How To Build Bigger Arms

There are no secrets to building bigger, more muscular arms. They are like any other part of your body; if you want your arms to get bigger and stronger you have to work them hard and progressively, you have to get enough rest between workouts for recovery and adaptation, and you have to eat properly to support muscle growth. While the basic compound pushing and pulling movements like chest presses, dips, overhead presses, chin ups or pull downs, and rows will improve arm and forearm strength and size considerably, for optimum results more direct work may be required.

You don’t need to do anything fancy, however. You don’t need to perform dozens of different types of curls or triceps extensions using different angles, grip widths, portions of the range of motion, etc. to target different heads of your biceps or triceps. You don’t need to train your arms in different “zones” or “positions of flexion” to work your biceps “peak” or your “lower triceps” or your “delt-bicep tie-in” or similar nonsense. You don’t need to perform every possible movement your hands and wrists are capable of to build a stronger grip or bigger forearms. There are no secret arm or forearm exercises or routines that will make your arms any bigger or stronger than basic, properly performed arm curls, triceps extensions, and wrist curls and extensions.


When properly performed a basic barbell, dumbbell, or machine curl effectively works all of the elbow flexors. A supinated grip (palms up) should be used most of the time for grip security and wrist stability. If you want to emphasize your brachioradialis alternate regular arm curls with or occasionally substitute a neutral grip (palms facing each other), also known as “hammer” curls.

It is unnecessary to use different grip widths and shoulder flexion angles (preacher curls, incline bench curls, drag curls, etc.)  in an attempt to selectively emphasize the long or short heads of your biceps. Humeral rotation has little effect on the relative involvement of the two heads and extreme shoulder flexion  (elbows above the shoulder) should be avoided during arm curls due to active insufficiency of the biceps.

When using a barbell or machine the elbows and grip should be relatively narrow (inside of shoulder width, elbows braced against the lower ribs) to better align the axes of the elbows and the plane of movement of the forearms with consideration for elbow valgus. When using free weights the body position should be such that the forearms are neither vertical at the start or the end of the movement to keep the targeted muscles meaningfully loaded. This means doing the exact opposite of what most people do when curling. Instead of leaning forward at the start so your forearms are vertical, lean back slightly. With your elbows tucked into the front of your lower ribs this will keep the weight more in front of your elbows than below them and the moment arm you are working against will be greater. Instead of leaning back at the end and moving your elbows forward under the weight so your forearms are vertical, slump your chest and lean forward slightly to keep the weight more in front of your elbows than above them.

Barbell arm curl correct and incorrect start and end points

The same principles apply when doing cable curls. Position yourself so the cable comes off the pulley just below where your hands are when starting as described above. If you are closer or further back the moment arms change, reducing the resistance at either the start or the end of the movement.

When using a machine make sure you are properly positioned and your elbows are properly aligned (specifics vary between machines). Keep your shoulders down throughout the movement. Don’t allow your shoulders to rise as you perform the negative so you can “ratchet” the movement arm up at the start of the positive.


When properly performed a basic barbell, dumbbell, or machine triceps extension effectively works all three heads of your triceps. There is no need or point in varying your grip. All three heads of your triceps insert onto the olecranon process of your unla, which is not affected by grip position. The best grip is the one that provides the most secure hold and the best wrist stabilization; pronated when using a barbell, neutral for dumbbells (and most triceps machine designs with handles), and if doing cable press-downs use the rope or split-handle attachment with a neutral grip.

Your shoulders should be neutral or flexed (elbows in front of your body)  to avoid active insufficiency of the long head of your triceps. Unlike the medial and lateral heads of your triceps which originate on your humerus and only extend your elbow the long head of your triceps originates on the scapula and is also involved in shoulder extension. If your shoulders are extended so your elbows are behind the body the long head of the triceps will already be partially shortened and contribute less to extension of the elbow. Because of this, dumbbell kickbacks and machines like the Nautilus Compound Position Triceps and MedX Triceps are poor triceps exercises.

