How to Develop Big Powerful Arms [Part 2 – Steve Stanko] (1956)

Today, we present the second of five parts of the “Big Powerful Arms” article which originally appeared in the March 1956 issue of Hoffman’s “Strengh and Health.” The excerpt below by Steve Stanko follows the first part of the article, by John Grimek, which was posted previously on our blog.


A photo of Steve Stanko which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (opens in new window/tab)

Stanko was, of course, part of the Hoffman/York Barbell team, and he took a couple moments in the article below to promote York products. While not quite as renowned as John Grimek, Stanko in his prime won titles in both weightlifting and physique contests in the 1930s and 1940s.

Unlike Grimek’s routine of the time, Stanko’s arm training routine made significant use of curls to target the biceps muscles. This shows that different individuals may benefit from different exercises.

Magazine excerpt:

I guess like most enthusiastic fellows who begin exercising I was mostly interested in developing a nice pair of arms, so before our gang could afford a York Barbell set we gathered all kinds of heavy objects, such as bars, cement blocks, trainwheels, and all sorts of iron plates. With this we managed to do some training and all of us obtained some development. It wasn’t until later when one of the gang managed to save enough money to purchase the York Big 12 Special that we began to train seriously. We did all the basic exercises as outlined in the York courses and results were encouraging. Regular curling with barbell with two arms and the Zottman dumbell curl were my favorites. My arms continued to grow and when I first went to see the Nationals in Philadelphia in 1936 I was surprised to have so many of the fellows attracted by my arm development. I particularly recall, Joe Miller, who at that time was one of the top-notch lifters and a member of the 1936 Olympic team, came up and asked me how much my arms measured, how I trained and what was my favorite arm exercise. I didn’t think my arms were that impressive, but I think they always looked bigger to others than they did to me.

In recent years I’ve done a variety of exercises for the arms and all, sometime or another, were a favorite. One of the best I found to cramp my biceps was using the overhead pulley and, while lying on a bench with my head just hanging off, the bar is then curled to my chin in this position. Maybe it was the position my hands turned that helped bring a cramping sensation to my biceps, but I later gave it up for one-arm-curling-while-leaning-over. This I find gives my biceps a good workout and, when I straighten my arms, I do so rather sharply, flexing my triceps on the reflex.

I usually start my curling with a 50 pound dumbell and do 10 to 15 consecutive curls. Then I jump to 60 pound dumbell, repeat at least 10 more . . . repeating the same number of curls with the other hand. A brief rest again and I tackle a 75 lb. dumbell which I try to complete 10 reps with, but if I can’t, as some days I do not feel up to it, I do as many as I can, and either repeat this same exercise with the same weight or else go on up to 85 or 90 lb. dumbells. However, usually after a few sets with these increased weights I find my biceps are pumped up enough that I do not need any more curling.

I find high repetition presses with barbell and dumbells before commencing the curling exercises as a big factor in stimulating the arms to help maintain a well developed and impressive pair of concealed weapons.

2 thoughts on “How to Develop Big Powerful Arms [Part 2 – Steve Stanko] (1956)

  1. JB617 April 9, 2018 / 7:14 am

    Interesting that he really high rep’d his arms to that degree and got those results. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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