Bicep is one of the most desirable body parts. In fact, the bicep is one muscle group that people want to develop first. Many are just happy to train their guns instead of focusing on other body parts. Although, the bodybuilding science doesn’t approve of such approach, but it tells you how desperate people often are to build biceps.
So, despite such fixation why people rarely have great biceps? And, what should be done? The biggest mistake is the desperation and excessive fixation on biceps. People often train biceps so frequently that the muscles don’t get the necessary time to recover and develop. Then, there is ego. More than often, people tend to curl more weight than they can with the proper form, which leads to sniveling of hips and jerk of shoulders rather than clean curls.
If you want great biceps, you have to at least, do the basic curling motion, a movement in which your elbow flexes against resistance right. However, if building biceps were that simple, you probably would have big guns by now. It requires much more than standard barbell curls. And, here are ten tips that will help you build bigger and meaner biceps.
Understand the Anatomy
To get the best results, it is important that you should know the hidden mechanism behind the curling motion. If you know all the main muscles that make up your upper arm, then you can possibly train better. Although, on the surface, the bicep training may seem very simple, after all the muscle has only two heads, but it is much more complex than that. Once you will see the anatomy of bicep, you will notice that there are two muscles which you aren’t hitting enough in the gym. The one is brachialis that lies underneath the bicep, but plays a major role in flexing of the elbow when you curl the weight. Though, it is a relatively small muscle, but increasing its size can considerably increase the size of your biceps. Then, there is brachioradialis, which is the largest muscle of your forearm. It sits atop your forearm near your elbow and crosses the elbow joint and is also involved in elbow-flexion movements.
Knowing about the existence of these muscles and tailoring your biceps workout to account for these muscles can increase the size of your biceps significantly. You can’t continue to do the basic exercises and hope to increase size. You need to have versatility in your arms workout.
Back is important
The back exercises can play a key role in developing bicep muscles. The reason being that along with the main muscles of your back, the arm muscles are also engaged while doing back exercises. Due to this reason, often bodybuilders tend to patch back and biceps training on a single day, which is also called a pull day. You can plan your workout routine in such a way that you can train your biceps after back on the same day. However, remember, you can’t do the other way round, the bigger muscle should always be trained first. Also, you shouldn’t schedule the bicep day after the back day as your biceps would already be fatigued. So, always remember the impact and effect, the back workout has on your biceps muscles, while planning the workout.
Start with biggest mass builder
Always start the workout routine with the biggest mass builder exercise. And, the biggest mass builder exercise is the one in which you can move the most weight. Since, the bicep exercises are purely and completely single joint exercises, you don’t have many options that could cloud your choices. Some might argue that chin-ups, which along with biceps also works lats and shoulders is the exercise that moves the most weight. However, it has to be noticed that it isn’t pure bicep exercise. So, the obvious choice is standing barbell curls. The dumbbell curls can also be accepted, provided that you aren’t doing it in the alternate arm form. So, always start your arms workout with standing barbell curls or dumbbell curls.
Start with Right Weight
The start is very important. What you do in the first movement of the workout will set the tone for the rest of the workout. Getting in your comfort zone is the biggest mistake, you can make in bodybuilding. So, storm off the block. It isn’t smart to start lifting the same weight with which you had done 10 repetitions workout after workout. A new workout is the right time to set new challenges. So, increase your weight by 10 percent and give it a go.
Another great way to start is to lift as much weight as it permits you to do the maximum of six repetitions. This will stimulate your arm muscles and make demands on them to work beyond their comfort zone. In fact, the start of the workout is the best point to lift heavier weights as fatigue wouldn’t have kicked in.
Move your hands
Moving your hands along the bar can help you emphasize one of the heads over the other. The long head, which makes up the top or peak of the bicep can be emphasized by using a grip inside shoulder width on barbell curls. Whereas, if you shift your grip to the outside of the shoulder width, you can hit the short head more effectively. One way to incorporate this concept in your workout for a fuller and more complete biceps development is to do two sets of barbell curls with slightly closer grip and doing the next two set with a slightly wider grip. This will give you more comprehensive bicep training than going for four sets with shoulder width grip.
Target Each Head
You can change your curling movement to target each head more effectively. Some bicep exercises can stretch one muscle fully, while keeping the stretching of the other limited. The fully stretched muscle is worked harder as it is capable of stronger contraction.
Remember that the curling movements in which your arms are in front of your body, keep the long head from fully stretching and targets the short head better. These exercises include lying cable concentration curls, preacher curls, and high cable curls. Whereas, the normal curling movements such as incline dumbbell curls, concentration curls, and hammer curls, fully stretch the long head and target it more specifically.
The stretching mechanism can be better explained by comparing the incline dumbbell curl and preacher curl. In the bottom of the incline curls, when your arms hang straight down, the long head of the biceps is fully stretched. Whereas, in the preacher curls, the full range of movement isn’t achieved, which keeps long head from stretching and instead targets shorter head.
As you progress, isolate
Ok, you have started your workout with barbell curls, have given your muscles a shock by going for heavier weights and have hit the biceps muscles from different angles as well. So, what’s next? Now, it is the time to isolate the muscle and hit it even harder. For this purpose, the preacher and concentration curls are the best. These exercises are great due to their ability to eliminate momentum from the movement, which forces your upper arm muscles to work harder. However, people often tend to do these exercises with wrong form. Remember the form is very important especially in the isolation exercises. So, it is acceptable, if you have to reduce the weight a notch. And, it will be best if you do these exercises towards the end of your workout.
Target the Brachialis Muscle
As stated earlier, the brachialis muscle lie under the bicep brachii. However, the traditional and regular bicep exercises do little to target it. The worst culprit in this sense are the exercises done with the traditional underhand grip. The neutral grip exercises such as hammer curls can assist in isolating brachialis muscle, which can maximize the thickness and circumference of your upper arms. The hammer curls with palm facing each other also hits biceps’ long head and brachioradialis along with brachialis, which makes it an ideal exercise to achieve transition from upper to lower arm movement.
End with Forearms
Targeting your forearms after the upper arms makes sense because the smaller forearm muscles assist in many curls and bicep exercises. If you work your forearms first, your upper arm exercises would certainly suffer. In fact, with your forearms already trained to the failure, you will find it hard even to grip the bar properly.
Start with forearm exercises that along with focusing on the forearm muscles also works other arm muscles. The reverse curls with the overhand grip fit perfectly into this role. It targets the brachialis and brachioradialis. Don’t forget to hit all the forearm muscles. The wrist curls works the wrist flexors on the underside of the forearm and extending your wrists back during the exercise, target the extensors, which are the small muscles of the top of the forearm.
Most Important Tip
Most of the upper and lower arm training exercises are single joint movements. However, often individuals turn them into multi-joint movements by trying to lift too heavy weights or by not being aware of the right form. The most common mistake that is made in relation to the form is allowing your elbows to stray from your sides during exercise execution. To ensure that the exercises remain single joint movements, keep your arms locked by your sides throughout the exercise.
When you allow your elbows to flare out or you pull them forward during curling, you engage your shoulders as well. And, there is a term in bodybuilding vocabulary to describe the habit of pulling the elbows from the sides to raise a weight higher. And, that term is cheating. As in other facets of life, cheating in bodybuilding also reduces your chances of achieving success.
Although, sometimes with the elbows locked by your side, you won’t be able to lift as high as you can with cheating, but you will be able to maintain tension on your upper arms throughout the movement. And, the muscles are built by tension and contraction, not by distance.