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Arms workouts

The Ultimate Arms Workout Plan

Add size and strength to your biceps and triceps while also building a bigger and stronger chest with this four-week workout plan

9 Sep 2021
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If you want to train your arms, you can’t just train your arms. For starters, doing purely arm-focused workouts every day just isn’t an option – you need to take time between training sessions to let the muscles recover and grow. To progress with your arm exercises you also need to build strength in other parts of the body or else some exercises become too tough. And perhaps most importantly of all, having bulky arms hanging off a small torso will look a bit ridiculous.

An effective training plan that works the entire body over the course of a week but pays extra attention to your biceps and triceps is what’s required, and that’s exactly what the plan below is. It’s not suitable for beginners, but if you’re a regular in the weights room and looking for a progressive plan to get stuck into, it’s a great option.

You’ll need to follow the plan at a gym, unless your home set-up is the match of a commercial gym with weights machines and free weights. You’ll also need to pay close attention to your diet to help your body cope with the training load and respond to the stimulus. We have fuelling tips at the bottom of the article.

How This Arms Workout Plan Is Structured

Each workout has six moves you’ll do as straight sets, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo (explained below) and rest detailed. Each week you’ll perform four workouts, ideally on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Rather than repeating the same workouts each week, the plan is divided into two-week blocks, with the weekly workouts in each block also increasing in intensity the second time round.

For instance, in the first week of block 1 you’ll do four sets of ten reps for moves 1 and 2, then three sets of 12 reps for moves 3 to 6. In the second week of the block the moves are the same but you’ll do one additional set of ten reps of moves 1 and 2, and four sets of 12 reps for the remaining moves.

For the second block of your four-week plan, the session structure has been changed to shift the high-volume emphasis from your arms to your chest. So in this block there are two chest workouts a week, but don’t worry about losing your newfound arm size and strength – there is still enough dedicated training time for your biceps and triceps to keep the gains coming.

Use these links to jump to a part of the training plan:

Tempo Training Explained

Tempo is the speed at which you lift and lower the weight in seconds, and it’s written out as a sequence of four numbers. The first number is the time you should take to lower the weight (called the eccentric phase), the second is how long you should pause at the bottom of the rep, the third refers to the lifting portion (the concentric phase), while the fourth is how long to pause at the top of the rep.

A 3010 tempo means you take three seconds to lower it and one to raise it, with no pause at the top or bottom.

It sounds straightforward, but some exercises like the biceps curl begin with the lifting movement (governed by the third number), so keep your wits about you.

How To Warm Up

There’s no easing in with any of these workouts, because each of them starts with a big compound lift like the bench press or barbell back squat. This means that you need to prime your body for action with a thorough warm-up. This will help you perform better, especially in the early sets of your workout, and also make it less likely that you’ll injure yourself during your session.

The bulk of your warm-up needs to be specific to the workout you’re about to do, but it’s a good idea to begin with a series of dynamic stretches that hit muscles all over your body. You’ll find such a series with this pre-workout warm-up, with seven moves that prime all the key muscle groups.

After performing that routine, it’s time to get specific and the easiest way to do that is to perform some of the exercises you’re about to do in the workout. Using lighter weights that you would normally, or no weight at all if appropriate, perform sets of the first two moves of each workout. Begin by doing a high-rep, low-weight set to get your muscles moving, then increase the weight and decrease the reps as you move towards starting your workout proper.

Block 1 Week 1

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

1 Bench press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie flat on a bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully.

2 Bent-over row

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Bend forwards, hinging from your hips, but keep your chest up and your core braced. Row the bar up to your body, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top, then lower.

3 Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding two dumbbells directly over your chest with straight arms. Bend your elbows slightly, then lower your hands out to the sides until you feel a stretch across your chest. Squeeze your pecs to return to the start.

4 Lat pull-down

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

5 One-arm cable press

Sets 3 Reps 10 each side Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with your back to a cable machine, holding a D-handle in one hand. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press your hand forwards until your arm is straight. Reverse back to the start and repeat for all the reps, then switch arms.

