Arm Building Circuits: Bust Through Bicep & Tricep Plateaus

Mike Samuels
Written By: Mike Samuels
January 23rd, 2014
Updated: June 13th, 2020
200.6K Reads
Muscular Man Bicep Preacher Curl
If your arms aren't responding to conventional training, it's time for some bicep and tricep blasting circuits. Prepare to pack on arm size and get rid of your old t-shirts.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

Big arms are considered by many to be the holy grail of a stellar physique.

Even if you’re not one of those guys who prioritizes his arms above all other body parts (except perhaps his abs, which he feels the need to check in the mirror between every set of preacher curls), truth be told – you want big guns.

It doesn’t matter how much of a strength enthusiast you are at heart, the lure of tree trunk-like triceps and biceps so peaked that your friends refer to you as “Everest” is too much to resist.

The trouble is, for far too many guys, arm training is either seen as the be all and end all, or little more than a token gesture.

The first type of lifter mentioned above (often called “stick-legs” or “Jonny Bravo”) is a proud member of the bench and biceps crew, training little more than his bench press and arms. Back and shoulder training rarely gets a look in, and as for leg workouts – you can forget those.

Our strength guys are equally as bad. While squats, deadlifts and bench presses may be the cornerstone of any muscle and strength building routine, there’s more to life than the three powerlifts. For these folks, arm training is something they briefly consider, then laugh off, while waiting for the squat rack. Either that, or they do it only once in a blue moon, and even then it consists of little else but a couple of sets of straight bar curls, and perhaps some pushdowns.

Big Triceps

Arm Training Revised

How about if you could get an arm workout that not only took very little time but also seriously ramped up your gains? A routine so effective it could bust through any arm-building plateau? Not only that, but this arm training is also seriously metabolic, burning a high number of calories, and creating a greater excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption effect through a longer time under tension and reduced rest times.

All of that would be pretty sweet, wouldn’t it?

I give to you, arm circuits...

Arm Circuits

An arm circuits is quite simply what it says on the tin – multiple arm exercises grouped together with minimal breaks in between.

This does several things –

Firstly, it cuts down the time you spend in the gym, yet increases your total workload. Each circuit contains six exercises, yet the whole routine can be completed in around 20 minutes (or 10 minutes if you decide to split the workout in two and hit your arms twice a week.)

As the arms are a small muscle group in comparison with your quads, glutes, or back, they can handle a relatively high volume, and recover quickly, so aren’t negatively effected by being blitzed for a short period of time with little to no rest.

You also get an element of cardiovascular training with arm circuits. If you’re not sweating like a P-I-G at the end of this, either you’re supremely fit, or, more likely, you didn’t go hard enough.

Due to this increased volume and workout density, combined with shortened rest, it means arm circuits are suitable for muscle gain or fat loss. Hitting a few arm isolation exercises is hardly the gold standard in fat loss training, but it’s all change here once you incorporate circuits.

As a side note, I recently had a client add these into his routine, after he complained he felt his arms weren’t responding to more traditional straight sets arm training. Five weeks later, he contacted me, annoyed, but equally delighted, to tell me he’d just had to throw out half a dozen of his designer tee shirts as they were now so tight around his sleeve cannons (his words, not mine) that they looked ridiculous.

Oh, and the even better news – he’d also dropped 3 pounds and taken his belt down a notch. As much as I don’t believe simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain in anyone but newbie trainers and those returning from a long lay-off happens to any serious degree, you certainly can’t complain at these type of results.

The Arm Building Program

Perform the following circuits as written, with no rest between exercises.

Arm Building Workout
Bicep & Tricep Circuit #1
Exercise Sets Reps
Standing EZ Bar Curls 1 6-8
Close Grip Bench Presses 1 6-8
Isometric Cable Curl Hold * 1 30-40 seconds
Cable Curls ^ 1 Max Reps 30 seconds
Overhead Cable Extensions 1 10-12
Bench Dips 1 Bodyweight to failure
Rest 90-120 seconds, then repeat circuit twice more    
Arm Building Workout
Bicep & Tricep Circuit #2
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Curls 1 6-8
Weighted Dips 1 6-8
Reverse Cable Curls 1 10-12
Band Curls 1 Max Reps 30 seconds
Isometric Cable Pushdowns * 1 30-40 seconds
Overhead Plate Extensions ^ 1 Max reps 30 seconds
Rest 90-120 seconds, then repeat circuit twice more    

Workout Notes

* For the isometrics, pick a weight that allows you to hold the mid-point of the exercise for 30 to 40 seconds. Squeeze the target muscles hard  while doing this.

