9 Giant Set Workouts For Massive Arms!


Giant set arm

There are a lot of training methods that you can use to build up your arms. Techniques like drop sets, tri-sets and forced reps are all extremely effective for certain trainees.

However, if you respond well to high-volume workouts then giant sets might be the most effective training method in the world for adding size to your arms. If you have never tried a giant set arm workout then you are missing out!

Introduction

  • Part 1: John Meadows Giant Set Arm Routines
  • Part 2: Charles Poliquin Giant Set Arm Routines
  • Part 3: Milos Sarcev Giant Set Arm Routines

In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you 9 of the best giant set arm workouts of all time. These giant set workouts were invented and used by some of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches like John Meadows, Charles Poliquin and Milos Sarcev.

Giant sets are a training method where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for the same muscle group with almost no rest between sets. Giant sets let you overload your muscles with a huge amount volume in a short amount of time to create more muscle damage and metabolic fatigue to maximize muscle growth.

For example here is what a giant set might look like for the triceps:

  • First triceps exercise x 8-12 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • Second triceps exercise x 8-12 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • Third triceps exercise x 8-12 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • Fourth triceps exercise x 8-12 reps, rest 2-4 minutes and repeat!

Of course you can perform more than 4 exercises in a row as part of a giant set. 4 exercises is just the minimum number. Here is a video of Milos Sarcev demonstrating an insane 13-exercise giant set for the triceps:

Giant sets are so effective for building muscle because they prolong the time under tension of your set.

Just think about it: if it takes you 15-30 seconds to perform a regular set then it will take you anywhere from 1-2 minutes to perform a giant set with 4 exercises! This extra time under tension creates a ton of muscle damage and gives you an incredible pump which is fantastic for building muscle mass.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches such as Milos Sarcev, John Meadows and Ben Pakulski use giant sets in their muscle-building programs to get better and faster results.

In my experience giant sets work especially well for training the arms. The arms are a complex muscle group with lots of different muscles and muscle heads that you have to target.

The triceps have three muscle heads that you have to train:

The biceps family also has a few different muscles that you need to target:

Giant sets are perfect for training the arms because you can select different exercise that target or emphasize each of these different muscles. Giant sets also help you get an incredible pump in the arms. As John Meadows has pointed out if there is one muscle group that really responds well to a huge pump for building muscle mass it is the arms.

If you respond well to higher-volume workouts and have the “guts” to push through pain barriers then these giant set workouts will beef up your arms faster than anything else.

Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: John Meadows Giant Set Arm Routines

If you don’t know who John Meadows is then go ahead and change your name to “Patrick Star” because you must be living under a rock!

John Meadows is one of the world’s top bodybuilding coaches and the inventor of the Mountain Dog Training program. Mountain Dog Training is a higher-volume bodybuilding program that focuses on building muscle mass while keeping you healthy and injury-free.

John likes to perform safer arm exercises like triceps pushdowns early in his routine and more dangerous arm exercises like lying triceps extensions and skull crushers later in his routine. He does this to keep his joints and connective tissues as healthy as possible so he can train hard year-round.

John designs his arm workouts in a similar way when he uses the giant sets technique. The end result is you get to experience a massive pump in your arms without bothering your wrists or elbows.

Here is a triceps giant sets workout that John recently performed. Check it out:

John Meadows Giant Set Triceps Workout

  • A1: Machine pushdown, 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Machine dips, 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Machine chest press (neutral grip), 3-5 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Machine triceps extension**, 3-5 1/0/1/0, 2-4 minutes rest

**Performed through the bottom 50% of the range of motion only.

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout John uses 4 awesome exercises to blow up his triceps. John starts off his giant sets workout with a variation of the triceps pushdown. Normally John uses some type of cable triceps pushdown but for this workout he uses a special machine that mimics a cable pushdown.

John likes to use cable pushdowns to pre-fatigue his triceps, to establish a great mind-muscle connection with his triceps and to pump his triceps full of blood.

Next John performs a couple of “meat and potatoes” triceps exercises. Machine dips are especially effective for targeting all three heads of the triceps: the medial head, the lateral head and the long head.

Finally John moves onto a machine version of an incline triceps extension. This exercise places the muscle under a huge stretch and is great for overloading the long head of the triceps.

John sometimes performs his triceps workouts where he does all of his sets for one exercise before moving onto the next exercise. The big advantage of performing them as part of a giant set is that you can increase the density of your workout and dramatically increase the time under tension of your set.

This increased time under tension will give you a massive pump and damage way more muscle fibers in your triceps.

