Kal Szkalak Arm Workout

The following arm workout routine was developed by Kalman Szkalakin the year 1978. He won bodybuilding titles like Mr. America (1976), Mr. USA (1977) and IFBB Mr. Universe (1977) -Mr. Berg

“Might is right! With heavy weights and supersets Kal’s arm training developed the power and size that helped vanquish the best bodybuilders in the world.

They were chanting at Nimes on that fateful night of the Mr. Universe posedown – “Szkal-ak…Szkal-ak…” and there came that sudden clarification that you were witnessing a miracle in progress.

Kal Szkalak, that “Golden Boy”, sort of, from America was bombing that passionate, delirious French audience with front, back and side biceps poses. Not since Arnold had one seen such compelling upper body sweep so matchlessly ripped with massive muscle. It confirms a long held belief that charisma is not born of perfection, rather, only, the desire to be perfect. 

Kal has always feared his legs, but at Nimes they were up to big contest standard with big, cut-up thighs and decent calves. The epicenter of all that attention had to be his arms, and the manner in which he trains them should provide a backstage peek at the legerdemain of his onstage magic.

His plan was put into action two months before the Universe contest when he increased his arm workouts to tree times a week. Some people prefer it and some don’t, but Kal bases his arm training on the strategy of the well-known Weider Supersets Principle.

During this intensified period of training he did 16 supersets alternating between biceps and triceps.  The program consisted of four different biceps exercises and four different triceps exercises, each consisting of four sets apiece.

Arm training consisted of 32 sets total.

With Kal’s power and penchant for using heavy weights on everything he does, such an arm schedule can best be described as torrid. Supersets alone demand a heated pace, and with heavy poundages employed in the system muscular progress bashed through sticking points and recognizes no plateaus.

He does arms immediately after shoulder work starting with the basic standing barbell curl. The arms have been somewhat preheated by the proximity of the shoulder work so he’s able to launch a fairly heavy initial attack. He supersets this curl with the basic triceps pushdown on the overhead pulley. Both of these movements cause no particular strain on either the biceps or triceps and give both parts a safe and reasonable chance to warm up.

The more stressful angles are left for later.

The standing barbell curl is done with the elbows close to the sides and the wrists held straight throughout the motion that stops short of the deltoid. 

By keeping the elbows down the bar can’t plop over to rest at the shoulders and cause breaking of tension on the biceps. He increases poundage with each set, going as high as 180 pounds for eight reps. The initial warmup set would take about 12 reps with somewhat less weight.

With no pause he does directly to the triceps pushdown for 12 reps with a reasonably heavy warmup weight. Poundages are increased with subsequent sets for a minimum of eight reps each. A brief rest is taken only between each of these four superset circuits, but no rest between each biceps and triceps exercise. That, essentially, is the makeup of all superset training.

The next superset consists of Scott Bench curls and prone triceps extensions with the cambered bar. The curls are done with the elbows and slightly narrower than shoulder width. Concentration is centered on the lower part of the movement, and again the movement stops short of the deltoid. Weight is increased up to 170 pounds.

The elbows remain fixed on triceps extensions while the forearms are extended somewhat short of complete lockout above the head so that the triceps remain under constant tension during the full set.

The third superset consists of dumbbell incline curls and one arm standing triceps extensions with dumbbell. He uses 75 pounds on the incline curls, usually eight reps, and an 85 pound dumbbell for the triceps extensions. The inclines are done strict as possible, keeping the elbows down and the wrists straight, and curling nearly to the deltoid, thus maintain constant tension on the biceps. The upper arm is kept perpendicular to the floor on the triceps extensions.

He changes the position of the palm for variation so that the dumbbell handle is either parallel to or perpendicular to the floor. This assures him of an overall pump on the triceps which respond to different hand positions.

The final superset combines one arm concentration curls with the overhead pulley two arm triceps extension. The concentration curl is done either seated or standing with the upper body bent parallel to the floor.

In the standing mode he rests the free arm on a bench. Concentration is on the upper part of the motion which peaks the biceps. The usual method of supinating the hand during the motion he found a bit awkward with the heavy weight he prefers to use, so he curls with only the thought of making the biceps and brachialis work as hard as possible.

One of his most spectacular poses is a side shot with the arm forward exposing a looping biceps that could hardly show more peak even with the elbows flexed.

Kal uses the regular vertical lat pulley for the triceps extensions. Using a close grip, keeping the upper arms at eye level, he leans away from the pulley so that the cables is angled downward to his grip. He keeps the elbows close so that the stretch is felt along the upper posterior triceps where it ties in to the posterior deltoid. The angle of the cable is such that even when the forearms are fully extended forward, the tension remains on the triceps.

That’s it – 16 supersets, three times a week. Occasionally he will do an extra set or two or reverse curl movements, and possibly some additional cable movement, and perhaps some dips, depending on what he feels he needs.

His arm exercises remain essentially basic. If he isn’t into contest training, he usually does about 20 sets each for biceps and triceps, twice a week. Sixteen sets each, and supersets at that, three times a week amounts to considerably more work the kind of sustained effort contest training calls for.

More recently he warms up with high reps to the point of pump before he even starts his arm supersets. This guards him against possible elbows problems that might occur from his use of heavy weights. Also, at 24 years of age, Kalman feels he is getting older. In any case that’s not an unlikely possibility.

The warmup consists of a fast five-minute composite of all movements similar to the ones he will use for both biceps and triceps, using a single light barbell, and moving from one to another non-stop. This drives the blood into all corners, heats the arms and makes the tendons pliable.

Young and powerful, Kal prefers to train heavy, using much weight on all exercises. Though biceps and triceps are relatively small muscles, he forces heavy weight on them. Following the warm up he moves right into the heavy stuff, keeping sets in the vicinity of eight reps. During the workout he periodically checks his arms, holding flexes or extensions to the point of aching to help burn cuts into them.

Kal’s arm power is a matter of record. The week before he won the Mr. Universe contest he did 13 repetition bench presses with 440 pounds.”

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