I’ve always been really bad at doing pull-ups. For the longest time I thought it was just a mental failing, an ability to just trust myself to be able to pull off the move. And yet, I just couldn’t do it, watching with envy as friends of mine, some of them rock climbers pulled off pull-ups with élan, some of them only using two fingers to do so!
After a while, I realised that the problem wasn’t in my mind, it was in my arms. My arms just weren’t strong enough to do so. Now, the pull-pup doesn’t just involve the arms, but brings into play 21 different muscles in your back, arms, shoulders, core and chest. But the ability to pull off a compound move like the pull-up requires all the necessary muscles working in tandem, especially since the body is basically moving against gravity. One weak spot or set of muscles would get in the way of completing the move.
Also Read: The science of the pull-up
And so I got to work on my arms. Now, previously, I’d perform a bicep curl or a tricep dip as a part of a total body workout, or club training my arms along with training my shoulders. That might work perfectly well for a lot of people, but I realised that I needed to dedicate at least one day of the week to my arms. I needed to pick my exercises and reps carefully, ensuring that I hit the biceps and triceps just right and long enough, regularly to get stronger. I split off my shoulder workout to a separate day.
And it has been working wonders. It’s only after I started hitting the muscle groups separately did I realise the amount of work they do. Not only do you use your arms pretty much all the time for pretty much every activity, strong arms are literally explosive. Shoulders generate power when you’re sprinting or swimming, for example, and strong arms actually help regulate your steps if you’re running longer distances. And strength training does wonders for your bone density.
Also Read: How to build a strong back
I’ve found that strengthening my arms and shoulders has helped my posture immensely. Now I spend hours on end sitting and typing. I can’t tell you how much even half an hour of strength training can offset a day of typing. I can now also do a pull off a pull-up.
Oh, and toned, muscular arms look really good.
Ideally, all you need for an arm workout are a set of dumbbells. But the arms can be trained effectively even with just bodyweight and with resistance bands.
With that in mind, here are a couple of arm workouts for you. The first one is a biceps only workout from Jeff Cavaliere at Athlean-X. Watch it, and try to incorporate the moves in your workout. Cavaliere’s video really helped my approach strength training in a scientific way. It’s terrific.
The second one is a combined arms and shoulder workout from Chris Heria, another fantastic routine. Heria goes through three exercises each for biceps, triceps and shoulders, and ends with a full shoulder and arm burn. Try it!