For this type of workout John would perform 3-5 of these giant set circuits for the triceps. Sometimes John designs his giant sets workouts where he alternates back and forth between an exercise for the triceps and an exercise for the biceps.

This is a variation of an antagonistic body part superset where you alternate back and forth between exercises for opposing muscle groups. The big difference is John is performing 4 exercises in a circuit rather than just 2.

Here is one of John’s favorite opposing muscle group giant set arm workouts. Check it out:

John Meadows Giant Set Biceps / Triceps Workout

  • A1: Standing dual rope cable pushdown, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing 2-arm DB curl (supinating grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: High-pulley rope triceps extension (leaning forward at torso), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated DB curls (supinating grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Kettlebell lying extension, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Reverse cable curl, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: 30 degree incline DB extension, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

This workout actually has two different giant sets. The first giant set uses the “A” exercises and the second giant set uses the “B” exercises. Here is what each giant set looks like in practice:

  • First triceps exercise, rest 10 seconds
  • First biceps exercise, rest 10 seconds
  • Second triceps exercise, rest 10 seconds
  • Second biceps exercise, rest 2-4 minutes, repeat!

Performing giant sets with opposing muscle groups like the biceps and triceps has many advantages. Research shows that your force output and your muscular endurance improves when you alternate between antagonistic muscle groups.

The pump you get in your arms is also incredible because your blood gets trapped in your upper arm region!

If you have never performed this type of giant set workout before then I highly recommend you give it a shot. It is a great strategy for getting a lot of work done in a short period of time.

Part 2: Charles Poliquin Giant Set Arm Routines

Charles Poliquin was a very creative strength coach who worked with some of the biggest, strongest athletes in the world. Charles had a ton of strategies for helping his clients build muscle mass but giant sets were one of his favorites.

One of Charles Poliquin’s favorite giant set arm strategies was to use mechanical advantage giant sets. The basic idea was to pick one type of exercise and perform 4-5 different variations of that exercise in a row.

For a mechanical advantage giant set you start with your weakest variation and progress to your strongest variation. For example:

  • Weakest exercise variation x 8-12 reps, rest 10 seconds
  • 2nd weakest exercise variation x AMRAP**, rest 10 seconds
  • 3rd weakest exercise variation x AMRAP**, rest 10 seconds
  • Strongest exercise variation x AMRAP**, rest 10 seconds

**Perform as many reps as you can with the same weight that you used for the first exercise

Because you are progressing from your weakest variation to your strongest one you don’t have to change the amount of weight on the bar.

Mechanical advantage giant sets are awesome because you can perform them in a busy commercial gym. You don’t have to worry about hogging 4-5 pieces of equipment because you are just performing different versions of the same exercise!

Here is one of Charles Poliquin’s mechanical advantage giant sets that you can perform for the brachialis. Check it out:

Brachialis Mechanical Advantage Giant Set Routine

  • A1: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 4 x AMRAP**, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 x AMRAP**, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 4 x AMRAP**, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

**Perform as many reps as you can with the same weight you used for exercise A1.

As you can see this routine uses 4 different versions of the preacher ez-bar curl. You start with your weakest variation: the narrow / pronated grip ez-bar curl. For each exercise variation you just move your hands in / out or rotate the bar.

The brachialis is mostly a fast-twitch muscle so make sure you use your 6-8 rep max. If you use a weight that is lighter than this then your results won’t be as good. You can expect to get something like 6-8 reps on your first exercise and then 2-4 reps on all of the other exercises.

Now let’s look at a more advanced mechanical advantage giant set routine for the biceps. This is one of the last routines that Charles Poliquin wrote before he passed away. It was posted on the Strength Sensei Facebook page for a little while. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Advanced Mechanical Advantage Biceps Routine

  • A1: Seated DB zottman curls, 3 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: 45 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C3: 60 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C4: 75 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C5: Seated DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

**Perform as many reps as you can with the same weight you used for exercise C1.

Wow – talk about a high-volume biceps workout! This workout features exercises to target all of the curling muscles: the zottman curls target the brachialis and the brachioradialis, the preacher curls target the short head of the biceps and the incline curls target the long head of the biceps.

The mechanical advantage giant set is performed at the end of the routine with different variations of the incline dumbbell curl.

You are actually stronger on seated dumbbell curls than you are on 30 degree incline dumbbell curls. So you are starting with the variation of dumbbell curls where you are weakest and progressing to the one where you are strongest. Because of this you can actually use the same dumbbells from one exercise to the next.

