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The Chris Bumstead Arm Workout!

Chris Bumstead Arm Workout

Chris Bumstead is the 2 time winner of the Classic Physique Mr. Olympia contest. Chris has an unbelievable upper body but his arms always lagged behind his chest and back. 

Over the years Chris developed some unique strategies to bring his arms up to par with the rest of his body.

If you want to bring up your lagging arms like Chris Bumstead then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Chris Bumstead’s Tricep Training Strategies
  • Part 2: Chris Bumstead’s Bicep Training Strategies
  • Part 3: Chris Bumstead’s Secret Arm Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you how Chris Bumstead structures his arm workouts for maximum muscle growth.

Chris Bumstead trains his triceps and biceps together on the same day. He trains his triceps first in the workout with 3 hard exercises and then finishes the workout with 3 hard exercises for his biceps. 

Chris believes the two most important things for building big arms is to pick the right exercises and to execute them with perfect form.

He puts a ton of thought into which exercises he uses, the order he performs the exercises and the intensity he puts into his sets. 

Chris is always changing things around in his workouts to keep his body off balance. However, he does follow certain rules in all of his arm workouts. 

Here are Chris Bumstead’s tricep training rules:

  • Rule #1: Start the workout with cable pushdowns
  • Rule #2: Perform a heavy compound movement second in the workout
  • Rule #3: Finish the workout with another isolation exercise
  • Rule #4: Perform forced reps and partial reps to increase the intensity of your sets

Chris almost always starts his workout with some type of cable pushdown. Some of his favorite variations are the rope cable pushdown, the one-arm cable pushdown and the straight bar cable pushdown.

Chris likes to place these exercises first in his routine because they warm up his elbows and help him to establish  good mind-muscle connection. 

Next Chris likes to perform a heavy compound exercise for his triceps. Some of his favorite compound exercises are close grip bench presses, dips and incline skull crushers.

Chris likes to modify his form on these exercises to target the triceps as much as possible. For example on the close grip bench press he brings the bar down to 2-4 inches above his chest in order to keep the tension on his triceps.

Finally Chris finishes his workouts with a second isolation exercise. This can be anything from an overhead triceps extension to another cable pushdown variation.

Here is a sample routine that Chris put together with some of his favorite triceps exercises:

Chris Bumstead’s Favorite 3 Exercises For Massive Triceps

  • A1: 1-arm cable pushdown, 3 sets of 12-15 reps**
  • B1: 30 degree incline ez-bar skull crusher (bar behind head), 3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • C1: Straight-bar tricep pushdown, 3-4 sets of 8-10****

**Perform a mechanical advantage drop set after reaching failure. Perform as many reps as possible while standing several feet away from the machine, then walk up to the machine and rep the same weight out to failure.

****Perform partial rep “burn outs” in the stretched position of the exercise after reaching failure.

Here is the training video for this workout:

This routine follows all 4 of Chris Bumstead’s tricep training rules.

He performs a cable pushdown, then a heavy compound triceps exercise and finishes with another isolation movement. He also performs high-intensity training techniques like mechanical advantage drop sets and partial reps to stimulate more triceps growth.

One really interesting exercise from this video is the 30 degree incline skull crusher. Chris likes this variation more than the flat skull crusher for building up the triceps.

Here is Chris talking about this exercise:

“Lowering the bar to your face hits the lateral head of your triceps more and lowering the bar behind your head hits the long head of the triceps more.

I’m trying to grow my arms to have that hang so I’m focusing more on the long head of the triceps. I’m focusing on bringing the bar back further and getting a bigger stretch.”

If you understand Chris Bumstead’s 4 triceps training rules then the rest of the workouts will make a lot more sense.

Now let’s look at how Chris organizes his bicep routines. Here are Chris Bumstead’s bicep training rules:

Chris Bumstead’s 4 Bicep Training Rules

  • Rule #1: Start the workout with a strict isolation exercise
  • Rule #2: Go heavy on preacher ez-bar curls and preacher dumbbell curls
  • Rule #3: Perform at least 1 brachialis exercise per workout
  • Rule #4: Perform forced reps to increase the intensity of your sets

Chris Bumstead almost always starts his biceps workouts with a strict isolation exercise. This can be anything from a cable curl to a preacher curl or a machine curl. He wants an exercise where he cannot cheat the weight up using his shoulders or back.

Chris’s second rule is to go heavy on preacher curls whenever possible. Chris believes the preacher curl is one of the only biceps exercises where you can really train heavy because your elbows are fixed against the pad and you can’t cheat the weight up.

Chris uses a variation of the preacher curl in almost every workout.

Chris’s third exercise is almost always for the brachialis. He says brachialis exercises are especially important for him because his biceps are such a lagging muscle group.

Finally Chris performs plenty of forced reps on exercises like preacher curls to further overload his muscles.

Here is a sample routine Chris put together using some of his favorite biceps exercises. Check it out:

Chris Bumstead’s Top 3 Exercises For Bigger Biceps

  • A1: Incline dumbbell curl, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • B1: Standing cable curl, 3 sets of 10-12 reps**
  • C1: Seated ez-bar curl, 3 sets of 8-10 reps****

**Train to failure with normal form, then perform a drag curl with the same weight to failure.

****Perform a double drop set on your 3rd set of this exercise.

Here is the training video for this workout:

This workout may look a little weird but he is still following his 4 cardinal rules for training the biceps.

Here is Chris talking about the benefits of cable curls as used in this routine:

“I really like doing curls in the cable machine because it keeps constant tension on the biceps.

In every part of the range of motion the cable is constantly pulling down and your biceps are constantly fighting it so it’s really good for getting a good pump.”

If you made it this far then you should know Chris trains his triceps and biceps with 3 exercises each using many different angles and plenty of high-intensity techniques like forced reps.

