Tom Venutto’s 5-Star Arm Workouts

Tom VenutoFor those to whom Tom “Burn the Fat” Venuto needs an introduction, this personal coach, success coach, nutrition consultant, writer and Internet publisher is well known for his numerous articles in top-rated mags like IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development. But perhaps he’s best known for his e-book, Burn the Fat and Feed the Muscle, rated #1 fitness e-book and diet book on the net. When he’s not writing, he’s training, and has won numerous titles, including Natural New Jersey, Natural New York State, Natural Pennsylvania, Natural Mid Atlantic States and the NPC Natural Eastern Classic. And when he’s not winning titles, he thinking up new workouts, or tying a new twist on the golden oldies. He gives them a rating from 1 – 5, and here are the winners.


Ok, enough preliminaries, let’s dive into
the best arm routines of all time:

Multi Grip Tri-Set Routine

Variations on the multi grip routine have been floating around for ages, but strength coach Charles Poliquin fine tuned the technique and brought it back into popularity recently in his prolific writings including, “Winning the Arms Race.” (Poliquin refers to this technique as the multi pathway routine).

Select three exercises, each with a different grip: pronated (palms down), neutral (palms face each other) and supinated (palms up). Generally, the weakest grip is trained first and the strongest last, but the order of the exercises may be changed for variety and balanced development. (I would recommend staying with the same sequence for the duration of each training cycle, however)

* A1 EZ bar Reverse Curl 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* A2 Hammer Curl 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* A3 EZ barbell Curl 3 sets X 6-8 reps

* B1 Tricep Pushdown reverse grip (palms up) 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* B2 Tricep pushdown with rope (palms face each other) 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* B3 Tricep pushdown regular grip (palms down) 3 sets X 6-8 reps

Multi Angle tri-Set Routine

The multi angle routine is a similar to the multi grip routine except instead of varying the hand position/grip, you vary the angle of the joint. The “multi angle” technique is very similar to the IRONMAN/Steve Holman “Positions of flexion” approach, although they are not always one in the same.

For example, one popular multi-angle favorite for triceps is lying EZ bar extensions performed to the chin, forehead, and behind the head as a tri set. This is multi-angular, but it does not fully work all three positions of flexion, as these are only slight variations in angle.

There are two ways to perform this routine. One way is to do all three exercises in a row with zero rest between exercises. This is very intense and result producing, but will compromise your poundages. Poliquin’s solution to the problem is the simple insertion of a 10 second pause between each exercise, which allows greater loads to be used.

* A1 Incline dumbbell curl (stretch) 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* A2 Seated dumbbell curl (midrange) 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* A3 90 degree dumbbell preacher curl (contracted) 3 sets X 6-8 reps

* B1 Seated EZ bar tricep extension 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* B2 EZ bar tricep extension to forehead 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* B3 Decline bench EZ bar tricep extension 3 sets X 6-8 reps

Unilateral Multi Grip Bicep Routine

I don’t remember where I found this routine, but I think it was the brainstorm of Australian strength coach Ian King. All I can say is that Ian or whoever originally invented this bicep killer should get a medal for it! Try it and find out why. Perform 10 reps per set, 2-3 tri sets with 0-10 seconds between exercises.

* A1 One arm zottman Dumbbell Preacher Curl 3 sets X 10 reps
* A2 One arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl 3 sets X 10 reps
* A3 One Arm Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curl 3 sets X 10 reps

Note: If you’ve never heard of the Zottman curl, it’s simply a dumbbell curl with a pronated eccentric and supinated concentric (palm up on the way up, palm down on the way down)

Ian King
Ian King

nilateral Multi Grip Bicep Routine

This is a slight variation I’ve successfully used on the killer combo above. All I did is to flip the order of exercises 2 & 3, substitute reverse dumbbell curl for Zottman curl on exercise number one, and add a forced negative on the reverse curls using the opposite hand. The rep range is slightly lower; 6-8 reps per set with a little bit heavier weight. 3 tri sets, 0 sec rest between exercises, 0 seconds rest between switching arms.

