Do you want badass arms?
Since you’re reading this, I’m going to guess that the answer is a resounding yes. There are multiple paths to strength and size, but I’ve developed methods over two decades of training and coaching experience that I believe will be able to give you the pump-up you’re hoping for and deliver both—if you’re willing to put in the work, that is.
I distilled my experience into a 12-week training guide called Badass Arms from Men’s Health. The program uses my proven techniques to get you the fastest, most noticeable gains. You can read even more about that here.
In the program, I combine techniques typically used to develop either strength or size by alternating a month of high-rep muscle-building work with a month of low-rep strength work. I also work in months of “hybrid training,” where I hit on both styles in the same workout.
What It Will Take to Make You a Badass
You’ll train three to four times per week. You can schedule your workouts in any way that works for you, but follow these general guidelines:
The workouts require basic equipment you’ll find in most commercial gyms. For this program to work, it has to be your major focus for all 12 weeks.
Good form is critical to your success and your health. Don’t sacrifice technique.
It’s absolutely crucial to be in a caloric surplus throughout this program.Your body needs fuel to perform these workouts. It needs nutrients to build muscle tissue while you recover. You may assume that means more protein, and while that’s true, for a lot of guys the biggest challenge is simply getting enough food, including carbohydrates and fat along with protein. That’s especially true for guys who’re younger and leaner.
You may have to train on days when you’re still sore from a previous workout. That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work when the goal is muscle growth. If you never feel as if you’re pushing yourself into uncharted territory, you probably aren’t training hard enough to maximize your potential. That said, you have to be smart about how hard you push yourself. If you feel pain in our shoulder or elbow joints, or in your lower back, back off a bit until you know for sure it isn’t an injury.
One last thing: Good form is critical to your success and your health. Don’t sacrifice technique to add more plates to the bar. Your arms aren’t going to get any more diesel if you’re sitting on the couch nursing an injury.
The Badass Arms Warmup
You can do this warmup, or anything else that works for you. If that’s a few minutes of cardio, or some calisthenics, or an elaborate routine with each movement owing gracefully into the next, have at it. The only rules:
Experienced lifters tailor their warmup to their own needs, and I encourage you to experiment. For example, if you work out early in the morning, or in a chilly basement or garage, you probably want to spend more time getting your body warm and your mind focused.
Here are a few mobility exercises you may want to include in your warmups, along with whatever movements or drills you typically do before lifting.
Kneeling Shoulder Rotation
Do 1 set of 8 reps per side
Start in the half-kneeling position, right knee down and left foot forward. Bend forward from the hips so your torso is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the floor directly beneath your right shoulder and in line with your left foot. Rotate your upper torso to the left as you reach up and back with your left hand. Follow your hand with your eyes.
Both arms are now perpendicular to the floor. Reverse the movement, pulling your left arm down. Reach behind your right arm and past your torso. That’s 1 rep.
Hip Flexor Mobilization
Do 1 set of 6 reps per side
Start again in the half-kneeling position—right knee down and left foot on the floor. This time, keep your torso upright, with your hands on your hips. Squeeze your right glute muscle, and shift your hips forward. Feel the stretch down the right side of your pelvis and the top of your right thigh. Relax and return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
Do 1 set of 10 to 15 reps
Lie face-up on the floor, with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms out to your sides. Push down through your heels to lift your hips o the floor until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold for 2 seconds, feeling the contraction primarily in your glutes and secondarily in your hamstrings; you shouldn’t feel any discomfort in your lower back. Lower your hips toward the floor, stopping just before they touch. That’s 1 rep.
Do 1 set of 10 to 15 reps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward, and arms straight out in front of you. Push your hips straight back, as if you were aiming them toward a chair. Descend until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position, with your knees and hips following the exact same path they used on the way down. That’s 1 rep.
The Badass Arms Phase 3 Hybrid Training Workout
Each of your four workouts includes at least one special technique like drop sets, rest-pause, or partial reps. On some exercises you’ll change your hand position from set to set. On others you’ll run the rack, using lighter dumbbells until you can’t complete 8 reps with the weights in your hands. Or you’ll do 7-1 supersets, meaning you’ll alternate two exercises for descending reps, starting with 7 reps and finishing with 1. That’s the “special techniques” part of Phase 3.
The “hybrid training” combines what you did in Phase 1 and Phase 2. You’ll start each workout with a compound lift—squat, bench press, deadlift, chinup—using heavy weights and relatively low reps. That’s followed with a pair of exercises performed in the muscle-building range, with moderate loads and reps (8 to 10, 10 to 12, 12 to 15). Miss out on the first phase? Check them out here and here.
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