The best free weight triceps exercises are basic, supine barbell or dumbbell extensions with your elbows held roughly over your nose, which puts your upper arms at around a forty five degree angle. This will keep consistent tension on your triceps over the full range of motion, with the greatest resistance occurring in the stronger mid range position. If your elbows are above your shoulders and your upper arms are vertical the tension will be highest around the start which can be hard on the elbows, and drop off to nothing towards the end when your forearms are vertical and the weight is directly above your elbows. Also, if your elbows over your nose the weight won’t be, which is one less thing to worry about as you approach momentary muscular failure.

It is unnecessary to force your elbows in to point forward or keep your upper arms parallel when doing these. Provided the elbows have some freedom to move as you extend a slight outward angle will be more comfortable and easier on your wrists (using a barbell), elbows, and shoulders. I prefer using an EZ-Curl bar for triceps extensions for wrist comfort.

When using a cable stand far enough back and position your upper body so the line of pull is roughly perpendicular to your forearms in the middle of your range of motion. Do not lean forward or extend your shoulders to reduce the moment arm as you approach the end point.

When using a machine make sure you are properly positioned and your elbows are properly aligned (specifics vary between machines). Triceps machines which position your arms in front of your body are better than machines which position them down by your sides or behind your body.

Forearms and Grip

Although the muscles of the forearms are capable of a variety of hand and wrist movements the majority of them can be worked with just wrist curls and extensions.

When performing wrist curls and extensions your forearms should be angled slightly upwards with your wrists a little higher than your elbows for a better resistance curve. This can be done resting your forearms on your thighs and either sitting on a very low bench or step or sitting on a bench and elevating your feet on a step  so your knees are a little higher than your hips. If using a cable attachment and low pulley the further back you are from the pulley the higher the knees should be, so that the line of pull of the cable is perpendicular to your hands when your wrists are bent slightly below neutral.

When using a barbell or straight bar cable attachment to accommodate the bending angle of your wrists your forearms should be angled out slightly (wrists wider than elbows)  for curls and in slightly (wrists narrower than elbows) for extensions.

Thick bar wrist curls and extensions on the Nautilus Omni Multi Exercise

I recommend using a thick bar or thick handled cable attachment (approx two to two and a half inches diameter) for both wrist curls and extensions because it reduces the degree of finger flexion required to grip the bar. This prevents active insufficiency of the wrist and finger flexors during curls and passive insufficiency during extensions. While a thicker bar or handle is more challenging to grip when pulling it is not much harder to hold when performing wrist curls and extensions with the forearms angled up slightly since the fingers or thumbs are working directly against gravity or the pull of the cable over most of the range of motion.

If you want to focus more on your grip strength you can occasionally substitute or alternate these with gripping or timed static contractions or static holds using a thick bar or thick handled cable attachment.

Arm Training Myths and Misconceptions

There is no such thing as a “shaping” exercise for the biceps, triceps, or any other muscle. The general shape of your muscles is genetically determined and the only thing you can do through training is make them larger. You can not preferentially train any longitudinal portion of a muscle, like the “peak” or “mid biceps” or train to produce a “split” biceps shape like Boyer Coe, or train to make your biceps or triceps or any other muscle longer.

There is no such thing as a “cutting” exercise or training technique. While doing any exercise contributes to improvements in body composition in multiple ways (increased lean body mass, acute and chronic increases in metabolic rate, improved glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, etc.) getting “cut” is mostly a matter of diet.

There is no special exercise or combination of exercises to develop your “deltoid-biceps tie-in”, the shape of which is genetically determined and the development of which requires nothing more than hard, progressive work on basic exercises and the reduction of bodyfat through proper diet.

It is not necessary to forcefully supinate the hands during curls to fully recruit the biceps. Assuming you are using an adequately heavy weight and proper form every motor unit in your biceps will be recruited within a few reps

General Guidelines for Performance

Initiate each repetition in a deliberate, controlled manner, without jerking, yanking, bouncing, or heaving the weight. If necessary, pause and hold motionless for a second or two without unloading to ensure you do not bounce or elicit a stretch reflex to help with the start.

Lift and lower the weight slowly and focus on intensely contracting the target muscles over the full range of the exercise. Take at least four seconds to complete both the positive and negative phases of the repetition.

When you reach the end point hold the weight motionless for a few seconds before starting the negative. Starting with the third repetition gradually squeeze the target muscles during this hold.

