Saturday, August 11, 2012

Combination Arm Training - Verne McDonald

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Dan Lurie and The Mighty Atom
(Joseph Greenstein)

Combination Arm Training
Verne McDonald (1989)

The advice in this article can not guarantee arms of 20 inches. That is a genetic impossibility for most of us. What this article is about is how to assist you in advancing your arms to their ultimate, natural potential. All right?

The exercises are the old standbys - all of them, and they are the very same exercises used by bodybuilders for decades and decades in the love labor of getting "all" out of their arms. So, why don't I simply list the exercises and be done with it? Because it is not only the effectiveness of proven and popular exercises, it is the effectiveness of HOW you use or combine them. And that is the wrinkle here, the getting of the edge. This "angle" could prove to be a way for you to save years of time in personal trial and error. It is another angle to be learned, mastered and implemented at the appropriate time in your training. 

I spoke of trial and error. Well, I learned through many, many years of experimenting with methods, movements and combinations. After all of that, my current arm size is 17.5 inches. Not too impressive in comparison to the commonplace 18 of the modern iron works, but there's much more to it than the idle gossip of a talking tape. You see, my arms were an underwhelming 13 inches in the beginning. And not only are they now on the brink of the ultimate bigness Mother Nature is going to grant them . . . they are in harmony with the rest of my body and in harmony with themselves. I hope this helps qualify me in some small way to impart advice on the subject of arm improvement. At least, I can surely identify with the struggles of those of you who are more physically restricted due to the "casting" of the genes.

In the beginning of my own arm development size increases actually came quite rapidly. My arms enlarged an inch in a couple of months and, after a short dormant period, expanded another inch and a half, advancing from 14 to 15.5 inches.

Then came the time of lag, and the whole thing became much more trying. I continued to use the same exercises that had worked in the past, in the same standard way. And why not . . . it had worked! These exercises were barbell curls and dumbbell concentration curls for the biceps, and for triceps, overhead presses (either military or behind neck) and either cable pressdowns or dumbbell kickbacks. All these were performed in normal positive motion (supersets were performed on rare occasions). This time, after six months had passed, I had fought, sweated and turned purple in the face on a regular basis to gain an additional half inch, but - at last - owned 16 inch arms. 

From that day on I have battled intensely for each and every additional fraction of development. For the next half inch of lean muscle size it took more (and different) exercises in another six month regimen to squeeze out a little increase. For the next 1/2 inch prize, after more months of dormancy, it was the same story. Then, with arms finally flexing to the extent of 17 inches, the half inch fraction became divided in half while the length of time doubled. But hey, my arms were stronger and more shapely than ever before. It was taking progressively longer and longer and I was working harder and harder while the increments according to the tape were simultaneously smaller, because I was closing in on my final potential.

Hard work, long-suffering, change of approach - these all contribute mightily to advanced arm development - these, and getting the proper "angle", or angles. 

Regular curls and presses bolstered by some of the more isolative exercises can take your arms a long way. Then comes the search for the right combination of exercises at the right time, along with intensified arrangements or methods, in order for you to reach the next goal.

Everyone knows that the triceps compose about 60% of upper arm size, so why does everybody insist on giving equal (or more than equal) time to the remaining 40%  - the biceps? Is it because biceps are THE muscle when a person is asked "make a muscle?" Surely this must be the greater part of the reason why such paramount attention is lavished upon the top knot of the upper arm. Surely the prime reason can't be lack of response: regular barbell curls and some form of concentration (or dumbbell) are usually all it takes to make the biceps both swell up and shape up.

Working the biceps hard is crucial - they shouldn't be downplayed too much - but certainly the triceps shouldn't be downplayed, period! For one thing, triceps can take a lot more punishment and handle more stress than biceps. The reason is obvious: the triceps have one more head to help withstand ponderous poundages and tougher angles than do the biceps. And this is why triceps are 20% bigger overall than biceps, and why they account for over half of upper arm size. As for the biceps (as you'll discover in the section devoted to them), curl heavy and straight, and curl angled and light, that is all it takes primarily; and maybe your arms have gone stale simply because you are overtraining an isolated summit of 40%?

