The Arm Workout to Help You Fill Your Shirt Sleeves

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Want to sculpt a strong, V-shaped torso? It’s not all about building a big chest and burning fat for a lean waist – getting muscular, well-defined arms is just as important. Targeting your arms is based on three training pillars: time under tension, high volume and maximum recruitment of muscle fibres. Tri-sets, where you do three exercises back to back with minimal rest, deliver all three.

“This workout uses a wide variety of exercises, rep ranges and tempos to hit your upper body muscles from every angle,” says personal trainer and body transformation specialist Rich Phillipps. The result will be a body that Greek tailors would dream of fitting – or at least one that turns a few heads in black tie.

Complete all the reps in Tri-set 1 without resting, then rest for two to three minutes. Repeat until you’ve done a total of four tri-sets. Then do the same for Tri-set 2. The tempo of a move is indicated by a four-digit number where the first digit is the time taken (in seconds) to lower the weight, the second is the length of the pause at the bottom of the move, the third is the time taken to lift the weight and the last is the pause at the top.

Read more: The Chest and Back Workout for a V-Shaped Torso

Tri-set 1

1A. Barbell curl


Reps 8
Tempo 3010
Stand holding a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, and without leaning back, curl the bar up to your chest. Squeeze your biceps hard, then lower the bar.

1B. Incline seated curl


Reps 6
Tempo 4010
Lie on a bench set at a 45° angle holding dumbbells with your arms straight down by your sides, palms facing forwards. Curl the weights up to shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps hard, then lower the weights slowly.

1C. Prone hammer curl


Reps 12
Tempo 2020
Lie chest-down on a bench set at a 45° angle, holding dumbbells with your arms hanging straight down and palms facing each other. Curl the weights slowly up towards your shoulders, then slowly lower them again.

Tri-set 2

2A. Skullcrusher


Reps 10
Tempo 2210
Lie on a flat bench holding light dumbbells straight above you. Keeping your elbow still, bend your arm to lower the weights to either side of your head. Pause, then press them back up to the start.

2B. Narrow-grip bench press


Reps 6
Tempo 4110
Lie on a flat bench holding the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Drive your feet hard into the floor and press the weights straight up powerfully, then lower them slowly to the start position.

2C. Standing triceps extension


Reps 12
Tempo 2010
Stand holding dumbbells above your head with your upper arms close to your ears. Keeping your upper arms static, bend at the elbows to lower the weights behind your head, then flex your triceps to raise the weights straight up.

Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.