This is a favourite of many bodybuilders and most guys who workout for health or aesthetics.
Hell, there are many woman who go to the gym for an ‘arm day’ too – which is usually either a lame workout of curls with 5lb dumbbells and triceps pushdowns – or they’re actually doing a decent upper body day that for some reason they like to call ‘Arm Day’.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Whatever it may be, I’m going to tell when it’s okay to include an arm day, or when you should cut it.
Just like anything in the fitness industry, there’s rarely one straight answer and answers depend on many factors such as your goals, frequency, experience, etc.
Build big guns
If you’re goal is to have bigger arms, or stronger arms, than an arm day may be an important workout. This depends on your workout frequency.
If you’re hitting the gym 3 times a week or less: it’s definitely much better to get 3 full body workouts, or 1 full body, 1 lower, and 1 upper – forget the arm day.
Don’t ever forget that an exercise which allows you to work more than one muscle at a time (compound exercises), and allows you to push heavier weight than another, will have a much bigger effect on building strength and muscle than an isolation movement.
If you’re doing a 3 day/week program: you may add some isolation exercises like curls or triceps extensions at the end of your workout after the main lifts are performed. The added volume will help your arms grow.
If you’re hitting the gym 4, 5 or 6 days a week: it’s totally justifiable to include an arm day. However, and it’s a big however, you want to choose exercises that have the best bang for your buck.
So instead of an arm day consisting of for example:
– Concentration Curls
– Standing DB Curls
– Scott Curls
– Triceps Cable Pushdowns
– Overhead DB Triceps Extensions
… You want one that will load the muscle with the most weight, and maybe include other muscles in order to have a greater effect on your metabolism and produce muscle damage.
These exercises also tend to transfer over to the strength oriented exercises like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll see me adding a few isolation exercises at the end and they can help.
But you’re wasting your time if all you’re doing is isolation work in a full workout.
What an arm day should look like
Close Grip Bench Press – This exercise allows you to push the most weight with the triceps, as well as transfer over to your normal bench press.
Supinated (Underhand) Pull Ups – Although pull ups are primarily a back exercise, you can alter it so your biceps do most of the work. Once again, another example of an exercise that produces a higher metabolic effect on your body.
Dumbbell Skullcrushers – Isolation movement for the triceps that is hardest from the relaxed – middle portion of the lift.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls – Isolation movement that works on the brachialis (the muscle underneath the biceps that helps gives you size)
Triceps Cable Pushdowns – Allows for high reps and a big pump in the muscles as long as you push it hard and “feel the burn”
Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls – Stretches the long head of the biceps, another isolation exercise.
What about fat loss?
This is pretty straightforward. We talked about picking exercises that produce a bigger metabolic effect by incorporating more muscle groups, that in turn burns more calories and makes your body work hard to recover post exercise which is best for fat loss.
You’re much better off picking compound exercises that will work both bigger and smaller muscles together.
There’s only ONE time in which I would condone isolation work for fat loss
I’ve done it with clients before with great results. In order to do this, you must be weight training at least three times a week or more for fat loss:
If there is an isolation exercise for the arms that might help improve strength of a bigger lift and the individual has hit a plateau, you may include that one exercise at the very end of your workout after all your compound movements, and/or conditioning is complete.
So for someone who’s secondary goal apart from fat loss is to be able to do a full body weight pull up, but is stuck in the assisted pull ups, I would include a biceps exercise at the end of the workout.
I’ve tried this with clients before and it has really worked well with some, and a few people didn’t see a difference, might have been because the volume was low, doing just one exercise/week.
In my experience about 75% of individuals who’ve tried this approach has benefitted from it.
Arm Day is pretty overrated, but if bigger guns are your priority, it will no doubt help you with that. If your goals are fat loss, you shouldn’t worry about arm day, but you may include an arm exercise at the end of your sessions.
Connect with Expert Chris Diamantakos.