This is an excerpt from Massive, Muscular Arms by David Barr.
I can hear it now: “Hey, brah, I just want swole pipes. Why bother with the rest?” As with every other component of this work, the answer is to strategically optimize and personalize your arm training and physique development.
Many years ago, when I started lifting, a colleague told me, “You really only need to focus on chest and biceps—it’s all anyone cares about.” I took this advice to heart and ended up with an imbalanced physique and more shoulder issues than I care to mention. Worst of all, those shoulder issues prevented me from training any muscle until I resolved the problem (from which, ironically, my biceps and pectoralis development suffered).
This old-school thinking is still applied to today’s strength training. If you’ve ever seen images of people who have injected synthol (an oil that causes temporary localized muscle swelling) into their biceps, you know how absurd it can look to have large muscle imbalances. Similarly, albeit to a lesser degree, trying to look good by training only a few muscle groups results in an awkwardly imbalanced and horribly unflattering look. It’s important to focus on building your arms without neglecting the rest of your body. The uptake here is that you’ll improve the function (and look) of your entire body, which will help to facilitate your optimal arm development.
Bullet Proofing Your Body
One lesson I learned from my initial arm-focused myopia is that the body is an incredibly well-integrated machine. We can focus on muscle groups, yes, but never truly isolate. This is especially true for your goal of bulked-up limbs, and its relationship to two seemingly unrelated muscle groups—the shoulder joint and the core. These happen to be the most common sites of training-induced physical injury in the Western world. If you can keep these areas healthy, you’re well on your way to quickly reaching and then surpassing your goals.
Although we can’t directly claim injury prevention, the term bullet proofing can be used to describe how you can make these areas stronger, tougher, and more resilient. The definition of bullet proof says it all: making something impervious to damage by means of prevention. We’ll bullet proof the shoulders and core by using a two-pronged approach of (1) specific exercises and (2) stabilizing tension. The bonus is that this approach also comes with a side of physique enhancement.
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, but this mobility comes at the cost of stability. Imagine that the head of the humerus sitting in its socket is analogous to a golf ball sitting on a tee. This is pretty bad, but Dr. Justin Farnsworth, an expert who has seen tons of beat-down joints, believes that this doesn’t go far enough. He states that a better way of describing the stability of the shoulder is “More like a ball, tenuously balanced on a dolphin’s nose.” (Justin Farnsworth, pers. comm.).
Practically speaking, this means that we need to be aware that this joint is particularly susceptible to injury. This is partly because of our chronic bad posture of which even I am guilty, as well as exaggerated emphasis on pressing movements (i.e., the mirror muscles—anterior muscles that we like to see in our reflection). Remember that the major arm muscles cross the shoulder joint, so you have another reason to focus on shoulder bullet proofing for optimal arm development.