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3 Arm Exercises I Used To Do Every Workout


Posted by Scott_Herman - March 23rd, 2019

In today’s article I’m going to share with your 3 arm exercises that I used to do every single arm workout, but don’t any more. In this article I’m not just going to share those exercises, I’m going to explain to you why I don’t use them anymore and then I’m going to explain to you what you should be doing in order to maximize both your time and your gains while you’re in the gym training.

Exercise #1: Triceps “Pull-Down” (Reverse-Grip)

Whenever I would go to the gym as a kid I would always see people go over to the triceps pushdown machine and they would bang out a bunch of sets (overhand) doing a push-down and then as soon as they were done, they would do an equal amount of sets with an under-hand grip (aka a pull-down). I always just assumed from a very young age that you were hitting the triceps heads differently doing an over-hand grip versus an under-hand grip and a lot of you reading this are probably thinking to yourselves ‘that’s why I do it too’.

Well, the triceps is not responsible for rotation of the forearm. All the triceps are responsible for is extension of the elbow and shoulder joints. So as long as you’re extending your elbow, it doesn’t matter which way your hand is facing. However, it does start to matter as you progress with your workouts and you get stronger. The only reason I can think of as to why you might want to do a reverse-grip pull-down is because you’re having a hard time feeling this exercise in your triceps. This movement (the pull-down) kind of forces you to lock out at the bottom because you’re not fully extended until you get that lockout. In most cases, this is where you start to feel it more in your triceps which would lead you to believe it’s a great exercise because you’re ‘feeling it’ more. In reality, the only reason why you’re probably not feeling the traditional triceps push-down with an overhand grip in your triceps is because when you get to the bottom, you’re not going down all the way, you’re probably stopping a couple of inches short of a full lockout.

Those couple of inches make a big difference. You’ve got to be able to push all the way down and then fully extend at the bottom and flex those triceps. As long as you’re doing it like that, properly, you’re good to go. There are a lot more benefits when doing push-downs with an over-hand grip too, the most important one being how much weight you can lift. You will come to a point where you can’t pull-down as much weight as you can push-down. You can also get your body over the bar a little bit to help you with some forced reps or cheat reps as you get towards the end of your sets if you want to max it out. For example, if you’re doing 8 – 10 repetitions and you get to 8 and can’t quite do the rep, you can kind of cheat it to get it down and flex and then take advantage of the eccentric portion of the movement. Remember we have talked a lot about this in my Cheat & Recover type videos.

So if you’re doing this exercise and you’re using a reverse-grip, you’re doing it wrong and you need to go overhand. The only way you’re going to be able to change what part of your triceps you’re targeting, it’s not by reversing the grip, it would be by changing your arm position. If for example you wanted to hit more long head, an over-hand push-down isn’t the way to do it. The way to do it would be to pick an exercise like a skullcrusher or an overhead tricep extension, where your arm is actually elevated over your head as you perform the movement.

Exercise #2: Concentration Curl

I can’t even tell you the last time I did this exercise in any of my arm workouts because at the end of the day, if you’re trying to build more muscle, you need to OVERLOAD. You need to maximize the tension you’re placing on that muscle and the concentration curl just isn’t one of those exercises where you’re going to be able to overload, or even using momentum or cheat reps properly. If anything when you try to do a cheat rep on this exercise you’re just going to end up hurting yourself because your elbow is locked in against your thigh, I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

If you have a hard time targeting your biceps and really feeling that activation, a concentration curl is perfect for you because it’s going to allow you to take advantage of full range of motion (ROM) and because your elbow is locked in place, it’s taking out any of the instability you might have while doing a traditional dumbbell curl standing up where your arm is moving back and forward. As you go to curl up while standing (this is especially true for beginners) a lot of people have a tendency to pull their elbows back ever so slightly and that takes tension off the biceps. If that’s happening then you’re not building a stronger mind-muscle connection and if that’s not happening your bicep workouts are going to be terrible, so this is the reason why concentration curls might be used.