* A1 One arm reverse dumbbell Preacher Curl with neg. resistance 3 sets X
6-8 reps
* A2 One arm Hammer Preacher Curl 3 sets X 6-8 reps
* A3 One Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl 3 sets X 6-8 reps

Gironda’s 6 X 6 Balanced Arms Routine

This is a variation on Vince Gironda’s famous “Balanced Arms” course. Like many bodybuilding gurus, Vince vociferously commanded, “No deviations.” Well, shame on me, but after I tried all his programs exactly as he instructed, I never could resist experimenting.

This routine consists of 3 pairs of supersets performed for 6 sets of 6 reps each. No rest is permitted between exercises. Take 90 seconds rest after each superset. Vince’s original course suggested doing this routine three times per week. I tested various frequencies and got best results doing this routine once every 4-5 days and I’d recommend no more than twice per week.

* A1 Straight Bar Preacher curl 6 sets X 6 reps
* A2 Body drag curl 6 sets X 6 reps

* B1 Rope extension behind head (lunge position, using high pulley) 6 sets
X 6 reps
* B2 EZ Bar Pullover and Press 6 sets X 6 reps

* C1 Barbell Wrist Curl (roll to fingertips) 6 sets X 6 reps
* C2 barbell reverse drag curl 6 sets X 6 reps

Vince Gironda

olume Training: 8 Sets of 8 – Basic

When performing the classic Vince Gironda 8 sets of 8 program, you select only ONE exercise per body part and you train half your body each session (approximately 5 exercises per workout) for a total of 40 sets. Perform 3-4 workouts per week, each muscle is trained no more than twice per week.

Every rep is performed with deep concentration and intra-muscular contraction (“squeeze” the muscle during every rep. Mental focus and maintenance of tempo are musts. Rest must be kept to 30 seconds or less, ultimately dropping to as low as 15 seconds between sets. On a 3021 tempo (At 6 seconds per rep, each set will take only 48 seconds; by getting your rest intervals down to 20 seconds, you will finish each 8 sets of 8 reps in 9 minutes. With 5 exercises, that’s 40 sets per workout in only 45 minutes!

This is decidedly aerobic and growth hormone-inducing, and by using compound exercises (i.e. squats on leg day, rows on back day, etc), this routine can also burn a tremendous amount of body fat. Little or no additional cardio work is necessary on this program.

* A1 Thumb Under Dumbbell Curl (palms up/non supinating) 8 sets X 8 reps X
3021 tempo

* B1 Close Grip EZ Bar Bench Press 8 sets X 8 reps X 3020 tempo

Volume Training: 8 Sets of 8 – Advanced

This is the variation on the 8 sets of 8 routine that Vince Gironda gave to elite and genetically gifted bodybuilders like Mohammed Makkawy. This program is performed on a 3 or 4 day split so you can concentrate on only two body parts
per session. Tempos can be a little bit faster (2020 or 2010) on this higher volume program. This allows you to complete the workout in 40 – 45 minutes or so (you could also try 30 minute workouts consisting of two exercises per muscle group, 8 sets of 8 reps per exercise; experiment with the concept)

* A1 Barbell Drag Curl 8 sets X 8 reps

* B1 Incline Dumbbell curl 8 sets X 8 reps

* C1 Hammer curl 8 sets X 8 reps

* D1 Close Grip bench Press 8 sets X 8 reps

* E1 Flat bench lying 2 dumbbell tricep extension 8 sets X 8 reps

* F1 Parallel bar tricep dips 8 sets X 8 reps

Mohammed Makkawy
Mohammed Makkawy

Volume Training: 10 Sets of 10

This program was originally promoted by Vince Gironda. It was later resurrected under the name “German Volume Training” and re-popularized (with some modern improvements) by Charles Poliquin. After it was originally introduced, 10 X 10 faded out of popularity in favor of 3 sets of 3 exercises. This was largely due to boredom and the belief that one exercise was not enough for complete development. However, 10 sets of 10 will completely “trash” an entire pool of motor units from the repeated efforts on the same exercise, resulting in tremendous muscle size gains.

