Before the elusive quest for washboard abs and long before men everywhere got tied up with man buns, rock-hard arms were the ultimate symbol of manhood and badassery. Guys who grew up on Stallone and Schwarzenegger know just how menacing and impressive the ‘gun show’ can be. Not convinced? Then check out the manliest handshake ever from Predator for proof.
These days, there aren’t as many actors from the school of bulging biceps to grace our screens. There are still a select few though, like Hugh Jackman. The Australian musical thespian turned action star has been slashing his way to superstardom as the X-Men character Wolverine since 1999. Unfortunately, his next turn as the gruff mutant in 2017’s Logan will also be his last.
So while none of us might ever be able to flick out blades from our fists to slash our enemies with, we can still aspire to get as jacked as Jackman. Here are a few tips to help you get slash-worthy arms like the Canadian anti-hero, plus some sample workouts to get you started.
Thank you, Mr. Jackman, for inspiring a new generation of gym rats to become as big and bad as our comic book and old-school heroes.
Don’t just tri and get bi, bro
A big mistake that a lot of guys make when trying to grow their arms is focusing solely on curling exercises. After all, it’s the same motion you make when you want to show off your guns to the ladies (or your fellow gym bros). According to G-Ops Personal Fitness Training head coach and owner Marlon Gopo, this approach only tackles part of the problem.
“Most of the guys I see in the gym focus only on bicep training and I see endless sets of bicep exercises that may lead to overtraining. They don’t know or realize that 1/3 of the arm is the biceps, which has 2 muscle heads, and 2/3 of the arms are composed of triceps with 3 muscle heads,” Gopo says.
So it might be all business in the front for your arms, but don’t forget to attack the party at the back as well.
Get delt with, too
Your arms don’t just end at your bi’s and tri’s, either. Your shoulders also have a lot to do with the overall mass and shape of your sleeve-fillers (not to mention that big delts make you look buffer in general). Beyond that, having strong shoulders also helps you to work your arms out better.
Gopo says: “If your delts are weak, it is impossible to lift heavy when doing bicep exercises because the delts need to maintain their position in order to maximize heavy lifting. Strong shoulders will lead to strong arms, because the arms are connected to the delts.”
Put it all together
Great, so now you know that you need to work your bi’s, tri’s, and delts to achieve superhero status. But you should also know that you don’t have to work them out separately. According to strength and conditioning specialist and 360 Fitness coach Jose Gemora, compound exercises are the key to faster growth.
“To build muscles, your body needs to secrete growth hormones, and in order to do that you need to target large muscle groups. Doing isolation work with your biceps will still make them bigger, but doing compound exercises like pushups and pullups will make them look leaner faster,” Gemora says.
And mix it up
Whether you’re in the gym to look good for mirror selfies or you’re going for a more functional approach, there are different ways to get Wolverine-like arms that will suit your overall fitness goals. Here are some sample workouts from our experts that you can incorporate into your routine:
Marlon Gopo's arm workout:
Cable bicep curl/rope pressdown - 3-4 sets with increasing weights
Inclined bench dumbbell curl/lying dumbbell french press - 3-4 sets with increasing weights
Standing reverse grip curl (EZ bar)/standing barbell wrist curl (straight bar) - 3-4 sets with increasing weights
Each pair of exercises are done in a superset, with 10-30 seconds or no rest in between. Do 6-12 reps per set for mass, or 15 and above for definition.
Jose Gemora's arm workout:
Density work finisher – do as many rounds as possible in 5 minutes at the end of your workout
Pushups - 8 reps
Suspension rows - 8 reps
Alternatively, Gemora recommends that you can add either of these exercises to your main workout:
Countdown 8-1 (Start with 8 reps on the first set, then 7, etc.)
Renegade rows (pushups with dumbbell rows) - 8-10 reps for 3 sets