^ The maximum reps for 30 seconds should be performed as consistently as possible. If you find you need to take more than a couple of 2 to 3 second breaks during the time, you’re going too heavy.

You can substitute exercises if you wish, though I’ve found the above to be the most effective and easiest to switch between. If you do feel the need for alterations, make sure you still include one heavy exercise each for biceps and triceps, along with at least one isometric hold and one maximum reps in 30 seconds exercise.

If you’re training arms just once a week, run both circuits through three times. If you’re on an upper-lower or full-body split, then perform the first circuit three times in your first session of the week, then the second circuit in a later session.

All Power to the Pump

Give this a whirl for six weeks, and watch your gun gains skyrocket. The standard rules for progression apply here as they would with any workout.

Over time, you want to aim to increase your reps, while staying in the desired rep and time ranges, or use heavier weights. Just because this is a circuit doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels.

Circuit training may conjure up images of middle-aged, lycra-clad women prancing round a gym studio in an attempt to burn off their morning latte and muffin, but this ain’t that type of circuit. This is circuit training, muscle and strength style.

Posted on: Tue, 05/19/2015 - 21:21

Hi Mike. Thanks for the great post. Can I continue this plan post 6 weeks and how long can I continue? Please advise. Thanks so much! Vik

Posted on: Wed, 05/20/2015 - 06:51

You could continue this workout until you're no longer seeing strength or size gains. Then move onto something else. Your body adapts quickly to change, so for most people 6 weeks would probably be about right.

Okoro godwill major
Posted on: Sat, 12/20/2014 - 08:33

How can i download videos of this workouts

Posted on: Sun, 04/13/2014 - 01:53

Sir please post some videos

Posted on: Sun, 04/13/2014 - 01:51

Ese post some bideos

Gary Shaver
Posted on: Fri, 02/28/2014 - 12:02

I am getting back into the body building, I'm 44 years old, haven't lost a lot of what I have, but I haven't gained a lot either. Are their pictures or something to watch here to show the proper techniques of these exercises?

Posted on: Mon, 02/03/2014 - 09:25

Could you do both circuits on one day , twice a week? Or would that me over doing it?

Posted on: Sat, 02/01/2014 - 17:07

Hey I was just wondering if there was a good alternative to band curls as I do not have any and neither does my gym.
Thanks in advance.

Posted on: Sat, 02/01/2014 - 17:07

Hey I was just wondering if there was a good alternative to band curls as I do not have any and neither does my gym.
Thanks in advance.

Posted on: Thu, 01/30/2014 - 19:38

anybody done or doing this arm workout had success? did it today, lil different than my reg arm workouts, felt burning in my arms and exhausting at end of each circuit lol.

Posted on: Wed, 01/29/2014 - 03:46

"he’d just had to throw out half a dozen of his designer tee shirts as they were now so tight around his sleeve cannons"
lol! This is too funny to be true!

dave shipton
Posted on: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 18:06

Everyday is key I do lower body upper body 4 days a week with a bicep on one day a tri another day shoulders another day no rest for the wicked

John Bremner
Posted on: Mon, 01/27/2014 - 05:08

Doing arms once or twice a week is fine but thats less than two mins of tention a week if you do arms once a day you force them to grow, thay have no choise, eat and drink well, exersise every day, once a week if your a pussy cat, be a tiger and roar every day, its all in the mind.

Posted on: Fri, 01/24/2014 - 09:37

so you do circuit #1 and #2 same workout day if you do arm workout once a week? if you do arm workout twice a week, do circuit #1 beginning of the week and do circuit #2 end of the week?

Posted on: Sun, 01/26/2014 - 06:35

Hey JB. Yep, exactly, you got it.

Posted on: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 19:30

i think he meant "Everest" not "everset"

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/23/2014 - 20:33

Typo fixed, thanks.

Gary Shaver
Posted on: Fri, 02/28/2014 - 12:07

Are their any videos to watch that shows the proper technique of these workouts?