Gradually “un-squeeze” the target muscles as you begin the negative. Don’t drop the weight.

Maintain strict body position throughout the exercise. Do not lean, shift or alter your body position in any way that takes tension off of the target muscles.

Do not turn your head to admire your biceps as you curl. Maintain a neutral head and neck position during all exercises.

When performing wrist extension with dumbbells position your hands towards the outside of the handles so your thumbs are closer to the center.

Further Reading

For more detailed guidelines and arm specialization routines read High Intensity Workouts, available in the HIT store.

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63 Responses to How To Build Bigger Arms

  1. Ondrej November 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Fantastic article. I was already doing bicep curls, french curls, wrist flexions and extensions. The information “our forearms should be angled slightly upwards with your wrists a little higher than your elbows for a better resistance curve” is new to me and this might be the reason I kind of struggled technically with wrist exercises when using a higher bench to sit.

    • Drew Baye November 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Thanks Ondrej,

      When doing barbell wrist curls and extensions I prefer to sit on a very short step, around eight to ten inches high, which puts my thighs at a good angle to support my forearms for this. I use the bottom step of the two-step step stool I am sitting on in the picture doing thick bar curls on the Nautilus Omni Multi Exercise for this.

  2. Richard Payton November 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Drew, briefly, what is your favourite arm routine or specialisation routine to really kick start growth?

    • Drew Baye November 20, 2012 at 8:44 am #


      For arm specialization I like to pair one compound pulling and one biceps exercise and a one compound pushing and one triceps exercise with no rest between, followed by forearms. For specific examples check out High Intensity Workouts.

  3. Andy November 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    When using a standing cable pressdown for triceps development, do you recommend to stand erect in front of the cable apparatus at all times? Would this mean feet parallel to each other about shoulder width apart and knees locked or just slightly bent? Do you recommend to lock the elbows in the end position?

    Thanks Andy

    • Drew Baye November 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Andy, you need to stand back from the pulley a few feet, hold your upper arms close to your sides, and lean forward slightly so the cable is roughly perpendicular to your forearms when you are in the mid-range position. Do not lean further forward as you approach the end point. You should lock your elbows at the end and hold for a few seconds, performing the squeeze mentioned starting on the third rep. If you’re far enough back from the pulley the resistance should fall off a little as you approach the end point, but not so much the triceps don’t have to work to hold that position.

  4. Niles Wheeler November 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    What determines the size of a muscle?

    . A muscle’s size potential is determined by the length of the muscle belly. A long muscle with short connective tissue (tendons) has far more growth potential than long tendons and short muscle belly. This is predetermined by genetics. No amount of exercise will develop a short muscle to the size of a long muscle.
    Champion bodybuilders aren’t made, they are born. I have long muscle bellies in my triceps and short ones in my biceps. My triceps require little stimulation for above average growth. No amount of stimulation will give me anything more than average biceps. Every individual has their own unique
    potential. Consistant hard work and good nutrition will assure you achieve yours God bless

  5. Andrew November 20, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Good article. Would you apply the same thinking for all other bodyparts? So would I correctly assume it to mean that direct exercise is required for optimum development?


    • Drew Baye November 20, 2012 at 8:39 am #


      I think most people can get pretty close to as big and strong as their genetics will allow with a very basic program of a few compound exercises, but optimum development of some muscle groups appears to require more direct work. A lot of this depends on the mechanics of the compound movements and the levers the different muscles involved work against.

      • Andy November 21, 2012 at 3:54 am #

        concerning your answer of Andrew`s question:
        Which compound movements do you recommend to be accompanied by a direct exercise if OPTIMUM development of the targeted muscle groups is the goal of the trainee?

        • Drew Baye November 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm #


          Chin ups and parallel bar dips are my favorites but almost any pull and push will work if done correctly.

          • Andy November 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

            Sorry I don’t understand clearly.
            Do you recommend to include an isolation movement for lats (compound movement is chin ups) and an isolation movement for chest (compound movement is dips)?
            For shoulders, midback and legs one compound movement for each is enough and no need for an isolation move?

