Want to make some real biceps and triceps gains? Want to overcome an arm growth plateau that's plagued you for years? Try the infamous one-day arm cure.
History of the One-Day Arm Cure
Hyper-concentrated arm blitzes have been used since the 1960s when Peary Rader wrote the original one-day arm blitz. You essentially did one or two sets every hour for a 12-hour span, accumulating 12 short arm workouts throughout the day.
Charles Poliquin wrote about the approach again in the 90s and strength coach Jay Schroeder even developed a version.
I've used all three approaches successfully, but the original plan by Rader is the least time consuming. If you do one to two sets every hour, that'll take up five minutes per hour, leaving you plenty of time to do other stuff.
The original plan was less stressful and more repeatable, so let's build on that.
- Every waking hour after the first one, you'll do one set of two exercises. (Use the first hour to wake up and have breakfast.)
- Don't go to failure. Stop one or two reps short (not counting the isometric work).
- Stop two to three hours before going to bed. You don't want to spike adrenaline when you want to rest and recover.
- Have a steady intake of protein throughout the day to maximize the anabolic response. Carbs will also be useful to maintain glycogen stores, but they don't have to be consumed throughout the day. You can load up in the morning, refuel mid-day, and overload at the end of the day to supercompensate glycogen stores when the insulin sensitivity of the biceps and triceps will be through the roof, making them soak up nutrients.
- Do this plan as often as you can, like on a weekend or whenever you're stuck at home. It can be done daily, but doing it one to three times per week is certainly not a waste.
While the plan can be done with no equipment, it'll still be more effective if you have access to some dumbbells, bands, or a bar. I'll provide various options depending on what you have at your disposal.
Remember, the body doesn't know where the resistance is coming from. When you're doing curls, 30 pounds from a barbell or 30 pounds from books loaded into a backpack is pretty much the same stimulus.
We'll use six different methods done throughout the day. That means you'll rotate through six types of micro-sessions per day. (See the videos at the end for examples.)
- Iso Pre-Fatigue: Start the set by holding an isometric contraction for 20-30 seconds and immediately doing your prescribed reps right afterward.
- Super Slow Reps: Both the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (lifting) phases take 5 seconds. The goal is not only to go slow, but to flex the target muscle as hard as possible every inch of every rep.
- Tempo Contrast: Alternate between both super slow (5 seconds up and 5 seconds down) and explosive reps. You do two slow reps, then two fast reps, then repeat back and forth. If you're using loaded exercises, you do 8-12 reps. If you're doing these with bodyweight only or light loading, you'd keep going until you reach two reps short of failure.
- Overcoming Isometrics: Try to lift something that can't be moved. For example, here I'm trying to curl the countertop (which is made of quartz weighting around 500 pounds). The protocol is six "reps" lasting six seconds all-out, with 10 seconds of rest between each.
- Yielding Isometrics: With these you're holding a weight (or position) in place, preventing it from dropping down, for a certain duration.
- Pre and Post-Fatigue Isometrics: Start the set by holding an isometric at the position of greatest tension for 15-20 seconds, then do the prescribed reps and finish your set with another isometric at the position of greatest tension for the maximum duration possible.
Exercise selection will vary depending on the equipment you have available. In an ideal world, you'd have access to either a barbell or dumbbells, but bands can also be used. You can also use bodyweight movements.
1. Barbell or Dumbbells
The curl. Vary the grip as often as you want.
With a barbell:
- Shoulder-width grip, supinated or pronated (palms up or palms down)
- Close grip, supinated or pronated
- Wide grip, supinated or pronated
- Supinated or pronated
- Neutral (palms facing in)
- Zottman (supinated concentric, pronated eccentric)
Lying triceps extensions. Change the grip whenever you want.
With a barbell:
- Close grip lowered to the mouth, nose, or forehead
- Shoulder-width grip lowered to the mouth, nose, or forehead
- Neutral grip lowered to jaw or temples
- Pronated grip lowered to jaw or temples
- Supinated grip lowered to jaw or temples
2. Resistance Bands
If you have bands at home, do band curls and band triceps pressdowns. You can also vary the grip position for these.
On the band curl you can do:
- Supinated wide grip (wrists wider than elbows), normal grip, or narrow grip (wrists inside elbows)
- Pronated wide, normal, or narrow grip
- Neutral grip
On the triceps pressdown you can do:
- Neutral grip with hands together or hands apart
- Pronated grip with hands together or apart
- Supinated grip with hands together or apart
3. No Equipment
For the bodyweight option, you might have to use two different exercises for each muscle. This is fine because the goal is to stimulate the muscle several times a day; it's not about doing any specific movement.
For triceps you have three options:
1. Bodyweight Triceps Extensions
In the video Stephane is using the Smith machine, but a table will do the same job. You can increase the resistance by having your body more parallel to the floor. You can put your feet on a box to make it harder. You can also vary the angle of movement by lowering yourself below the bar like in the video or by lowering your forehead or mouth to the bar/table.