Simply select one exercise per muscle group and perform 10 sets of 10 reps. It’s very important to use the same weight for each set. You will not train to failure or use set extension or high intensity techniques (like negatives or forced reps). This will require that you select a weight that’s approximately 60% of your normal 10 rep max. Rest 90 seconds between sets and maintain a constant tempo on every rep and a constant rest interval between every set. You will work two or at most, three body parts per workout on a three or four day split routine. Each muscle group should be trained once every 5 to 6 days.

* A1 Incline Dumbbell Curls 10 sets X 10 reps
* A2 Seated EZ Bar tricep extension (French press) 10 sets X 10 reps

Drop Supersets

This program combines elements of two of the best bodybuilding techniques of all time; drop sets and supersets. Select two exercises for the same muscle group and perform each for 6-8 reps with no rest in between. Quickly (less than 10 seconds rest) reduce the poundage (grab lighter set of dumbbells) and then repeat the superset two more times. That counts as ONE drop-superset (2 exercises X 3 supersets = 6 sets in one drop superset). Rest 120 seconds and repeat one more time (twice at most if you’re an “over-achiever”).

A typical weight reduction is about 10-15%. Optional: A brief 10 second rest between supersets allows some recovery of strength so that you can keep your poundages up and it alleviates some of the lactic acid burn that might prevent you from doing 6 sets in a row non stop. Perform two or at most three drop supersets (the weights given are just examples)

* A1 Standing hammer curl 2-3 sets X 6-8 reps 40 lbs
* A2 Standing palms up Dumbbell Curl 2-3 sets X 6-8 reps 40 lbs

Rest 0-10 sec
* A3 standing hammer curl 2-3 sets X 6-8 reps 35 lbs
* A4 Standing palms up Dumbbell Curl 2-3 sets X 6-8 reps X 35 lbs

Rest 0-10 sec
* A5 standing hammer curl 2-3 sets X 6-8 reps 30 lbs
* A6 Standing palms up Dumbbell Curl 2-3 sets X 6-8 reps X 30 lbs

Rest 120 seconds, then repeat 1-2 more times

Larry Scott’s Favorite Arm Routine

Larry Scott was the first Mr. Olympia and his claim to fame was the most mind blowing set of biceps and triceps the bodybuilding world had ever seen up until the time Scott appeared on the scene. Larry Scott’s favorite arm building apparatus was the preacher curl bench, which also bears his name (the Scott curl bench).

Larry Scott
Priest v Scott

His favorite bicep routine was a tri-set performed on the preacher bench and a superset combo for triceps. Larry also frequently employed “burns”, which were quick quarter reps (partials) performed after each set.

* A1 Dumbbell preacher curl, loose form 3-4 sets X 6 reps + 4-5 burns
* A2 Straight Bar preacher curl, strict form 3-4 sets X 6 reps + 4-5 burns
* A3 EZ bar reverse curl, loose form 3-4 sets X 6 reps + 4-5 burns

* B1 Close Grip Bench Press with EZ Bar 4-5 sets X 6 reps + 4-5 burns
* B2 Kneeling twin pedestal tricep rope extension* 4-5 sets X 6 reps + 4-5 burns

*The twin pedestal bench is a special bench for the kneeling rope tricep extension. It is simply two pads for the elbows with a space for your head in between. It was originally built by Vince Gironda and Scott later began manufacturing his own version. If you don’t have the apparatus for this exercise, you can simply do a rope extension facing away from the weight stack from a high pulley in a lunge position.

Pre-Exhaust Routine

Pre exhaustion is a technique popularized Robert Kennedy of Muscle Mag International.
Pre-exhaustion supersets are performed by selecting an isolation exercise and
following it with a compound exercise, with no rest in between the two. In the
case of biceps, the natural choice for the compound exercise is the close grip
chin up. Your volume can range from three to five sets, depending on your split
routine and experience level.

