“Ask any bodybuilding trainee his or her favorite bodypart in regard to actual training and the answer, more often than not, will be the arms. Of course, the public in general also hits upon this area. Think about it. The first question from a “man in the street” to an active iron pumper is, “How big are your arms?”

So, it seems, everyone places some emphasis on this bodypart. Hence, let’s get to discussing some serious arm training.

joe meeko triceps bodybuilding

The triceps accounts for about threequarter of the arm’s total measurement. Because of this, the triceps must be worked very hard if you want to get any appreciable development.

Personally, I’ve found the weighted bench dip to be the best all-around triceps developer. Performed between two flat benches, your heels are to be placed on the edge of one bench and the palms of your hands are placed as close together as possible on the other bench. Actually, I use about a one-inch space between my hands. This puts direct, maximal stress on my triceps.

This close positioning of the hands behind the back, however, might be very difficult for some individuals to achieve when first trying the movement. I, too, had problems in the beginning so I know what it’s like. Therefore, if you’re having problems, I suggest that you start with your hands shoulder-width apart and slowly work them closer together from workout to workout.

As far as a warmup for my elbow and shoulder joints is concerned, I usually do one or two sets – strictly with bodyweight – of 25 or 30 reps. Then I proceed to add weight in 50-pound increments by having my training partner lay a plate across my thighs.

I usually work up to 300 pounds of added resistance and then I work my way back down in weight by subtracting the same 50-pound increments.

In general, I average about 10 or 12 sets in the bench dips. Now that might seem like a lot but it has worked for me…and, remember, that’s what it’s all about.

In the past, I’ve suggested this exercise to people who have had trouble developing their triceps. Believe it or not, within weeks – for a few, it was months – virtually everyone reported that they achieved fantastic results.

So if you find yourself in the same predicament of having trouble developing your triceps, give the bench dip a try. Essentially, it is like doing a squatting exercise for the triceps…so it can be a “real mass builder.”

After this major triceps exercise, I do a unique movement on the Nautilus chestpress machine. I put a 2×4 across the two vertical pressing poles of the machine and I position my hands about an inch apart on the board. I then perform a movement very similar to a close-grip benchpress. This specialized exercise, however, is much more productive than the bench variety because you need not balance the weight and there is much less strain on the wrists.

Since I consider this another excellent mass builder for the triceps, I do about four to six sets, starting at 25 reps and – as the weight is increased – work back down to four reps.

My final exercise is the triceps pressdown on a lat machine. Here, too, I use a narrow grip on the bar and I again pyramid up in weight for four to six sets.

There must be at least 20 different exercises for the triceps but the three I’ve mentioned have worked best for me. When I began training, however, I didn’t know that they’d turn out to be my “big three.”

The key, though, is experimentation. Therefore, I recommend that you try all the different movements and find the ones that best stimulate your triceps. Of course, this is going to take some time and patience, so be prepared to invest that time – along with your labor – in order to reap the benefits of this trial and error system.

joe meeko preacher curls biceps

Okay, let’s move to the biceps. I’ve found that preacher-bench work provides me with the best stimulation – via a very intense burn and pump – in this area. I tried standing barbell and dumbbell curls but I didn’t respond very well to these basic exercises.

I start with single-arm preacher curls, and I warm up with 30-pound dumbbells for about 25 reps. I then proceed to the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and with all of these I work to the point of a couple of forced reps.

As a matter of fact, I only get a good solid pump when I perform forced reps. If for some reason I have to train alone – and therefore have no one to assist me with forced reps – my pump will be minimal.

After working my way up with the dumbbells, I then switch to barbell preacher curls. I prefer the straight Olympic bar over the E-Z-Kurl variety because I feel much more stimulation in the biceps from the former. I again pyramid up in weight for a total of six to eight sets, and some days I’ll even go back down in weight in the same way in which I went up.

Again, however, you have to find what works best for you. If you respond to the basic standing curl or to the seated curl, do them! The biceps exercises I’ve listed are the ones that worked for me. I think you should give them a try, of course, but if you discover that they’re not providing you with results, discontinue them and try something else.

Remember, we are all individuals and we’re all going to react differently to various exercises…you don’t have to do what I do in order to succeed.

After my biceps are fully pumped from the preacher curls, I do a few sets for peaking by assuming a supine position on a flat bench and then curling a lat bar to my nose. I like doing peaking movements with a cable because of the constant tension achieved with a cable weight setup.

joe meeko arm workout

The final area to be worked is the forearm. I use the Nautilus multipurpose machine for this. My method? I sit on a bench, place my forearms on my thighs and proceed to do wrist curls with a footlong roller bar attached to the machine. I do about six sets, pyramiding up in weight and, sometimes, back down.

Once again the key to arm training – or to training any other bodypart for that matter – is to find the exercises that stimulate you to optimal growth. Also, the amounts of reps and sets must be individualized to one’s own needs.

This can be very confusing in the beginning but, rest assured, after awhile you’ll be able to feel which exercises are working and what amount of sets allows you to respond maximally.

Some trainees, of course, can pick up on this “feel” faster than others but as I said it will come in time to everyone. For me, it took years to obtain this great asset. A long time? Yes, but since it is the single most important thing to acquire in bodybuilding or weight training, any amount of time is time well-spent.

Now, of course, I can try an exercise once and tell if it is working. This is a tremendous advantage, but you have to remember that I’ve paid my dues.

If you are to succeed to your highest expectations, you might have to invest more time than you thought. Have patience..try different exercises…and, in time, people might be stopping you on the street and asking you how big your arms are.”

photos by Gruskin

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