One of the most common muscle groups to get selected as a focus of your workout is the biceps. Everyone wants a bicep workout that's going to give them a nice peak, a full look to their arms, and something that will help build strength and power so they can show off at the gym lifting heavier dumbbells than the person next to them.
There are a number of different ways you can go about creating your biceps workouts from focusing on just the single muscle group in an isolation session or aiming to really boost overall strength levels by doing a high amount of compound work.
Whatever your decision, there are certain things to make certain of to ensure that you're getting the most from each of the bicep workouts you do.
Here are the most important things to know.
Focus On The Contraction
The very first thing you must always remember with your biceps workouts is to really zero in on that contraction. Far too many people forget to really think about squeezing the muscles as they contract and hoist the weight up, thus don't really get the full benefits of the movement.
For best results, put your mind to work and focus on the pump you're feeling throughout the movement. This will help to prevent you from recruiting any other muscles to help perform the workout so you get the most benefits possible.
Watch Your Spine Position
Next, in addition to focusing on the actual contraction taking place during your bicep workouts, also be sure that you're monitoring the position of your spine. Never let yourself lean too far forward or backward, or worse yet, develop a swinging pattern that relies strictly on momentum to help execute the lift.
If you have to, stand directly up against a wall for a set or two of curls. This will allow you to determine just how much you're leaning forward or backward as your back should be pressed up against the wall. When doing it away from the wall you may take a slight bend, but it should never be too extreme, so if doing the curls against the wall feels entirely different, chances are you are quite off on your form.
Standing sideways and looking into the mirror will also help accomplish the same task, however for most people 'feeling' it typically works best to help you correct yourself.
Perform Compound Work First
If you have decided to perform both compound and isolation exercises within your program, be sure that you perform the compound movements first.
So for example start with your bent over rows (which also work the biceps) and then move into your bicep curls or concentration curls. If you had been targeting another muscle group such as back, then you may consider performing the curls first to fatigue the biceps so they are worked to a lower degree during the rows (therefore specifically targeting the back), however in this case you want to do the opposite.
The rows will fatigue the biceps slightly so that when you do the curls, you really feel it. Additionally, this also follows the principle of always performing bigger exercises (that utilize more muscle fibers) when you're at your freshest, since these are the ones that you'll be using the most weight with.
Utilize Different Systems
Going into the gym and performing bicep curl after bicep curl is without a doubt going to get quite tiring. Instead, change things up a bit and make use of all the different options you have. Consider using a cable pulley system and doing double arm cable curls or attach a straight bar to a low cable and do curls from that angle.
Often it will be very similar movement patterns, but the change will help to stimulate the muscles a little bit differently, therefore producing better results. If you've been doing the same group of exercises for an extended period of time, that's a very strong signal that it is time to change things up and the lack of change is likely what's holding back your progress.
Pair With Triceps
Working the biceps and triceps together in an alternating fashion (using supersets) is a very common way to train this muscle group and will really help you get a good arm pump going. The added intensity of moving from one movement to the next with little or no rest in between also makes for a better workout and is good for those who are looking to advance their progress.
The nice thing about doing antagonistic supersets like this is that it will not hinder your ability to lift a lot heavier like a similar-exercise superset would, but will provide you with the hormonal release in the body that occurs when continuous exercise is performed.
Finally, the last way to get more from your bicep workouts is to add in some 21's. This is a good training principle for those who are slightly more advanced and who can tolerate higher levels of fatigue.
What you will do in this protocol is perform the first half of the movement pattern for seven reps, followed by the second half of the movement pattern for seven reps, and then proceed to perform the full range of motion for the last seven reps of that set.
You'll find after doing this you're extremely burned out and likely will not be able to do much more, so be sure you're placing it at the end of your workout.
Also keep in mind that you will likely use a lighter weight when doing 21's than your normal curls because you will have to perform reps throughout your weakest half of the exercise only and because by the time you get to the full curls, you are going to be tired. This is normal and to be expected so don't grow frustrated with yourself if you find this to be the case.
So next time you're going through your bicep workouts, keep these points in mind. If you feel as though your biceps are lagging right now a bit more direct work and focus may just do the trick to get them to start growing again, but also do remember that in order to see good size growth, your diet must be in caloric surplus, meaning you eat more calories than you burn every day. And you must, over time, begin lifting heavier and heavier weights. That will be your foundation for success.