Metabolic Arms

Metabolic Arms

Training Notes

A1: Use a load that is about your 20 rep max. Get a full ROM and make sure to allow your elbows to fully extend at the bottom of the rep. Rest 30 sec before A2.

A2: Use a load that is about your 15 rep max. Maintain supination throughout and make sure to pause with elbows fully extended at the bottom of the ROM to lengthen the biceps. Keep these strict. Rest 30 sec before A3.

A3: Pump these out and aim for high reps. Attempt to touch the DB to your front delt on each rep. Full rest before returning to A1.

B1: Elevate your feet to the same height as your hands. Keep the eccentric slow and make sure your torso stays tight to the bench as you descend. Try to keep your shoulder blades retract and allow them to elevate through the eccentric to prevent the shoulders from "dumping" forward. Careful with the elbows and shoulders here. Rest 30 sec before B2.

B2: Use a load that is about your 15 rep max. Perform these lying perpendicular across a flat bench. The mechanics should be a hybrid between a pullover and a skullcrusher. Make sure to get a full ROM and stretch here. Rest 30 sec before B3.

B3: Use a load that is about your 15 rep max. Use barbell and adjust hands to be roughly 1.5-2 inches more narrow than your usual bench press grip. Keep legs in a "V" during the set and closely adhere to the tempo allowing your elbows to fully pause on the floor before pressing up. Full rest before returning to B1.

C1: Use a load that is about your 20 rep max. Choose an attachment that allows for strong contractions and minimal elbow discomfort. This superset can be done without occlusion as well. Alternate between C1 and C2 for time and attempt to get as much volume in as possible.

C2: Use a load that is about your 20 rep max. This superset can be done without occlusion as well. Alternate between C1 and C2 for time and attempt to get as much volume in as possible.


Goals of this session

Though relatively niche, our primary focus here is going to be to build as much metabolic stress in the biceps and triceps as possible. Additionally, we will want to limit the accumulation of joint and neurological stress as this session is meant to be supplementary.

Warm-up recommendations

-5-10 minutes of steady state cardio such as incline walking, elliptical, rowing, or ski erg

-Soft tissue manipulation in the form of 3-5 min of light foam rolling the lats, teres major and mid back. More specific work can be done using a small lacrosse ball (or something similar) and working through bound up tissue in the pecs and scapular regions. Additionally, we can add in a form of therapy called "tempering" for our biceps and triceps by placing a moderate weight KB on the muscle bellies for 30-60 sec to release tension.

-Specific mobility with band tricep pushdowns, supinated pulldowns, and yoga pushups.


Common exercise modifications

EZ Bar Cable Curls- EZ Curls, Barbell Curls, Standing Supinated DB Curls, EZ Preacher Curls, Machine Curls

Incline Supinated DB Curls- Away Facing Low Cable Curls, Away Facing EZ Cable Curls, Incline DB Curls, Seated Supinated DB Curls, Seated Away Facing Low Cable Curls

Standing Alternating Hammer Curls- Seated Alternating Hammer Curls, Standing Hammer Curls (Bilateral), Seated Hammer Curls (Bilateral), Rope Cable Curls, Swiss Bar Curls

Bench Dips- Seated Machine Dips, Weighted Dips, Band Assisted Dips, Machine Assisted Dips, EZ Cable Tricep Pressdowns

PJR Pullovers- Extended ROM DB Skullcrushers, Extended ROM EZ Skullcrushers, Seated Overhead DB Tricep Extensions, Seated Overhead EZ Tricep Extensions, Overhead Rope Cable Tricep Extensions, Bodyweight Tricep Extensions

Close Grip Floor Press- Neutral Grip DB Floor Press, Close Grip Spoto Press, Close Grip Pushups, Close Grip Machine Chest Press

Occluded Cable Tricep Pushdowns- Occluded Band Tricep Pushdowns, Occluded 

Occluded Machine Preacher Curls- Occluded Supinated Band Curls, Occluded Cable Curls, Occluded Alternating DB Curls


Common program modifications

Advanced trainees- Take A1 and A2 to 1RIR, A3 to technical failure, and B1, B2 and B2 to 1RIR. Add load to lap for B1. Potentially take longer rest periods between the sequence in order to use heavier loads. 

Intermediate trainees- Occlusion work can be discarded if trainee is not comfortable with the technique.

Beginner trainees- This training session is NOT for beginners! Beginners should not be this specific with their training splits and should instead opt for more generalized goals and exercise selection.

Male trainees- Take longer rest periods between sets in order to recover and use more load. Volume may need to be decreased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (stronger trainees may need less working sets).

Female trainees- This workout is generally aimed at males (as they're more likely to prioritize their arms) but for the females who fall into this category, adding a set to EACH sequence could be useful. Shorter rest between working sets and less feeders/warmup sets will generally be needed. Volume may need to be increased depending on strength level and recovery capacity (better conditioned trainees may need more working sets).


