Move outwards from the core

A tree touches the world with its leaves and ever-burrowing roots, the edges of this complex organism supported and fueled by the tree trunk. Likewise the blood and central nervous system reaching the tips of your fingers and toes are connected all the way through to the heart and brain. Strength begins in the core of the body.

There’s a strange body ideal for men to have big arms and ripped abs, but those are not achieved by just curling dumbbells and doing situps. Abs come not so much from exercises for the stomach but from core strength and, mainly, a low body-fat percentage. Arms are like branches of a tree. The bigger the branch, the bigger the trunk needs to be.

Progressive training does involve a lot of common exercises you’re likely already familiar with, such as bicep dumbbell curls. However, the key muscles you should build for lifelong health and strength are your core muscles: the ones it’s especially hard to see. Big quads, or a strong lower back aren’t immediately noticeable especially compared with arms or shoulders. It is a mistake though to prioritise freeweight exercises for the arms over the compound lifts which work the core.

The exercise you begin each training session with should concentrate on the core, and subsequent exercises will move outwards from the centre to reach the extremes of the limbs. For example: one day could start with squats (core, glutes, quads), move on to overhead press (abs, shoulders), before moving to heel raises (calves).

Your core supports the rest of the body so it needs to be the strongest. The goal of big arms will be achieved best by progressing bench, squat, and deadlift, and working the biceps and triceps at the end of your routines.