John McWilliams- First Guy to Boast 20″ Muscular Arms, and How to Put Over an Inch onto your Arms in Six Weeks
If there is any person in your gym more unjustly maligned than the dude with the biggest arms in the gym, I am a Chinese jet pilot. For the last decade and a half, the arm specialists have labored in darkened corners, stretching their sleeves daily while 150lb “serious” lifters talk crap behind their backs like they are members of a Long Island elderly Jewish sewing circle. Compounding this fact is the fact that the arm specialists are generally also bench bros, so the “serious” lifters talk even more crap, acting more jealous and salty than a pregnant women watching a doughnut and pickle-eating competition. The coup-de-grace is the fact that when they’re done benching everyone’s best squat, those guys also tend to roll out of the gym with the hottest girl anyone’s ever seen, because that’s how life works- no one gives a rat’s ass what your squat is until they’re safely entrenched behind a computer screen so they can talk crap without getting smacked.
Had he not skipped leg day, he’d definitely have been a bodybuilder people talk about in hushed tones today. As it stands, he only managed to pull off 13th and 18th in the 1946 and 1947 AAU Mr. America contest, but YOLO- the man was an upper body specialist.
In the 1950s, no one gave a damn what you squatted- people barely did the goddamned lift. I’ve no idea if this explains the ridiculous prevalence of 500lb natty benchers in that decade, but whatever the reason, every day was chest and arms day, and every day was good. Contrary to the autistic screechings of a man who has never cited a source or read Carl Jung, Lyle McDonald, the guys in the 1950 didn’t need to consult a genetic potential chart to determine their natty limit, because they just assaulted the weights like orally fixated college chicks attack peen at a frat party and got stuff done. It was either John McWilliams (or Bud Counts) who rocked the first 20″ arms cold, which would likely indicate that he was busting his sleeves at over 21″ with a pump on, and although that man would be a pariah in modern gyms, he was also one of the first people to bench over 500lbs and rocked a sick deadlift.
“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as fraud [or steroids].”
– Carl Jung
Clearly, McWilliams didn’t skip shoulders or back day, either.
Not only was McWilliams more impressive in the gym and on the platform than a chick who can take three fists in her ass, but he was one of the most prolific trainers of his era. At this point, NFL teams trained wherever they could, and McWilliams ended up coaching most of the San Diego Chargers including All-Pros Jack Kemp, Keith Lincoln and Ron Mix, who led their team to the AFL championship game twice. McWilliams was just as legendary for his sick arms as he was for being an amazing trainer, and the arm program he devised was used by himself, bodybuilding luminary Gene Mozee, and dozens of trainees to put an average of 1.25″ on their arms in six weeks.
Long after he quit competing, McWilliams was rocking 20″ arms or bigger.
I am as skeptical as you- I’ve never put an inch on my arms in a full year, never mind six weeks. McWilliams was a different breed- even over 40, having cut to 186 lbs, he still rocked 19.25″ arms, cold. Frankly, to me that is preposterous. I’m five inches shorter than the man and at the same weight had 17″ arms, so I’m unclear how that could possibly work, but the man who taped his arms was none other than the legendary trainer Leo Stern, so it goes without saying that the measurement was legit.
Tragically, all that survives of the man’s training routine is his arm routine, though I think we’d all like a look at his bench and deadlift routines as well- pulling in the 700’s while looking like a goddamned polio victim is a hell of a feat, especially in a time when deadlifting was not tremendously common and a 710 deadlift by a 220lb man was pretty unheard of. Given the emphasis guys like Chuck Sipes put on triceps development to push your bench up, having the man’s arm routine is better than nothing, especially given the fact that trainees who used it in Gene Mozee’s gym averaged over an inch on their arms in under two months with this thing.
If you’re still skeptical, bear in mind the fact that McWilliams had a standing offer of a thousand bucks to anyone who could measure his arms at less than 19.5″, which might be the greatest endorsement of a training methodology ever. The following is the McWilliams arm routine, and one we should all probably jump on for six weeks to test out. It’s unlike virtually anything you’ll see advertised these days, which should tell you that if nothing else you should at least end up looking like you lift, something all too uncommon in the last few years.
I can only imagine how terrified this man’s suburban neighbors were of him.
John McWilliams Arm Program (Mozee)
* This program is done, true to bench and arm bro sensibilities, three times a week.
Barbell Pullovers– 2 x 12
Close-Grip Bench Presses– 2 x 12
Barbell Pullovers– 2 x 6
Close-Grip Bench Presses– 2 x 6
Barbell Curls– 3 x 12
Overhead Tricep Extensions– 3 x 12
Dumbbell Curls– 3 x 10
Dumbbell Triceps Presses– 3 x 10
Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions– 3 x 12
Close-Grip Bench Presses– 3 x 10*
One-Arm Kickbacks– 2 x 20**
*The second you’re done the third set of bench, grab a db and start kickbacks. Kickbacks get no rest between arms, but a 30 second rest between sets.
If you’re stunned at the fact that a guy with a 500lb bench seems to have trained his arms strictly for the pump with a bundle of supersets that look to be crazier than a sack of rabid weasels, so am I, but before you run off half cocked, it’s important you read the exercise descriptions. Old heads like myself will remember doing skullscrushers and presses or pullover and press, but the new jacks definitely will not have any experience with this kind of thing. Therefore, read the following descriptions, and you’ll note that literally every other John McWilliams program reprint (including the one on Deszo Ban) is completely incorrect.
1) Pullovers and presses. This is not only a good exercise for the chest and shoulders, but it’s terrific for the arms. I attribute 75% of my own arm development to this double-compound exercise. There are many variations of this that you can perform. In this routine it’s used as a warmup and the first exercise, as follows.
