Summer is right around the corner and you’re still searching for ways to build shirt-ripping biceps to flaunt at the beach.
Maybe you’re a beginner not knowing what exercises to choose for the greatest muscle gain or maybe you’re a veteran that needs a new workout to add to his/her repertoire. Either way – although you may not pack on 20 pound of muscle in the space of a couple of months, you can certainly make a difference by starting training now or mixing up your normal routine!
It’s a win-win situation! Let’s begin by understanding a bit more about the biceps…
Anatomy of The Bicep
The main function of the biceps is to assist in pulling movements primarily performed with the back.
These muscles are made up of two smaller muscles which are generically called the “short head” and “long head.”
The short head is best worked whenever your arms are positioned in front of the rest of your body. Working the short head of the muscle builds the peak of the bicep and helps with the overall width of the muscle.
The long head is best worked whenever your arms are to the side of your body. Training the long head of the muscle will bring growth into the length of the biceps muscle as well as adding to overall width.
Although short and simple, it always helps to understand about different sections of the biceps, as exercises can then be tailored to your preferred area of arm growth.
The following biceps workout has been been combined to target a nice mix of short and long head biceps exercises.
1) Barbell Curl
The barbell curl is one of the ultimate mass-building biceps exercises due to amount of weight that can be used, in addition to the simplicity of the motion.
This exercise primarily works the short head of the bicep, however, holding the weight with a close grip (move hands inwards) will increasingly work the outer arm. Alternatively, move the hands further apart to work more of the the inner arm.
a) Begin by unracking the barbell and hold it in front of you with palms facing the ceiling – you should be standing upright (straight torso).
b) Keeping the upper arms still, curl the barbell towards your chin level, squeezing the biceps as you exhale.
c) Once at chin level, squeeze and hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds to really get the mind-muscle connection.
d) Inhale and begin to slowly lower the barbell to return to the starting position.
Sets and reps: 4 x 8-12 reps
TIP: Experiment with different variations e.g. using a straight bar/EZ bar attachment on a low pulley.
2) Lying Cable Curls
Lying cable curls emphasize the short head of the biceps – this is a great exercise due to the short head making up the majority of the biceps themselves! This is more of an isolation movement.
a) Begin this lift by setting up a flat bench around one foot in front of a free standing cable machine (alternatively, you can lie flat on the floor.)
b) Set up the pulley with a straight/EZ-bar attachment and move towards the top (begin on an average weight at first.)
c) Lie on your back (on bench or floor) with head facing the cable machine – grab the bar so your forearms are facing you.
d) Pull the bar towards your head, hold the concentration in the biceps for 1-2 seconds and release.
Sets and reps: 3 x 8-12 reps
3) Incline Dumbbell Curl
Reap the muscle-building benefits of this exercise: Incline Dumbbell Curls concentrate on growing the peak of your biceps!
Adjust an incline bench to around 45 degrees (if not already set up)
a) Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand, allowing your arms to relax at their full length – turn your palms to allow them to face forward.
b) Moving the forearms only, curl the dumbbells forward – your biceps should be contracted as you exhale.
c) Hold the contracted position for 1-2 seconds.
d) Slowly release the contraction and lower the weights back to starting position.
Sets and reps: 3 x 8-12 reps
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4) Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Traditional curls are performed with the palms facing forwards – this movement consists of your palms facing inwards towards the torso.
At this point your pump should be evident. To add to this we want to add more blood in and around the bicep as much as possible. The hammer curl is the perfect exercise to end on due to it hitting all aspects of the muscle, in addition to being able to handle a lot more weight than the normal dumbbell curl.
a) Standing upright, (straight torso) hold a dumbbell in each hand, hanging either side of your torso – your palms should be facing inwards.
b) With the top of the dumbbell facing straight ahead, contract the biceps to curl the weight(s) up to hit collar-bone level.
c) Hold the squeeze at the top for 1-2 seconds.
d) Begin to slowly release from the contraction, lowering the weights back to your starting position.
Sets and Reps: 3 x 8-12 reps
TIP: Vary this movement by using a bench for extra back support – perform the move with both weights/alternate to single-arm dumbbell hammer curls for enhanced concentration.
Take Home Message
Whether you’re starting your muscle-building journey or mixing up your routine to break a plateau, these bicep exercises will benefit your goals!
Remember – everyone has to start somewhere.