They are the glamour muscles of the human body. A full, peaked pair of biceps make your body pop, producing a wow factor to your physique. Ask someone to show you their muscles and they are hardly likely to flex a quadriceps – they are going to hit a bicep shot. If you want to impress, you gotta’ have the guns. So, lets go get ‘em!
What’s the best exercise for biceps? The answer is really simple. In fact this movement is the grand daddy of biceps exercises – the barbell curl. This straight up, straight down arm flexion movement will work both the long and short head of the bicep to build size, strength and peak. Because your arms are supinated throughout the exercise will develop peak, so long as you are using a straight bar.
Supination simply involves lifting the palm up towards the shoulder by bending at the elbow joint. To benefit from supination for bicep peak you need to squeeze the bicep tightly at the top of the movement.
How to Curl
The barbell curl is possibly the most abused exercise in history. The main problem seems to be the ego. Too many people try to max out on weight, sacrificing form by swinging, only doing a partial movement and using momentum to get the weight up. Apart from risking major injury, these people are doing nothing for their body. Let’s learn to do it right.
Grab a straight bar, holding it at shoulder width. This will ensure that your elbows at your sides. This must be your focus throughout the movement – do not allow your elbows to wander out.
Now, simply curl your wrist toward your shoulder. You don’t have to touch the shoulder. You should, however, pause at the top of the movement and squeeze as tightly as possible. Make sure that you are going through a full range of movement, smoothly moving from your thighs to your shoulders on each repetition. Think stretch and squeeze on every rep.
Some people complain about wrist pain when doing the barbell curl. The reasons that this may occur are:
- You’ve got too much weight on the bar. Remember you are not going to the gym to impress other people. And, your muscle doesn’t know how much weight is on the bar. All it knows is how intensely it is being worked. So drop the weight and focus on pure form.
- Improper grip. Make sure that you have a deep grip on the bar. Don’t wrap your palm around the bar from the top of your hand – go nice and deep on the thick meaty part of the palm.
- Swinging from the hips. This takes all of the tension off the biceps, nullifying the effect of the exercise. In order to keep your back upright, bend your knees just slightly, and focus on isolating the bicep as you smoothly lift the bar. To eliminate back swing try doing your curls with your back against a wall to keep it super strict. You may have to lower the weight a little, but the bicep will feel it a whole lot more than if you are jerking and swinging with a heavy poundage.
- Limited range of motion. You see a lot of people only going through a three quarter motion with their curls. This will not provide full stimulation. You need to move each rep from the thigh to the shoulder.
- Getting too complicated. There has been more stuff written about bicep training than any other muscle. Because the biceps are the show muscle of the body, people tend to over complicate the training, doing way too much and ending up in an over trained state. The reality is that the bicep is a small muscle group that gets a lot of stimulation from your other body part workouts. All you need is 3 to 4 strict sets of barbell curls, followed by a couple sets of hammer curls to provide the stimulus for maximum growth.
Hammer curls involve using a special bar that allows your palms to face one another during the movement. This is a great exercise for working the long head of the biceps. This will enable you to build mass in the mid bicep area. Do two sets of Hammer curls after you’ve completed 3-4 sets of regular barbell curls. Keep your rep range for both exercises between 12 – 8, dropping 2 reps per set as you add weight.
The Ultimate Finisher
After four sets of pyramided barbell curls, where you up the weight and drop the reps each set, head over to the Pull-Up bar to blast your biceps into oblivion with a finishing move that will pump you up like you won’t believe. Take an extremely close grip on the bar with your palms facing toward you. Now pump out as many pull-ups as you can, bringing your chin as high as possible. Squeeze intensely at the top of every rep. Then lower completely, so that your arms are fully extended at the bottom of the movement.
Once you’ve reached the point where you can’t do another rep with good form. Get your training partner to help boost you up to the top of the bar. Now hang in the top position of the pull up, fighting to keep your chin above the bar. Your goal is to hold for 30 seconds. If you can get there, your biceps will be screaming for relief – and you’ll be in the anabolic zone to pack some real size on your bis! Remember to also check out our other post on some simple hacks to sculpt and tone your arm muscles.
- Barbell curls are an effective mass builder and peak shaper
- Keep your form strict and don’t go too heavy
- Elbows at the side at all times
- Full range of movement with strong flexion at the top
- Don’t over complicate your bicep training
- Use Hammer curls for mid bicep mass
- Finish with an intense set of pull ups, finishing with a 30-second static hold