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Much Ado About Arms
by Ray Beardsley (1968)
*These ideas can easily be applied to any bodyparts.
This article is indicative of what I remember of my first years lifting. Sure, there were those famous York and Weider basic charts on the wall of the Y weight room, if you can call a converted handball court outfitted with two of the members equipment a weight room. And once you were finished with the first six or so months of those simple but tough lifting layouts you didn't ask 10,000 questions about how much, how often, how heavy, how high the moon. The older guys' advice was always the same. You wanna see if it works, well then, SEE IF IT WORKS FOR YA. There was a great respect for individual learning, one man experiencing what it really takes to find who he is in that tiny windowless room, and what it takes to make progress that particular season be it summer, winter, spring or the other one. I miss this whole innocent yet persistent mindset immensely when reading internet forum conversations, and many times in other parts of life.
Hit or miss. Live and learn. Rise and fall and rise again.
It may appear redundant to write about building arms since most bodybuilding magazines fairly bristle with such articles, nonetheless that it the title I prefer giving to this discourse. First, because the system I am about to explain was used as an arm-building program, and second, because anything related to arms has a certain fascination which few of us can resist.
After training with weights for many years and finding myself with arms that measured 16.75 inches I decided to cast about for a way to bring them up to that magical 18 inch figure. Consequently I did a bit of research and came up with the following, which I feel is unique.
After adhering to this program for a period of three months my arms gained to 18.25 inches. This was accomplished without gaining more than a few pounds and sacrificing definition. At the time I was 33 years of age.
Before going into my idea about building the arms, I should like to explain the "all or nothing" theory. This may seem like a digression, but a knowledge of it is pertinent to my program. Those of you who are familiar with physiology please bear with me.
The "all or nothing" theory is a physiological theory of muscular action which implies that when a muscle responds to a stimulus the fibers that are called into action are contracted to their fullest possible degree. For example, if a person curls but one pound he may use only a few muscle fibers, but the few he does use will be contracted to their limit.
Prior to learning this I had always thought a given muscle responded to a task by having all its fibers contract to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the amount or intensity of the stimulus. However, it seems that according to the powers that be, a fiber contracts completely or not at all. There are no halfway measures.
It naturally follows that if we wish to employ all the muscle fibers in a given muscle we must use a weight so heavy that every single fiber will be called upon. This, of course, entails a tremendous amount of concentration. The above explains why we are often so strong under stress.
The unsatisfactory aspect is that when using an extremely heavy weight it is necessary to rest from 5 to even 15 minutes between sets to recuperate. Consequently it is difficult to get a really good pump, which is necessary of real gains are to be made rapidly.
In my arm routine I worked out three times per week. On Mondays and Wednesdays a very light weight was used, so light, in fact, that the first set was almost too easy. Three sets of biceps exercises were performed, then three sets of triceps movements, with a one minute rest between sets. This constituted one "multiple set", followed by a 15 minute rest. In all, three sets of these multiple sets were performed. The last set being very difficult since the arms were so swollen they ached.
The subsequent day my arms would pump somewhat even when brushing my teeth or combing my hair. In fact, with this system my arms stayed pumped all the time.
On Friday a weight which was sufficiently heavy to allow barely 10 reps with good form for all the sets was used. Consequently more rest was imperative between sets, but my arms were already partially pumped and so "in the habit" of pumping they would stay pumped anyway, whereas normally with a heavy weight there would be little pump.
In my opinion the gains were made on my heavy day only. Mondays and Wednesdays only served to put my arms in a pumped condition for Friday. If I had worked as hard on the other days as on Friday, more rest would have been needed, resulting in less pump and slower gains. On the other hand, if I had worked out every day like I did on Mondays and Wednesdays the gains would have only been inflated tissue and would not have stayed with me. The heavy workouts are necessary to employ all the muscle fibers.
I looked forward to Friday, my heavy day, because I was anxious to see how much my strength had improved. Also, the heavy workouts were more enjoyable because the light days left me a reserve of energy.
The program consists of but two exercises: the biceps exercise is performed on a bench, the head of which is raised about 5 inches. Lie in a supine position with two dumbbells at the shoulders, palms facing inwards. Lower them outwards, away from the body, not forward. When the arms are straight the palms face away from the body. The bells are then curled to the shoulders, palms facing up. It is important to curl the bells slowly without any fast start. In this exercise the biceps are extended to their ultimate and while the contraction is not extreme, it is more than sufficient.
The triceps exercise is executed either on the floor or on a flat bench, also in the supine position, but with a barbell. Hold the bar as in the bench press, the hands approximately 3 inches apart. Close grip. From this position lower it until the knuckles touch the forehead, without moving the upper arms, then slowly press back out to arms' length and lockout.
Although these exercises do not work the muscles from all angles, it is easier to concentrate on the same movement than to confuse oneself with 10 or 12 separate exercises. No particular diet was adhered to while following this experiment, other than the usual three good meals a day, but all other exercises were curtailed for the three months. As a general rule an all-round program is best, but when specializing it is preferable to work only that particular group of muscles. I would be pleased to hear the results any of you might have while following this program. Best of luck with your lifting.