            • Drew Baye November 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm #


              It depends on the individual and their goals and their bodily proportions. If someone is only interested in general fitness and strength a basic program of mostly compound movements along with a few simple movements for areas that require it like neck and calves is enough. For someone more interested in bodybuilding more simple movements may eventually be required depending on their proportions to balance things out or bring up a lagging body part.

          • Nathan November 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm #


            I think Andy’s question was more general.

            What muscles do you think may benefit from a direct exercise?

            • Drew Baye November 22, 2012 at 7:37 pm #


              The majority of the major muscle groups in the body can be trained very effectively with compound movements, and a person can develop a great deal of muscular strength and size throughout the body with the basic pushing and pulling movements alone, but simple movements are more effective for addressing individual muscle groups and some muscle groups like the neck flexors and extensors can only be effectively trained with direct, simple movements. There is more on this in the book Elements of Form.

            • Andy November 23, 2012 at 3:13 am #

              thank you very much.
              I want to take a step further than general fitness and strength. I am interested in optimum development of each muscle group without planning to go on stage. Your answer is very helpful for me.
              Yesterday I ordered your PWDIR Book and hope to find further information here.

            • Drew Baye November 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

              Thanks Andy,

              I plan to write more articles like this in the coming months.

    • AC November 21, 2012 at 8:32 am #

      I would suggest that this is the case Andrew. Although this blog post is about building bigger arms, the points that Drew makes so clearly (good job Drew!) are applicable to other bodyparts.

      There are no secrets. What people need to concentrate on is form and intensity.

      Performing a quality repetition as Drew has written in his posts “Focus On Your Muscles Not The Numbers”, “The Real Objective of Exercise” and “The Style Repetition”. Do this for every rep, of every set of ever exercise. The repetition is the building black of any workout. HIT is the only method/system that I know of that puts emphasis on quality reps.

      Remember, this is bodybuilding, not simply weight lifting/strenght training. The two are subtly different and yet at the same time they are VERY different. With one, you’re trying to make certain muscles do everything, targeting, stimulating, dose-response and all that.

      With the other, you might as well be shifting furniture, simply using whatever muscles you can call upon to shift the weight from A to B and back again.

      This means intensity of effort, creating inroad, working to momentary muscular failure. Training hard.

      If people applied these two things to all the obvious exercises that they know about and have access to they weould be fine. But instead they begin to look for new and more ridiculous exercises because the stand ones just aren’t cutting it. They need a new split, new diet, new everything.

      Really what they need is quality reps, lots more effort and the corresponding reduction in volume and frequency.

      • Donnie Hunt November 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

        Good post, AC! This kinda stuff makes me wanna go train.

  6. Blain November 20, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    To agree with your last comment, since only incorporating compound movements into my 2x a week workouts, my arms have gotten considerably bigger. I now only do squats, rows, bench press, and pulldowns and have never been stronger with each lift. I wish I had started doing this 10 years ago. Great article as always. Keep up the good work.

  7. Brian November 20, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Another excellent article Drew! What are your thoughts on taking the grip out of arm curls/triceps extensions, through things like max contraction straps or other means? Do you feel this places any greater emphasis on the biceps/triceps?

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm #


      For most people the grip should not be a limiting factor in these exercises if proper hand position is used. I have used both machines which load the biceps or triceps through wrist pads and machines which require the user to grip handles in my own training and with hundreds of clients and with the exception of a few people with neurological problems grip hasn’t been a limiting factor. Some people who have no trouble using a biceps or triceps machine with handles do experience forearm discomfort when pulling or pushing their wrists against a pad, however.

  8. Joe November 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Great article as always. May switch to cable pull downs for triceps. Had been doing extensions using a dumbbell behind my head (upper arms almost vertical), but I don’t think I’m getting everything out of it.

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm #


      The cable press downs are better. The problem with overhead dumbbell extensions is there is almost no resistance in the finished position. You want the resistance to fall off somewhat, but not that much. Dumbbell kickbacks are just the opposite, almost no resistance at the start, too much at the end point plus the problem I mentioned of active insufficiency of the long head of the triceps. Most people don’t notice, though, because they swing the weight up rather than lift it under strict control.

