Unconventional Arm Workout To Spark New Muscle Growth

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
February 5th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
50.3K Reads
Unconventional Arm Workout To Spark New Muscle Growth
If you're not seeing steady arm gains, its time to break away from traditional arm exercises and spark new muscle with unconventional training.

The traditional recipe for bigger arms might go something like this: Barbell and dumbbell curls, triceps pressdowns, nosebreakers and maybe some other cool-looking overhead cable extension curl raise thingy. If this sounds like it was taken from your own playbook for bigger guns and haven’t seen much in the form of new muscle and strength then you may need to go back to the drawing board.

Look back over the last six months or even the past year and honestly assess your progress. Are you making slow and steady gains? The type of gains that are drilled into your physique adding to a solid foundation of muscle? Or are you exactly where you were a year ago?

Time to Shift Your Perspective for the Better

Building arm mass is actually easier than you think. By following just a few simple principles in your training, you will be able to build some impressive guns all the while having a brand new mindset and adding some function into your training in the meantime. Let me explain. 

Ramp Up Your Compound Moves

In most cases, you won’t see too many individuals with huge arms and tiny pecs and lats. Pushing and pulling big weights on bench presses, shoulder presses, rows and pulldowns and performing numerous, effective reps on moves like pull-ups and push-ups indirectly work your arms to a huge degree. Not only are they stimulating growth without ever doing a curl or pressdown they are also doing it with big weight – weight you would never even think to curl.

Think about it, exposing your arms to heavy rows and presses and the constant tension that pull-ups and push-ups provide dwarfs the amount of weight used for isolation work.

Ronnie Coleman

The take home message? Be sure you include not only big weight on the bench press, but also heavy rows and plenty of pull-ups. Just as important, be sure you are performing at least a few sets in the 10-plus reps range. This will increase nerve activity and force your arms to become a team player for more muscle all over your physique.

Go Unconventional for Arms 

Okay, so you’ve been down the “curl ‘til you’re dead” road and looking for something that will actually stimulate some freaking growth! It’s time you shift your mindset of what arm training should be all about – and get a little functional too! 

Let’s forget the conventional stuff for a moment and go back to how are bodies were meant to move. What I meant previously about function is your ability to train arms in such a way as to also help along in your other lifts. For example: performing biceps chin-ups and parallel dips will assist your back and chest development respectively.

Moves such as dips, reverse-grip biceps chin-ups, feet-elevated close-grip push-ups, TRX curls and triceps extensions, inverted bar curls and bodyweight bar nosebreakers are just a few that can be performed with little or no weight and provide you with true, real-world strength. Plus, you will get some wicked pumps along the way!

Get Frequent But Short

Pummeling your arms with countless sets of isolation exercises once per week will quickly lead you to a state of frustration and confusion. You will start to believe you either need more sets to force your arms to grow or you will just chalk it up to bad genetics and quietly accept your fate.

The trick is to stimulate growth more frequently. At first glance this may seem a bit daunting due to the fact that you might think you need to perform those 30-set sessions more often. Who’s got time for that? Instead think of more frequency but less volume each session.

Again, you want to stimulate growth, not annihilate your muscles beyond repair. A moderate volume twice per week is a good place to start. Also, remember that you are also getting a lot of indirect work from the big compound lifts so not much more will be required to get those arms growing again.

Form – Boring Advice, But Still Important

Yes, this is where most will skip reading. “Not another lecture on form!” you say. Well, since you are changing your perspective on arm training it would only make sense to take a hard and honest look at your form on everything you do in the gym.

Here’s a question you have to answer truthfully: What is your goal in the gym? Is it to get stronger? To get bigger? To reshape your physique? A combination of all of the above? The fact is you must perform everything you do with good form. It is the only way to avoid injury and stay in the iron game for the long haul.

Don’t worry what the other guy next to you is lifting. So what?! You have your own goals to conquer – you have your own circumstances to overcome. Stay focused on what you are doing, practice good form, make small but significant steps – steps that build a rock-solid foundation of muscle and strength that will carry you though plateaus, self-doubt and less than ideal motivational times.

The Unconventional Arm Workout for Stubborn Gainers

Perform each program twice per week for a total of six weeks before switching programs. Be sure to space the two sessions a few days apart. Each session has a mix of exercises designed to stimulate arm growth along with the rest of your training program.

The moves labeled 1A and 1B are to be done back-to-back with little or no rest. Once that sequence is done and all sets are performed move on to the next (2A and 2B) the same way.

Session 1

Exercise Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest (Seconds)
1A: Parallel Bar Dips 1x10 3-5x10-20 30 to 60 seconds after each round
1B: Curl-Grip Chin-Ups 1x10 3-5x10-12
2A: Close-Grip Push-Ups - 3-5xAMRAP 30 to 60 seconds after each round
2B: Standing Curls With Bands - 3-5x10-12

AMRAP = As Many Reps As Possible

Session 2

Exercise Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest (Seconds)
1A: TRX Biceps Curls 1x10 3-5xAMRAP 30 to 60 seconds after each round
1B: TRX Triceps Extensions 1x10 3-5xAMRAP
2A: Inverted Bar Body Curls To Forehead - 3-5xAMRAP 30 to 60 seconds after each round
2B: Feet-Elevated Close-Grip Push-Ups - 3-5xAMRAP

Joe Mullis
Posted on: Sun, 02/15/2015 - 22:28

Hi. In the workouts you gave do you do 2-5 sets of parallel bar dips back to back or do you do one set of bar dips and then one set of chin-ups and so on?

Posted on: Mon, 02/16/2015 - 16:13

is in an alternating fashion 1a 1b then 1a1b each pair is a set .. after 2-5 sets ..then go 2a2b and so on

Posted on: Sun, 02/15/2015 - 21:45

Great read. I'm coming off of a significant injury and surgery. I had to take 2 months off in the gym, only doing push ups at home when I was able. I lost a ton of strength, and I was looking to shake up my routine, as it had gotten stale. I plan on working this in with my compound lifts. I was putting up pretty big numbers before I got hurt. This has me energized about the road back! Great info!

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Posted on: Tue, 02/17/2015 - 09:54

Thanks, Phill!

Posted on: Sat, 02/07/2015 - 12:41

I have always had trouble putting mass on my arms. The always seem to lag behind my legs and torso muscles. Going to give this a try, great read. Loving your articles Brad.

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Posted on: Sat, 02/07/2015 - 22:19

Hi Dan, awesome! Let me know how you do. And thanks for the kind words.