If you’re currently training and you’re having a hard time isolating your biceps then it makes sense to do a concentration curl so you can focus on activating both biceps heads properly on every single repetition. However, if you do have a great mind-muscle connection, you shouldn’t be using a concentration curl, you should be focusing on exercises that are going to allow you to overload your biceps with as much weight as possible and as safely as possible. If you want to stick to a dumbbell curl, when you do the dumbbell curl make sure you’re able to go all the way up and all the way down. And just like we talked about earlier with the push-downs, if you’re trying to go for 8 – 10 reps with your curls and by the time you get to 8 you start to get stuck, it’s OK to force out a couple of cheat reps using a little bit of momentum to take advantage of the eccentric portion of the movement.

What I mean by that is when you get to your 8th, 9th and 10th reps, you can use a bit of momentum to throw the weight up. When you get to the top, flex and squeeze your biceps as hard as you can, then fight the negative on the way down. That way you’re able to take advantage of mechanical tension and metabolic stress with those last few repetitions. But remember, whenever you use any sort of momentum or cheat reps, it’s not going to be the entire set, it’s just going to be those last few reps that you normally wouldn’t have been able to get. You can actually use a workout partner too – if your workout partner wants to step in and bring you to the top then allow you to do the negative on your own that’s fine as well. But with an exercise like this, it’s just as easy to swing up, reset, flex your core and then control the negative.

Exercise #3: Half & Half Curls (Traditional / Hammer)

This is actually an exercise I wouldn’t recommend you do in your workouts EVER. It’s a dumbbell curl with your palms facing in and then when you get to about halfway you turn it into a regular curl. You’re basically going from half hammer curl to half regular dumbbell curl. The reason why I say I would never do this exercise EVER is because you have to make a decision on what you’re doing with your arm training. A hammer curl isn’t training the biceps directly, it’s attacking the brachialis and brachioradialis, that’s what the exercise is intended for. When biceps training, to target both heads of your triceps, you want to have your hands turned out – supination of the forearms is one of the functions of the biceps so when you’re in this position, you’re already activating your biceps so that as you go up you’re targeting them properly.

You want to make sure you maintain that supination on the way down so that that last little bit at the bottom is still targeting your biceps. The reason why people like to do half & half curls is because you can lift a lot more weight doing it this way because you’re not putting all the tension on the biceps. We always talk about this – how do we maximize tension on the muscle we’re training, how do we focus on the muscle as hard as we can – well, when it comes to biceps, curling while keeping your palms facing forward the entire time and controlling it all the way up and all the way down is the only way you’re going to be able to do it. So if you’re currently turning your biceps curl into a half & half curl, DO NOT do that.

One thing to add to this is that you can get more biceps activation by supinating at the top of the movement and I think that’s where people get screwed up with this exercise. They hear that you’re supposed to supinated during the rep in order to maximize how much recruitment of your biceps you’re getting on every single repetition. When people say that, they don’t mean to start with a neutral grip and the bottom and to supinate the dumbbell halfway up. What it really means is that if you’re going to supinate throughout the movement, you start with supination from the bottom to the top and then when you do get to the top, that is where you get extra supination by twisting your pinky finger OUT, away from your body to get a bit of extra biceps activation.


There you have it, those are my three exercise that I used to do ALL the time, but not anymore! If you’re currently doing any of them, now you know how to correct them and if you’re doing that last one, you know why you should stay away from it and to only get extra supination at the top of that movement!

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Hey Scott! 

I'm doing the 5 day bodybuilding split program at the moment, and the first exercise you mentioned here, the triceps pulldown, is one of the exercises in day 1. So should I stop doing this exercise, or is there a reason that the exercise still is a part of the program? 

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

@vegardoyre the exercise is there to make sure people are really getting their mind-muscle connection working for the triceps. Also, because the 5 day split isn't always about lifting as much weight as possible, it's OK to do. But if you're MMC is good then you can go ahead and switch to the regular over-hand push-down.