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Bodybuilder

Introduction

Everyone wants bigger arms. It is a known fact. However, most go into the gym and do the same biceps exercises all of the time and fail to grow their biceps. This article is going to provide you with the tips and tricks to maximize your biceps growth. However, before we get into anything, we need to know some anatomy and mechanics of the biceps muscles. The biceps brachii (formal name of the biceps) are comprised of two heads. This includes the long head and the short head. The long head is on the outer side of the biceps and the short head on the inner side of the biceps. They originate (start) on the scapula (shoulder blade), cross the elbow and insert into the radius (thumb-side, forearm bone). Their function is to flex the elbow joint or bring the hand closer to the shoulder; supinate (rotate upwards) the hand; and flex the shoulder joint or bring your arm upwards in front of you. There is also another muscle under the biceps brachii called the brachialis. The brachialis starts on the humerus (upper arm bone) and inserts into the ulna (pinky side forearm bone). Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss how to maximize biceps growth in more details.

Step One: Training Intensity

The first step in maximizing biceps growth is to understand how heavy (intensity) you should lift. The biceps are approximately 60% fast twitch muscle fibers and 40% slow twitch muscle fibers. This means that fast twitch muscle fibers respond better to faster, heavier movements (1). Therefore, you are going to want to make sure you are lifting in the 6-12 repetition range for about half of your lifts. The other half of you lifts should be focused on lighter weight and higher repetitions (15-30) because slow twitch muscle fibers respond better to slower, controlled movements (2).

Step Two: Exercise Variation

Varying your exercise selection may be one of the most important things you can do to spark new muscle growth; the biceps are no different (3). Research shows that preacher curls results in more muscle activation at the beginning of the lift when the muscle is fully stretched. However, standing biceps curls show greater muscle activation at the very end of the lift when the muscle is fully shortened (4). This means that you should train biceps with a variety of different exercises to fully maximize the benefits of training.

Step Three: Reverse Your Grip

Reverse biceps curls, or my favorite, reverse EZ-bar curls, have been shown to activate the brachialis to a greater extent that doing normal curls. The brachialis comprises approximately 18% of your total arm mass. Although it is less than the biceps brachii (26%) and triceps (56%), it is still a viable option to increasing the total size of your arm. Reverse curls of any type put more stress on the outside of the forearm (ulna), which is the bone the brachialis inserts into. This means lifting with your palms down will put more stress on the muscle. Therefore, using reverse EZ-bar curls, reverse dumbbell curl, and/or reverse preacher curls is a great way to add variety (point number two) into the mix.

 

Step Four: Incorporate Different Training Variables

Doing the same exercises over-and-over again is the quickest way to become stagnant with muscle growth. In addition to that, using the same loading scheme (eg., 3 sets of 10 reps) is another way to slow down muscle growth. When we lift weights, we force our body to adapt to the training by getting bigger or faster; this is known as the repeated bout effect. This is why periodizing (varying) your training is so important. Easy ways to periodize your training include adding variables such as blood flow restriction training, supersets, and giant sets to maximize growth. Periodizing your training is very simple. Follow the four week program below to ensure that you are making new biceps gains.

Week 1

OrderExerciseSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
1Barbell Biceps Curls310-1245-60 seconds65-70% 1RM
2EZ Bar Preacher Curls310-1245-60 seconds65-70% 1RM
3Alternating Standing Biceps Curls310-1245-60 seconds65-70% 1RM
4EZ Bar Reverse Curls310-1245-60 seconds65-70% 1RM
5BFR Hammer Rope Curls330,15,15

 

Week 2

OrderExerciseSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
1Barbell Biceps Curls38-1060-90 seconds70-75% 1RM
2EZ Bar Preacher Curls38-1060-90 seconds70-75% 1RM
3Alternating Standing Biceps Curls38-1060-90 seconds70-75% 1RM
4EZ Bar Reverse Curls38-1060-90 seconds70-75% 1RM
5BFR Hammer Rope Curls330,15,15

 

Week 3

OrderExerciseSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
1Barbell Biceps Curls36-890-120 seconds75-80% 1RM
2EZ Bar Preacher Curls36-890-120 seconds75-80% 1RM
3Alternating Standing Biceps Curls36-890-120 seconds75-80% 1RM
4EZ Bar Reverse Curls36-890-120 seconds75-80% 1RM
5BFR Hammer Rope Curls330,15,15

 

Week 4

OrderExerciseSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
1aBarbell Biceps Curls410None75-80% 1RM
1bEZ Bar Preacher Curls410None75-80% 1RM
1cAlternating Standing Biceps Curls410None75-80% 1RM
1dEZ Bar Reverse Curls410180-240 seconds75-80% 1RM
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy

 

Citations

  1. Fry, A. C. (2004). The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations. Sports medicine, 34(10), 663-679.
  2. Campos, G. E., Luecke, T. J., Wendeln, H. K., Toma, K., Hagerman, F. C., Murray, T. F., … & Staron, R. S. (2002). Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones. European journal of applied physiology, 88(1-2), 50-60.
  3. Fonseca, R. M., Roschel, H., Tricoli, V., de Souza, E. O., Wilson, J. M., & Laurentino, G. C. & Ugrinowitsch, C.(2014). Changes in exercises are more effective than in loading schemes to improve muscle strength. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(11), 3085-3092.
  4. Oliveira, L. F., Matta, T. T., Alves, D. S., Garcia, M. A., & Vieira, T. M. (2009). Effect of the shoulder position on the biceps brachii EMG in different dumbbell curls. Journal of sports science & medicine, 8(1), 24.

 

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