Don’t worry if your reps drop a lot from one “C” exercise to the next. That is expected on this kind of routine. If you perform this routine with any kind of intensity then you can expect one of the biggest bicep pumps of your entire life!

Here is a similar mechanical advantage giant set routine that you can perform for your triceps. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Advanced Mechanical Advantage Triceps Routine

  • A1: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x 8-10, 3/1/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press (close grip), 3 x 8-10, 2/2/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: 60 degree incline DB extension, 3 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: 45 degree incline DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C3: 30 degree incline DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C4: 15 degree incline DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C5: Flat DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

**Perform as many reps as possible with the same weight you used for exercise C1.

Once again Charles uses a variety of triceps exercises to overload all three heads of the triceps. The decline triceps extensions are great for targeting the medial and lateral heads of the triceps, the close grip bench press targets the lateral and long heads of the triceps and the incline dumbbell extensions overload the long head while putting the triceps in a deep loaded stretch.

The mechanical advantage giant set for this routine is performed on the “C” exercises. After you reach failure on the first exercise you just decrease the angle of your bench and keep going. Trust me, by the end of this routine your arms will feel like they are ready to explode!

If you are feeling really brave then you can actually perform both of these mechanical advantage giant set routines as one workout using antagonistic body part supersets. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Bicep / Tricep Mechanical Advantage Giant Set Routine

Part 1

  • A1: Seated DB zottman curls, 3 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • A2: Decline ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3 x 8-10, 3/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Part 2

  • B1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 8-10, 4/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Bench press (close grip), 3 x 8-10, 2/2/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Part 3

  • C1: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: 45 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C3: 60 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C4: 75 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C5: Seated DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C6: 60 degree incline DB extension, 3 x 12-15, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C7: 45 degree incline DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C8: 30 degree incline DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C9: 15 degree incline DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C10: Flat DB extension, 3 x AMRAP**, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

This workout may look a little daunting at first. However, it is really just the previous two routines spliced together. You still have the “A”, “B” and “C” exercises.

It is possible to perform this workout in a busy commercial gym because you only need an adjustable incline bench and two pairs of dumbbells to perform all of the giant sets at the end of the routine.

If you are looking for a great routine to blow up your arms then you have to give this routine a shot!

Part 3: Milos Sarcev Giant Set Arm Routines

Milos Sarcev is one of the world’s top bodybuilding coaches. He has trained countless amateur and professional bodybuilders including the former top 3 Mr. Olympia competitor Dennis Wolf. Milos trains all of his athletes with his trademark giant sets training style.

The thing that makes Milos Sarcev’s training routines unique is he uses up to 10 or 15 exercises in a row in his giant sets! He even does this for smaller muscle groups like the biceps and triceps. Now THAT is a lot of exercises for the arms!

If you train in a busy commercial gym then you probably won’t be able to use Milos Sarcev style giant sets in your workouts. However, if you do have the ability to use them then they are one of the fastest ways to build bigger arms.

Why does Milos use so many exercises as part of his giant sets circuits? He feels that this is truly the best way to stimulate as much growth as possible. Here is Milos’ exact quote:

“What is the most intense training system? What creates maximum muscle fiber stimulation? If you’re truly honest with yourself then the answer is giant sets!”

Milos uses two types of giant sets for training the arms:

  • Same muscle group giant sets
  • Alternating muscle group giant sets

Milos doesn’t really believe that one is better than the other. He uses both of these methods with his world-class bodybuilders to produce results. Let’s take a look at a same muscle group giant set for the biceps. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Bicep Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Machine preacher curl (close / semi-supinated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Machine preacher curl (close / supinated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A3: Machine preacher curl (close / semi-supinated grip)***, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A4: Ez-bar spider curl (narrow / supinated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A5: Seated DB hammer curls, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A6: Preacher specialty bar curl (medium / neutral grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A7: Standing ez-bar drag curl (wide / supinated grip***, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest

Here is the full training video for this workout:

This giant set circuit is fantastic for overloading the short head of the biceps. The short head is strongly activated whenever your elbows are held in front of your body while you curl. Exercises like preacher curls and spider curls put your elbows into the perfect mechanical position for overloading the short head.

When Milos Sarcev uses his 7-10+ exercise giant sets he likes his athletes to perform about 10 reps per set. Basically he doesn’t see the point in worrying too much about hitting a magical number of reps or using a magical tempo.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes Milos has you hit a specific rep target (like 20+ reps for quads) or use a specific tempo (like the tempo contrast method on a specific exercise).

However, most of the time he just wants his athletes to bust out 10 hard reps with a controlled tempo and move onto the next exercise. This definitely makes things easier when you are performing 10+ exercises in a row!