6 Dumbbell pull-over

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 4010 Rest 60sec

Lie flat on a bench, holding a dumbbell in both hands above your chest with straight arms. Lower the weight behind your head in a slow and controlled movement, keeping your arms straight, then raise it back to the start position.

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Abs

1 Back squat

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and your whole body tight, bend your knees to squat down as low as you can but don’t let your knees roll inwards. Push through your heels to stand back up.

2 Romanian deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core braced, bend forwards, hinging at the hips, to let the bar roll down the front of your legs until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Reverse the movement.

3 Leg extension

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself correctly on the machine with the padded bar against the bottom of your shins. Keeping your upper body tight, raise your feet to straighten your legs. Pause at the top with your quads engaged, then lower back to the start.

4 Hamstring curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Position yourself correctly on the machine with the padded bar against the backs of your lower legs. Keeping your upper body tight, push your feet down to bend your legs. Pause at the top with your hamstrings engaged, then lower back to the start.

5 Crunch

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and hands by your temples or crossed over your chest. Engage your upper abs to raise your torso, then crunch your upper body up towards your knees. Lower slowly, keeping tension on your abs throughout.

6 Plank

Sets 3 Time 30sec Tempo N/A Rest 60sec

Get into position with your elbows under your shoulders, your feet together and your hips raised with abs and glutes engaged so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Hold this position without letting your hips drop.

Friday Workout: Biceps And Triceps

1 Underhand lat pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a shoulder-width underhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

2 Triceps dip

Sets 4 Reps 6-10 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Grip parallel bars with straight arms and your legs crossed behind you. Keeping your chest up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your body until your elbows are bent at 90°. Press back up to return to the start.

3 Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weights back to the start.

4 Dumbbell triceps extension

Sets 3 Reps 10 each side Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a dumbbell over your head with your arm straight. Keeping your elbow pointing to the ceiling, lower the weight behind your head, then straighten your arm to return to the start. Repeat for all the reps, then switch arms.

5 Cable biceps curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a straight-bar handle attached to the lower pulley with palms facing forwards. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, curl your hands up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower.

6 Cable triceps press-down

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a straight-bar handle attached to the high pulley with palms facing down. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, press your hands down to straighten your arms, then slowly return to the start.

Saturday Workout: Shoulders And Arms

1 Overhead press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the front of your chest with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, press the bar directly overhead so your arms are straight. Lower it under control to return to the start.

2 Chin-up

Sets 4 Reps 6-10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Hold a bar with an underhand grip and hang with your body straight. Brace your abs and glutes and engage your lats, then pull up until your chin is above your hands. Pause at the top, then lower yourself back to the start under control.

3 EZ-bar upright row

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding an EZ-bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core braced, row the bar up to chin height, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top, then lower the bar back to the start under control.

4 Incline dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Sit on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forwards and your elbows tight to your sides. Keeping your elbows there, curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weights.

5 Dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides with a slight bend in your elbows. Keeping your chest up and core braced, raise the weights out to shoulder height, leading with your elbows, then return slowly to the start.

6 Cable triceps press-down

Sets 3 Time 10 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a straight-bar handle attached to the high pulley with palms facing down. Keeping your chest up and elbows tight to your sides, press your hands down to straighten your arms, then slowly return to the start.

Block 1: Week 2

The workout tables below contain all the information you need to complete the second week of the plan, which is the second and final week of block 1. At first sight the four workouts may appear similar – and indeed the exercises, exercise order and target body part focus of each session are all the same as in the first week. However, there are two small but significant changes this week that have been introduced to push your working muscles harder to build more lean mass, and keep your heart rate high so you continue to chip away at excess fat stores.

The first change is that in this week you’ll do an extra set of ten reps of the first two moves of each circuit, so a total of five sets of ten reps. This extra set will fire up your muscles and central nervous system so you can push harder for the rest of the workout. The other change is that you’ll do an extra two reps of moves 3 through to 6 to increase your training volume so your muscles have no choice but to keep on growing!

