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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How I Built 20-Inch Arms Naturally - And You Can Too

I've learned that when seeking bodybuilding advice, I always gain the most from someone who's actually accomplished whatever it is that I'm trying to do. Any armchair guru can read a book and "talk the talk," but experience counts and I always get the best advice from a teacher who's "walked the walk." When it comes to building massive arms naturally, I've done it - and that means that I'm sharing knowledge with you based on years of personal experience that produced my 20-inch GUNS.

How I Did It

When I first started training my arms, I used 4-week periodization mesocycles in which I changed my arm training workouts about once per month. At the end of each cycle, I would take about 7-10 days off from specifically training my arms with weights so that they could rest during a period which is commonly referred to as "active recovery."

During this active recovery phase, I'd do bodyweight training like triceps pushups, chin ups and other calisthenics that ke! pt my arms active but didn't require them to work as hard as they do during weight training. After the active recovery period, I'd return to the weights with a completely different arm workout for another 4-week mesocycle followed by an active recovery period. Here's a short list of the foundational exercises I used in the early stages of my arm building efforts.

1. EZ Bar Preacher Curls

The preacher bench is a terrific training tool as it forces the biceps to work in relative isolation from the back and shoulders. Preacher curls require strict technique that forces your biceps to provide the leverage needed to lift the weight. The EZ Bar offers both narrow-grip and wide-grip hand positions. Using the narrow-grip position puts primary stress on the outer portion or long head of the biceps. Curling the EZ Bar with a wide grip emphasizes power needed from the inner portion or short head of the biceps. To build balanced muscularity in my biceps, I've been careful t! o use both the narrow and wide grip when doing this exercise.

2. Dumbbell Preacher Curls

Many competitive bodybuilders use this exercise exclusively as a "shaper" during pre-contest training. For me, the dumbbell preacher curl worked as a tremendous mass builder when used in a pyramid cycle. In fact, I used this exercise as a high intensity training movement to simultaneously add size and shape to my biceps. This exercise really helped me to make the mind-body connection so essential to arm-building success.

3. Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls

This exercise is one of the best biceps builders ever as long as you sit on a bench that has a back rest to prevent torso movement. Too many people do this exercise either standing or sitting on a bench without back support. In order to make sure that your biceps get the most work from this movement you must stabilize your torso so as to prevent any jerking motion. Also, remember to supinate your hands throughout each repetition to stimulate maximum growth for your biceps.

! 4. EZ Bar Triceps Extensions

This exercise, also known as "Skull crushers" is great for building thick, dense triceps. For maximum growth, I kept my upper arms in a position perpendicular (90 degrees) to the exercise bench throughout each repetition. This position can sometimes cause elbow strain or discomfort that I avoided by moving my arms slightly forward to lower the resistance angle and reduce stress on my elbows. Making this minor adjustment as needed didn't impede the effectiveness of this exercise, and I still use it as a triceps builder.

5. Seated Triceps Dips

Seated triceps dips are another terrific triceps builder, yet I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen anyone doing them in the gym. Maybe people ignore them because, like triceps pushups, they look too simple to do any good. Well, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and seated triceps dips certainly added power and density to my triceps. When I was a beginner, this exer! cise was very effective with my bodyweight alone. But as my tr! aining a nd strength progressed, I added weight by doing these dips with 1 or 2 barbell plates on my lap. The result? T-shirt bustin' GUNS, baby!

6. Single-Arm Triceps Extensions

Though it's possible to build mass with this exercise, the over-head arm position prevented me from using sufficient weight to generate the type of power and mass-building potential available from Skull crushers and seated dips. So I used this exercise primarily as a shaping movement. You should experiment with it in a manner that gives you the best results. Again, I don't recommend using heavy weight with this movement because of the risk of shoulder injury. Consistent use of light-to-moderate weight provided great results for me from this triceps shaper.

For workout variety, I initially changed my workouts by simply doing different exercises for my arms in each successive mesocycle. Simply changing my workouts every 4 weeks with these exercises worked well for the first few months. But I ! soon learned that my mind and body adapted very quickly to any arm training workout and I needed more variety in order to see gains in my arm development.

I then shortened my training periods to 1-2 week microcycles and made other periodic changes to my arm workouts that included creating my own exercise movements and training system [e.g., my signature Piston Curls, Winston Hammer Curls and Machine Gun Curls]. I also developed hundreds of workouts specifically designed to continuously shock and stimulate my arms for constant growth. With this approach, I ultimately built the CANNONS that now burst from my shirtsleeves!

But can you do this? Well, if you've read my other articles on building big, muscular arms, you already know my answer to this question - of course you can! And don't use "bad genetics" as an easy excuse to give up before you even get started. Experiment with different workouts, find a system that works for your body type, and just keep pumping t! hose GUNS. Make sure that you use proper training technique an! d stay m entally focused on success. You must also commit yourself to constantly learning and looking for new workouts that challenge your arms to grow. If I could do it - you can too!

Mark G. Winston, "The Master Gunslinger," is author of the ground-breaking training manual, "GO For Your GUNS - 7 Simple Secrets to AWESOME ARMS." He has also created, a bodybuilding and fitness website dedicated entirely to helping you build big, muscular arms. Mark's forthcoming book will be jammed with workouts and training techniques to help you build the big, muscular arms that you deserve! To learn about the GO For Your GUNS bodybuilding system and get free arm training tips that really work, visit

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