Mark Dugdale burst on to the national bodybuilding scene in 2003 when he showed up at the USA Championships with a complete, shredded package that placed him right behind two now-Olympia competitors named Richard Jones and Kris Dim. While everyone saw Richard and Kris coming, Mark was the surprise, and talk, of the show. “Who was that guy in the light heavies? What a physique! He gave those guys all they could handle. Wait until next year.”
Now let’s fast-forward one year. Same place…Vegas. Same contest…the USA Championships. Same weight class…light heavyweight. Same shredded, complete symmetrical Dugdale. Well, not quite. Mark was in even better condition than he’d been when he rocked the world the year before! In a word, he was grainy, striated and straight up peeled. But there was something else that was different about Mark…his arms. While they were good in ’03, they were a lot better in ’04. Fuller, rounder and showing greater separation, the year had been very kind to Mark’s bi’s and tri’s. Oh, and I almost forgot. Mark used those arms, and the rest of that incredible physique, to steamroll the class and capture his biggest title…Light Heavyweight and Overall 2004 USA Bodybuilding Champion.
The Metamorphosis of Dugdale Arms
“I knew after the 2003 USA that if I was going to come back and fulfill my goal of winning in 2004 that I was going to need to bring up my arms a bit more and continue to improve my back. I especially felt that my triceps could be a lot better, so I re-evaluated my training. In the past, I’d always gone really heavy on close grip bench presses. All that really did for me was give me tendonitis in my elbows.
So, I decided to turn my triceps into what I call a “feel” bodypart. I have certain bodyparts that are all about how heavy I can go. The more weight I use, the better it gets. My legs are a great example of this. But when I applied that philosophy to my triceps, I got sore elbows and weak tri’s. So, after the 2003 USA, I changed over to focusing on feeling the tricep through the entire range of motion and really isolating the muscle. Don’t get me wrong. I still trained as heavy as I could, but the focus was not on the weight itself, but how I could use the weight to feel my triceps work. The improvements were really dramatic. In fact, I think my triceps may have been my most improved bodypart this year.
For biceps, I simply continued to train them the way that I always have. I’ve been very happy with the results this year.”
Exercise 1: Pushdowns
Mark starts his pump and feel tricep thrash with the most popular tricep movement in the game…pushdowns with a straight bar. Mark starts with the bar at chest height and makes sure to pin his elbows against his sides throughout the movement.
“You have to be careful that you don’t use a weight that causes your elbows to flare out from your body. If you do, the stress of the exercise comes off the tricep and into the shoulder area.”
Mark will make sure to hold the repetition for a second in the bottom position and forcibly contracting the tricep.
“Again, focusing on feel, there is no point in the pushdown more important than the fully contracted position. This is the critical part of the exercise.”
Mark will do two warm-ups to make sure the elbows are ready for the heavy working sets to come. Then he does two working sets of 6-12 reps.
Exercise 2: Tricep Machine Dips
On this movement, Mark will use a seated dip machine that has a selectorized weight stack. Sitting facing away from the machine, he pushes the handles straight down from the starting position, again being careful to keep his elbows pinned in to his sides. After a strong contraction in the bottom position, Mark slowly brings the handles back up to his lower pec before starting the next rep. Given that he has plenty of blood running through his tri’s from doing pushdowns, he goes straight into two working sets of 6-12 reps.
Exercise 3: Seated Tricep Extensions Machine
Next, Mark uses the seated tricep extension machine with a V-bar attached to a cable behind his head. Grabbing the bar at a starting position, Mark will keep his arms close to his head as he raises the bar to full extension. He performs two sets of 6-12 reps before moving to his last tricep movement.
Exercise 4: One Arm Cable Extensions
Using a single handle on the overhead cable pulley, Mark will take an underhanded grip to start the movement. Again, keeping the elbow close to the body throughout the exercise, he pulls the handle down and back until the arm is completely extended and the tricep is forcibly contracted. The handle is brought back up to shoulder level to complete the repetition. He’ll perform two sets of 6-12 reps on here as well.
Exercise 1: Seated Alternate Dumbbell Curls
Sitting at the end of a flat bench, Mark begins the movement with his arms in a full hanging position. From that position, he will curl the dumbbell up to his shoulder and twist his hand outward at the top of the movement to supinate and further contract the bicep.
“By turning my pinky toward my shoulder at the top of the rep, I feel that the peak on the bicep improves. I then lower the weight in a controlled manner and make sure to keep the palms up. This way, my bicep stays contracted throughout the entire range of motion of the movement. Once I do a full repetition with one arm, I start the rep with the other arm.”
Mark does one warmup set, followed by two working sets of 6-10 reps with each arm.
Exercise 2: Standing E-Z Bar Curls
Now that Mark has the ball rolling, he moves on to an old standby with a twist, standing curls with an E-Z bar. Mark starts each rep with his arms in a fully stretched position with the bar in front of his quads. From there, he will begin to curl the bar upward, making sure to keep the elbows in close to his sides and curl the weight with the power of his biceps and not his back. He brings the weight to the top position near his chin and then lowers the weight in a controlled motion to take advantage of the negative portion of the rep. Since he is already warmed up, Mark goes straight to two working sets of 6-12 reps.
Exercise 3: Standing High Cable Curls
Now it’s time for Mark to polish off his biceps with standing high cable curls. Mark will position himself in the middle of the cable crossover pulleys and grab a handle with each hand. From there, he will arch his back, keeping his chest high, and slowly curl each hand towards his head. He will keep curling until his hands are right near his ears before slowly allowing the arms to return the outstretched starting position.
“I really like this movement as a finisher. In essence, it really feels like I am doing a front double bicep onstage. Because the movement is so much like the pose itself, I find it easy for me to visualize both the exercise and the effect on my biceps. This is especially good for bringing out the peak in the bicep as well as ending with an awesome pump.”
Mark does two sets of 6-12 reps.
So there you have it. The tried and true tri and bi training of superstar Mark Dugdale. Now it’s your turn to give it a try and see what it can do for you. Remember, focus on the feel and watch those arms grow!
Mark trains on the following training split:
- Monday: Chest, Biceps, Calves
- Tuesday: Quads, Abs
- Wednesday: OFF
- Thursday: Back, Hams, Calves
- Friday: Delts, Triceps, Abs
- Saturday: OFF
- Sunday: OFF