Focus on getting stronger to build bigger muscles.
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Getting bigger and stronger isn't a speedy process and you have to be prepared for improvements to take time. That being said, certain tried and tested routines can help you break through plateaus, build muscle and gain strength, provided you put the intensity in. None of these routines are necessarily better than any other, though they're all highly effective in their own right. Try each to see what your upper body responds best to.
The Smolov Jr. workout is known as the Russian squat cycle and was originally designed for the squat, but there's also a bench press version, which will boost your bench strength over the course of just three weeks. According to SeriousPowerlifting.com, you can expect gains of 15 to 25 pounds on your bench press during this short program. You bench press four times per week, with six sets of six repetitions on Monday, seven sets of five on Wednesday, eight sets of four on Friday and 10 sets of three on Saturday, using a little more weight in each workout every week.
Crunching the Numbers
Strength coach Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program revolves around performing different rep ranges over a four-week cycle. Wendler recommends two upper-body days each week, with one bench press and one overhead press workout, set at least three days apart. In week one you'll perform a maximum number of reps at 85 percent of your maximum, but should hit at least five reps. Week two is a maximum set at 90 percent of your maximum, aiming for a minimum of three reps, while week three is one or more reps at 95 percent of your max. Take a week off in the fourth week, then go back to week one, but add 5 lbs. to each lift.
Tickets to the Gun Show
If you want sleeve-busting biceps and t-shirt-tearing triceps, an arm specialization program could be right up your avenue. In "The Black Book of Training Secrets" Christian Thibaudeau advises targeting weak body parts three times per week and grouping all other muscle groups into one generic workout. This means training your arms on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then adding in a leg, chest, back and shoulder workout on one other day. Your arm routine should be superset-based, where you perform a biceps exercise, immediately followed by a triceps exercise. Pick three moves for each muscle and do four sets of six to 15 reps on each. Thibaudeau adds that this is the quickest way to grow individual body parts, but you shouldn't expect any growth in other areas when doing this. If you're still struggling to build your arms, strength coach Chad Waterbury recommends upping your arm training frequency to six times per week.
Back in the Game
You're well-equipped for bigger arms, pecs and a monster bench press, but don't forget your back muscles. Your back muscles respond best to a high-volume routine, using lighter weights and engaging the mind-muscle connection, claims pro bodybuilder Kai Green in an interview with the Muscle and Fitness website. Kick things off with lat pull-downs for four sets of 10 to 12 reps. Follow these with three rowing exercises of your choosing -- cable, dumbbell, kettlebell, chest-supported, barbell, T-bar and machine rows all work well. Keep the reps in the 10 to 15 range, then finish your workouts with a lower-back move such as deadlifts or back extensions. Aim to feel your back muscles working on every rep and use a slow, controlled tempo.