Build Big, Strong Arms


The following is a proven bodybuilding method for building bigger arms that has been tailored to serve seniors.


Escalating Density Training

I wish I could say that EDT is my creation, but it wouldn't be true. The great trainer/coach Charles Staley figured out this one. In paraphrasing now, but Staley explains EDT this way: Select a body part (in this case arms) and work it exclusively for 15 minutes. There's nothing new in that, of course, but here's the rest of it . . .

  • You superset two opposing muscle group exercises.
  • For example, select a weight you can curl for 10 good, clean reps. Do the same for triceps extensions.
  • Use a stopwatch. For 15 minutes, superset the exercises, 5 reps (not 10) in each set. If you reach a point where 5 reps are not possible, do 4, 3, 2, or 1. But do not reduce the weight.
  • Rest when you have to, but do as many sets as you can.

When you've finished, record your total reps for the 15-minute period.

Now here is the challenge

At each subsequent workout, keep doing sets of 5 reps with the same weight, but try to achieve a higher total number of reps during the 15-minute period. How do you do that? Your rests between sets must get shorter. When you've gotten so you can do 20% more than your beginning workout total, increase the weight by 5% and start over. Anyone wanting to to try EDT in its purest form should read Staley's material. My adaptation is specifically for seniors.

But either way, EDT is tough stuff, so the remainder of your workout should be designed for maintenance only. Use the 15-minute period to really zero-in on your arms. In Staley's original, you rest 5 minutes after the first EDT session, and then do another 15 minutes, working arms again but with different exercises. Maybe once around the block is enough for most seniors. Over-training can be a mistake.

My experience with EDT

I did preacher curls alternated in superset fashion with seated triceps extensions on a triceps isolation exercise machine. The pump was great and I did experience some rep/weight capacity improvement. Did my arms grow another half-inch as a result? No. That was highly unlikely for someone my age (I was very much a senior when I did it and already had years of steady training behind me). Still, I had fun and was pleased with my modest gains. Younger seniors with more growth potential on the same schedule should realize significant increases in size and strength.

The rest of my upper-body workout was for maintenance and consisted of reasonably tough-to-get reps, but certainly nothing heroic. I worked this way once per week; and at my second upper-body day during the same week, I did a maintenance only workout for my arms and the rest of upper-body. I was at the time doing a split routine and did leg workouts on different days.

Can EDT be applied to other body parts? Yes.

EDT is not for beginners. Start with a beginner's program here.


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