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Bench press510201060sec
2 Bent-over row510201160sec
3 Incline dumbbell flye412201060sec
4 Lat pull-down412201160sec
5 One-arm cable press412 each side201130sec
6 Dumbbell pull-over412201060sec

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Abs

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Back squat510201060sec
2 Romanian deadlift510201060sec
3 Leg extension412201160sec
4 Hamstring curl412201160sec
5 Crunch412201160sec
6 Plank445secN/A60sec

Friday Workout: Biceps And Triceps

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Underhand lat pull-down510201160sec
2 Triceps dip56-10201060sec
3 Dumbbell biceps curl412201160sec
4 Dumbbell triceps ext412 each side201060sec
5 Cable hammer curl412201160sec
6 Cable triceps press412201160sec

Saturday Workout: Shoulders And Arms

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Overhead press510201060sec
2 Chin-up510201160sec
3 EZ-bar upright row412201160sec
4 Incline dumbbell curl412201160sec
5 Dumbbell lateral raise412201160sec
6 Cable triceps press412201160sec

Block 2 Week 1

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

1 Incline bench press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully.

2 Wide lat pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a double shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

3 Dumbbell bench press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest height. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Press the weights straight up so your arms are straight, then lower them under control back to the start.

4 Seated row

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Sit on the machine, holding a double-grip cable attachment in both hands. Keeping your chest up, row your hands in towards your body, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top position, then return to the start.

5 One-arm cable press

Sets 4 Reps 10 each side Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with your back to a cable machine, holding a D-handle in one hand. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press your hand forwards until your arm is straight. Reverse back to the start and repeat for all the reps, then switch arms.

6 Straight-arm cable pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall facing a cable machine, holding a straight-bar handle with both hands. Keeping your chest up, pull the bar down towards your thighs in a smooth arc. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the movement back to the start.

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Shoulders

1 Back squat

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and your whole body tight, bend your knees to squat down as low as you can but don’t let your knees roll inwards. Push through your heels to stand back up.

2 Overhead press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a bar across the front of your chest with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, press the bar directly overhead so your arms are straight. Lower it under control to return to the start.

3 Leg extension

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself correctly on the machine with the padded bar against the bottom of your shins. Keeping your upper body tight, raise your feet to straighten your legs. Pause at the top with your quads engaged, then lower back to the start.

4 Seated dumbbell lateral raise

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Sit on an upright bench, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides with a slight bend in your elbows. Keeping your chest up and core braced, raise the weights out to shoulder height, leading with your elbows, then return slowly to the start.

5 Hamstring curl

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself correctly on the machine with the padded bar against the backs of your lower legs. Keeping your upper body tight, push your feet down to bend your legs. Pause at the top with your hamstrings engaged, then lower back to the start.

6 EZ-bar upright row

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding an EZ-bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Keeping your chest up and core braced, row the bar up to chin height, leading with your elbows. Pause at the top, then lower the bar back to the start under control.

Friday Workout: Chest And Triceps

1 Bench press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a bar with a shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Lower the bar until it touches your chest, then press it back up powerfully to the start.

2 Incline dumbbell flye

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Lie back on an incline bench, holding two dumbbells directly over your chest with straight arms. Bend your elbows slightly, then lower your hands out to the sides until you feel a stretch across your chest. Squeeze your pecs to return to the start.

3 Triceps dip

Sets 4 Reps 6-10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Grip parallel bars with straight arms and your legs crossed behind you. Keeping your chest up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your body until your elbows are bent at 90°. Press back up to return to the start.

4 Incline dumbbell shoulder press

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Lie flat on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest height. Plant your feet on the floor and tense your muscles. Press the weights straight up so your arms are straight, then lower them under control.

5 Cable triceps press-down

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall in front of a cable machine, holding a straight-bar handle attached to the high pulley with palms facing down. Keeping your chest up and elbows fixed to your sides, press your hands down to straighten your arms, then slowly return to the start.

6 Press-up

Sets 4 Reps 10-15 Tempo 3010 Rest 60sec

Start in the press-up position – hands on the floor, shoulders, elbows and wrists aligned, and feet together. Brace your core, then bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.