Let’s look at a longer same muscle group giant set for the triceps. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Tricep Giant Set Workout

  • A1: Seated ez-bar french press, , 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Seated dip machine, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A3: Decline ez-bar extension**, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A4: Decline ez-bar press***, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A5: Seated ez-bar french press, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A6: Lying ez-bar extension (to forehead)****, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A7: Milos Sarcev tricep extensions*****, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A8: 45 degree incline behind-the-head DB extension******, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A9: Standing cable pushdowns (wide / supinated grip)*******, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A10: Lying cable skull crusher, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A11: Seated machine dips, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A12: Standing cable pushdowns (medium / pronated grip)*******, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A13: Standing cable pushdowns (narrow / pronated grip)*******, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A14: Standing cable pushdowns (narrow / pronated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest

**Use the same weight you used for exercise A1.

***Perform exercise A4 immediately after finishing exercise A3 using the same weight.

****Performed as eccentric-only reps. Lower the weight to your forehead over 3 seconds, then have your training partner do most of the work lifting the weight back up to lockout.

*****I don’t know what to call this exercise! Lay on a flat bench with an ez-bar. Lower the weight to your chest like in a closer grip bench press. Then push the bar back behind your head to the bottom position of a pullover extension, then perform a pullover extension to lift the bar back to lockout. Repeat for 10 reps. See the video for more details.

******Hold 1 dumbbell with 2 hands.

*******Aim your torso at a 45 degree angle to the ground (instead of standing straight up) and use plenty of “body English” or momentum to get the weight moving in the starting position.

Here is the full training video for this workout:

Wow – talk about a long giant sets workout for the triceps! Milos Sarcev trains his triceps with 13 different exercises and literally hits his triceps from all angles. This is a professional-level triceps workout and should not be attempted by the average “weekend warrior.”

You need to be totally dedicated to building as much muscle mass as possible to benefit from this workout.

If you meet the criteria and are serious about bringing up your lagging triceps then this giant sets workout has your name written all over it.

Sometimes Milos Sarcev liked to use arm giant sets where you alternate back and forth between an exercise for the biceps and an exercise for the triceps. This is an extremely effective training strategy because your arms actually fatigue more slowly when you alternate between sets for the biceps and triceps.

In other words your endurance will be much better this way and you will be able to handle much heavier loads throughout your giant set which will stimulate more muscular hypertrophy.

Here is a biceps / triceps giant set workout that you must try. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Biceps / Triceps Giant Sets Routine

  • A1: Supine cable curl high pulley, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Lying cable skull crusher (v-handle), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A3: Supine cable curl (low pulley), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A4: 30 degree incline rope triceps extension (low pulley), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A5: Standing cable curl (supinated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A6: Standing cable pushdown (pronated grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A7: 60 degree incline DB curl**, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A8: 60 degree incline ez-bar triceps extension, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A9: 60 degree incline cable triceps extension (low pulley), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A10: Seated barbell curl (supinated grip)***, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A11: Seated ez-bar french press, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • A12: Preacher cable curl (supinated grip / low pulley), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, no rest

**alternate hammer grip and supinating grip

***top half of the range of motion only

Here is the full training video for this workout:

This is another typical Milos Sarcev style giant sets workout. One of the things that I really, really like about this exercise is that Milos uses a number of unusual exercises for both the biceps and triceps.

He has his athletes targeting his muscles with exercises and angles that they have never tried before. This is exactly in line with Dante Trudel’s theory on “getting really weird with it” for lagging muscle groups.

If the classic “mass-building” exercises aren’t helping you build bigger arms then you may need to try some unusual exercises like cable exercises performed at weird angles. At the end of the day an exercise is only good if it makes your arms grow!

Milos clearly uses the Bruce Lee principle when designing his arm workouts:

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Conclusion

Giant set arm

Giant sets are one of the best bodybuilding training methods for building big, muscular arms.

Giant sets are so effective because they prolong the time under tension of your set and force your muscles to work much longer than usual. These super-long sets create more muscular damage and metabolic fatigue than regular “straight sets” ever could.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches including John Meadows, Charles Poliquin and Milos Sarcev use giant sets programs with their bodybuilders and athletes to help them build muscle mass as fast as humanly possible.

If you are frustrated over your “eleven-teen” inch arms then you have to give one of these 9 giant set arm routines a shot. They work for the world’s top bodybuilding coaches and their elite level bodybuilding clients and they will work for you too!

“To hell with circumstances – I create opportunities.”

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

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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