Can you still build big arms after 50? Hell yes, you can. The workout routine I’m going to share is not based on theory. It’s the one I’ve used for several years, once a week, to train my arms. This is how to get big arms at 50 and older.
Here are some basic ground rules:
- You can’t over-train. You’re not 20 or 30-something anymore. Your body and joints can’t handle heavy weights and big cheating reps. If you’re still trying to break personal records, knock it off. Once a week focused on arms is the plenty. If you do go twice, space it out by several days of rest.
- Don’t get caught up in trendy methods. Forget about doing Beachbody, Insanity, Bootcamps, Cross Fit, tire-flipping, rope swinging and box jumping. This is an old school workout for older people.
- Do eat properly. If you want, you can supplement with a quality protein shake and creatine, the only two supplements in my book that work and will help you build muscle.
If you follow those basic guidelines and a workout like the one I’m about to show, you will build those arms. The key is to really focus on those biceps and triceps and take them to complete exhaustion on your arm workout day. You can do this in surprisingly short periods of time: 30 – 45 minutes if you keep rest periods between sets brief.
If you do a search and read a number of articles, you’re going to see information that is all over the place. Lots of it will get highly technical with academic descriptions of anatomy and claims that certain movements trigger specific results in particular places.
Hooey, as my old man used to say. Muscles don’t think. They respond to tension. Period. The basics are what is important here. The best bicep exercises are easy to define. It’s how we do them that makes all the difference.
The fastest way to get from here…
… Is to focus on the Basics. A reminder on the 2 essentials for all muscle building:
This is the process of causing microscopic damage to the target muscle fibers and allowing them to heal with rest and good nutrition. Lots of quality protein. Once a week is plenty of work for biceps. If you do twice weekly, space it out so you give the muscles plenty of rest and recuperation time between workouts.
You’ll know this is happening if you feel the Pump in your target muscles. The Pump is that legendary feeling Schwarzenegger first talked about more than 40 years ago. It’s a real feeling caused by blood rushing into the muscle with nutrients to repair and grow it, while flushing out toxins.
2. Mind/Muscle Connection
This is an intense mental focus on the target muscle as you’re working it. You want to feel the constant tension in the muscle as hypertrophy is happening.
Here’s the formula:
You can’t maintain a Mind/Muscle Connection if you’re using body english to swing weights around that are too heavy. You want to select a weight you can handle cleanly for 8 – 12 reps per set.
You want to take the muscle to “failure” in each set you do. Failure means you cannot do another clean rep without cheating. Don’t cheat. You might get 12 reps in the first set, but 8 or even fewer in the last set.
Feel the Pump.
The right way: focus on a continuous movement, not jerky stop and start. This is about exhausting the muscle, not how much weight you’re using. You want to continuously move the weight. Don’t rest it on your thighs and then swing it up. Keep it moving in a smooth motion till you can’t do another rep.
Volume is important to reach failure in each set. Failure simply means exhausting the target muscles. If you’re just starting out, you will have to work up to this level. If you have to start by only doing 1 -2 sets of each movement, then start there.
3 – 5 Sets, 8 – 12 Reps per Set (to failure)
Work up to 5 sets of 3 different curling movements for a total of 15 sets. Work up to it if you’re just starting out. Start with 1 set per workout if you need to.
A lot of people would be horrified by this workout. It is especially not trendy in today’s world of functional cross fit blah blah blah. But it works and it will get you the fastest results.
I suggest doing these consecutively — in a row. Remember, we’re trying to exhaust those biceps.
Ideal rest time is 30 seconds between sets. A minute or two max between different types of movements. Again, work up to it if you’re just starting out.
Using movements that can be done with a simple barbell and dumbbells, here’s an example routine:
3 – 5 Sets Barbell Curls – Straight or Curling bar
3 – 5 Sets Dumbbell Hammer Curls
3 – 5 Sets Dumbbell Concentration Curls
Feel Free to Substitute:
Rope curls on a cable machine are a great alternative to any one of the above. You could also do a set using Resistance Bands, which are great at keeping constant tension on the muscle. Any isolation move that targets the biceps can be substituted.
If you really want to feel a biceps pump:
And a great, classic finishing movement with Curls is a set of 21’s with a barbell or bands. Goes like this, without stopping do 7 full reps, then 7 partial reps from bottom to midway, then 7 partials from midway to top. You will exhaust those Bi’s.
Next, focus on Triceps: the rest of the upper arm
This is actually the bigger part of your arm and plays huge role in how those guns of yours appear when flexed. Tri = 3. Bi = 2.
3 – 5 Sets Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks (repeat other arm)
3 – 5 Sets Standing One-arm Triceps Extensions (repeat other arm).
3- 5 Sets Close Grip Bench Press (“skull crushers”)
Feel Free to Substitute:
Triceps dumbbell extensions can also be done in a seated position with both arms at once. Hold the dumbbell above and behind your head, lower it and raise it up above your head again. Pushups and Dips are other great alternatives, as are tricep pushdowns on a cable machine using a rope or a bar. Any isolation move that really targets the triceps can be substituted.
Finally, it’s great to finish this workout with some work on your forearms. You can do wrist curls with a barbell or dumbbell or bands.
While seated, rest your forearms on your thighs with your wrists hanging over your knees. Curl the resistance (bands/barbell or dumbbells) with your wrists facing up for 3 sets. Then curl the weight with your wrists facing down for another 3 sets. Adjust the amount of resistance or weight so that you can do the sets in the 8 – 12 rep range.
Additional forearm work can be done with grippers and commercial wrist rollers. These are pieces of specialty gear. You can actually make a home-made wrist roller with a dowel rod and a strap of sturdy material if you’re handy.
Some specialty items you should consider:
The Wrist Ripper is a wrist roller that is great for building forearms. It uses standard size weight plates. You can perform rolls with wrists up and down for a full forearm workout.
There are a wide variety of wrist rollers like this available, using either standard or Olympic plates. You need to supply the weight. In addition, there are numerous hand gripper devices you can consider, as well. Both will strengthen your grip and forearms.
Ultimate Pro Gym Resistance Band Set by Go Fit is another great alternative for all of these movements. If you don’t own much gear and can’t afford a gym, look into a set of bands. They’re also a great add to any gym setup and inexpensive.
The beauty of the bands is that they apply that constant tension we’re looking for. With weights, you can give in to a tendency to let gravity lower the bar. Constant tension is good.
Go Fit bands are great for guys. They are heavy duty. You can double and triple them up for quite a bit of resistance. Even if you’re already pretty strong, you’ll feel the pump with these bands.
I own and use both products above and believe they are solid, high quality.
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These are the keys to building muscle using lighter weights at higher reps. Science has proven this is the most effective method to build muscle – at any age.
Me just after turning 63 in 2019
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