Saturday Workout: Back And Biceps

1 Chin-up

Sets 4 Reps 6-10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Hold a bar with an underhand grip and hang with your body straight. Brace your abs and glutes and engage your lats, then pull up until your chin is above your hands. Pause at the top, then lower yourself back to the start under control.

2 Lat pull-down

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Position yourself at the machine with a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Keeping your chest up and abs braced, pull the bar down, leading with your elbows. Hold the bottom position for a second, then return to the start.

3 Prone dumbbell row

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Lie chest-down on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your chest against the bench, row the weights up, leading with your elbows. Hold the top position, then lower the weights back to the start .

4 Prone dumbbell reverse flye

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Lie chest-down on an incline bench holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your chest against the bench, raise the weights to the sides, leading with your elbows. Hold the top position, then lower the weights back to the start.

5 Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inwards. Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weights back to the start.

6 Dumbbell hammer curl

Sets 4 Reps 10 Tempo 3011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other. Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weights back to the start.

Block 2: Week 2

In a similar vein to the second week of block 1, in this second week of block 2 the session structure, exercises and exercise order remain the same as in the first week, but again there are two big changes to keep your muscles growing and your belly shrinking.

This week you’ll do an extra set of moves 1 and 2 of every workout, taking the total to five sets of ten reps, then you’ll do an extra two reps for all subsequent moves. Stay focused and keep your form on point to end the plan as big as possible!

Monday Workout: Chest And Back

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Incline bench press510301060sec
2 Wide lat pull-down510301160sec
3 Dumbbell bench press412301060sec
4 Seated row412301160sec
5 One-arm cable press412 each side301160sec
6 Straight-arm pull-down412301160sec

Wednesday Workout: Legs And Shoulders

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Barbell back squat510301060sec
2 Overhead press510301060sec
3 Leg extension412301160sec
4 Dumbbell lateral raise412301160sec
5 Hamstring curl412301160sec
6 EZ-bar upright row412301160sec

Friday Workout: Chest And Triceps

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Bench press510301060sec
2 Incline dumbbell flye510301160sec
3 Triceps dip48-12301060sec
4 Dumbbell bench press412301060sec
5 Cable triceps press-down412301160sec
6 Press-up412-15301060sec

Saturday Workout: Back And Biceps

ExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest
1 Chin-up56-10301160sec
2 Lat pull-down510301160sec
3 Prone dumbbell row412301160sec
4 Prone dumbbell flye412301160sec
5 Dumbbell biceps curl412301160sec
6 Dumbbell hammer curl412301160sec

How To Fuel For This Training Plan

What you eat is as important as how you work out if you want a bigger and stronger body. You don’t need to start logging every macronutrient and counting every calorie, but following a few simple rules will help you to support your training and eat more healthily in general.

When you’re lifting weights regularly your protein intake becomes important, since this will help to rebuild bigger and stronger muscles. This doesn’t mean you have to start using supplements all the time – you can and should aim to increase your daily protein intake to 1.2g-2g per kilo of bodyweight through your diet alone. But using a protein shake after a workout can be a more convenient option to ensure your muscles are getting the fuel they need to grow.

You also need carbs to fuel your training. Aim to eat wholegrain varieties like brown rice and sweet potatoes on your rest days for their higher fibre content. You’ll also want to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. You’re doing that already, right? When you’re training hard it becomes even more important to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function, and ticking off your five-a-day every day goes a long way towards doing that.

If all the dietary advice above sounds like a lot of hard work, there is another option – healthy meal delivery services. Fair warning, this is a more expensive option than meal planning and cooking for yourself, but getting meals tailored to your fitness goals and dietary preferences delivered to your door can make life a lot easier, especially if you’re short of time.

One last thing to consider is your alcohol intake. For some people cutting out booze is the simplest way to eliminate large numbers of calories from their daily intake. Alcohol in the evening can affect your sleep too, so taking a break from the sauce can boost your body’s ability to recover and respond to the training stimulus.

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