We all want big arms, and most of us will try just about any routine and exercise to get them. It is no wonder we have invented so many varieties of curls including Barbell Curls, Dumbbell Curls, Preacher Curls, Spider Curls, Cable Curls, and all their variations. Vince of course recommended that we change our exercises often to stimulate new growth, and rightly so.
Applying different exercises which have different strength curves will definitely stimulate muscle growth. However, Vince had other tricks up his sleeve. In reading Balanced Arms, one of the most interesting and intriguing (even puzzling) recommendations I have ever read from Vince has to be the following statement:
Another point I must make is that to acquire bigger arms you must include some leg work. You will gain 15% more arm size by including leg work on an off day. The reason for this is that muscle is developed only in ratio with the amount of nerve force developed. And leg work generates the greatest amount of nerve force of any single body part.
Besides this statement, Vince also advocated the use of other movements including hyperextensions, and at a more advanced level, different forms of squats in combination with arm workouts as described in The Pro-Series and The Master Series for arm growth.
Train your Legs for Bigger Arms
What?! You read right! Here we go again!! I know what you must be thinking. Vince can’t be serious about using leg exercises for bigger arms? Yes, he was. Back then, Vince understood the necessity of leg training to increase the metabolism of bodybuilders to increase strength and muscle mass. Vince had some rather radical ideas about training that would later be proven by science, and this is one of them. There are numerous studies suggesting that immediately after performing heavy compound lower body exercises such as the deadlift and squat, there is a momentary increase in both growth hormone and testosterone, which can aid in achieving the anabolic environment necessary for overall body growth. It is no wonder that such compound exercises are included in basic mass building programs targeted to beginners.
Science Proves Vince Gironda was Right…Again
Yep, that’s right. You might be tearing your hair out by now, and I understand. But it’s true. Norweigian researchers Rønnestad and colleagues elegantly demonstrated in 2010 that training your legs immediately before training your biceps actually creates bigger and stronger biceps than training arms alone, ie without training them with leg exercises. How was this achieved? By manipulating the bodies response to hormones during exercise, at least that is what the study concluded.
The study which appeared in the European Journal of Applied Physiology sought to determine the influence of transient elevated endogenous hormone concentrations during exercise on strength training adaptations, namely strength and hypertrophy. Nine subjects performed four unilateral strength training session per week on the elbow flexors (the biceps and brachialis) for 11 weeks. During two of the weekly sessions, leg exercises were performed with the goal of acutely increasing the systemic anabolic hormone concentration immediately before the exercises for one of the elbow flexors. This protocol was called the leg and arm protocol. On the two other weekly training sessions, the opposite elbow flexors were trained without prior leg exercises, and this protocol was called the arm only protocol. By randomizing one arm of the subjects to serve as a control and the other as experimental, the researchers ensured that both arms had the same nutritional and genetic environment which I thought was a brilliant touch to the study.
The results showed that serum testosterone and growth hormone were significantly increased during the leg and arms protocol session, whilst no hormonal changes occurred in thearms only protocol. This is obvious in the figure below taken from the study.
Both routines, ie arms only and leg + arms protocolincreased 1RM in biceps curl, peak power in elbow flexors and muscle volume of the elbow flexors. Figures from the study are attached below.
However, only the leg and arm protocol achieved an increase in cross-sectional area in the bicep while no changes occurred in arms only protocol. The figure from the study clearly demonstrates this result.
Furthermore, the leg and arm training protocol had superior relative improvement in 1RM biceps curl and favorable muscle adaptations in elbow flexors when compared to the results from the arms only protocol. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that performing leg exercises prior to arm exercises, increased the levels of serum testosterone and growth hormone, as well as inducing superior strength training adaptations compared to arm training without acute elevation of hormones through leg exercises.
A New Program to Boost your Arm Growth
As Vince Gironda suggested, including leg exercises prior to your arm workout will boost arm hypertrophy. Science has clearly demonstrated that now. The study incorporated the use of the leg press, the leg extension and the leg curl as exercises, whilst the exercises used to stimulate bicep hypertrophy where the barbell curl, the hammer curl and the reverse curl. Knowing this, and using Vince Gironda’s unique exercises and approach to training, here is a good routine for you to follow:
Pre-Arm Hormone Boosting Leg Workout
Front Squats 3 sets 10 reps
Leg Extensions 3 sets 10 reps
Leg Curl 3 sets 10 reps
Use your 10 RM for each movement and employ a 60-90 second rest between sets.
Bicep Hypertrophy Workout
Preacher Bench Curl 3 sets of 8 reps
Drag Curl 3 sets of 8 reps
Reverse Curl 3 sets of 8 reps
With the understanding that the purpose of this program is to increase bicep hypertrophy, the goal is to increase the load on the biceps progressively over time. We are starting with a load of 8RM weight for each exercise, but with each progressive fortnight (every 2 weeks), aim to increase your weight to 6RM, and so on. Employ a 60-90 second rest between sets.
What About Triceps ?
Of course, if you wish you can also add some 2-3 triceps exercises to the program, and even forearms exercises. In fact, understanding that this study has shown that performing leg exercises prior to exercising a smaller body part, there is no reason why one can’t apply this principle to any lagging body part. Now there is a tip that even Vince would be proud of.
Science has proven Vince Gironda’s theory that training legs in combination with arms produce greater gains in both strength and hypertrophy, so if your arms are lagging and you would consider them a weak point, try out Vince’s tip and watch your arms grow!