Almost everyone who lifts weights wants bigger arms. For many people, it’s what attracted them to working out with weights in the first place. Even kids understand the significance of big arms. Ask any child to “show you a muscle,” and they’ll probably do a double biceps pose!
Big arms don’t just look good, they are important for the rest of your training too. For example, if you want a bigger back, strong biceps allows you to lift more weight when you do lat pulldowns and rows. In the same way, strong triceps means you’ll be able to bench press during your chest workout.
Bigger, stronger biceps and triceps are also useful in sports, especially things like football and wrestling, where you have to push or pull an opponent.
One of the best ways to build your arms is by using supersets. Supersets produce incredible arm pumps and, as every bodybuilder knows, getting pumped is a crucial part of the muscle-building process.
Studies support the importance of the pump for muscle growth (1), and while there is more to building muscle than getting a pump, a good pump is always worth pursuing. One of the most effective ways to get a pump is supersets.
What are supersets?
Supersets involve doing two exercises back-to-back, with little or no rest in between. Supersets increase the intensity of your workout while saving you time.
They are very popular with bodybuilders for one reason – they really work! When you do supersets, blood is forced into the working muscles during your first exercise, and then into the opposing muscle group during the second exercise.
This causes a big increase in blood flow which drives oxygen and amino acids into your muscles, triggering short-term swelling followed by long-term muscle growth. To do a superset, set up your chosen exercises so you can move quickly from one to the next.
Do the first exercise as usual but then, instead of resting, immediately do the second one. Rest after completing the second exercise and then repeat the pairing.
Here are three tried-and-tested supersets that will give you incredible arm pumps!
1. Bodyweight Only Arm Blaster Superset
If you want to build muscle, you need to lift weights, right? Not necessarily. Check out the arms development of gymnasts, and you’ll see that bodyweight training can help you build bigger muscles too.
That’s good news if you want to work your arms and can’t make it to the gym, or just want an alternative to hitting the weights. As an added bonus, this superset is also great for your back and chest too.
|1a||Underhand chin-ups||3||AMRAP||90 seconds|
|1b||Narrow grip dips|
*AMRAP means as many reps as possible. Don’t worry about how many reps you do; just keep going until you reach failure. Expect to do a few less reps for each subsequent superset as fatigue sets in.
Grip the bar with a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Hang down with your arms straight, feet clear of the floor. Bend your arms and pull your chin up to the bar.
Lower yourself under control and repeat. Do not swing your body or kick with your legs unless it’s to finish your final rep. Can’t do full chin-ups? Use an assisted chin/dip machine instead.
Narrow Grip Dips
Grab the parallel handles with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Starting with your arms straight, bend your elbows until your biceps and forearms touch.
Push back up and repeat. If you can’t do parallel dips, do bench dips instead.
2. EZ Bar Maximum Pump Superset
The EZ bar is specially designed for arm training. The bends in the bar take the stress off your wrists and put your arms in the ideal position for both biceps curls and triceps extensions. For this superset, you need one EZ bar and an adjustable exercise bench.
You should not need to change weight between exercises. No EZ bar? You can do this workout with a regular barbell or even dumbbells.
|1a||EZ bar paused bicep curls||3||10-12||75 seconds|
|1b||EZ bar decline skull crushers|
EZ Bar Paused Bicep Curls
Load the bar with a weight you can curl about 15 times. Grab it with an underhand grip and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
Curl the weight up to your shoulders and pause for 2-3 seconds at the top. Squeeze your biceps as hard as you can! Lower the weight under control and repeat.
EZ Bar Decline Skull Crushers
Set an adjustable bench to a 10 to 15-degree decline. This helps to put more tension on your triceps. Hold your EZ bar with an overhand grip.
Lie down on your bench and press the bar up over your chest. Keeping your upper arms vertical and stationary, bend your elbows and lower the bar down to your forehead. Extend your arms and repeat.
3. Arm Killer Cable Superset
Cables are great for arm training. Unlike free weights, they allow you to keep the tension on your muscles throughout each rep. Use a cable machine with a pulley at the top and at the bottom so that you can move quickly from one exercise to the next.
|1a||Biceps rope hammer curls||4||12-15||60 seconds|
|1b||Reverse grip triceps pushdowns|
Biceps Cable Hammer Curls
Attach a triceps rope handle to a low cable machine. Grip the handle so that your thumbs are nearest to the rubber end stoppers.
Stand up straight with your arms tucked close to your sides. Bend your elbows and curl your hands up to your shoulders. Keep your thumbs uppermost throughout. Extend your arms and repeat.
Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdowns
Attach a straight bar to a high cable machine. Hold it with an underhand, palms-up grip. Stand up straight with your arms tucked in close to your sides.
Extend your elbows and push the bar down to the top of your thighs. Bend your arms and repeat.
Pump Up The Power of Supersets
While supersets are great for muscle growth, you can make them even more effective by combining them with blood flow restriction training, or BRF for short. With BFR, you tie a 1-2” wide resistance band above the muscle you are training.
This limits blood flow which makes your chosen exercise much more demanding. It also causes a back-up of blood. When you remove the band, that backed-up blood floods back into your muscles, creating an intense, vein-popping pump.
Blood flow restriction training might sound like it’s too good to be true, but it’s been studied and proven to work (2). To use this method, tie resistance bands around your upper arms, just above your biceps.
The band should not be uncomfortably tight. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being as tight as possible, your bands should be about six or seven.
Do your superset as usual and then remove the bands while you rest. Put the bands back on a few seconds before you start your next superset.
Don’t be surprised if, with BFR, you need to use slightly lighter weights; that’s entirely normal. Using a little less weight will be more than offset by the incredible pump you are about to get!
If you want to build muscle fast, supersets are the way to go. They make your workouts more time-efficient and produce incredible pumps.
Combine supersets with blood flow restriction training for even better results. Want bigger arms fast? Supersets and BFR are the way to go!
- Schoenfeld, Brad & Contreras, Bret. (2014). The Muscle Pump: Potential Mechanisms and Applications for Enhancing Hypertrophic Adaptations. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 36. 21-25. 10.1097/SSC.0000000000000021.
- Wilk M, Krzysztofik M, Gepfert M, Poprzecki S, Gołaś A, Maszczyk A. Technical and Training Related Aspects of Resistance Training Using Blood Flow Restriction in Competitive Sport – A Review. J Hum Kinet. 2018; 65:249–260. Published 2018 Dec 31. doi:10.2478/hukin-2018-0101
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