Ok so, out of all the muscles discussed in this section, the biceps are by far the most popular. When someone asks to see your muscles, what’s the first pose you give them? Exactly my point. There are so many variations and exercise routines now-a-days for the biceps that sometimes it’s hard to tell which are for real, and which won’t make your biceps grow to save your life. So let me clear up a lot of questions for you guys…
Let’s start by digging into the anatomy of the biceps. The bicep muscle consists of two heads (hence the prefix “bi”). These are referred to as the inner and outer heads. Joining the bicep on the arm and located between it and the tricep on the outer portion of your arm is the brachiallis. We will go into further detail about this muscle later on. But for now, let’s stick to the basics…
The single most important rule for effectively training the biceps is isolation. Nothing drives me more insane than when I walk into my gym and the guy on the first curl machine is using most of his body to somehow get the weight as high as he can up to his shoulders. When seeing people like this, it’s no surprise that more muscles are being recruited to help carry the load and
complete each rep. The biceps are not meant to be trained this way! It is one of the easiest muscles to stimulate and isolate so let’s put them to work the RIGHT way shall we? Slow and controlled movements will pay off over time. The key to keeping these controlled movements all throughout the exercise is to create a solid foundation. To do this, lock your elbows into your sides when using dumbbells/barbells; when using preacher benches or machines, make sure your upper arm is completely flush with the pad. The shoulder should never move.
Adding to my previous note about creating a strong foundation: your arms should not rise past the 90 degree angle. This allows the bicep to work completely alone. Remember, we are trying to achieve MAXIMUM stimulation to the bicep muscle. What good will it do to have other muscles helping out? It simply just doesn’t make sense. The anterior deltoid will want to help lift the weight when your arms start to fatigue so it is important to stay focused on using the bicep alone. If you can’t lift it, then you can’t lift it! Which brings me to my next point…
A repeated phrase that I often tell my clients is that “ten is the magic number.” What I mean by this is that when your purpose for lifting weights is to maximize muscle growth; your rep range should aim for ten each time, while ALSO increasing the weight. A standard range for muscular development is 8-12 reps per set. So why not aim for 8 or 12 reps? I have found from my personal experience and from many of my clients, that the time spent under tension is just as important as the heavy weight itself. If you fail under 8 reps, your body has not spent enough time under the tension (TUT principle) to enforce the muscular micro trauma that we’re looking for. However, staying with a heavy weight/low rep set WILL increase your strength, but size will not follow as fast.
One of the best ways to build the bicep in a short amount of time is emphasize the negative (Essentric) portion of the exercise. When done correctly, each arm will be using heavy weights that normally would be too heavy to lift. This is done by starting with a dumbbell (Best choice) at the 90 degree position on a preacher bench. One arm is used at a time so a helping hand is there to assist when the bicep hits failure. Slowly lower the weight for about 5 seconds till your arm is COMPLETELY extended at the bottom. This will stretch the bicep to its full potential and cause unbelievable micro trauma to your bicep! All good things. The ten rep rule will not apply to this exercise because the 5 second lowering motion will give your muscles plenty of time under tension! I recommend aiming for 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps here.
Unfortunately I learned this lesson on my own after a few years of training my biceps the wrong way. Barbells are great for many exercises, however in my opinion, until your mind is able to focus the same tension for both arms in the lifting process, only dumbbells should be used. Your brain will automatically choose which side will receive the majority of nerve impulses, which in turn will cause one side to dominate over the other. Then minute I started using dumbbells I saw the difference. My left arm fell short of my expectations while my right arm dominated. Stick to the dumbbells, and watch both of your arms grow at the same time!
Like any exercise routine, the body will adapt to the work you’re putting it through. So it is important to constantly throw new things into the mix to target the bicep from different angles. Remember the brachiallis that I mentioned earlier? Here’s a simple secret to building bigger-looking biceps: Do hammer curls! This is done with your palms facing towards your body instead of facing forward as they would be in a standard curl. This motion stimulates the brachiallis along with parts of the forearm to give a thicker appearance to the bicep. Put simple: basic curls build the bicep peak, hammer curls build bicep thickness. For a complete bicep workout, make sure to incorporate both of these. Using various machines and cables can provide variety to your bicep routines as well. Change things up, and shock your arms into growth!
Being able to understand these simple bicep principles will help you achieve eye-catching results that will make you stand out from the rest. So try these out and let me know the progress that you guys are making!
Most importantly, establish your mindset before you even pick up that first dumbbell. Focus on your goals, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve them. Establish your pain barrier, and prepare your mind and body for growth; get after it!
Feel free to email me with any questions!
CPT – MindsetFitness.net
Summary with credit to: Permanent Muscle by Reuben Bajada. The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin. ACEFitness.org