      If you’re using free weights or cables the best options provide something in between, with relatively balanced resistance over the full range of the exercise.

  9. Steven Turner November 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Go to most gyms and you will observe people wasting huge amounts of time and effort doing ineffective bicep curls and triceps exercises. And it is not only beginners often the worst offenders are the so-called advanced lifter.

    Arthur Jones said that if you like dong an exercises you are probably doing it wrong.

    When done properly biceps curls can be brutal, can make your legs shake, make you feel dizzy. When done properly one set of biceps curls is most what most people can handle.

    “You don’t need to perform dozens of different types of curls”…

    You could put it another way “If you perform curls correctly you won’t be able to do dozens of different types of curls…

    I have had some extremly strong guys have to put the barbell down after 5-6 reps (aiming for 10 reps, 3sec up 4 sec down) of a properly performed set of biceps curls.

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm #


      I’ve found the same thing. When asked to choose a weight they can perform about ten reps with almost everyone finds they can’t even get close when they are shown how to do it correctly and not allowed to cheat.

  10. Niles Wheeler November 21, 2012 at 3:33 am #

    A big guy by the name of Casey told me to concentrate on flexing the muscle against resistance instead of lifting a weight. He also suggested doing a single joint isolated movement to preexhaust the targeted muscle. Followed by a multiple joint compound movement for additional stimulation. He used this for stubborn muscle. He is a genetic freak. All of his muscles were abnormally long.

  11. Keith K. November 21, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    “Also, if your elbows over your nose the weight won’t be, which is one less thing to worry about as you approach momentary muscular failure.”


    I feel that I am utterly confused on the setup of this exercise after reading that. When I put my elbows at 45 degrees right now and track the movement, it appears that the weights will be almost directly above my head the entire time.

    Are we talking about performing the movement from a standing position, or from laying our backs on a weight bench or what? I feel like this exercise would have benefited from pictures much more than the curls or the wrist flexion/extension.

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm #


      When performing a supine triceps press if you move your elbows so they are over your nose your shoulders would be at a forty five degree angle, not flexed forty five degrees. I agree that photos would have helped and will shoot some to add to this later.

    • Nathan November 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm #


      Lie on your back and stretch your arms out towards the ceiling now bring you arms back towards your head(without bending your elbows) about 45 degrees from vertical (the original position). Your elbows should be roughly above your nose at this point. Keep your upper arms fixed at this location while you do the tricep extentions. Drew is right, it’s a great movement.

  12. Brad November 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Love these! I tried them for the first time yesterday with a barbell.
    Prob the best bicep pump I ever had, and doesn’t require
    heavy resistance or boat loads of rep’s. May include a set or two of these
    after compound pulling exercises, or on a separate day
    to augment. Thanks Drew!

    • Brad November 22, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

      I meant the technique for doing curls.

  13. MarceloDiez November 24, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Dear Drew,

    As to my previous comment some weeks ago, thank you for alerting me to “Elements of Form”. I´ll consider purchasing it once it is out.
    It is only fair that not all of my questions ought to be answered for free.
    But here goes anyways:

    In you 2009 21 convention speech you outline a “rear shrug” for the lower traps, if one were to specialise on those.
    Is this done with a barbell behind my back instead of in front of me?

    Kind regards

    • Drew Baye November 26, 2012 at 10:18 am #


      A “rear shrug” involves retracting the shoulders and is usually performed as part of a rowing exercise like a compound row machine or bent over barbell row and targets the middle portion of the trapezius along with the rhomboids. It involves pulling from the front with the arms straight, as opposed to pulling from below as during a regular shrug.

  14. JF Gagné November 24, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    I’m in a phase of TSC experimentation. For triceps, I do push downs with a rope (neutral grip) locked where my elbows are bent 90 degrees for 90 seconds (30/30/30). I currently keep my upper arms and elbows lined up with my side. Reading the article, I understood that I should have my elbows in front of me instead. Is that accurate?


    • Drew Baye November 26, 2012 at 10:24 am #


      It isn’t necessary that the elbows be in front of you, just that they are not held behind the body during dynamic triceps extensions to avoid active insufficiency of the long head of the triceps.

