Marvin Eder Makes a Muscle
Ron Walker in a Classic Pose, and
Engaging in a Test of Grip Strength
Whenever I interview popular Marvin Eder, there are three things which always impress me. The first is his direct reply to any question I ask him. The second is his wide knowledge of bodybuilding in all its various phases. The third is his absolute sincerity and truthfulness.
Those who are fortunate enough to speak to him never get the impression that building muscle is a complex or mysterious subject, for Marvin has the faculty to explain things simply and intelligently. He removes the frills and gets right down to the meat of the topic. I think that this is the way the subject should be presented, for after all, the bodybuilder is particularly seeking information.
When Marvin speaks you get just what you need.
The first question I asked him was whether the arms were the easiest or hardest part of the body to develop. I know that all bodybuilders would like to have an answer, and here it is.
Marvin feels that the arms are second only to the chest in growth responsiveness. He places the chest first since his logical observation is that the beginner who has been inactive generally for some time finds himself easily winded in many exercises. This means that his chest works a lot in most of his exercises, and as a result grows in size right from the start. The arms come next, since they too are used in almost every exercise in one way or another and soon respond to training.
I next asked him if the beginner should pay special attention to his arms right away, or if he thought that this was not wise. His answer once again makes a lot of sense. The beginner naturally has only a limited amount of energy to put into his training. If he specializes on his arms, while it is true that they will grow, the time used in such training will limit him in the rest of his routine. This will mean that other body parts will suffer, parts which are more important to train at the start.
One of the greatest requirements from any bodybuilding program is to make the entire body "growth conscious." You can't do this by working on local parts or comparatively small muscle groups. Therefore, since the arms do get a lot of incidental stimulation in your regular routine it is not advised to specialize on them at the start. Marvin feels that you should perform one curling type of exercise early in your program, since the biceps are not used as much as the triceps in the regular workout, and that this single direct biceps exercise is enough at the beginning.
Growth conscious. Worth a moment of thought. Or more.
there is another reason why arm specialization should not be followed right from the start, and this is mainly psychological. Any experienced gym instructor will tell you that the average beginner is full of enthusiasm. He is going to build that Mr. America physique if it takes him all week! So his first weeks or months of training need no special pep up and he makes great progress.
However, sooner or later in the lifting life of anyone, and you can ask any champion if this isn't so, things begin to taper off and results come more slowly. This in no way means you have reached a sticking point in your training, or that in general your training program is wrong. All this means is that the body as a whole wants to take a little rest to "catch up" with all the new muscle that has been built. Something like an advancing army, pausing for a while to consolidate its lines before going forward again.
Some bodybuilders misunderstand what if happening and get discouraged as a result. Even when you tell them that this is only natural it doesn't help much, for what they want is results, not explanations. At such a time, specialized arm training will add that needed zest and encouragement to the workout, for the ideal time to make local arm gains is while the rest of the body is temporarily at a standstill. It can still accommodate this local growth, though it cannot cope with full body increases. So if any of you are discouraged with your training you may be in exactly this stage of your training, and arm specialization at this time will give you a real lift.
I was curious for Marvin's opinion about whether increased arm size, or increased arm power (strength, in this meaning) come first. Here is his view.
The strength of all muscles in the beginner increase before larger size is added. The reason for this is that even the thin beginner possesses comparatively loosely packed and weak muscle fibers. Before they will increase in size they must be strengthened. This is a good point to remember. If you are increasing in strength but not gaining much in size there is nothing to be concerned about, for probably your body is developing a finer grade of muscle fiber first, and later on, with continued training and patience you will see the muscle increase in size.
How about DIPPING and CHINNING? What influence do these movements have on the arms?
Marvin believes that as far as arm training is concerned that both are inferior movements. He thinks that they are great for the lats and chest . . . but you will never get a massive arm from them.
Cables, pulleys and the lat machine all have a place in your arm training. Marvin spends some time with each. In particular he approves of cables for it is possible to reach both the biceps and triceps directly with them. Truthfully, though, Marvin uses the weights the most, only adding these other pieces of apparatus to his schedule for variety or for a little extra training on off days. This is the way most successful bodybuilders train, devoting most of their time to weights, and filling in some loose gaps with supplementary apparatus. However, if at a certain time in your life weights are not available for some reason, Marvin feels that cables are next best, for they will build you a lot of muscle and power just in themselves.
Marvin believes that bodyweight bears an important relation to arm size and growth.
