Who does not like to show off those big guns while driving or working out?
Biceps is one of the most preferred body parts of guys who work out regularly.
No longer is biceps trained along with other body parts as a secondary muscle group.
It is important to keep a separate day for biceps, or work them out with supporting tricep muscles.
Here’s a brief on the anatomy of bicep muscles:
The main muscle is called the “bicep brachii”. There are two parts of the bicep brachii, the outer head and the inner head.
This muscle group is responsible for the flexion of elbow and rotation of the forearm. The second main muscle is called the “brachialis” muscle.
It is located deep under the bicep brachii and its main responsibility is just the flexion of elbows. The third is brachioradialis muscle, which is a big forearm muscle involved in rotation of forearms only.
Mainly during exercises of pulling mechanism, for instance wide grip pull ups, lat pull downs, back rowing exercises, bicep muscles are involved.
Biceps Exercise #1: Standing barbell/dumbbell curls
Certain bicep exercises are superior to others, one of them being the standing barbell curls.
Obviously, isolation exercises have their place in building big biceps, but a good base is necessary before you go on to focusing on creating more muscle definition.
Steps to perform standing barbell curls
1. Pick up a barbell loaded with sufficient plate weights.
2. With both the arms resting gently with the elbows tucked in.
3. With a shoulder width grip, curl the barbell weight towards your chest and pause for a few seconds to feel the contraction in your biceps.
4. Perform 8-12 repetitions, making sure you increase the load each time. You can also go till failure on the last set.
Since the primary role of biceps muscle is flexion of elbows, curls are undoubtedly the most basic exercises. You can do dumbbell curls or barbell curls.
The best part about curls is they are simple to perform, although some people in the effort to lift really heavy weights, perform to-and-fro movements.
This can lead to serious back issues. Also, do not lift with your shoulders; only the arms should be used to lift the weights.
Tip: Keep your knees slightly bent, dropping your body to get past the final rep. This is important to maintain the right form and increasing the pump your biceps feel.
Varying the grip width in barbell curls:
To involve the long head or the outer head of bicep muscles, hold the barbell at a narrow width and start curling. Using a wide grip stance to curl involves the short head or the inner head of biceps.
So if you are performing four sets of barbell curls, do two sets with wide grip and two sets with narrower grip.
Or you can do one set of wide grip curls, one set of narrow grip curls and one set of medium grip barbell curls.
Biceps Exercise #2: Chin ups
Building big biceps is not just limited to unlimited number of curl variations. The old school chin ups are instrumental in building big arms.
Steps to perform chin ups:
1. Keep an underhand grip closer than the shoulder width and rest against the pull up bar.
2. With your arms fully extended, create a slight curvature in your upper back. This is the starting position. You can also tie plate weights if you are an advanced gymmer.
3. Pull your body towards the bar, keeping the elbows as close to the body as possible and focusing only on squeezing the biceps. The core is also worked in this exercise.
4. Feel the contraction in the biceps and gradually lower down to the initial position.
For beginners, use a spotter to hold your legs in position so that undue motion is eliminated while performing the repetitions. You can also use pull up assist machines that ensure you are working against a load lesser than the body weight.
Using a smith machine, you can also do incline chin ups that build up your ability to pick your own body weight. Gradually you can move on to the regular chin ups.
- Static hold chin ups
This involves holding specific positions in the chin ups. The three positions you will hold are: finished position of chin ups, mid range position, and the beginning position.
Hold each position static for 60-90 seconds before moving on to the next. The best thing about this variation is, the reps are super slow and as a result muscles are constantly under tension.
- 1.5 rep chin ups
In this variation, you do one full rep chip up followed by a half rep again followed by a full rep. You can lift your body towards the top of the bar and come back half the way down, or alternatively just lift yourself halfway through the top.
- Weighted chin ups
Tie a plate weight under your body so that you will be working against a high load. This is for those who can do 10 body weight reps at one go.
Biceps Exercise #3: Preacher curls
Preacher curls is one of the best exercises to get the ultimate peak in your biceps. Steps to do preacher curls:
1. Sit on a preacher bench with the top of your arms gently rested on the pad.
2. Grab an EZ curl bar with a slightly lesser width than the shoulder width. EZ curl bar is chosen because there is less pressure on the wrist ligaments and chances of tendonitis is lesser.
3. Breathe in and bring the bar down so that your arms are extended fully and there is complete stretch in the biceps.
4. Exhale and raise the weight till the biceps are flexed fully. Feel the squeeze in the biceps for a second and bring the bar back to the starting position.
You do not need to curl all the way up close to your body, the extra movement does not train biceps muscle. Bring the bar till your shoulder height.
As far as cheat reps are concerned, they are fine as long as they are done towards the end of a set, to really tear the muscle fibers. Also, many people stop half the way down without extending their arms completely on the way down.
