“A muscle of pure vanity in the eyes of many and a muscle of essence in the eyes of others, biceps are small but important muscles of the arm.”
In sculpting great biceps, I advocate three primary movements, which are all variations of the curl:
The first movement I believe to be perhaps the most important in forcing overall bicep development is the dumbbell curl.
The dumbbell curl is so important because of freedom of motion it allows for each individual. The freedom of the motion is a powerful way to prevent injury. Imposing specific restricted motion on the biceps can often place strain on secondary muscle groups such as the chest and shoulders as well as the surrounding tendons and ligaments. Additionally, dumbbell curls force both arms to work equally by working them separately.
In performing dumbbell curls, there are numerous different positions to attack from:
- The incline dumbbell curl is a personal favorite and a functional way to really focus on creating bicep peak as well as overall mass.
- Generally, seated dumbbell curls will encourage more bicep isolation by forcing better form without too much strain or momentum stemming from the lower back.
- The standing dumbbell curl is a great alternate motion to switch up a routine and an enticing secondary option when you a hit a plateau in your training.
Proper Performance of the curl
It is important to note the major necessities of proper form in performing curls.
For dumbbell curls specifically, its important to be aware of the position of your hands in the beginning and end of the movement. Full rotation of the wrists will force supination of the muscle. This will stimulate growth of the muscle because it forces the inner and outer heads of the biceps to function throughout the movement. To perfect the positive motion of the rep, make sure to twist the wrists from a palm-upward grip to a palm-downward grip before even beginning the motion.
Once the palms are facing upwards, focus on the full contraction of the curl. In performing any variation of the curl, make sure to keep the elbows pinned close to the body; do not allow them to flare outwards or upwards in performing the movement. Upon reaching the peak of the rep, do not allow the muscle to relax as this will transfer the pressure of the weight to the joints in the elbow and wrist. Keep maximum contraction to ensure this does not occur.
On the negative portion of the rep, be sure to come down in a controlled manner, keeping maximum exertion on the muscle, not the joints. Again, be sure to keep the elbows close to the body and in the case of the dumbbell curl, keep the palms facing upwards until reaching the bottom of the movement. At this point be sure to fully rotate the wrists 180 degrees before starting the next rep.
The next movement I suggest is the barbell curl. The barbell curl is a major mass factor in bicep development gives the added bulk to make this small muscle look intimidating even when its fully relaxed.
Barbell curls do not necessarily require the strict form of other movements. Although I do not advocate improper form, I do believe modifications of the movement like the barbell curl can be a great weapon in an arsenal of unorthodox training methods. Momentum stemming from the lower back and legs can be usefully integrated into barbell curls to allow yourself to break plateaus and exceed goals by slapping more weight onto the ends of the bar.
Commonly known as cheat curls, this variation on the barbell curl requires legs to be shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent to prevent the lower back from bearing too much of the pressure. Cheat curls can be incorporated into any bicep routine but it is important to reason within limits. Do not initiate the use of cheat curls too frequently as this will often times cause more proneness to injury.
I like to think of cheat curls in a context similar to that of a cheat meal. They are important in order to maintain balance, but too much of them can easily throw you off. Therefore, I recommend keeping cheat curls limited to every other bicep workout or less.
Again, outside of the specific methods utilized in conducting cheat curls, it is important to call upon the proper form techniques outlined in the previous paragraph when performing any variation of the barbell curl.
The last movement I like to finish with is a variation of a concentration curl done on a preacher bench. This motion will really focus on pumping all the blood into the muscle and recruit a ton of muscle fibers to the biceps. When done properly, you’ll feel a real good burn by keeping the reps relatively high with quality form to force all the blood to flush into the biceps and force growth of the muscle.
Sometimes, I’ll stick with preacher curls using a cambered bar, but for the most part I thoroughly enjoy the single-arm isolated dumbbell concentration curl on the preacher bench.
This movement is very restricted and for some people it will place too much stress on the elbows. This is why using the dumbbells for this exercise is often times more preferable since dumbbells provide for more freedom of motion.
This movement, when done properly, forces the biceps to do all the work with very little interaction of any secondary muscles such as the chest or shoulders.
In order to properly conduct this exercise, focus on keeping the full belly of the triceps (from the armpit to the elbow) firmly on the preacher bench. This will prevent a cheating from occurring.
Next, bring the arm down to about a 45 degree angle in respect to the bench. Do not come down past this angle as doing so will place extra stress on the elbow. Instead, keeping constant tension on the bicep by not allowing the arm to come down too far will make the exercise that much more difficult and yield twice the results.
The exercises mentioned above are just a few favorites that have been found to be beneficial in creating great overall biceps development. Give it a try; I think you’ll see some great results. Just remember the goal here is build biceps not destroy joints; hence, it cannot be overstressed how important proper form can be. Keeping maximum tension on the muscle is key and the more painful the burn, the more quality growth will occur.
- Seated Incline alternating Dumbbell Curls – 4 sets
- Standing Barbell Curls- 4 sets
- Single Arm Preacher Bench Dumbbell Concentration Curls – 4 sets