2. Push-Up Variations
Here we have three levels of difficulty depending on your strength. The easiest one is the close-grip push-up where your hands are shoulder width or slightly narrower.
The diamond push-up is a bit more demanding and might be a better option for those with a higher strength level. It requires a very close grip with your hands forming a diamond shape (slight internal rotation).
The tiger push-up is the most demanding. Start at the top of a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your elbows to the floor then go back to the starting position.
Use if you have a dip station at home, are very strong, and have healthy shoulders. To emphasize the triceps, stay more upright. Don't angle your chest forward too much.
You have two types of plans to choose from:
Plan One: Once Per Week
This is highly concentrated and performed only one day per week. You can repeat it once every week if you have the time and dedication. But it's more time consuming because you'll have to do two sets for each muscle group (biceps and triceps) every hour.
You're essentially devoting the whole day to training arms. If you start at 9 AM and finish at 8 PM you'll go through the method rotation twice and it'll equal 24 sets for biceps and triceps (12 hours x 2 sets per muscle group).
Plan Two: 3-5 Times Per Week
Use this option if for some reason you find yourself stuck at home for a week or more with nothing to do. You'll do six "mini-sessions" of a biceps and triceps exercise throughout the day. For each mini-session you'll do two sets per exercise – two sets for biceps and two sets for triceps.
For most, this will require doing the exercises (which should take you around five minutes) every two hours or so. In this option, you'd be able to do the schedule three to five times per week.
This plan can be a game changer if your arms have a hard time responding to training. Doing it for a week would dramatically improve your mind-muscle connection, which will significantly increase the training response you'll get in your future training. It'll also give you a lot of direct growth.
You either do a mini-workout every hour (plan one) or every two hours (plan two).
In the first option (the one-day blitz) it's important to respect the schedule by doing your sets at the beginning of each hour; you'll be in trouble if you fall behind.
In the second option you have a bit more leeway because you have only half the sessions to fit into your day. As long as you get the six mini-sessions in, you'll be fine. You could have three hours between two mini-sessions and one hour between two other mini-sessions and it'd still work.
I already explained the methods earlier; you simply rotate through them in order.
And here's a guideline regarding reps and time (for isometrics). If you're using the bodyweight option you might find that on some methods the prescribed reps are "easy" to do. You can switch to getting max reps in good form instead.
1. Iso Pre-Fatigue
- Biceps: Hold the mid-range position for 20-30 seconds, flexing the biceps as hard as you can, then immediately do 8-12 reps.
- Triceps: Hold the mid-range position for 20-30 seconds, flexing the triceps as hard as you can, then immediately do 8-12 reps.
2. Super Slow Reps
Do both the concentric and eccentric (lifting and lowering) phases in 5 seconds. The goal is not only to go slow, but to flex the target muscle as hard as possible throughout every rep. Here we're shooting for 6-10 reps.
3. Tempo Contrast
Here you alternate between super slow reps (5 seconds to lift and 5 seconds to lower) and explosive reps. Do two slow reps and two fast reps, back and forth. If you're using loaded exercises you do 8-12 reps. If you're doing bodyweight exercises or using light loads, keep going until you reach a point two reps short of failure.
4. Overcoming Isometrics
- Biceps: Do the "table curl" exercise (you can use any immovable object). Each set has 6 "reps" lasting 6 seconds all-out, with 10 seconds of rest between each effort.
- Triceps: Think of it like a table pressdown. Stand in front of a table and put your hands on it with the elbows turned out slightly. Squat down to bring your elbows at a 90-100 degree angle and press down hard. Each set has 6 "reps" lasting 6 seconds all-out, with 10 seconds of rest between each effort.
5. Yielding Isometrics
- Biceps: Hold the mid-range position of a curl for 60-80 seconds while flexing the biceps as hard as humanly possible.
- Triceps: Hold the mid-range position of a triceps extension, close-grip push-up, or bodyweight triceps extension for 60-80 seconds while tensing the triceps hard.
6. Pre and Post-Fatigue Isometrics
Start by holding the mid-range of the exercise for 15-20 seconds, then do 8-12 reps (or more if using bodyweight exercises) with a normal tempo (one second up, three seconds down). When you reach that last rep, hold the mid-range position again, this time hold as long as possible while flexing the muscle hard.
This can help you grow even more. Most of these methods will lead to a large increase in blood flow to the muscles. If that blood is loaded with nutrients, you can increase anabolism by directly sending those nutrients to the biceps and triceps.
The most effective way to do this plan would be something like this:
At the end of the day, after your last micro-session, you should feast. I guarantee your arms will swell up beyond recognition the next day!
You don't have to do all of that to benefit from the plan, but it would take it to the next level.