Common injury modifications:

Wrists- Any of the exercise that have a supination component are potentially problematic for pre-existing wrist issues. We should be careful to not exacerbate the discomfort. Shifting to semi-supinated grips (as with an EZ bar) should alleviate the issue to a degree. Where it persists, fully neutral wrist alignment should fully negate the problem. Additionally, we could see some pressure sensitivity from the Close Grip Press. Using wrist wraps to provide additional support will help some. If the issue isn't resolved, switching to a neutral grip again (such as with a Swiss bar) will get most of the way to pain-free.

Elbows- Obviously, any of the extension-based movements will be culprits here, but we also have to be cautious with heavy elbow flexion (depending on mechanism of injury). For the former, diligent warmups including light extensions and ramping isometrics will help. The more shearing forces applies on the tendons, the more potential issues we will run into here so B2 may have to be removed in favor of variations that allow the load to be "stacked" in line with the forearms. If it is the curls causing some issues, the best bet is to find a ROM that is comfortable (typically this will be in the bottom half) and confine the work there. 

Shoulders- Our focus here is going to remain on movements that are typically problematic for presses. B1 and B3 present the most glaring potential to distress the shoulder joints just due to the nature of how the force is distributed. B1 is inherently an "iffy" movement because of the mechanics but is also easily substituted for a MUCh more joint-friendly variation in assisted machine dips. With this, the integrity of the shoulder joint can more easily be maintained with much less mobility requirements. As for B3, we should already be somewhat protected by the limited ROM in the movement but additional measures can be taken such as adding accommodating resistance to further optimize the resistance curve for ailing shoulders.


Additional notes:

As has been mentioned, this is a session strictly meant to be supplementary. The idea here is to leverage a very specific training day (such as the one we have here) to create an additive effect towards the larger goals of the mesocycle. 


What kind of additive effects can we expect? 


For those who wish to bring up lagging arms, it is often not enough to just spam curls and extensions until either the muscles relent and grow or the soft tissues give out. A more structured plan must be in place to account for volume, intensity and frequency tolerance. This is where we can actually take advantage of hyper-specificity! In a scenario like this, it could be useful to implement a stand-alone "arm day" in order to compound growth stimuli that isn't going to be suppressed by multiple foci within the session. Granted, it's not as simple as just adding this additional day into an already full microcycle. Concessions have to be made when running a specialization program. 

Ironically, being forced into a position of prioritization is actually a positive for localized growth. When running programming with a broad focus, we can expect to make progress in proportion to our genetic limitations. Our naturally strong body parts will rise to the top while our weak points will lag behind. Everyone experiences this to some degree. The longer you train and the more advanced you become, the more pronounced these discrepancies will be. At some point, strategically pulling back on the stronger muscles and redistributing that volume/effort will pay larger dividends towards a symmetrical and balanced physique. In the case of our arm session here, we could envision a scenario in which someone with a dominant lower body would find it useful to replace a second leg day with a dedicated biceps/triceps workout. 

As we know, the primary way that muscle growth is stimulated is from progressive overload (i.e. attempting to increase a muscle's ability to handle volume and intensity over time). This is typically done by adding load and/or reps to standardized movements in the 6-12 rep range. Our muscles are constantly being subjected to high levels of mechanical tension that break down the fibers with the expectation that the recovery process will induce adaptations that allow for future bouts to handle higher levels of mechanical tension. 


But what happens when this hypertrophic path begins to plateau? 


Our muscles and systems need a break from the consistent overloading input. The human body is masterful at adapting to an external stimulus, and eventually the responses that we are after will screech to a halt. This is the perfect time to shift from pushing for mechanical tension to metabolic stress. This alternative mechanism of hypertrophy is typically written off as broscience, but Arnold was onto something when he uncomfortably sexualized "the pump". There are physiological underpinnings that lend validity to occasionally lightening the load to aim for work in higher rep ranges, shorten rest periods and even use of novel techniques designed to facilitate maximal blood flow (ex: blood flow restriction). 

We won't get into the nuances of what happens on a cellular level here, but it is useful to know that there is more than one way to skin the metaphorical cat. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that an entire macrocycle can be built around metabolic work. This is very much a "right place, right time" pivot off of the standard model of hypertrophy training. After exhausting your body's resources to effectively recover and adapt to progressive overload, a 3-5 week block of metabolic style training could be just what your systems need to reboot and recharge their muscle-growing phasers. Any longer than this and you'll quickly notice that the effects of this style of training have diminished to being essentially imperceptible. We adapt to high loads and volumes eventually, but for some reason, metabolic work has a very limited window of true effectiveness. 


It goes without saying that there are very few instances where high-rep biceps and triceps work should be the base of a program. This style of training is meant to cater to extremely specific goals; goals that are worked up to and established only after a good amount of "time under the bar" and self-experimentation. Beginners have no need for a specialization program like this. But for those who have milked every last drop of progress from generalized overloading, consider making room for a session like this in your program!

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