      During a timed static contraction with the elbows bent 90 degrees active insufficiency is not a concern. The best upper arm position for timed static contraction is the most stable one which is pressed against your sides or the front of your ribs for a cable pressdown.

      • JF Gagné November 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

        Excellent. Thank you!

  15. Adam Budnik November 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Love it. Yet again brilliant and very fulfilling post. It is so bloody simple to stimulate your muscles regardless of what part you train. Since I became a father my ability to train, recover ratio has shifted dramatically. Question for you Drew: as a father how do you find HIT to momentary mascular failure every session, further recovery time, and overall energy levels after training?

    • Drew Baye November 29, 2012 at 10:59 am #


      After our son was born I had to modify my volume and frequency for a few months to accommodate the reduction in sleep, but after that it hasn’t been much different. The biggest difference is I do a lot more of my workouts at home now instead of at the training studio or gym.

  16. MarceloDiez November 27, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks for the answer, Drew!
    Keep on mantaining this excellent blog!

  17. John Beynor November 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    In applying TSC to leg extensions(maybe using a seated leg curl machine), could you do so where the legs are partly/fully extended, or is it best to do them in the mid-range or both positions in the same workout/set?

    Would the wall-sit be better? And what’s the positioning in applying TSC to the wall-sit? Thanks.

    • Drew Baye November 29, 2012 at 10:56 am #


      I recommend the mid-range position when performing timed static contraction on leg extensions and leg curls.

      A wall sit is a static hold or “yielding” isometric rather than a timed static contraction or “overcoming” isometric. Both can be highly effective if done correctly and have their pros and cons. I have an article on static holds I will be posting eventually which will cover each in detail.

  18. Chris November 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    would you suggest this over Jones’ “Arm Routine from Hell”?

    • Drew Baye November 29, 2012 at 10:34 am #


      The pattern is the same: compound pulling exercise, simple biceps exercise, compound pushing exercise, simple triceps exercise. The only difference is I add the forearm movements at the end. Jones’ combination of chin ups, curls, dips, and triceps extensions is one of my favorites, though.

  19. marklloyd November 29, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Assuming one is already lean, the arms won’t get much bigger unless bodyweight increases, & won’t necessarily be the only body-part that grows. We can’t all be Steve Reeves: If you value maintaining your current waistline measurement, it may be time to reassess how important 18″ arms are to you.

    • Drew Baye November 29, 2012 at 9:45 am #


      It is a myth that one can not get bigger arms, forearms, legs, etc. unless overall bodyweight increases. There are many cases of people who neglect to train most of their bodies and only focus on their arms or their chest, or on specific areas key to their sport or hobby which disprove this.

      I had a friend in high school who was a relatively skinny guy but had disproportionately developed biceps because the only exercise he regularly performed was dumbbell curls while listening to music or watching TV. Go into almost any gym and you’ll see guys who have obviously put a lot of effort into training their arms and chest but neglect their legs.

      A paraplegic woman I trained had no trouble improving her upper body development despite minimal leg work (she had just enough nervous connection with her lower body that we were able to perform manually resisted and static contraction exercises, which helped).

      There are people who are able to improve some muscle groups tremendously without a proportionate or overall size increase due to genetics. I knew a guy in college whose upper body was almost unbelievably muscular for a drug free trainee, but his thighs were only average and he had below average calves. I saw him work out at various times over a period of three years and he trained his whole body incredibly hard. When we talked about it he said his father had similar proportions despite not working out.

      If a person only trained their arms and ate just enough to support their growth without significant additional fat gain it is possible for them to increase their arm size without increasing the size of the rest of their body.

      If there is any limit to this it is because there is no such thing as a pure isolation exercise and many other muscle groups are involved in stabilizing the body during any exercise. Most people probably won’t be able to maximally develop any muscle group without significant strength increases in the other muscles involved in exercises for it.

      • JF Gagné November 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

        If you train all major groups, how many calories above maintenance would you need to achieve gaining almost only lean mass?

        Mike Mentzer wrote +16 calories per day but I have a hard time believing that someone can be that precise when eating real food. An apple bigger than usual would screw up your diet…

        • Drew Baye December 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm #


          Like most things it varies considerably between individuals and determining it is a process of trial and error. Keep track of your weight and skinfold measurements (not perfect, but a rough indication of fatness) and your food intake, and adjust until you are gaining weight steadily without your bodyfat increasing significantly.

