Has there ever been a workout created that is more fun than “Arm Day”? There’s just something very satisfying about doing mass amounts of curls and extension movements and walking around with an enormous arm pump. I truly believe that tank tops were created in a direct response to human beings instinctual love for arm workouts. Everyone loves to do arms, so what’s the problem?
The problem is that the fitness community - particularly the intellectuals - want to make you feel guilty for doing arms. It’s too basic they will say. Not functional. A waste of time. Curls are not working your core and will not shave a tenth of a second off of your 40 yard dash. Blah blah blah…
While there is some merit to that line of thinking, I say that there still is a way you can have the best of both worlds. As a lover of arm day myself, I still look at someone crosseyed if they are curling in the squat rack. If someone focuses on their arms more than conditioning, then that is a problem. If you have ever skipped leg day to just “hit a few sets of curls, bro” then you need a new strategy. The solution? My infamous “Arms & Legs” workout that I have used for years with clients of all ages and abilities.
Arms & Legs is a great full body circuit that involves pairing heavy weight lifting with high volume body weight movements for the upper body, and utilizes bodyweight lower body exercises in between rounds for conditioning, a killer leg pump and also to allow your arms to recover slightly between rounds. The chin ups, dips, and push ups serve two purposes - when paired with heavy isolation movements for the biceps and triceps they really help to fatigue or burnout the muscle, and due to them essentially being large compound exercises, your chest, back, and shoulders get in on the action, making this a circuit that involves almost every muscle in the body. That alone would give you a tremendous pump and push your conditioning, but factor in that your only rest between rounds is 50 reps of a leg exercises and now you’ve got a complete workout that includes cardio and will leave you a sweaty mess with a raging metabolism.
Now keep in mind, just because this workout involves a few sets of leg exercises doesn’t mean that you can substitute it for a leg day. The lower body work in this routine is more of a conditioning tool, so I still recommend another two leg days thru out the week. On a typical training week, this would be the “extra” workout, perfect for the weekend (before heading to the beach in that new tank top that requires an arm pump) or a midweek second workout after a heavy leg workout.
The key to this routine is being able to move quickly from exercise to exercise with little rest, and also picking heavy enough weights for both the curls and the dumbbell skull crushers. I recommend getting everything set up ahead of time so you can move seamlessly thru the circuit with minimal downtime. It’s also a good idea to do a few warm up sets of barbell curls, skull crushers and dumbbell curls so you can select the proper weight. The weight must be heavy enough that is challenging to hit the prescribed number (5 barbell curls for example) in order for this workout to deliver on my promise of an enormous pump and total body exhaustion. On the exercises that are listed for “Max Reps”, make sure to pump them out until failure.
After the warm up, start by doing 5 strict but heavy barbell curls (in later rounds it may be necessary to “cheat” the bar up a little bit by using your hips). Immediately go to a pull up bar and rep out as many underhand chin ups as possible, making sure to get your chin above the bar on every rep. Next lie on either a bench or the floor and perform 5 dumbbell skull crushers. Be sure to hold the dumbbells in a neutral position (palms facing each other), and try to keep your elbows pointed at the ceiling as you flex the joint an bring the weights to your front delts. After the set of skulls, head to the Dip Bars and pump out as many quality reps as possible. Next, grab a medium weight set of dumbbells and perform 10 strict curls with each arm, a;alternating back and forth. Immediately drop to the ground and rep out narrow “diamond-style” pushups until you collapse onto the floor. Pick yourself up from the newly formed puddle of sweat and crank out 50 box jumps (I recommend a 24’ or 18’ box), breaking them into mini sets if necessary. With each subsequent round you will substitute a different leg exercise for the “rest” between the upper body circuit, doing either 50 total reps or 25 on each side for single leg variations. Complete 5 total rounds of this full body killer and be careful hope that the skin on your upper arms doesn’t tear from the crazy pump.
***Complete 5 rounds of the “Arms” circuit with one of the Leg exercises between each round. Make sure to cycle thru the leg exercises in the correct listed order.
Barbell Curls - 5
Underhand Chin Ups - Max Reps
DB Skull Crushers - 5
Dips - Max Reps
DB Curls - 10
Diamond Push Ups - Max Reps
50 of one of the following:
Box Jumps, Lunges, Pistol Squats (25 each leg), Split Squats, Squats
This workout is extremely challenging but can still be scaled down a little for a beginner or someone with limited ability. Some options:
-Substitute underhand Slant Rows for Chin Ups. Place a bar in a squat rack at 3-4ft off of the ground and lay underneath it. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip and keep your body straight as you pull your chest to the bar.
-Substitue Bench Dips for regular parallel Dips.
-substitute regular Push Ups (or assisted) for the Diamond Push Ups.
-For simplicity sake you may do either 50 Squats or 50 Lunges in between each round rather than rotating thru the list of lower body exercises.
Icing on the cake:
Like any tough workout, the first time around this is going to be a shock to the system, but if you do it regularly it may not have the same feel. The pump will still be tremendous, but your arms may not feel as annihilated the 6th or 7th time. The solution? Following the completion of the 5th and final round grab an unloaded olympic bar and a set of light dumbbells. Perform as many strict curls with the 45b bar as possible , then match the number of reps on tricep kickbacks (example: if you do 23 curls, do 23 kick backs). Keep repeating this pattern with no rest until you hit 100 of each. How’s that for a finisher?
There you have it folks - an excuse to do Arm Day every week and quite the naysayers. This one has it all, heavy weights, functional bodyweight movements, plyometrics, killer cardio, and an epic arm pump!