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How to Use Compound Movements For Bigger Arms

by Kate Ferguson on February 12, 2016
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When it comes to building arm muscles, many professionals suggest using compound movements as opposed to just isolated ones. It’s a fairly common practice to use compound movements for other areas of the body, but many people stick to just isolated ones for the arms.

Common isolated arm workouts include curls, extensions, press downs, etc, as opposed to compound movements for other parts of the body that hit multiple muscle groups and joints and therefore more weight can be added to the workout.

When you want to make large gains however and not just tone certain areas, it’s best to load up and get as many areas of the arms involved as possible.

One example of a great exercise that works as a compound movement for the arms in a chin up. You might not think of the chin up as a go to move, but it can actually be pretty great for the whole upper body.  The key is to keep your hands close enough together that it engages the whole arm area. Start from a total hang and then pull yourself all the way up until your chest reaches the bar. This put a huge amount  of demand on the biceps when you pull yourself all the way up and down through the entire range of motion.

Another exercise that works as a great compound movement is pulling yourself up on the rings. The ring dip requires that your deltoids and your pecs stay engaged, which means that you’ll be able to get to the point of overloading the triceps more effectively. Dips are always a good workout for adding on size to the arm muscles, but the ring dips add in the element of instability which requires even more from the muscles to go through each rep.

Push ups on a suspension trainer can be a lot more effective than a simple push up on the ground. A suspension trainer (like a TRX rope) provides grips as well as the instability from the suspension element that will put all of your muscles to work trying to stabilize while you complete the pushup position. Doing push ups this way can decrease the amount of pressure that you’re putting on your shoulders which in turn can allow you to do more and load your muscles up with more resistance, and then get stronger faster.

Adding in some hammer rows is another way to get multiple muscles involved in a single move. To do the move you would start as if you were doing a dumbbell row, but when you get near the top you would turn the move into a hammer curl as opposed to bringing it up as normal. Squeeze the movement when you get the top and then take it all the way back down before repeating. In this position you will have the support of your back muscles which means that you can do more rows and use a heavier weight to do it.

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