Getting All the Angles on Triceps

Since triceps can "take it" better and since more emphasis on their growth can make the arms both bigger and more powerful, some triple-teaming may be in order to help shake them out of a hum. Here are there different 3-way combinations. Each one begins with a heavy, basic exercise, moves on to heavy isolation, and concludes with lighter isolation. Basics get the thick, stronger muscle fibers (those lying deep) involved ; heavy isolations mean a broader range of the strength fibers must work without aid of assisting muscles, while more of the thinner metabolic fibers awaken; and of course light isolation shifts the workload primarily to the "aerobic" strands of muscle. Each combination also hits all three triceps heads with excellent parity. All of this - muscle-band equality and balanced variety - is greater part of the secret to getting the angle on advanced tricep development, and overall development as well! The triceps converge to attach together on the upper ulna of the forearm, or the very "point" of the elbow; the long head originates at the bottom of the shoulder blade (by the humerus), while the middle and lateral heads originate from the upper-inner and upper-outer humerus respectively: presses strongly effect the lower, inserting area, and extensions "push" the upper areas of origin. Now, here's the layout on those various tri-combinations.

Combination One

* Basic movement: military press (hold elbows high in the bottom position so less aid is given by the delts);

* Heavy isolation : close grip bench press (use a slightly less than shoulder width grip);

* Light isolation: French press or dumbbell extension (for French style use both hands and a single dumbbell. For single extensions do one arm at a time). For both movements keep elbows cocked back toward ears.

Combination Two

* Basic movement: press behind neck (do not go ultra-low, keep stress on the triceps by preventing some of the upward thrust of the shoulders);

* Heavy isolation: standing barbell extensions (use a false or thumbless grip, quite narrow);

* Light isolation: kickbacks.

Combination Three

* Basic movement: dips (keep torso straight up so chest doesn't "rob" the tris. Add weight around waise when able.);

* Heavy isolation: lying barbell extension to face (you are forced into a slow eccentric on these, unless you're partial to bashing your face with weight);

* Light isolation: pressdowns.

It is suggested that you do 3 to 4 sets of 6-8 reps for the basic movement; 4x8 for the heavy isolation; and 4-5x10 for the light isolation. Since this is only a suggestion, adjust sets and reps a touch one way or the other to a level which best suits you.

Try each combination in the order they are given. This is important, for some subtleties make them both a little tougher or better "timed" - so keep them in sequence - and try them for a training period of from 4 to 9 months.

After this, when you are a bit more experienced, interchange the 3 basic exercises, the 3 heavy isolations, and so forth - so each head of the triceps are taxed. For example, do military presses, standing BB extensions, and pressdowns; or dips, close-grip benches, and kickbacks; or behind the neck presses, lying extensions, and two-arm one-dumbbell overhead extensions - whatever it takes to get the perfect, the most rewarding integration for yur particular needs. At this stage you may even have to (or WANT TO) innovate, and say, widen the grip on the pressdown and incorporate it just as you see fit.

Finally, when you've reached your goal and/or closely neard your potential, you may well wnat to stagger the three routines listed previously (or some varied combination of them) by doing one during one workout, another during the next arm training session, and the third during the following session. Not only can this keep the muscles "off guard" to stimulate more growth, but it can also add variety and maintain the interest needed to workout intensely each session.

The Most Effective Angles for Biceps

The biceps are a little simpler to stimulate than are the triceps, but in order to advance arm development completely, one must work the biceps thoroughly too. Biceps arise from two close points of origin (the outer belly from just above the shoulder socket; the inner belly from a bony ridge in the upper-middle part of the scapula) and attach on an upper section of the radius of the forearm. Because the biceps are "split", it is obvious that curls which mix up the angles are important for the biceps to become more athletic in function and "finished" in appearance.