* A1 Barbell curl 3-5 set X 8-12 reps
* A2 Close grip pull up 3-5 sets X AMRAP

* B1 Kneeling V-Bar low pulley cable extension 3-5 sets X 8-12 reps
* B2 Close grip bench press 3-5 sets X 8-12 reps

Don Ross 4 Rep System #1

There are many variations on multi rep programs to be found throughout the
bodybuilding literature. This one is by Don Ross from his book “Muscle
blasting” with Robert Kennedy.

Don Ross
Don ‘The Ripper’ Ross

Select 4 exercises and perform each exercise with a different repetition (RM) bracket. These exercises are not supersetted. Rest intervals between sets are 60-90 seconds. Two sets should be enough for most people, three sets max.

* A1 Incline Dumbbell Curl 2-3 sets X 6 reps
* B1 Hammer Curl 2-3 sets X 8 reps
* C1 Preacher curl 2- 3 sets X 12
* D1 Overhead Pulley curl 2-3 sets X 20 reps

* A1 Close Grip Bench Press 2-3 set X 6 reps
* B1 Decline Bench 2 Dumbbell Extension 2-3 sets X 8 reps
* C1 Dumbbell kickbacks 2- 3 sets X 12
* D1 Tricep Rope pressdown 2-3 sets X 20 reps

Note: You can easily use this same principle with only three exercises and three rep ranges or even two exercises and two rep ranges as in the 6-20 method. In either case, the heavier, lower rep sets come first and the higher rep sets last.

Gironda 4 Rep System

Another variation of the 4 rep system is to perform four sets on each exercise with each of the four sets using a different rep range. Don Ross liked the 12, 8, 6, 20 rep protocol, while Vince Gironda’s famous variation on this system (which he wrote an entire course about) was 10, 8, 6, 15.

* A1 Incline Dumbbell Curl 4 sets X 10, 8, 6, 15 reps
B1 Barbell curl 4 sets X 10, 8, 6, 15 reps

* A1 Close Grip Bench Press 4 sets X 10, 8, 6, 15 reps
* B1 Decline Bench 2 Dumbbell Extension 4 sets X 10, 8, 6, 15 reps

Poliquin’s 3 Rep Tri-Set System: 6-12-25

Yet another multi rep program, the 6-12-25 system is favored by Charles Poliquin. Using the Poliquin method, you select three exercises, the first with stretch position emphasis, the second with mid range emphasis, and the third a constant tension, peak contraction exercise. Unlike the Ross and Gironda method, these exercises are tri-setted.

* A1 Incline dumbbell curl 2-3 sets X 6 reps 10 seconds rest
* A2 Barbell Curls 2-3 sets X 12 reps 10 seconds rest
* A3 Overhead Cable curl 2-3 sets X 25 reps

120 seconds rest, repeat 2-3 tri sets
* B1 Kneeling V-Bar low pulley cable extension 2-3 sets X 6 reps
* B2 Lying Tricep extension to forehead 2-3 sets X 12 reps
* B3 2 dumbbell kickbacks 2-3 sets X 25 reps

120 seconds rest, repeat 2-3 tri sets

That’s all… For now.

This only scratches the surface of what I have locked in my “vault of training secrets,” but that’s all we have time and space for today. Besides, there’s enough here to keep you busy for a long, long time!

In fact, I just gave you enough workouts to last you for at least the next year! If you’re tired of the same old conventional “three sets of 8 – 12” straight set routines and if you’re frustrated with your progress, then put some of these 5 star programs to the test… I GUARANTEE you are going to see some of the best arm development of your life!

Tom Venuto is the author of the #1 best-selling e-book, “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle.” Tom has written more than 200 articles and has been featured in print magazines such as IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise, as well as on hundreds of websites worldwide. For information on Tom’s Fat Loss program, visit:

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