Have you ever seen a bodybuilder with small biceps? Hmm, I thought not. Biceps are a joy to train for just about anyone. The pump you get when training them is unlike any other muscle.
Whenever anybody mentions a 'pump' in a bodybuilding context, I always think of my biceps. But what are the most effective ways of getting this pump? And more to the point, does getting a pump actually mean you've trained them properly? I'm sure you have many more questions about biceps training. In this article I aim to answer these for you.
I am going to name the 4 biceps exercises which I feel are most effective in building overall mass. I will also tell you how to perform them safely and in a manner that will benefit you the most. It's worth noting that many different people will tell you many different things about biceps training. This is because people have yielded great results when sticking to just 'their' method.
I personally believe very much in sticking to the basic exercises and just tweaking them to fit your goals. So, here are what I believe to be the best biceps builders.
1 / Barbell Curls
These are pretty much a given. I'm almost certain that everyone who has ever set foot in a gym has at some point performed these. Whenever anyone thinks of weightlifting, they usually think of these. And why shouldn't they? Barbell curls are the best exercise for biceps. Here's why:
- You can use a range of grip widths, which will all hit different parts of the biceps - Resulting in full development.
- Weight can be gradually added to the bar, causing small but frequent overload.
- A reversed grip can be used to hit the brachiallis and forearm muscles as well.
Barbell curls aren't just exclusive to free weights. You can also perform cable curls. I don't feel these are as effective, but they are good for a change every now and then. The constant tension provided by the cable apparatus will no doubt shock biceps that are accustomed to free weights.
The EZ Bar is a good tool for a beginner to use when performing these. They don't need to worry so much about getting their grip correct, as it is pre-set for them. All they need to worry about is form.
For barbell curls, I believe there is a specific manner in which you should perform them. I don't buy into the idea of super strict form. Nor do I buy into the idea of not using momentum. If your body tries to use a small amount of momentum, it's for a reason! It will assist your biceps through the weaker end of the range of motion, thus allowing them to work their hardest during the stronger portion.
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Hold the bar with your hands an equal distance apart. Don't extend your arms fully, have them about 1/5 short of lockout. Use a small amount of hip movement, and curl the weight up toward your chin, keeping the elbows in the same place at all times. Bring the weight down through the same range of motion that it was curled in.
This is a simple and effective way to perform these, that I feel will benefit you most - trusting your goal is big biceps.
2 / Dumbbell Curls
I also feel that dumbbell curls are an exercise which must be performed if you want to fully develop your biceps. Although they might not be as adaptable as barbell curls, they hit the biceps in a unique way, making them essential to your workouts.
- Dumbbell curls require you to supinate your wrists when performing them. This hits the brachiallis hard too.
- Hammer grip can be used as well, to also hit the brachiallis
- They are a good mix of an isolation styl and compound style movement. This helps with full development.
The form for dumbbell curls is easy enough to understand, but I've noticed that people seem to struggle putting into action, especially when they're doing the heavier working sets. The first few reps will be fine, but as the set goes on, the form seems to deteriorate.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Lean your torso slightly forward, with your back straight and core stable. Curl your first hand up until you can start to supinate your wrist. Supinate it until it is fully supinated. This should happen at the same time as the dumbbell reaches the top of the curl. Bring it down through the same range of motion that you curled it in. An added tip to enhance the biceps separation, without much extra work - Really supinate hard at the top of the curl.
3 / Incline Curls
Incline Dumbbell Curls
I don't think I ever felt a stretch in my biceps like the one I get when performing incline curls. They hit the biceps in yet another unique way. This is why I think they are crucial for biceps development. They also isolate the biceps well. This can be useful if you have performed a number of more compound-style exercises earlier in the workout.
- The stretch from this exercise works the biceps in a way unlike any other exercise.
- The form is easy to put into practice.
- The level of incline can be varied to ensure full biceps development.
The downside to performing these is that it's easy to pull or strain a biceps muscle if you don't warm up properly. The fact that your biceps are being stretched so much can leave them susceptible to muscle pulls, and even tears if you're unfortunate enough!
As a starting point, I would recommend performing these on a 60-70 degree inclined bench. This can and should be varied as time goes on.
Hold the dumbbells in both hands, with your wrists supinated. Allow gravity to position your arms. Curl both dumbbells up, keeping the elbows still at all times. Bring them down again in the same manner. It really is that simple!
4 / Concentration Curls
Although these are an isolation exercise, I feel they are effective if used correctly. By that, I mean performed at the end of a workout, for high (12-15) reps. The pump you get when doing concentration curls is absolutely unreal! For this reason I feel these are a useful addition to any biceps workout. You will absolutely obliterate those Type IIa fibers which are often neglected, if you perform high-rep concentration curls.
- Isolate the biceps well. This means you can concentrate hard on using the biceps during the lift.
- The pump and contraction from these will make you sweat to say the least!
- Higher rep concentration curls will also hit the biceps in a unique way.
A negative of performing these is that you won't be able to use a lot of weight. The idea of these at the end of a workout isn't to use loads of weight, but to saturate the muscles with blood and nutrients (and to make you cry a little bit).
Stand with your feet at just outside shoulder width apart. Bend your upper body over to roughly 90 degrees. Hold one arm out in front of you to hold the weight and the other to hold on to something and stabilize yourself.
If you were starting with your right hand, your palm would face to the left, and vice versa. Curl the weight up, using only the bicep to lift. Keep the elbow in place at all times. Bring the weight down in the same manner that you curled it. I promise that if you perform these for 12-15 reps, you will get a mind-blowing pump that will make you remember that workout for a few days!
Well there you have it. The 4 exercises I believe to be most effective in building you a pair of thick, full and sleeve-tearing biceps. There are of course many more biceps exercises that should absolutely be used if you want to develop your biceps, but I feel that at least one of the exercises I listed should be used in almost every workout!
Be sure to maintain a sound nutritional plan if you want to get the most out of your workouts!