Regular barbell curls - still the basic curling movement - saturate the entire working surface, as well andthe underlying tissue of this two-bellied muscle. An isolation-type curl not only adds variety, and not only carves up the center of the biceps for "peak", but "calls on" more of the metabolic fiber which makes up a nearly equal portion of muscle make up.

This one-two combination will take your flexors far, but a slight, almost subtle change must take place, eventually, to lift them from a stubborn groove; these changes are nothing more than inserting substitutes for the basic curl and the isolated curl.

Variation One

Basic curl: alternate DB curl (these allow you to bring your arms and elbows back further, to angle the bars with each hand for a more comfortable grip, and to force the weaker bicep to put out and catch up). Just as do regular barbell curls, this version bombs the biceps comprehensively, except that the dumbbells "adjust" for a bit more emphasis on the upper biceps toward the shoulder (as compared to the regular type). Do 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

Isolation curl: incline curls (with dumbbells). Set the bench at a 45 degree angle. Your torso will be a the same pitch via the contour of the bench, but your arms will hand lower so the angle is a shade steeper thus providing a stretch. Incline curls impart a longer, stronger curve or peak than do the concentration variety, which chisel out a curve too high and steep if used indefinitely. Do 4 x 6-8.

Variation Two

Basic curl: adjusted barbell curl. Time to return to the classic curl, but without use of classic form or the standard, straight bar. Put aside that bar for the cambered model. This skinny "driveshaft" will permit the use of heavier weight while shifting the normal angle of execution a little. A shift in form will become necessary should you have the cambered bar in the beginning. In that case, go ahead and curl in the usual, positive manner, but for the first half of the reps in each set let the bar return in a deliberate slowed-negative way, and for the second half of the reps in each set continue the lowering portion with the normal negative speed. Do 4 x 8.

Isolation curl: steep preacher curl. A "steep" preacher curl is the preacher curl "toughed out" in the way in which it was intended originally. So, a steep preacher curl is one done with a bench or pad setting of around 70 degrees, or nearly vertical. An angle less than this resembles a poorer incline curl, where the bottom section of the biceps receives more of the work. With steep preacher curls the entire curve of the biceps are called upon to muscle up both the upper and lower areas, while pronouncing a more powerful peak. A preacher curl executed with the most effect possible is a great arm exercise - one of the very best - and probably better if saved for the truly advanced stage, simply because the "air tight" isolation can really raise the biceps from a seemingly endless plateau. Do 4 x 8.

Variation Three

Basic curl: wide & narrow grip barbell curls. This is another slant on the old standby. In the past, the wide and narrow curls were used somewhat, but also abused. Hand width (or lack of it) was simply too extreme, causing tendon and joint bind. The solution is to shift the grip but slightly, either to the outside or inside; a cambered bar marks off hand spacings more subtly and is just about perfect.

An outer grip hits the inner bicep strand; an inner grip does the opposite. Together, they can provide a definite "split" of this muscle in some people. Do 3 x 8.

Isolation curl: reverse barbell curl. There comes a time when a just a tad more coaxing is required for the biceps to respond. Too, forearms may have been forgotten and are getting further and further behind the upper arms. Not only is the reverse curl the "squat" of the forearms, if the bar is curled toward the shoulders as far as possible, the little line of division in the middle of thte biceps comes into play (or work!). This movement compliments the slightly wide (and slightly narrow) cambered bar curls perfectly.

Reverse curls are also ideal as the third exercise in any other one-two combination of basic cum isolation, because they focus on forearms primarily. Do 4 x 8-10.

Being Sure Your Arms Are Balanced

The latter stages of development can not be gauged by X number of years. It depends entirely on individual response and faithful output. (Two years of toying with the same weight and exercises doesn't count for much.) If you have methodically increased both thte amount of resistance you can handle and the number of sets and reps you can muster in good, strain-free form; if you have, at the samt time graduated the girth of your arm by several inches; if you are now in the battle of your life for each additional quarter-inch; if your 


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