Here’s how tall guys can blow up triceps and biceps for maximum mass.
For taller guys, filling out your arms can be tough but not impossible. Just ask 6’1″ Dallas McCarver, who has exploded onto the IFBB pro scene with a win at his first pro show and a top 15 finish in his debut at the 2015 Mr. Olympia. Here’s how guys like McCarver can blow up triceps and biceps for maximum mass.
Height isn’t necessarily advantageous for bodybuilders. Added vertical inches means more muscle mass is required to fill out the frame. Arms can prove particularly challenging, especially if they’re long and lean. Along with added real estate to fill up, long arms can affect biomechanics and the amount of weight one can handle through that elongated range of motion.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the tools to train are different— you’ll still want to rely on many of the free-weight basics. But as McCarver has been known to do, you may want to ramp up your volume to achieve a maximum muscle pump.
In McCarver’s work with contest-prep adviser Hany Rambod, he has become well-versed in Rambod’s “FST-7” training method. FST stands for “fascia stretch training,” while the “7” refers to the seven sets you do for at least one exercise of a given body part, usually the final movement. It’s a technique that presses a high volume of blood into the muscle, expanding the sheath and causing microscopic tears in it that set growth and repair processes into motion.
STRAIGHT-BAR CABLE PUSHDOWN
In our sample workout, we used an exercise McCarver often relies on to kick off his triceps routines—straight-bar cable pushdowns. These mainly hit the lateral (outside) head of the triceps.
CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS
The close-grip bench press, using a barbell or a Smith machine, is a multi-joint exercise that recruits all three triceps heads—lateral, long (upper inside), and medial (lower inside)—to an appreciable degree.
BARBELL LYING TRICEPS EXTENSION
Use a standard flat bench or a bench-press station for these, lying so your head is lower on the back pad, meaning the bar will clear the supports when you lower it down in an arc toward your forehead. The goal is to place stress mainly on the lateral head, with some added pull on the long head when angling your arms backward a few degrees from vertical in the start position to increase the stretch.
SEATED TWO-ARM OVERHEAD DUMBBELL EXTENSION
We’re suggesting that you superset lying extensions with seated two-arm overhead dumbbell extensions, although you could also substitute another triceps move, like kickbacks or the triceps extension preacher machine. Whatever you decide, choose a weight that causes you to fail within eight to 10 reps.
REVERSE-GRIP CABLE PULLDOWN
Execute them with two hands on a straight-bar attachment or one at a time with a D-handle; both ways activate the medial head.
SEATED MACHINE DIP
Finish up using the FST-7 dictum of seven sets of 10 to 12 reps with a 45-second rest between each set to force an ever-larger volume of liquid into the muscle as the sets advance. Choose a weight that offers a challenge in the 10- to 12-rep range but doesn’t cause you to fail on the first few sets. It’s OK if you fail to reach 12 on the final few sets as long as you’re pushing yourself as hard as possible.
Tall Order Arm Training: Triceps
These sample triceps and biceps routines would be effective for anyone but are designed to help taller bodybuilders with longer arms fill out their frames:
Straight-bar Cable Pushdown: 4 sets, 10–12 reps
Barbell or Smith Machine Close-grip Bench Press: 4 sets, 8–12 reps
Barbell Lying Triceps Extension: 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Seated Two-arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension: 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Reverse-grip Cable Pushdown: 3 sets, 12 reps
Seated Machine Dip: 7 sets, 10–12 reps
STANDING CABLE CURL
Warm up with a standing cable curl, which could mean a straight bar, cambered bar, or even a rope. Four sets of 10 to 12 reps will quickly heat your bi’s to a full boil.
BARBELL or EZ-BAR CURL
Next is a strength and power move that thumps the biceps brachii up and down its length when performed through an ample range of motion. Pyramid up the weight, starting with 12 to 15 reps that decrease to about eight as the resistance gets heavier.
REVERSE INCLINE BARBELL CURL + SEATED INCLINE DB HAMMER CURL
Superset reverse incline bench barbell curls and seated incline-bench dumbbell hammer curls. These all occur on the same bench—first facedown for the barbell curls, then flip around and sit on the incline bench for hammer curls, which switches emphasis from the biceps brachii to the brachialis.
Both movements put the biceps under a deep stretch, which helps activate muscle tissue at either end of the muscle—critical for someone with longer arms. While you can’t lengthen a muscle through any amount of training (thank you, genetics), you can develop as much of the existing muscle as possible.
The finisher calls for a dose of FST-7: seven sets, 10 to 12 reps, with a max of 45 seconds’ rest between each set. As with triceps, choose one weight and stick with it throughout.
Tall Order Arm Training: Biceps
Standing Cable Curl: 4 sets, 10–12 reps
Barbell or EZ-bar Curl: 4 sets, 8–12 reps
Reverse Incline-bench Barbell Curl: 4 sets, 8-12 reps
Seated Incline-bench Dumbbell Hammer Curl: 4 sets, 8-12 reps
Preacher Machine Curl: 7 sets, 10–12 reps
As McCarver would likely admit, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Someone with a tall, large frame will find many machines lacking or unable to provide the right bio-mechanical angle—meaning you need to adapt to your training environment. Change out one exercise for another, or alter a stance, grip, or range of motion, whatever it takes to maximize the beneficial stress applied to the target muscle.
MAKE IT MORE INTENSE
On the last one to two sets, apply advanced techniques such as rest-pause or negatives if you have a partner.
Do reps until failure sets in. At that point, you’ll stop at the bottom of the motion for five to 10 seconds, allowing your short-term energy systems to partially reload so you can continue repping.
Have a partner help you through the positive portion of the rep, then you take over, lowering the weight as slowly and under control as possible for a couple of reps until failure terminates the set.
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