The negative rep amplifies the burn feeling your muscles get. The slower you do them, the better it is for you. If using the EZ curl bar hurts your joints, you can try holding dumbbells instead of the bar. The form and result is pretty much similar.
This isolation exercise also works out the forearms pretty well. There are also preacher curl machines that eliminate any degree of cheating in preacher curls.
Biceps Exercise #4: Seated Incline dumbbell curls
1. Rest on an incline bench and hold a dumbbell on each side.
2. Keep the dumbbells at arm’s length and position your elbows close to the body. This is the initial position of the exercise.
3. Make sure that the upper arm is completely stable, much like a hinge. Curls the weights towards your chest and feel the contraction in your biceps as you exhale.
4. Bring back the dumbbells to the initial position and continue for the recommended number of repetitions.
Try holding the contraction position for a second or two to feel the burn. In the negative rep, slow down the pace of workout and see massive results.
This exercise is not meant to be done with heavy weights, so keep aside your ego at home and do the exercise with correct form. It puts emphasis on the long head of your biceps.
The reason this exercise is considered one of the best bicep builders is: when a muscle is stretched fully before contracting it, the force with which the muscle contracts in the positive rep is even more and as such, great results are noticed.
Long head of the biceps muscle makes up most of the bicep mass that you see in heavy arms. Doing them in the earlier part of your arms workout is recommended.
Biceps Exercise #5: Hammer curls
1. With two dumbbells positions are your sides, hold the dumbbells in such a way that your forearms are rotated without any rotation in the wrists.
2. Keep the elbows close to your body and make sure that the upper arm is stationary throughout the reps.
3. Breathe out and curl the dumbbells towards your chest. Hold the contraction for a second and bring back the dumbbells to the starting position.
You can do hammer curls while sitting on a bench with back support. If the load is too heavy for you, try doing alternating hammer curls.
Another variation you can try is, hammer curls on a preacher bench. Make sure however that the form is proper or else you will be hurting your back and elbows.
Cross body hammer curls can be done by curling the dumbbell in the right arm towards the left shoulder and vice versa.
Biceps Exercise #6: Bicep 21s
Start adding bicep 21s to your original bicep routine to notice massive difference in your arm size. 21 is the number of repetitions you will perform in one set. However, all the reps won’t be done in the same manner. The splitting of 21 reps is as follows:
1. Hold a barbell with an underhand grip and do curls starting from the initial position till the midway point. Do 7 reps of these.
2. The next 7 reps: curl from the midway position to the final position.
3. The final 7 reps: do normal barbell curls, focusing on full range. Cheat reps can be included in the final 2-3 reps when you cannot complete the reps with proper form. However, try to keep the posture as straight and stable as possible.
The blood flow to muscles is very high and as a result, their endurance is accentuated too. You can also do this exercise with dumbbells or EZ curl bar.
It is better to conclude your bicep workout by doing bicep 21s. If you do this workout in the initial time period, chances are that your muscles will be too exhausted to proceed to other isolation exercises.
Biceps Exercise #6: Concentration curls
1. Sit on a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in the front. Situate the dumbbell between your feet. Ensure that your knees are bent.
2. With the right arm, hold the dumbbell and rest the back of your right arm with the top of the right leg thigh. The right palm has to be rotated in such a way that the dumbbell faced away from your torso. This is the beginning position of the exercise.
3. Keep the upper arm stable, and starting curling the dumbbell and fully feel the contraction in your biceps as you exhale. The movement should be only in the forearms and rest of the body should not be swinging.
4. Feel the squeeze in your biceps by holding the dumbbells in the final position for a second. In the negative rep, be slow and easy. Many people jerk back in this movement, thus effectively doing only half a repetition.
5. After you are done with 8-12 repetitions, do the same for the left arm.
Incorporating Drop Sets in your Bicep Workout:
Drop set is a technique used in workouts when you do a set of any exercise till failure, or just short of failure. For instance, in cable bicep curls, suppose you do the first set of 12 reps with a weight of 70 lbs.
A drop set means you immediately drop the weight down to 60 lbs and do 10-12 more reps. These shock the muscles like no other technique and they grow when you feed them with proper nutrients and quality rest.
You can also try doing triple drop sets, where there are three sets with almost the same number of repetitions, with descending load. Bodybuilder love drop sets because these help you recruit more muscle fibers which could not be activated with the usual single sets.
Here’s a sample drop set workout you can try out (only for intermediate bodybuilders)
1. Close grip EZ barbell curls 12 reps, 10 reps immediately with a lighter weight, and do 8 reps of the third drop set without any rest.
Total 3 double drop sets. 1 minute rest between two full sets.
2. Alternating hammer curls 12 reps followed by 10 followed by 8. Total three triple drop sets.
3. Cable curls 12, 10, 8 reps total three triple drop sets
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