          Calorie counting tends to be imprecise due to normal variability of nutritional value in natural foods, inaccurate nutritional labeling on packaged foods, and improper measuring and weighing, and not all calories are handled the same by the body (what you eat counts for more than how much in many ways) but if you keep track as best you can consistently you can get and stay within a range appropriate to your goals.

  20. Chris December 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    I did this today for the first time. I’ve been doing HIT and following your writing since 2000 and I haven’t felt this drained in my arms in a LONG time. I especially noticed it at the top of the curl. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a foreign sensation since I’ve been a HITter for a while, but god damn were my arms on fire. I look forward to throwing this in the mix from time to time. Thanks Baye!

    P.S. if you did more demonstrations on your youtube channel that would be awesome :).

    • Drew Baye December 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm #


      Thanks. People are always surprised when I have them do arm curls this way, especially if they’re used to the typical style of throwing the weight up and dropping it with a lot of help from the rest of their body.

      I plan to set up a separate youtube channel for the web site and will be posting more on it in the future.

  21. Hugo December 4, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    Hi Drew,

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the forearm exercise Bill De Simone demonstrates in the following video. Would you say it’s a complete compound exercise for forearms and grip?

    Bill De Simone – Moment Arm Exercise Forearms
    (exercise from 5:40 to 7:00)


    • Drew Baye December 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm #


      With a machine like that it can be an effective exercise but I wouldn’t try it with heavy dumbbells.

  22. Martin December 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Hello Drew!

    We are 3 guys doing HIT together and started 25 days ago ( 5 workouts ). We do the “BIG FIVE” routine inspired from one of your books and BodyByScience.
    1. Leg Press
    2. Pulldown
    3. Chest press
    4. Seated Row
    5. Shoulder press
    In that order. ( Thinking legs first to get the best growth response? )
    We have all been increasing the resistance every workout on Leg Press and Pulldown. A little on chest press and the seated row – but none of us are doing better on the Shoulder press? For me i feel really nausea after the seated row so i need a couple of minutes before even doing the shoulder press.
    Do we need to change the order of the exercises or just keep going this way – it has only been 5 workouts. Just wondering why we are gaining in everything except shoulders. Any advice on this ?


  23. Chris Brown December 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm #


    The thumb gets enough work when performing reverse wrist curls, wrist curls, and grippers. Direct thumb work would probably only be necessary if a person was interested in performing specific grip feats/competition. or had a very specific need to perform thumb work (i.e. injury, severe imbalance, etc).

    Am I correct in this?

    Thank you again for addressing grip and forearm work in this article and thread.


    • Drew Baye December 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm #


      Yes, you are correct. If someone wants to improve any aspect of their grip on a specific feat they need to incorporate specific work on that.

  24. Chris Brown December 17, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Drew, again my thanks. Glad I got things correct. Reading your blog articles and answers on threads helped me considerably.

    • Drew Baye December 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      Hey Chris,

      You’re welcome, I’m glad to help.

  25. Al April 7, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    would u advise negative only training for isolation exercises like db curls/tri extensions?

    • Drew Baye April 7, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

      Hey Al,

      Negative-only training can be effective for these exercises but you have to be careful not to overdo it, and I don’t usually recommend it unless a trainee has very good form and is capable of performing the intra-personal transfers correctly.

      • Al April 7, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

        Hi Drew, but wouldn’t that logic only apply to compound work where the risk of injury or bad form is high? I am here referring to only simple isolated work like curls and extensions… the reason I am asking is, normal method for these exercises dont do much for my arms (stuck at same weight at curls etc.), so i was wondering if adding more weight and doing negative curls would help.

        • Drew Baye April 8, 2016 at 8:43 am #

          Hey Al,

          No, it applies to all exercises, and most people perform simple exercises just as poorly as compound ones, if not more poorly. If you’re having difficulty increasing the size of your arms and you’re already doing regular curls correctly and with sufficient intensity you might get better results performing rest-pause or negative-only, but only if you also have all of your basics in order.

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