Trusted Links
The Pump Energy Food

Paul Burke also writes for The Exercise Group

Fine Photography by Rob Lang
Fit Over 40 - Featuring Paul Burke - On Sale Now

"As a powerful adjunct to weight training, as well as a great way to stay pumped on the road and rehab old injuries; Lifeline USA rubber cables are the best." Paul T. Burke, M. Ed., Author, Body Building and Arm Wrestling Champion."











Thirty-two years ago, when I was a wide-eyed 10-year old, I watched in amazement as my father single-handedly re-sided the family barn. For that entire summer of 1967, he tore board after board off the sides of the towering white structure with his bare hands, often splitting them in half as he clawed and ripped his way down the line as if peeling a giant rectangular piece of fruit. Then, he cut and nailed new boards to the sides, sometimes holding up to 12-14 foot lengths with one hand while driving spikes into the pine with the other. He seemed to handle every piece of material and heavy tool with ease; his work was his art form.



My father's arms, though never once having felt the resistance of a barbell or dumbbell, easily measured 17-18 inches around the upper portion and probably 15-16 around the forearm. These measurements were incredible considering the fact that he stood 5'10" and had a natural bodyweight of 200 lbs. He was, in many ways, my first and lasting inspiration for building my own set of big, muscular arms. My father had grown up on a farm in an era when working a farm meant exhausting and backbreaking work from sun-up 'til sundown — every day. His hand and arm strength, development and endurance capacity were his major allies as he went through the grueling hours of daily life. Knowing his history, I knew his arms rarely rested. This knowledge would help me in the theory of building my own arms later in life. His powerful arms also gave me realization early on that a man could gain incredible respect by the sheer appearance of his arms.

I spent a great deal of my young life fascinated with arm strength and development. For many years I arm-wrestled and entered curling contests. I worked my arms every day from the day I turned 12. By the time I was 24, I had developed 17-inch forearms relative to an eight-inch wrist, and my upper arm measurement was approaching 20 inches. It wasn't until I was stationed overseas in the Air Force that I decided to compete in bodybuilding and, consequently, I started training on my arms less, putting emphasis on the other parts of my body.

Today, I am 43. My arms though perhaps more shapely and larger than my father's were at my age, have participated in very different events than his. His felt the torturous daily routine of survival, while mine used the more pleasant — yet nonetheless painful — routine of the gym. Intense training, coupled with my knowledge of nutrition and recuperation, allowed me many advantages in building my arms and the rest of my body. Ironically, my father never once thought of strength and development as having much use for anything except labor.

After years of observation and training, there is little doubt in my mind that the arms can take, and actually require (for long-lasting strength and development), the greatest amount of punishment and intense work. Having said that, however, I have found that many short and intense workouts are better than a few or many long, drawn-out ones. Before we look at the workout itself, however, let us try to understand some pre-determining factors for arm strength and development.

I was not genetically designed to be the mesomorphic work dynamo that was my father. I'm actually a cross between his rugged structure and my mother's more lean, ectomorphic build. But I did inherit a good percentage of my father's large wrist and elbow size (a key indicator of bone circumference), while the length of my ulnar and radius (bones of the forearms) and humerus (that of the upper arm) were actually longer than my father's, giving me an even greater advantage to develop big and powerful arms. Of course, when I started lifting weights, I had no idea of my genetic potential or what strengths might lie ahead. I simply wanted big arms and I set out with an intensity that only a skinny young boy could kick into motion.

To recap genetic indicators: First, the larger your wrist and elbows — and therefore, the thicker the ulnar, radius and humerus - the more weight your arms can support. Second the longer your arms are, the more leverage you have to curl and pull weight; consequently, you have a distinct advantage in developing the ulnar flexor (the inside head of the forearm) and the biceps themselves. Third, the length and insertion points of the tendons and attaching muscles themselves give you either a greater advantage or disadvantage for lifting capacity and development potential depending upon how long they are relative to the bone they attach to. This includes where the triceps attachments are found relative to the elbow and shoulder.

When one thinks of an arm, we tend to think of the biceps first. Ask someone to "make a muscle" and inevitably they will pose their biceps. This gives way to two interesting revelations as to why the arms are such a symbol of strength. First, it is the incredible human hand that makes so many of these feats of strength possible. The arms, by design, provide the directional and strength for the hand. It is actually the biceps that turn the wrist and hand; therefore, this relationship is extremely important both anatomically and symbolically.

Despite all the fuss, the biceps are the smallest part of the upper arm. In an attempt to maximize overall arm size, however, many people work the skin off their biceps hoping for a big arm, while neglecting the triceps and forearms. The key is to think of the biceps as a muscle group that needs heavy, intense, short training sessions. The heavier exercise gives you the size and power, while peaking motions can be added on occasion to help heighten your biceps when flexed.

To build your biceps, pick one major exercise — like standing straight barbell curls — as your heavy, intense exercise, doing three all-out sets of eight reps, using all the weight you can handle without throwing your back out. Don't let age deter you, but do be sensible. On alternate days, do preacher or alternating dumbbell curls with great control and strictness. As for peaking, perform bent-over concentration curls. Make sure you work this body part three times weekly.

Equally as impressive are the triceps, and they are no different than biceps when it comes to training. Hit them hard and heavy, and hit them often. Train the triceps with two things in mind: As much weight as you can handle and as much of a contraction as you can manage under the load. For instance, do pushdowns and overhead dumbbell extensions almost every triceps workout because with these two movements you really feel your triceps "locking out." Coupled with the greatest amount of weight manageable, triceps growth is relative to the intensity of the contraction. Don't do one-arm kickbacks and overhead extensions unless you have a really heavy dumbbell in your hand; so-called "shaping" exercises don't work. Instead, push as much heavy weight as possible to full contraction 10-15 times and your triceps will grow. Do 4-5 sets of two different exercises, three times a week.

To build massive upper arms — even after 40 it is imperative that you train like you really want them. That means hard work, performed frequently. It's not only quantity that'll develop your muscles, however — you must use quality for each movement. The one thing I learned from my father is that there is no substitute for hard work, yet he also preached that every job should be a job well done. I believe these are also the keys to molding muscular upper arms. Work hard and work smart, making sure not to cut any corners. The results will speak for themselves.

- Taken from Exercise For Men Only (Paul Burke's Over-40 Fitness Column)