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Big Arms Over the Years

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Someone recently asked me if I supersetted regularly in my early years of training. As I recall I only applied the classic East Coast approach to building muscle and might, a style one may very well call “onslaught Training.”

You position yourself roughly before a barbell and with little warning, you pounce on it and beat it to the ground. Breathing heavily, crouching and circling, you grab the dumbbells in a power lock, twist, pummel and as before slam them down without mercy. Always on the move, sweating and cursing, you hold your rusty pig-iron opponent at arm’s length before performing an excruciating overhead press, a crushing barbell drop-set and, finally, the backbreaking deadlift.

No whimpering, no reason, no questions, no excuses, no witnesses. All that stuff came years later.

I moved to California in ’63 and refined my moves, put order in my workouts and began to use primarily superset techniques. I got a handle on protein, fats and carbs, and bore the yoke like an ox on the threshing floor, season after season. For three years the bulk of my training was hard and heavy and my bodyweight hovered like a blimp at 245 pounds, a significant mound at the time.

My workouts went three hours from 6 to 9 AM, six days a week times fifty-two a year with the following split:

Chest, shoulders and arms - Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Back and legs - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

15 to 20 sets per bodypart @ 3 to 4 exercises x 5sets each

A popular 10,8,6,4,4 (+/-) rep scheme was used most frequently on major moves with the 6- to 8-rep standard managing secondary movements and change-of-pace days.

Crunches and leg raises and hyperextensions were done first thing every morning for torso strength and warm-up. No aerobics (what’s that?). I always worked forearms, and tried for PRs in various moves every third week to apply the muscle to the max.

Through the years I’ve tried every technique and muscle group combination, various splits, high reps and low. Always, I went back to beefy workouts with last rep intensity, providing form is B+ and joints and muscle connections aren’t severely compromised. On occasion, of course, one must pay the executioner. I was constantly moving set to set, actively recuperating and psyching or arranging equipment for the next combination.

Though I’m driven, I don’t rush. I like time to immerse myself in my workout... I average 70 MPH in the 65. When I’m done, I’m done.

The exercise choices haven’t changed over the years (I just train later in the day, do less work and oh-so-much lighter, and only twice a week). Here’s the arm routine from those long years ago, and most of the years since.

Standing barbell curl, 5 sets x 10, 8, 6, 6, 4 +/- reps

Superset with

Overhead triceps extension, 5 x 15, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps


Seated dumbbell alternate curl, 5 x 6 - 8 reps

Superset with

Lying triceps extension, 5 x 15, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps


Barbell wrist curl, 5 x 15+/- reps

Tri-set with

Bent bar reverse curl, 5 x 6 - 8 reps


Pulley pushdown, rope always, 5 x 12 - 15 reps

How basic can you get? You can easily cut this routine down to four sets per exercise without feeling guilty. That sort of removes the horns but leaves the hooves, as Texas Dave always sez.

Though you’re working bis and tris, a full body of muscle groups is coming into play as a system. There’s no better big, full biceps builder than the standing barbell curl when done with heavy output and complete range of motion. Note the work being done as the weight becomes heavy and an effective, non-cheating body thrust is applied to accommodate continued intense-rep performance: from the feet through the thighs to the trunk and back and traps... clenching, pulling, stabilizing and balancing. Combined with the overhead triceps extension, you are further involving the back, shoulders and torso. Functioning toughness.

Alternate curls, with their back-and-forth movement, develop oblique and mid-section power and muscularity. Superset number two provides another greater-than-arms-only-task upon which the entire system will grow.

And, forearms are not forearms only. Strengthen your grip and you hold the world in your hands.

Brother Dave


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