Supersets1

SUPERSETS FOR ARMS

BY JOHN PLUMMER // PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEVIN HORTON

Snapshot
NAME:  Anth Bailes
DATE OF BIRTH: 8th June 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: Durham
LIVES: Tyne and Wear
HEIGHT: 5 ft 6 inches
WEIGHT: Offseason 235-240 lbs; contest 200-205 lbs
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Winning the overall title and IFBB pro card at the 2012 UKBFF British Championships
AMBITION: To be successful at pro level and expand my gym
TRAINING ADVICE: Be consistent…this is where most people fail! But don’t overtrain…more is not always better.
SPONSORS: www.Pharmafreak.com
TO CONTACT: maxxmuscle@keptprivate.com

Everyone who trains wants big arms but how many actually get them? Most guys put on a bit of size over time but few get mountainous biceps and valley-like triceps.

Anth Bailes is one of the exceptions. His guns fired him to success in the heavyweight and overall categories at last year’s British Championships and he now plans to make his IFBB pro debut in the 212 lbs division this year.

There is more to Bailes than an impressive set of arms: overall balance and conditioning are his calling cards but it’s fair to say he isn’t lacking in his upper limbs so we asked him to take time to share his secrets.

Bailes, who has type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, is a busy man. Being British champion he has a host of guest appearances lined up on stage and on behalf of his sponsor, PharmaFreak. He’s also due to promote his first show in his native north-east on June 2 before turning his attention in the second half of the year to his pro debut. But thankfully he was happy to oblige.

Intensity and supersets
Bailes begins with a confession. “My arms haven’t always been that good,” he says modestly. “People used to say my triceps were too small.” This admission only makes his opinions more valid. After all, who would you rather listen to—someone who only has to do a few curls to make his arms swell or someone who has had to work hard and try different approaches?

After years of trial and error Bailes has found the following formula works for him. For most of the year he trains biceps with chest and triceps with shoulders. He works in the 6 to 8 rep range and keeps things simple.

“I believe heavy, basic training is still the best way to build muscle and I am an advocate of high intensity training, low volume workouts,” he says.

But every four or five weeks he shakes things up by training lighter for a week or two, using supersets. “I cycle my training due to some old injuries and to avoid any further ones,” he says. “I can train a little lighter with higher reps but still keep the intensity high and train a little faster.”

During lighter periods he does all his arms in one workout by pairing four exercises for biceps and triceps and doing three sets of each pair, working in the 15 to 20 rep range.

He starts with V-bar pressdowns followed immediately by EZ bar curls. He then supersets dumbbell extensions and cable curls followed by dips and hammer curls and finally reverse cable pressdowns and concentration curls, only resting for as long as it takes to move between exercises and for his training partner to perform his sets.

It usually takes a maximum of 45 to 60 minutes.

Bailes can barbell curl an impressive 165 lbs and hammer curl 110 lbs dumbbells. For triceps, he can handle 165 lbs dumbbells for two-arm behind-the-head extensions and uses chains for extra resistance on dips. But during superset phases he goes much lighter.

There is logic to the choice of exercises. “Each one hits something different,” he says. “For instance, the V-bar pressdown hits the outer head of the triceps and the dumbbell extensions stretch the long head. I see people doing barbell curls, then cable curls then high cable curls but all they’re essentially doing is the same movement on different equipment.”

Very occasionally he does just one exercise each for biceps and triceps and keeps going back and forth. “It gives me a crazy pump,” he says. But he doesn’t change things much. “I’m a creature of habit,” he says. “Over the years I have found the exercises that I feel work best for me. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

It’s OK to cheat
Bailes isn’t averse to a little cheating on some moves, providing it works and isn’t dangerous. “It depends on the exercise,” he says. “If I’m using cables I like to go for a nice contraction and keep it strict but if I do heavy hammer curls I loosen up my form. Super-strict barbell curls don’t work best for me either.”

He credits advice from Dorian Yates about the value of isolating the triceps for recent improvements. “I used to do a lot of close-grip bench pressing but after doing more isolation moves I noticed an improvement,” he says. “I started looking at hitting them from different angles and being tighter on form and that led me to where I am today.”

Bailes hopes to add about 3 to 5 lbs of muscle this year and compete at about 208 lbs. His immediate ambition is to crack the top 10 on his pro debut. “That’s a realistic goal,” he says.

Pro bodybuilding is difficult enough but Bailes also has to contend with having type 1 diabetes, which means his body is unable to produce insulin. He was diagnosed in 2007 and has to take insulin every day to manage the condition.

Being a bodybuilder helps because eating healthy, regular meals prevents his blood sugar levels going haywire, so even in his off-season he is careful about what he consumes. A single cheat day can have long-lasting effects, as he found out after indulging in some treats the day after he won the British title. “It took me two weeks to get my blood sugar levels back to normal,” he says. “I might have a cheat once a week in the off-season now but I have to eat clean all year. I haven’t really got a choice.”

With such a determined attitude in and out the gym, expect to see more of Bailes in the years ahead. FLEX

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