(You May be Surprised)
There'll be no preface to this article. There isn't any need to discuss the appeal of the bicep muscle and its importance to one's overall appearance. Everyone already knows that. Instead, let's get right to the point: Biceps training is probably the most simple form of all bodybuilding exercise, yet thousands of bodybuilders fail to stimulate bicep growth with ample success. There's a reason for that. There's also a solution. If you're among those who never seem to get a good bicep pump and would like to rectify the situation, read on.
You're Not Going To Believe This, But...
Although it's rarely addressed, the standard curl doesn't directly affect the bicep -- at least that's the case with some people. It all comes down to your anatomical make-up. For an unlucky bunch, the main contributor is the brachialis muscle, which runs underneath the outer part of the bicep. That's the muscle most responsible for drawing the hand toward the shoulder. Naturally, as the resistance is increased, the muscle fibers of the bicep come into play, which is why heavy curling will increase bicep size.
Simple, right? Maybe not. Since everyone's point of insertion is different, for some, the brachialis may absorb the majority of stress, thus, the biceps function becomes limited. In other words, the biceps will only receive as much stress as the brachialis will allow.
More Weight=More Growth. But Where?
The obvious solution of increasing the stress on the biceps would be to simply increase the weight, but as many of you may have realized, that tactic doesn't always work. Have you ever used an extremely heavy weight for curls only to wind up with sore forearms the following day? That's because the additional stress was, once again, handled by the brachialis. They're a very efficient muscle. Unfortunately, by being so efficient, they rob the biceps of additional growth stimulation. You may be able to lift more and more weight, but the biceps remain the same size. Very frustrating.
A New Angle On Things:
If you're an advanced bodybuilder, you may have tried a series of angles in order to better isolate the bi's. This is a necessary part of anyone's training. We all need to discover how to hit a muscle with the optimum force and in the case of the biceps that won't budge, the key is to try and eliminate the brachialis as much as possible.
Whatever Works Best - Do The Opposite.
By examining which movements most directly work the brachialis, we can comprehend what not to do. Hammer curls, for instance, will work the forearms and brachi and, interestingly, are easier than standard biceps curls. There's no wonder a cambered bar was once referred to as an "EZ" curl bar. Sure, you can handle more weight -- because it takes the strain off of the bicep! It would then stand to reason that positioning the wrist in as opposite a direction as possible would take the stress off of the brachialis and place it more onto the bicep. Therefore, keeping the wrist as straight up as possible will stress the bicep more directly. In the case with dumbell curls, keeping the wrist a little outward with the pinky higher than the other fingers is better yet. Of course, when doing barbell curls, a wide grip with a straight bar will most directly work the fibers central to the bicep.
Don't Preach. The preacher curl is a favorite among many bodybuilders but it, too, is more of a brachialis exercise. Think it builds the lower bicep? Can't happen. The entire bicep is either activated or not. There is no "lower" bicep. What the preacher bench does is alleviate stress at the top of the motion making it essentially a "half" curl. So why is it that many champion bodybuilders exalt its effectiveness? It comes down to anatomy. In a fortunate few, such as the phenomenal Larry Scott, the brachi will develop under the bicep resulting in a higher "peak." We should all be so lucky.
The Laid Back Approach:
Going with the "opposite" concept, the best way to circumvent any assistance from the brachialis would be to not lean forward, as is the case with the preacher bench, but to lie backward. Incline curls on an angle of 45 degrees or lower, will place greater emphasis directly on the biceps. Eliminate preacher curls from your routine and replace them with an equal amount of sets of incline curls and you'll notice the difference immediately.
A Unique Cable Curl For Bigger Bi's:
If that deep down ache in the pit of your biceps has been eluding you, here's a movement you're really going to like. Pay special attention to how it's performed, for any deviation won't bring the desired result.
• Set the cables on each end of the station at their lowest position.
• Use a weight that will allow for good form. It's better to go for more reps than to cheat with too heavy a weight.
• Grab a handle with each hand using an underhand grip and step forward so that your arms are drawn slightly back.
• Keeping the elbows as close to your sides as possible, curl the weight up.
• Do not allow the elbows to be drawn up during the curl! This is important! Jutting the elbows up will only displace the stress onto the anterior deltoid and the pectoral minor. Keep the arms down and your elbows back and let the biceps take on the strain.
• Don't let the fist "curl" toward you. Keep the wrists level throughout.
• Come to a complete contraction. Squeeze hard at the top of the movement.
• Do 10 reps and keep the rest between sets to under a minute.
Try and make this move the only exercise you use the next time you work biceps and concentrate on making the biceps work throughout the concentric and eccentric movement. Six to ten sets should get the job done if the intensity is high.
If you've been getting better at curling but have no additional bicep size to show for your efforts, the problem may be that you really haven't been working your biceps at all! Start applying some of these bicep isolating techniques and you soon may realize that there's a lode of untapped muscle on those upper arms. Dig in and get it.