For generations, movies have depicted the ideal man to be one who has bulging biceps and a frame that dwarfs other guys. While bodybuilding is a realistic goal for anyone to get into Hollywood shape, we all have to start somewhere. Often, many correlate muscular arms and chest to the epitome of being buff. What if we told you that despite your good intentions, working on your arms as a beginner is pointless? Here’s why beginners don’t need to train their arms for bulking (at first)!
The Excitement Behind Arms
Nothing quite shows progress in the gym like your sleeves getting a little too tight for you. Large arms are commonly seen as a testament to your workouts and are tied with your chest to be the most noticeable benchmark for your gains. Exercises like skull crushers and hammer curls are staples in every arm routine and the pump is possibly some of the most out of all arm exercises out there. Despite how alluring short-term pumps can be, it is not efficient to embark on this journey if you are brand new to weight lifting.
For beginners, the most important thing to do is to establish a routine of compound exercises INITIALLY. Isolation exercises are indeed important but serve to zero in on body parts that are already in the process of being sculpted by compound exercises.
Arms certainly fall under the former and arguably have lesser priority than other isolated muscle groups such as lateralis and deltoids. The reason behind this is that compound exercises already engage a plethora of muscle groups and since your arms are used in almost every one of those exercises, they will indeed grow on their own.
While working on arms from the get-go is by no means sabotaging your chances of growth, it would be redundant if they were not conditioned for strength and size, to begin with. Many coaches advise beginners to take up more all-rounded exercises, to begin with, such as pull-ups, push-ups, and bench presses for starters. After getting a general sense of what it means to engage your body in weight lifting, bulking starts when separate days are allocated for specific body parts.
Chest Equals Triceps
The rule of thumb is that the chest engages the triceps and the back engages the biceps. The bench press should be one of the first exercises you’ve tried when working out with a full-body program. While shoulders, chest, and arms are engaged, the pushing motion of such heavyweights relies on your triceps specifically for the lift-off before your chest is engaged.
The incline bench press is also responsible for this, despite technically being an isolated exercise. During the lift-off period, your triceps will be lifting most of the weight for a brief moment, but when your chest begins to carry the weight, your triceps are still engaged.
Despite being a simple exercise on paper, the bench press has been a hot exercise every weightlifter implements due to its versatility. If you are extremely keen to work on your triceps more than your chest, you can follow up from a regular bench press exercise with a close grip version. This puts more emphasis on your triceps, despite going through the same motion as the standard. Be warned that this exercise will require you to reduce the weight on the bar as your triceps will be the main target, and the chest will only provide minimal support.
Back Equals Biceps
It’s understandable to be tempted by doing nothing but curls all day to get your biceps popping, but it is one of the smallest muscle groups in your body - and can be put on hold for now. The back has tons of exercises, both isolated and compound, that will have you tucking your arms back at a 90-degree angle - which, in turn, will work on your biceps without a doubt.
Classic exercises like bent-over rows, seated rows, and lat pulldowns all possess a pulling motion that isn’t too far off from some bicep exercises, to begin with. Much like the chest, if your primary muscle group is not engaged, you are not executing the exercise correctly. Therefore, learning how to properly activate your back muscles is key to executing the rest of your exercises correctly.
Unlike chest exercises, back exercises don’t quite have the flexibility to pull off alternate grips that can lean more towards bicep-focused workouts. As the back is larger, many of the supposed compound exercises do isolate to a certain extent and will require a lot more time and effort to master the fundamentals. But fear not: since your biceps are biologically one of the smallest muscle groups, it is easily engaged and will definitely grow in proportion to the rest of your body when you have exercised long enough.
Mastering The Fundamentals
In conclusion, there is a common misconception that massive, chiseled arms are acquired through common arm workouts, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Attaining the mass alone needs to be done proportionately and that will come when focusing on your entire body. While full-body exercises can be daunting and the results won’t come so quickly, being disciplined and letting time and effort do the rest is critical for your success.
Once your shoulders, back, and chest have had enough time to get accustomed to lifting heavily (with proper form), your arms will definitely catch up with your grown traps and lats. The isolation part comes later when you either feel like you’re hitting a plateau or simply decide that it’s the right time to tone. While arm exercises can be used for bulking, it’s a lot more effort for significantly fewer results.