are by your shoulders; then lower. Continue to alternate hand positions throughout the set.

For the back

Lying triceps press:

Lying Triceps Extension Lie face up on a bench, feet flat on the floor. Grab an E-Z curl bar with an overhand grip, hands about 6 inches apart. Press the weight above your chest, elbows unlocked. Keeping your upper arms still, slowly bend your elbows and lower the weight until your hands reach your forehead (your elbows should be pointing straight up; otherwise you're using your shoulders). Press the bar back up, leaving your elbows unlocked at the top, and repeat.

Triceps rope pull-down:
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Grab a rope attached to a cable at the top of a lat pull-down machine, palms facing each other. Lean slightly forward at the hips with your abdominals contracted and knees soft. Lock your elbows at your sides and bend them so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Slowly extend your arms until your fists reach the outside of your thighs; then gently rotate your wrists so your palms end up facing out and away from your body. Squeeze your triceps for a second; then rotate your wrists back and slowly raise the rope until your forearms are parallel to the floor.

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