The Biceps Bible is the first volume in the Fitness Bible series. The Fitness Bible is a compilation of texts that breaks down specific muscle groups in terms of the training methods necessary to achieve maximum hypertrophy, the increase in the size of the muscle cells, of the particular muscle group.
This section will explain how to appropriately manipulate the different training variables to enable maximum hypertrophy of the biceps muscle group. The training variables consist of:
- The specific exercises to be performed during a particular workout.
- The resistance equipment used to perform the exercises.
- The sequence in which the exercises are performed.
- The number of exercises performed per workout.
- The number of sets performed per exercise.
- The number of repetitions performed per set.
- The time it takes to complete a repetition (tempo).
- The intensity at which the exercises are performed.
- The rest period between sets.
- The number of days off between workouts.
Training for muscle growth requires the isolation of the target muscle(s), while stabilizing the rest of the body as much as possible. This allows the neuromuscular system to allocate maximum energy towards the muscle being trained. Therefore, the exercises in the Biceps Bible are selected specifically because they enable the isolation of the target muscle(s) with minimal stabilization demands from the neuromuscular system.
It is important that you consistently emphasize both heads of the biceps, as well as target the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles. In the Exercises section of the book, you will find instructions on how to modify different exercises to target a specific portion of the biceps muscle group.
The multitude of resistance devices available in today's health clubs often makes it difficult to decide which type of equipment to use for a particular exercise. However, when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the various resistance devices, the options are narrowed down to two types of equipment: free weights and the cable machine.
There are several reasons why these two pieces of equipment are chosen over others. The primary reason is that both the free weights and the cable machine do not entirely restrict the path of the movement, with the free weights allowing for the most flexibility in modifying the path of motion. This is very important because:
- Performing exercises in a fixed path can result in pattern overload, an undesired condition in which a muscle is overstrained due to repetitive stress from a single angle.
- It is much more difficult to isolate a particular part of the biceps muscle group when the path of motion is completely restricted by a machine.
- Performing exercises in a predetermined path does not reflect the natural movement patterns of the body, increasing the likelihood of injuring the muscle and the surrounding connective tissue of the wrist and elbow. Another reason why free weights and the cable machine are chosen over other forms of resistance is because they can be effectively used by people with all types of body sizes, unlike most other kinds of resistance devices.
Sequence of Exercises
The most important rule to follow regarding the order in which to perform the exercises during a workout is that it should be changed frequently. The principle behind this is that if the sequence of exercises is not changed periodically, the body becomes accustomed to the routine. This results in decreasing challenge for the neuromuscular system, limiting muscle growth.
Another important rule to follow in selecting the sequence of exercises for a workout is to change the order in which free weights and the cable machine are used for different workouts. Free weights and the cable machine place different demands on the neuromuscular system. Therefore, changing the order in which they are used puts more challenge on the neuromuscular system, promoting muscle growth.
Number of Exercises Per Workout
The number of exercises that you need to perform during a single workout for the biceps muscle group depends on whether or not you train another muscle group on the same day.
If during the workout you train only the biceps muscle group, then four different exercises should be performed. However, if you train the biceps muscle group on the same day that you train another muscle group, then you should perform three different exercises for the biceps muscle group. The exception is that if the only other muscle group that you train on the same day as the biceps muscle group is the abdominals, then you should still perform four exercises for the biceps muscle group.
To maximize muscle growth potential, the biceps will need to be trained in a way that forces it to remain under tension for 30-45 seconds per set. Time under tension is computed by multiplying the number of repetitions performed per set by the time it takes to complete one repetition.
The time it takes to complete a repetition when training the biceps for hypertrophy should not be faster than 2 seconds or longer than 4 seconds. Thus, the number of repetitions performed per set should be between 8 and 15 repetitions. Performing more than 15 repetitions for a set will result in having to complete the repetitions too fast in order to stay within the 30-45 second time range.
Conversely, do not perform less than 8 repetitions for a set because, in order to stay within the 30-45 second time range, you will have to complete the repetitions at too slow of a tempo. It is every important that you periodically alter the repetitions/tempo combination because, as already discussed, the neuromuscular system will become accustomed to the repeated stimulus, resulting in limited muscle growth.
Depending on your current fitness level, 2-4 sets need to be performed for each of the exercises during a training session. Individuals with a higher fitness level will need to perform more sets than individuals with a lower fitness level. The 2-4 sets per exercise do not include the warm-up set, which should be the first set of each exercise performed at 60% intensity.
In other words, if you are going to be performing sets of 12 repetitions with a 3 second tempo using the 40 pound dumbbells, in which you experience muscle failure at the 12th repetition, the appropriate weights for the warm-up set are the 25 pound dumbbells (40 x 60% = 24). After the warm-up set, all the subsequent sets for the exercise should be taken to muscle failure.
Note: Performing 4 sets to muscle failure for each exercise with proper form will impose considerable demands on the neuromuscular system and, therefore, should be reserved only for individuals with an advanced fitness background.
Rest Periods Between Sets
When training the biceps for hypertrophy, the appropriate rest intervals between sets performed to muscle failure are 90-120 seconds. Individuals with a higher fitness level need to lean towards resting 90 seconds between sets, while individuals with a lower fitness level will benefit more from resting closer to 120 seconds between sets.
Resting 90-120 seconds between sets is not enough time for the biceps muscle to completely replenish its energy level after muscle failure. Therefore, it is likely that you will need to continually decrease the weight for the second, third, or forth set of the exercise in order to complete the same number of repetitions with the same tempo as you did for the first set of the exercise.
An alternative approach is to start the exercise with a repetitions/tempo combination that results in the muscle being under tension for 39-45 seconds for the first set. This will allow you to slightly decrease the number of repetitions and/or tempo for the subsequent sets of the exercise, without having to decrease the weight to keep the biceps under tension for the necessary 30-45 seconds.
Note: The rest period between the warm-up set and the first set to muscle failure of an exercise should be 1 minute for all individuals regardless of current fitness abilities.
Days Off Between Workouts
As you start seeing results from following the training program , it may become tempting to train the biceps at least 3 times per week. It is very important to avoid this temptation because the program in this book is quite intense, and thus will not be effective if the muscle becomes overtrained. With that being said, it is also important not to take too much days off between training the biceps because that will result in muscle atrophy, the loss of muscle size from as a result of disuse.
The appropriate number of days to take off between successive workouts for the biceps muscle group is 3-4 full days. Individuals that are not accustomed to performing 3-4 exercises with multiple sets for the biceps muscle group in a single workout will need to take the 4 full days off for the first 4-5 weeks of the training program to allow the neuromuscular system adequate recovery time.