Get Biceps As Big As Your Head!

I hate to disappoint anyone, but you can't change the shape of a muscle by varying hand positions etc. You can under develop certain muscles and on large multi-muscle groups you can under develop certain parts of a muscle...
Those of you who haven't read much of my training information have to hear a review of muscle growth 101. There are a hand full of variables that will determine your growth much more so than following Mr. Olympia's secret training routine. First is genetic potential. I hate to disappoint anyone, but you can't change the shape of a muscle by varying hand positions etc. You can under develop certain muscles and on large multi-muscle groups you can under develop certain parts of a muscle, but you can't change your shape.

Building The Biceps Of Your Dreams

If you have long bicep tendons, preacher curls that hit your lower biceps won't fill in the gap between your forearm flexors and your bicep. You'll always have a high, peaked bicep, not a long, full one. Anyone's goal should be to develop your body as maximally as possible. I don't know too many bodybuilders who wouldn't want as much muscle as possible everywhere! So, that brings us to the second point: overload. This encompasses virtually every aspect of training.

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Your muscle will grow based on the stress applied, period. You have to develop that statement fully to understand what's at stake, however. Fast-twitch versus slow-twitch fiber, training style, exercise selection, rep range, recovery time, and periodization are all part of how you overload the muscle to cause growth. The last factor, of course, is nutrition.

Just a note on the genetic aspect of your muscle growth. Tissue growth and adaptation take a long time. Those of us who have been training for twenty years or more still see density, quality, and muscle retention improvements. Since your body is so dynamically efficient, you can lose muscle quickly and therefore, the longer and more consistently you train, the more muscle you hold onto as you keep trying to build. So, don't let genetics be an excuse, let them be an incentive to work as hard as you can to see what your true 100% genetic potential is. Before you complain of a "lagging" body part, let's see what a ten-year training plan does for it.

How & Why Workouts Are Effective...

I want to spend most of this article on describing one good workout and why it's effective. This will serve as a model for variation since the training stimulus is more important than the exercises used. Going back to the foundational element of muscle growth, you have to select a primary exercise that allows you to recruit the most motor units (muscle fiber bundles) at the same time while generating the most force possible, using a weight and rep scheme that matches your goals. This presupposes that you'll use good form.

As soon as tension is released from a muscle, it starts recovering for the next rep. Sloppy form stops you from ever fully reaching the greatest amount of muscle fibers you can possibly reach. Of course, that's what causes the most pain so our tendency is to avoid it. That's why isolation exercises hurt so much; you have less room to cheat and you force the stress in a more uniform way to the exhausting muscle. During our "mass" (compound) exercises, we learn to avoid the pain, get another rep at all cost, and simply miss the opportunity to work the muscle deeply. Cheat reps, rest-pause reps, and partial reps can have their place in a good training routine, but not as a rule and not until you've mastered locking into a movement and not deviating.

Your bicep not only flexes your elbow but supinates your wrist. To cause the most growth stimulating response, you have to cause your nervous system to recruit the most motor units. This means the best exercises will tap into the full movement of a muscle. Dumbbell supinating curls do just that. Taking this exercise and making it a primary movement � not just a finishing movement or a warm-up, will start shaping your bicep into it's full growth potential. Start with your palms facing your quads (1) and slowly curl up from the hammer curl position (2) and when you clear your quad, fluidly start to supinate. (3)

Don't flip your wrist over quickly and don't change your elbow position. Both of these mistakes will take the stress off your bicep and you've blown the rep. Squeeze on the way up and supinate hard at the top. Your pinky will be a little higher than your thumb when you're fully supinated. Slowly lower down, again, smoothly before you start the next arm. You need a spotter so that as you start to fail you don't throw your elbows forward and you can get the full top, supinated contraction. Gently spot someone under their own hand that's gripping the dumbbell.

The Sample Workout

That touch will cue their nervous system to contract harder and they will also know exactly how much you're giving them. Plan on 5-6 sets pyramiding up to 4-6 reps to failure on the last set. Bicep's have a more fast-twitch dominance and respond to heavier weight and less reps � as long as your form is allowing you to use them fully and not your back and shoulder.

Don't overdo this exercise the first couple times you do it "correctly." If you're not used to that hard of a contraction and supination, you could end up with a progressive case of tendonitis.

If you've concentrated hard to maintain smooth motion, fully supinated contractions, and you've failed at a heavy weight after 5-6 sets, you'll understand why you don't need to do much for biceps. I would now finish with a reverse or hammer curl exercise jumping right into a moderate weight for about 3 sets, ending again with a 4-6 rep failure set. That's it.

Sample Exercises Sets Reps
Dumbbell Supinating Curls 5-6 sets pyramiding up to 4-6 reps to failure on the last set.
Reverse or Hammer Curl 3 sets, ending again with a 4-6 rep failure set.

Click here for a printable log of this SAMPLE workout!

Other Exercises

Other exercises have value such as barbell curls, EZ bar curls, preacher curls, etc., but you have to concentrate on the same elements of this exercise. Full range of motion, hard peak contractions, and even though a barbell doesn't allow for wrist movement, supinate hard against the bar. Once you've mastered the ability to fully decimate your biceps with form, focus, and pain tolerance, you'll be ready for some upcoming workout variation!

About The Author

Dr. Joe Klemczewski is a WNBF Pro and has graduate degrees in health and nutrition. From his office in Evansville, Indiana he works with clients all over the country, including top WNBF Pros, using his online consulting program. He can be reached at