Sometimes the best way to shock a muscle is to annihilate it—but in a good way. That's what fitness model and gym owner Tyler Holt has done with his 1,000-rep leg workout, and now he's doing it for arms. Maybe. But, come on, a 1,000-rep arm workout? Don't knock it till you try!
"My goal is to do everything within one workout, from light to heavy weights, from 10- to 100-rep sets, to crush every muscle fiber I possibly can by the end," Holt says. "The 1,000-rep idea isn't some scientifically significant number. It's just one hell of a goal to aim for."
Holt, a finalist in the , had immediate success with his 1,000-rep leg workout. Now, he's expanded the idea to all his body parts, tackling one a month with the same formula. Ready for an absolutely killer arm sesh?
Prepare For A Millennium Of Reps
Holt's arm workout pairs biceps and triceps exercises in supersets—five of them to be exact. The entire workout should take about 60 minutes, depending on the length of your rest periods. He suggests resting anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes between supersets. You'll want every second you can get, but take as few as you can manage.
Choosing your weights may involve a little trial and error. Your goal should be to make each set neither light as a breeze nor impossible to complete. You'll find more on weight selection in the Superset Technique Tips after the workout.
Superset Technique Tips
Standing Biceps Cable Curl and Triceps Push-down
"I use this first superset as the warm-up for the rest of the workout, just to get the muscles working," Holt says. "The goal is to finish this first set with as few 10-second rests as possible, and without dropping to a lower weight."
As a general rule, Holt says his male clients use 30-40-pound weights, while his female clients use 15-25 pounds or, sometimes, 30 pounds. End each set with a good, solid burn. If you get done and say, "OK, I'm good, what's next?" Holt says you've gone too light.
For the cable curl, choose a short straight-bar or a EZ-curl cable attachment. When you do the triceps push-down, spread your hands and turn out your wrists at the bottom of the motion. This one little move helps bring multiple triceps heads into play.
Dumbbell Curl and Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Go a bit heavier now, and decide after the first set whether you need to pyramid up, pyramid down, or stick to the same weight.
"Each 25 reps should be hard," Holt says. "If you need to pause or get a spot on the final couple reps, that's fine. If you're stalling out at 12 reps, you've gone too heavy."
Holt prefers to do the dumbbell curls with both arms simultaneously—palms up throughout. If you prefer, do the alternating version. When you do the triceps extensions, hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing one another, and lower the weights down alongside your head.
Hammer Curl and Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension
Now's the time to handle as much weight as you can for both movements.
"I've borrowed this rep scheme from German volume training," Holt says. "I'll pyramid up from set to set until I can barely get that 10th rep, then I'll stay with that weight for the rest of the sets."
Holt does his hammer curls straight up and down, not cross body, but choose whichever style suits you. When you do the triceps extensions, spread the rope at the end, turning your wrists so your palms face forward when your elbows are fully extended.
Machine Preacher Curl and Triceps Push-down
By now, this workout has gone beyond what most sane people might consider a solid single-arm session, but keep going. Selecting resistance for this superset can be tricky.
"I pick a weight I know I can typically do for 20 reps on the first set, and I'll judge from there," Tyler explains. "If I struggle, I'll go lower for the next set, but otherwise I'll stay at that same weight for the rest of the sets."
Feel free to switch to variations of each movement. In addition to machine curls, you can do EZ-bar free-weight preachers, or put a preacher bench in front of a low-cable pulley station and do it that way. For the triceps, switch to the triceps extension machine or do seated two-hand dumbbell extensions.
"These exercises don't have to be set in stone," Holt says. "The key is to invest maximum effort and work your muscles to exhaustion."
Barbell Curl and Weighted Bench Dip
The final slog toward the finish line won't be easy. Next up is one of the more brutally intense techniques around—dropsets—applied to two of the most challenging arm exercises.
Weight choice can be a little tricky. If your main weight is 105 pounds, put three 10s on each side, so you can slide one off each side every 25 reps. This way, you can do 25 reps with 105 pounds, drop down to 85 pounds for 25 more, then down to 65 for 25, and finally down to the Olympic bar for a final 25 reps.
Holt approaches the bench dip the same way. He has a partner put three 45-pound plates on his lap so he can do 25 reps with 135, remove one plate so he can do 25 more with 90 pounds, lose one more plate for 25 reps at 45 pounds, then finish with bodyweight-only dips.
"You can do the same thing with 35- or 25-pound plates, or even 10 pounders—whatever works for where you're at," he suggests.
No partner, no problem. Switch in another movement, such as machine dips or parallel-bar dips with a chain belt.
"If you've done the reps to your full ability, by the end of these dropsets your arms will be screaming," Holt warns. "You probably won't be able to finish the final 25 reps straight through. No matter how long it takes, though, don't give up after coming this far. Get every one of those 1,000 reps!"
Tear It Down, Build It Up
Holt gives each body part the 1,000-rep treatment once per month. At that rate, his arm workout comes around every 7-8 months. But you don't have to wait that long.
"If you're really struggling to build up your bis and tris," he says, "doing this workout once a month in place of your normal routine would be okay—or you can do it every three weeks to push past a sticking point."
No matter how often you do this insane workout, you'll want to down some nutrients afterward.
"A post-workout protein shake is a must," Holt says. "I also do liquid carbs, because both protein and carbohydrates are critical when you demand this much of your body."
A rule of thumb is to consume 30-40 grams of protein, which can be whey protein or a whey/casein blend such as MusclePharm's Combat Powder. Add to that 60-80 grams of a simple carbohydrate to spike insulin levels and facilitate nutrient absorption, as well as 5 grams of glutamine and 5 grams of BCAAs, such as MusclePharm's BCAA 3:1:2, for repair and recovery.