There’s a high demand for arm workouts in the fitness industry. This desire, especially within men, is something that makes sense if you think about it. The circumference of the upper arm is probably the first image that comes to mind when you think about a fit person. The same desire exists among women – they may not want to bulk the arms, but having them toned is something that crosses their minds. In this article, we will approach the topic of arm training, hypertrophy and muscle building.

Building up strength is something that is part of the training process for arm workouts. There are, however, different ways to become stronger. For a regular EVO member, even if he or she are looking to be stronger, it’s also about performing the pull and push movement flawlessly. After all, EVO is all about movement.

This way, an EVO member can learn how to perform a pull-up correctly, a chin-up or even a more complicated exercise, mainly because these exercises require you to use your bodyweight.

We will now explain the aspects to take in consideration before you do your exercise selection and the natural movement approach to hypertrophy.

Exercise Selection:

If you want to build strength, you should look for exercises that mimic natural movements. For instance, if you practice a specific sport, you should go for an exercise that matches the movement of that particular sport. This approach makes machines less effective. When building muscle, there are a lot of aspects to have in consideration: the type of approach, its origin, the different muscle tissues or muscle fibre profiles.

Usually, you will train more intensively the limiting structure in all exercises, but it’s vital that you address this limiting factor. You should give up on an exercise like deadlift due to a too weak grip because you are not training all the other structures involved correctly.

Other exercises to avoid for hypertrophy and strength goals are the ones performed on unstable surfaces or with unstable objects. Stability is critical for hypertrophy and force adaptation. Moreover, before starting, one should take into account the training level of each trainee, because there differences between an exercise selection for a beginner and a regular gym goer. A beginner should start with coordinatively easier exercises (e.g. begin with goblet squat before going for a barbell squat).

This one comes without saying, but restrictions or injuries also play a decisive role, because they can reduce the exercise selection; the same happens with the preexisting mobility and control of each person.

Another serious factor to take in consideration is the so called “risk to benefit ratio”. What do we mean by “risk to benefit ratio”? We mean exercises that lead to higher joint loading or the ones that overstress the connective tissue but provide little muscular stimulus. We are talking about exercises in which the pushing movement is carried out “behind” the frontal plane – the back. Examples of these exercises are the dips or the neck press.

Last but not least is the time issue: there’s an obvious difference between training once a week or every day.

Hypertrophy mechanisms

The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy determine which exercise should be chosen. If you’re going for a high metabolic load with many repetitions, you should choose an exercise with a load curve adapted to the power curve is selected. For maximum muscular microtrauma, it’s important to go for a massive load at the eccentric reversal point. Maximum tension is achieved through basic exercises.

We should take the opportunity to make a distinction between approach-related and origin-related hypertrophy. Here’s a simple guideline to distinguish approach and origin-related hypertrophy:

  • Maximum tension (load) at peak contraction (maximum shortening) → origin
  • Maximum tension (stress at a maximum stretch) → approach

How

One can trigger a muscle growth stimulus via three mechanisms. Depending on the one you choose, there are different exercises available:

  • Metabolic stress: constant muscle contraction at a minimum intensity of 60% Fmax and a TUT (time under tension) of 40-90 seconds (equivalent to approximately 15-30rep.) is necessary. Exercises without a lockout or a continuous resistance curve should be the first choice. What you train here are the slow type 1 muscle fibres.
  • Microtrauma: a maximum elongation of the target musculature with considerable simultaneous resistance at the eccentric reversal point (predicament) is required. The optimal intensity is 70-85% of the maximum force. A load duration of 12-40 seconds makes sense. This is the most effective hypertrophy mechanism. These exercises are considered to have the highest potential for hypertrophy. Medium-fast type IIa muscle fibres are the most stimulated.
  • Mechanical stress: maximum load generates a substantial activity of the mechano-chemical sensors – resulting in protein synthesis. The intensity should be above 85% Fmax. This leads to a short time under tension of 1-12 seconds. You should favour basic exercises here. The training focus here is fast type IIb muscle fibres.

Exercises suggested 

Arm extension:

  1. Origin close: lay on back with arms just beside the body. Press palms/arms into the floor. Pulling the knee to the chest, roll slowly up, lifting your hips. And roll back slowly, lower hip, just before entirely dropping, and back up.
  2. Approach close: plank (on forearms) to hand plank by straightening the elbows. Hands or elbows are under the shoulder.

Arm flexion:

  1. Approach close: a regular chin-up.
  2. Origin close: cable cross.

Bardo Tschapke, EVO Le Flair Düsseldorf Instagram: healthcoachbardo Facebook: Health Coach Bardo