Larry Scott biceps workout II.

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So, the following is the arm routine that enabled Larry Scott to go from 15¼ to almost 21-inch arms – and earned him an honored spot among the all-time greats of the sport.

Advanced Routine

Dumbbell Curls on preacher bench:

6 reps, 4 burns.
Wide-grip preacher bench barbell curls: 6 reps, 4 burns.
Reverse-grip curls with EZ-curl bar: 6 reps, 4 burns.

He performed these exercises in a triset, repeated 5 times.

“I was introduced to the preacher bench (later “Scott bench”) by Vince [Gironda],” Larry continued. “I really worked hard on the preacher bench, taking advantage of the low connection I had on the biceps. So I got really involved in that, and my arms started to really grow.

For one thing, my training was much better. Vince had a lot of unique, well-designed equipment. I started to make good progress.”

“Good progress” is the understatement of the century. After Larry had been training at Vince’s Gym for about a year, he placed third in the Mr. Los Angeles contest – a significant step up for him considering the higher quality of competition he faced in California. (Remember, only a year earlier he had weighed 155 pounds at a height of 5’8”.) And that was just the beginning.

“About two months after the L.A. contest I met Rheo Blair, a nutritionist. I started taking his protein powder – the first time I’d ever taken protein – and I put on eight pounds in just two months, which was unheard of for me. It was just really incredible! That protein must have been exactly what my body needed.

I put on eight pounds of muscle! I mean, eight pounds would have normally taken me about two years. To put it on in two months was amazing!

A year later I won the Mr. California, which was a total surprise to me and to everyone else,” he continued. “So I was really excited about my training and my progress. I kept training harder and harder, but my biceps routine stayed pretty much the same. Just the intensity changed.

I was doing a set of dumbbell curls on the preacher bench. Then with no rest I would do a set of wide-grip curls on the bench and then a set of reverse-grip EZ-bar curls – again, with no rest. I would do five series of these three exercises, resting only long enough between series so my training partner could do his.

So I was doing five series of three sets, and on each exercise I would do six repetitions with four burns at the end of each set. Burns, of course, are small, quarter movements either at the top or the bottom of the exercise. I’d do them at the top until I got a little bored with it, and then I’d do them at the bottom.

That routine really got my arms to grow. That was a very effective program. As a matter of fact, to this day I’ve not found anything which is that effective for building biceps.”

Were the burns the key to this routine? Was that the magic that was at work, or was it something else?

“Well, I think the thing that worked so well was, first, I had – genetically – a low connection on the biceps. And the preacher bench works low biceps really well. And then there was the intensity of this type of workout – it’s extremely painful when done properly! That series I just mentioned is very, very painful, but it just blows up the arms like nothing I’ve ever seen – if the preacher bench is designed correctly.

Most of the benches you see have a flat face, and they don’t work. People who hear me talk about arm training go out and try that on a regular preacher bench, and they say, ‘Ah, he must have been a genetic freak because that doesn’t work for me at all.’ That’s because they have a lousy bench.

As a matter of fact, I remember Arnold saying to me, ‘I don’t know how you ever made any progress on a preacher bench.’ And I went in to shoot some photos on the preacher bench at the gym in Venice where he was training, and I thought, ‘God, no wonder he says that. This is terrible!’

The correct design of the bench is that it has to have a face that’s convex rather than flat. In other words, the face should bulge out in the middle. Most preacher benches are flat because they’re easier to manufacture that way. But the bench has to have a convex face. And the area at the top where you place your armpits has to be rounded and well padded because you’re going to be bearing down real hard on that bench when you’re doing the curls. Most benches have a sharp ridge on top, and it hurts your armpits.

Most preacher benches are also designed with the post set back, and when the exercise really gets difficult, you hit that post with your groin, so you can’t really get into it hard. The post should be offset toward the front. Manufacturers also make the face of the preacher bench too long, so the dumbbells hit the face of the bench at the bottom. What you want is a bench that has a short face, bulging out in the middle and rounded on both sides, and also rounded and padded where your armpits are, with the post placed toward the front so your groin won’t be pressing up against it. If you get all those little features going on it, it’s a great piece of equipment!”

In fact, Scott said that the design of the bench is so important that nowadays when he’s on the road and does biceps work on a regular, flat-faced preacher bench, he loses arm size over time. “Then, when I get back on the right equipment again, my arms come back up. So the normal preacher benches that you see won’t give you the kind of results that you want. I mean, you can make better progress doing incline dumbbell curls than you can doing curls on the normal preacher bench, but you get a good preacher bench and, boy, you can build some arms!”