Now let’s look at Chris’s actual arm workouts that he used while preparing for the Mr. Olympia contest. Check it out:

Chris Bumstead’s Mr. Olympia Arm Workout #1

Triceps Routine

  • Exercise #1: Rope pushdown, 3 sets of 10-15 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps***
  • Exercise #3: Unilateral DB french press, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Biceps Routine

  • Exercise #4: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps****
  • Exercise #5: Seated DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing DB curl (hammer grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps

**On the last set perform forced reps on all 10-15 reps, followed by 3 eccentric-only reps. See the training video for more details.

***Perform a drop set on your third working set.

****Perform 3-5 extra forced reps after reaching failure on all 3 sets.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Chris uses some very interesting techniques for this arm workout. On his first triceps exercise Chris performs an absolutely brutal final set of rope pushdowns.

Chris has his partner provide assistance on the positive portion of every single rep. This let’s Chris handle a heavier-than-normal weight and really overload the eccentric portion of the exercise.

Then after he reaches failure Chris’s partner helps him perform 3 eccentric-only reps by skipping the concentric part of the exercise entirely. 

Chris uses a similar strategy when he trained his biceps.

On all three sets of preacher curls Chris trains to failure and then performs an extra 3-5 forced reps with the help of his training partner. His partner helps him lift the weight up through the concentric range and then Chris lowers the weight back down on his own.

These extra forced reps are a tremendous way to overload your negative strength after failing on the positive.

Here is Chris talking about this training strategy:

“The biggest thing I learned about biceps is doing exercises where you can have a spotter. Normally when you train arms you don’t have a spotter. But when you do preacher curls you can get a spot and bust out some forced reps.

I find having a spotter to help you squeeze out some extra reps and keep that mind-muscle connection is key.”

This is Chris’s arm strategy in a nutshell. He’s only performing 9 sets each for his biceps and triceps but they’re going to be so intense that his arms have no choice but to grow! 

Now let’s look at another one of Chris Bumstead’s Mr. Olympia arm workouts. Check it out:

Chris Bumstead’s Mr. Olympia Arm Workout #2

Triceps Routine

  • Exercise #1: Rope cable pushdown, 3 sets of 10-15 reps**
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline skull crusher (bar behind head), 3 sets of 10-15 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Hammer strength dips, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Biceps Routine

  • Exercise #4: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps****
  • Exercise #5: 80 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing ez-bar curls (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps**

**Perform 3-5 forced reps after reaching muscular failure.

****Perform 10 partial reps in the top position with the help of a training partner after reaching failure.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Once again Chris performs high-intensity sets on different exercises like rope pushdowns and preacher ez-bar curls.

One of Chris’s favorite techniques is to perform partial reps in the stretched position of rope cable pushdowns after reaching failure. These partial reps are performed with a little bit of shoulder extension to get the weight moving and overload the triceps even more.

Here is Chris talking about this technique:

“The little half rep at the end of rope pushdowns is my favorite thing ever.

Part of the function of the triceps is to extend the shoulder. When you do those finishing partial reps you really overload the long head of the triceps.”

Chris uses another interesting technique for his preacher curls: he performs partial reps in the top position of the exercise after reaching failure with the help of his training partner.

Basically these are forced reps in the top half of the exercise. Chris says that this technique gives him a great peak contraction in the biceps:

“Forced reps on the preacher curl are my favorite thing ever for biceps.”

Every once in a while Chris backs off on the high-intensity techniques and performs a normal workout to give his body a break.

Here is a more normal arm workout that Chris Bumstead performed with his training partner Ian Valliere. Check it out:

Chris Bumstead’s Mr. Olympia Arm Workout #3

Triceps Routine

  • Exercise #1: Rope pushdown, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Close grip bench press, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Overhead machine extension, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Biceps Routine

  • Exercise #4: Standing cable curl (spongey grips / supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Standing DB hammer curl, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Cable preacher curl (supinated grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Chris and Ian perform their close grip bench presses without the bar touching their chest. Instead they lower the bar to about 2-4 inches above their chest and press back up. Check it out:

“I think a big mistake a lot of people make with the close grip bench press is they use a too full range of motion.

You don’t want the bar to touch your chest because that’s when you start to engage your pecs too much and you take tension off the triceps.”

This is almost like a “spoto press” as popularized by the 700+ pound bench presser Eric Spoto! The spoto press is a great exercise for your triceps and forces you to really stabilize your body without bouncing the weight off your chest.

Chris’s bicep workout was also pretty standard although he used some different exercises for this workout.

Here is Chris talking about one of his favorite brachialis exercises, the standing dumbbell hammer curl:

“The hammer grip curl hits more of your brachialis. And for someone like me who has really high bicep insertions, filling that out with the brachialis gives you the illusion that your arms are a little bit bigger when they’re lagging like mine.”

Exercises with a pronated or palms-down grip are probably your best bet for beefing up your brachialis but hammer curls are also a great choice.

Conclusion

Chris Bumstead Arm Workout

Building a big pair of arms is hard work. It takes years of doing all the right things in and out of the gym. Of course a great arm training program can speed up your progress.

If you are already an advanced bodybuilder then I highly recommend you give Chris Bumstead’s arm routine a shot.

I especially like how he focuses on sequencing his exercises properly and how he uses high-intensity techniques like forced reps to eccentrically overload his muscles.

Most bodybuilders leave a lot of muscle on the table by neglecting the lowering phase of their reps. If this describes you then a forced reps arm routine may be just what you need to start moving forward again!

“I believe it is very dangerous to have a plan B because you’re cutting yourself off from the chance of really succeeding. So relax. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s OK to fail. Let’s just go all out and give it everything you’ve got!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!