If you are in good shape and do not have much extra fat on the body, you simple must add bodyweight to make the arms larger. After all, where is the added size to come from if not in bodyweight? It's rather obvious when phrased this way, isn't it. Gain weight to build your arms. It has a nice ring to it.
All four parts are there at that one link.
Or here, if all you only want the routines from the four articles:
Marvin contends that the bodybuilder who wants to gain large arm size will do well to go on a bulk gaining program, for a while at least. It works. Later on, the waist can be trimmed down a bit if necessary, while the arms can be kept at about the same size.
This is a very good hint, for many bodybuilders try to gain more arm size just through direct arm work. This will give a little more size to be sure, but for big gains you must gain more weight. This strengthens our advice to never neglect the rest of the body, no matter what part you wish to specialize on. You must take a complete workout, specializing on one body part if you want, but always include exercises for all parts of the body in the program as well.
Marvin has little respect for the contention that a small wrists interfere with building big arms. He has seen too many men whose wrists are average size or smaller to pay attention to this. A good example is Abe Goldberg, whose wrist I personally measured at just 6.5", while his upper arm hits 18" today.
Yeah, so there.
I imagine that most bodybuilders would be satisfied with an upper arm the size and shape of Abe's, so why worry about bone size?
Does the size of the arms and the strength of them reflect in the training of the rest of the body? This was the next question I asked. Marvin gave this answer . . .
There is a definite relation between arm development and whole body perfection. The arms serve as hooks and levers for many important exercises. Just try to perform any heavy basic exercise in which the weight is held in the hands when the arms are tired out. You will find that you have to give up fast. The same condition holds true when the arms are relatively weaker than the rest of the body. You will find that your grip slips, or that you get a pain in the elbow, and that your confidence in mastering the heavy weight is lessened. Obviously, for the benefit of your entire body, the arms must be muscular and strong.
Speaking about modern training, Marvin highly approves of the Flushing System, Super Sets, and Mental Contraction in arm exercise. He uses these methods and recommends them highly to all bodybuilders.
I next asked my final direct question, which was . . .
Name on biceps and one triceps exercise which in your opinion did more for you than any others. Without a pause Marvin replied -
The Zeller Curl did the most for my biceps
and the seated triceps curl the most for my triceps.
I took another look at Marvin's arm and thought to myself, "For an arm like that I'd practice those two exercises until I got blisters an inch deep on my hands!" I imagine the reader agrees with me on this.
However, Marvin does have a number of other exercises that he uses regularly, all of which have aided him in developing one of the impressive upper arms in the world, and he gave them to me. I am listing them now for you.
Exercise #1 - Two Arm Barbell Curl.
Start off your program with the barbell curl. Use a moderately heavy weight, one which will permit 5 fairly strict repetitions. Perform those 5, then cheat for another 5 reps, making 10 in all. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Exercise #2 - Zeller Curl.
This curl is named after Artie Zeller who popularized it some years back, and it is now widely used by New York City bodybuilders.
Note: Mr. Zeller was one of the greatest bodybuilding photographers who has ever lived.
There's a beautiful tribute to him, written by Dave Draper, here:
There's a beautiful tribute to him, written by Dave Draper, here:
Take a heavy dumbbell, heavier than you can curl to the shoulder in good form, and swing this weight to the shoulder. Hold the curling arm elbow against the side, on the hip, as shown above. Now. lower the weight, leaning back while doing so, fighting the downward movement of the weight every inch of the way. When it is down all the way, swing it up to the shoulder again and repeat for 10 reps. 3 sets.
Exercise #3 - Bent Over Concentration Curl.
Use a light dumbbell for this one. Concentrate strongly on biceps action and flexion for 3 sets of 10.
Exercise #4 - Lying Barbell Triceps Curl (Extension).
Keep the upper arms stationary and contract strongly at the top. 3 x 10.
Exercise #5 - Seated Triceps Curl.
Seated, with a moderately light dumbbell held above the head in one hand. Keep the upper arm close to the side of the face. Do not move from this position, but lower the weight behind the head. Still keeping the upper arm against the face, return to overhead starting position and repeat for 10 reps. 3 sets. Illustration above.
Exercise #6 - One Arm Rear Extension.
Bend over at right angle with the ground. Again keeping the upper arm in a fixed position. Flex hard at the top. 3 x 10 reps.
Go Get Them Arms, Tiger!