With single-minded determination, going through a four-pound tin of protein powder every eight days and drinking some 2½ gallons of milk a day (editor’s note: remember, milk was made of MILK back then), Larry actually built up to a peak bodyweight of 212 pounds in ’65 and ’66. His best competitive weight when he was Mr. Olympia was about 205. As for those arms, he said, “My arms got so big, they were hard to carry around. My traps just got exhausted carrying them. I used to tuck my thumbs into my belt loops just to give my traps a rest.”
It’s significant to note that all during those glory days of the ‘60s Larry Scott’s biceps routine remained the same – right down to the order of the exercises and even how he did each exercise. The routine was like a personal magic formula he had discovered, and he wasn’t about to tamper with it.

“I had a particular style for each of the different curls,” he explained. “The dumbbell curls were done ‘loose’ style – I didn’t care how I got ‘em up; I just wanted to get them up any way I could. Then the barbell curls were done very strict. I would get my armpits way down on the bench, and I would make sure that my form was totally strict. As a matter of fact, the magic to that whole combination is the barbell curl. You do the exercise totally strict, your body over the bench; you don’t help the arms at all with even a little bit of lean-back; and that’s what really gives you the tremendous growth.

Then you finish off, when your arms are just about to die, with reverse-grip EZ-bar curls, and that works the brachioradialis and hits the low biceps. The biceps is exhausted at that point, but the brachioradialis isn’t.

And it’s also a curling muscle, so you can use that muscle to help you put extra work into the low biceps. It really gives you a great pump!” In other words, the pattern to this routine was to do the dumbbell curls with as much weight as possible to basically tire the biceps, then place maximum concentrated stress on the biceps by doing barbell curls in a very strict fashion and, finally, when the arms were all but dead, do still another exercise that worked a part of the biceps – the brachioradialis – which still had some life left. Clearly, it’s a routine that reflects a touch of genius.

“And it never worked out as well if I split those exercises up or changed the order of the exercises,” Scott said. “That combination had a magic quality to it.”

Incidentally, during this advanced phase of his training Larry worked biceps twice a week, following, of course, a split routine. He always trained arms, shoulders and neck together. In his beginner days he trained his arms three times a week, and during the intermediate phase he worked them four times a week.

“By the way,” he continued, “that bench that Vince had, we’ve improved it in several respects; so it’s an even better piece of equipment now. You know, after doing curls on that thing for 20 years or more as I’ve done, you’ve got to be pretty dumb not to figure out some ways to make it better.”

Looking back over the evolution of his biceps training, Larry said he wouldn’t change a thing about his advanced routine. The beginning and intermediate routines are quite another matter, however.

“They were terrible,” Scott admitted. “I would never recommend that anyone use those. I would recommend that a beginner or an intermediate do it totally differently. A beginner doesn’t know yet what is right or wrong, so he has to just have blind faith as he’s trying different exercises. I’d suggest he change the exercises at least every week because the changing stress provides much better growth, and it rejuvenates the ligaments and tendons so you don’t get into injury all the time.

I’d make sure I did only six repetitions – six is a better figure for growth than eight or ten. I would also do the burns – I think the burns are wonderful to add some extra stress to it. I would do probably no more than nine sets per bodypart, increasing the intensity. I would also vary the way I trained. Instead of just doing up-the-rack workouts, I’d do down-the-rack, I’d do straight sets, I’d do supersets. I’d change that system of training a lot. I wouldn’t do the same thing over and over again. And, of course, I’d follow a split routine rather than training the whole body in each workout as I was doing.”

Larry made one final point about biceps training, and it’s an important one for getting arms like a Mr. Olympia: “When I got to the advanced stage of my training in the ‘60s,” he said, “I began to realize that I couldn’t go up to the heavier weights unless I began to strengthen my forearms. And so I started to train the forearms real hard so that I could get the wrist curled at the bottom of the movement on the preacher bench. When you’re doing biceps curls and you’re way down on the bench, you can’t get the bar up unless you get your wrists curled, and you can’t get your wrists curled unless you have the forearm strength. So I started working forearms very hard, and I noted that as I worked forearms harder, I could use heavier weights in the biceps exercises. Consequently, it was the forearms that were the key to building bigger biceps at that point.”

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