5 Arm Training Tips For Long-Armed Lifters

Struggling to build muscle on your arms? These tips can help.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 12 Nov 2017

Training Advanced
7 Mins

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I always thought that if you trained progressively and consistently with the compound lifts, your arms would grow as a by-product.

I saw direct arm training as a waste of time that only jacked up bodybuilders could benefit from.

It wasn’t until my first competitive bodybuilding season in 2014 that I realised that I’d missed a trick. When I was lean with no more ‘padding’ to fluff up my arms, I saw how far they lagged behind my torso.

In the two-year lead up to my 2017 bodybuilding season, I focused on two areas: my legs and my arms.

While I’m not super tall (5’10”), I do have long limbs for my height (my fingers almost touch my knee caps). As a result, these two areas have always struggled to ‘fill’ out.

After reviewing my training logs and assessing progress pictures, I realised I wasn’t training these areas correctly for my body type.

I needed a better approach.

And it paid off. This year my arms have caught up, and my triceps in particular have become a strong body part in many poses.



So what should long-armed lifters do differently?


1. Dedicate More Time To Direct Arm Training


In the past I thought chins and presses would take care of all my arm work. What I didn’t realise was that because of my levers, I’d always be lifting at a mechanical disadvantage, and so my arms were never maximally stimulated.

While guys with T-rex type arms could move heavier loads and overload their arms to a greater degree, my long limbs would struggle to move similar loads.

The greater lever arms and range of motion meant that in order for my arms to receive proper stimulation, they would require more specific isolation work.

So I started training arms twice a week: a heavier day in the 6 to 10 rep range, and a pump style day in the 10 to 15 rep range.

2. Focus On Dumbbell Hammer And Incline Curls


The two curl variations that gave me the most bang for my buck were hammer curls and incline curls.

These were the ‘money makers’ for my biceps.

Why?

The hammers target the often neglected brachialis muscle, which when developed, helps ‘push’ against the other biceps muscles to create the illusion of a bigger arm.

When I was competition lean this time round, I saw the brachialis for the first time, and noticed how it helped my ‘peak’ stand out more.

The incline curls allowed me to reduce the lever arm that traditional curls typically have. Instead of the weight being far in front of me, it was now more in line with my body. As a result, the concentrated stimulus was greater and I’d get a LOT more biceps stimulation.


3. Master The Floor Press


Due to shoulder issues in 2015, I was forced to switch to floor press variations instead of the bench.

But after seeing the results in my triceps, I never looked back. If you’re a long armed lifter, this makes sense. The shorter range of motion keeps you out of the ‘danger zone’ for your shoulders at the bottom. Instead, it’ll keep the overload on the chest and triceps. When guys with long arms bench with a full range of motion, most of the stress typically transfers to the shoulders and it’ll beat them up.

The floor press also involves a lot of elbow extension, which creates considerable mechanical tension on the triceps. The triceps respond very well to heavy loads, and so progressively overloading the floor press with perfect form over time is going to build some serious muscle in the back of your arms.

One note when floor pressing is to use a shoulder width grip on the bar. You’ll find this not only trains the triceps harder, but recruits more chest too.


4. Choose The Right Extension


The problem with typical extension variations is that it usually results in elbow pain later down the line if you 1) do them frequently and 2) get progressively stronger on them.

If you’ve got long arms, the lever is so great when doing extensions that there’s a lot of stress going through the elbow. Especially if you do it the ‘bodybuilder’ way of keeping elbows tucked close and emphasising the ‘folding’ of the forearm to the biceps.

Instead, the best extension variation for long armed lifters is the deadstop EZ extension – either on a decline with bumper plates, or on the floor.


It works well for two reasons:

  • There’s a deload on the elbows at the bottom of the movement
  • The ‘fold’ isn’t as great as with normal extensions because the weight is behind you

Since switching to these, I’ve been able to apply progressive overload without the elbow stress.

5. Smash and Stretch The Long Head


This has been the real game changer for my triceps training. As many do, I’d previously neglected the long head of my triceps except for a few overhead rope extensions tacked on sporadically.

The triceps are made up of three heads: the lateral, medial and long heads. The long head is the one round the back, and is what creates the ‘hang’ you’ll see in many bodybuilders.

It connects up on the shoulder, and is responsible for both elbow and shoulder extension. Which is why you may often have sore triceps after a big back session.

Because of its dual role, the best exercise I’ve found for the long head is the PJR pullover. This is essentially a hybrid of an extension and pullover, and works extremely well in hammering the long head with zero elbow stress at all.


Once you’ve got the long head pumped up, put them under an extreme stretch for 60 seconds. This area typically gets quite tight, and so stretching can provide the muscle room for more growth.



Pipe Cleaners No More


If you’ve been struggling to fill out your long arms, it may be time to rethink what you’ve been doing and make some changes.

To finish, I’ll leave you guys with a sample ‘long-armed’ workout to try using the principles laid out in this article.

1A. Underhand Chin Up 2×4-6, 1×6-8 90s

1B. Close Grip Floor Press 2×4-6, 1×6-8 90s – Pause at the bottom

2A. Seated Hammer Curl 2×6-8, 1×8-12 45s

2B. Deadstop EZ Extensions 2×6-8, 1×8-12 45s – Pause at the bottom

3A. Incline DB Curl 1×10-12, 1×12-15 45s – After the last rep, hold bottom position and squeeze triceps to stretch biceps for 30 seconds

3B. PJR Pullover 1×10-12, 1×12-15 45s – After the last rep, perform an extreme stretch on the triceps for 60 seconds

Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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