Written by Ray Arde
18 July 2006

Standing Dumbbell Curl- On dumbbell curls, Ray is one of the strongest men in the sport, especially considering that his off-season weight is only 240 pounds (I say "only" because there are quite a few that tip the scales at 270 to 300 pounds these days). His three work sets will often be with pairs of 75s, 85s and finally, the big 100s. "My form isn't ideal with the hundreds, I admit," he says, "but my ego gets in the way. I do them because I can and because I like to challenge myself in the gym." Again, the reps will usually scale down from 12 to six, as the sets get heavier.

Dumbbell Hammer Curl- Arde doesn't let his ego interfere with his weight selection for hammer curls, mainly because he never goes lower than 12 reps on this exercise. "I find that the brachialis and the forearm extensors respond better to higher reps, so I keep my sets around 12 to 15 reps." The dumbbells are 50s or 60s, nothing earth-shattering, but just the correct amount to get the job done right.

Single-arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl- "This is an exercise that will be either the second or third one into the workout when I do it," Ray explains. "I basically consider it like a concentration curl, except that you're using the preacher bench to stabilize the working arm instead of your leg. You can't cheat and you can use the other hand to give yourself forced reps." He'll do three sets of eight to 12 reps, including forced reps. The dumbbell is usually a 50 or a 60.

Single-arm Cable Curl- Another finishing movement for the biceps is often some type of cable or machine curl. "By this point, my biceps are pretty pumped and fatigued, so I will use a cable or machine to put the finishing touch on them, force a little bit more blood into the muscle and make sure I hit the biceps right." Rope Pushdown- Whether or not Ray's elbows are in pain, he likes to begin the workout with rope extensions. "The rope attachment lets your arms and wrists move in whatever way is most comfortable and least painful and you can get plenty of blood flowing around the elbow joints with a couple of high-rep sets." Arde may do two sets with reps in the 15- to 20-rep range to warm up, then sink the pin further down the stack and squeeze out two sets of six to 12 with more challenging resistance.

Fixed-bar Pushdown- After that, Ray might switch attachments, replacing the rope with a short straight bar or a V-bar to continue doing cable pushdowns. "If you can't do skull-crushers for whatever reason, the cable pushdown is a viable alternative," he suggests. "In some ways it's safer to go heavy with the cable, especially if you don't have a training partner to spot you." He may do this exercise earlier in the routine for lower reps, or a bit later on and go a bit lighter with the weight and higher on the reps.

Lying Cross-face Dumbbell Extension- If Ray's elbows are feeling good, he'll do either skull-crushers, or this dumbbell variation performed with one arm. "I don't go too heavy on the lying dumbbell extension, because you don't have to," he says. "I'll use something like a 40 and get a good stretch as the dumbbell comes down at a diagonal angle toward the opposite shoulder." Arde also doesn't go too heavy here because he likes to keep the reps around 12 to 15 for three sets each arm. Single-arm Reverse-grip

Pushdown- And finally, a common finishing movement for the triceps that Ray often employs in the precontest phase is the single-arm reverse-grip cable pushdown, using the stirrup attachment. "It hits the long head of the triceps like nothing else," he explains. "But you can't use a lot of weight or else you cheat. Keep the weight moderate and the form strict for best results from this one."

Alternate dumbbell curls  3-4 x 6-12
Barbell curl    3-4 x 6-12
Dumbbell hammer curl
 3-4 x 12-15
Machine curls
 3-4 x 12-15
Rope pushdown 3-4 x 6-12
Overhead dumbbell extension 
3-4 x 6-12
Skull-crushers 3-4 x 12-15
Straight bar cable pushdown  3-4 x 12-15