Lie on your back on a flat bench that’s at least 18 inches high. Grasp the barbell with your hands approximately 10 inches apart. Begin with the bar resting on your chest and then press the weight up about 12 inches. With your arms bent, continue by guiding the bar back, over your head and down as far as you can. When you reach the lowest point, pull hard and bring the weight back to the original position on your chest. Repeat for 12 reps, inhaling as you lower the weight and exhaling as you pull back to the starting position. Do this part of the movement slowly so you can feel the muscle pulling both ways.
When you finish the 12 pullovers, without taking any rest, do 12 narrow-grip bench presses, exhaling as you press the weight to arm’s length and inhaling as you lower it back to your chest. Still taking no rest, perform sis more pullovers and six more bench presses. This last round of the double-compound exercise really brings the blood to the target region, which gives you a massive pump that sticks around for the rest of the arm routine. Do two sets of this super movement, resting about 90 seconds between sets.
2) Two-arm curls and triceps presses. This double movement is one of the best exercises for the biceps. While standing erect, with your feet about 18 inches apart, hold a barbell with a medium, palms-up grip and slowly curl the weight from your thighs to your shoulders, tensing the biceps at the top. Lower the weight slowly to your thighs and repeat for 12 reps. Remember to stand stiff and let your biceps do all the work.
When you finish the curls, go right into the triceps presses. Switch to an overgrip and press the barbell overhead, which positions your palms facing forward. Holding your elbows stationary throughout the movement, bend your arms, letting the weight travel down to the backs of your shoulders, and then push the weight back to arm’s length with triceps power alone. Inhale as you let the weight down, and exhale as you press it up. Perform 12 reps and then without taking any rest, grab two fairly light dumbbells and do 10 fast curls using good form, which means going all the way down without swinging the dumbbells. When you finish that, again without taking any rest, do 10 fast triceps presses with the dumbbells.
Rest for 60 to 90 seconds and repeat this double-compound exercise for a total of three sets.
3) Lying barbell triceps extensions. This is one of my favorite exercises for building triceps size. Lie on your back on a flat bench and start with the bar at arm’s length above your chest and keep your hands 10 inches apart. Keeping your elbows pointed toward the ceiling, lower the weight slowly behind your head. Inhale as you lower the barbell and exhale as you press back to the starting position. Repeat for three sets of 12 reps, resting for 45 to 60 seconds between sets.
4) Close-grip benches and triceps pumper. This is another superior size builder. Lie on a flat bench, and use a weight that you can sustain for three sets of at least 10 reps. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up, and rest about 60 seconds between sets.When you finish the third set, taking no rest, pick up a dumbbell with your right hand and bend forward at the waist, with your left hand holding onto a support. Do 20 kickbacks, then switch the weight to the other hand for 20 reps. Rest for 30 seconds and perform a second set for each arm (Mozee).
Bodybuilder, magazine editor, photographer, and trainer Gene Mozee, who also rocked 20″ arms and a 2 second paused bench press at 220 in the 1950s.
And if that isn’t enough arm action for you, the guys at Mozee’s Pasadena Gym who packed the most meat on their arms in six weeks also added concentration curls to the beginning of that bitch, because screw overtraining. Start with a set of ten, then a set of eight with a heavier db, then and even heavier six, and then drop the weight and bust out a set of 15. The example Gene gave was “40 pounds for 10 reps, 45 pounds for eight reps, 50 pounds for six reps and 30 pounds for 15 reps” (Mozee). After that, you start the above program.
Beyond the arms program, McWilliam’s training gets speculative on a “let’s screw the economy in the ear by using derivatives to sell crappy loans to people with a AAA rating” kind of level. There is another training article floating around, but he neither mentions frequency nor suggests what he actually does- he just gives recommendations for beginners that border on neglect and recommendations for advanced lifters that much be trolling, because no one is going to grow on the volume he recommends, nor bench 500… or even 300.
The gist, however, is that McWilliams was a big fan of:
- Side Press
- Behind the Neck Press (with the lift started on the shoulders, not at full extension, and 5 deep breaths between reps with the back on your shoulders)
- Straight Arm Pulldowns
- Bench Press (narrow grip)
- Incline Bench (absolutely no arch, high volume)
- Pushups and Military Press (supersetted)
Beyond that, McWilliams was also adamant about these things:
- Massaging your triceps after exercise- this is key to increasing blood flow and keeping the muscle healthy enough for a three-days-per-week pounding.
- Consistent hard training- consistency is the thing that kept McWilliams from having to ever make that thousand dollar payout.
- Proper nutrition, including supplements.
- Sufficient rest, relaxation and growth promoting sleep.
And there you have your roadmap to putting another inch plus on your arms before summer ends. Following this plan, you’ll look like you’ve put on 20lbs just from the increase in arm circumference… and don’t act like you’re above having huge arms or a big bench, tough stuff. Short of jacking Synthol, there’s no such goddamned thing as arms that are too muscular, so get with the program and show up to Labor Day barbecues with a set of guns that’ll have every goofball there screaming the national anthem because the only thing that makes arms like yours legal is the Second Amendment (and for you foreigners, find some similar reason, or just do it because goddamned big arms are awesome).
McWilliams, John. Triceps Development. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 11 Aug 2008. Web. 10 Jul 2018. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2008/08/triceps-development-john-mcwilliams.html
Mozee, Gene. John McWilliams Arm Routine. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 15 Feb 2008. Web. 10 Jul 2018. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2008/02/john-mcwilliams-arm-routine.html