Arm Day. Isolation Shmisolation

What was once lost is found again.

There is a spot in my heart for arm days. The curl being the go to move in case of an encounter with stray dumbbells as a kid. When flexing and extending the elbow with cables and weights in my gym infancy was all I knew. In the very early days it was all that mattered. Eventually this turned into bodybuilding where after multiple lactate flavored leg workouts per week an arm day felt like a paid vacation.

But for a while I had kept my distance. The quest of how do I get gains evolved into the quest of how do I do this for a living?

Being in the gym went from aesthetics to apprenticeship. Learn and feel as much as I can and figure out where it all ties into the way I go about my business now that my business is no longer just about me.

The crucial point and common practice that came out and resonated with me? Make movement and make muscle.

In my world this means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some of the people I work with this has meant bringing some good old fashioned arm training into the mix.

Sounds like a party to me


Welcome back old friend.

Arm training takes its flack and I get some of it. Hell I have definitely deserved to be on the receiving end of it at times.

But getting a chance to learn it, feel it and teach it with an ever growing lens I have to say that it is good stuff. When done well I see a great carry over to bigger movements.

A great pre requisite to more complex upper body movements for some. A great complement to more complex upper body movements for others. A pump to be had by all.

In coming up with an answer to what arm training is and what it isn't I have taken sides with this answer. It is whatever you want it to be and a lot of that answer boils down to who is behind the wheel of it. Not just who is watching the race.

Close Grip Pushup Variations

Benefits: Hip/Mid back mobilization, upper body deceleration, trunk control, pump deluxe.

No matter the individual I enjoy getting people getting to the ground with grace. A big part of my decision making on how that goes about is rhythm. In this case, seek out a pushup variation where rhythm can be kept within your ideal volume ranges. In the case of building arms, my volume recommendation would be just shy of no longer looking pretty.

Moving Rope Pressdown

Benefits: Mid back mobilization, trunk stabilization, hinge practice, heavy pump

No matter the exercise, anytime I can get someone loading their trunk in a hinged position I consider it a victory. Add to it the ability to control and load the mid back, as well as get the posterior shoulder involved and work gets done. Honorable mention to the searing pump that comes with getting the posterior shoulder involved in contracting the triceps.

Strict Curling

Benefits: Trunk and ribcage control, mid back/serratus activation, t-shirt splitter

A front runner for the more than meets the eye award. For anyone feeling postural limitations with their heavier lifts, strict curls get my approval. The upright positioning, the bracing and extension that is necessary to get the most bang for your buck and a lifting load that allows you to maintain it makes it a keeper for me.

Single Arm Cable Curl

Benefits: Lateral hip/trunk stability, shoulder rotation, ribcage control, freakin' peakin'

Someone taking a set of cables to blast out some cable curls. A secret enemy to a number of trainers when equipment is not easy to come by. To that I say know your enemy.

In this case a former enemy has become a vital ally. Set yourself in a single arm situation of the cable curl and you'll understand why. Top to bottom this will charge you up due to the horizontal tension. One giant standing isometric hold paired from the ribcage down paired with some rotation of the shoulder. Bonus points for the unselfishness of using just one handle.

Join The Party

Training is a funny thing. No doubt there are absolutes involved with it but the pursuit of absolute certainly has some wiggle room. There are goals in mind and considerations to work around in a lot of training environments and that sometimes takes its share of compromise, creativity and the use of any dirty trick in the book to get a desired result.

If there are things that need to be worked around in your upper body work, maybe arm training can facilitate that. If there are strength/hypertrophy limitations in the t-spine region, maybe arm training  can help you out.

If it is a skin tearing set of arms you are seeking, then pump away ladies and gentlemen.

I am on your side.