It was a cold day in October, and as I sat in the locker room, just having emerged from the shower, I drank my protein shake, hating the taste, but drinking it nonetheless and relishing its muscle building qualities. The place was a typical locker room, a dive, with circa 1970 wallpaper and old, faded, swimsuit posters on the walls.
The room was divided in two, separated by a wall of lockers. On the opposite side of the room behind the wall of lockers, two other men were changing, and talking. Their conversation was typical with ample talk of cars and sports, but suddenly the conversation took a turn for what I, initially, thought was the worst.
Almost out of nowhere one of the men said to the other "hey let me take it off and show you." Enthusiastically the other was cheering him on. "Wow, man, that's really BIG!" said the little guy with admiration. "I know," said the other with pride "that's what my girlfriend said. In fact, she likes to touch it every night!" "Wow!" the one exclaimed, "I just can believe it. That's the biggest head on one of those I've ever seen! The brachii is HUGE!"
For those of who initially thought that I was talking about something to do with sexuality I should inform you that I am instead talking about biceps. But, then, fully developed muscles of all kind are associated with sexuality. As Joseph Weider once remarked "I see the appeal of muscle. Its appearance and consequential sex appeal inspire men to workout."
While it may be reasoned that working out and bodybuilding should not be undertaken for egotistical or vain reasons, it may also be argued that any reason that produces enough motivation to live a healthy lifestyle will produce the same result: A fit body that radiates the message of health to all who see it.
Therefore, regardless of your motivation for living the bodybuilding lifestyle, here is a bicep routine that is guaranteed to pack on mass if used correctly. Included at the end will also be a common list of errors that many employ when executing these exercises. Watch for them in your own training and avoid them whenever possible.
EXERCISE 1 Barbell Curl
The first exercise to perform is standing barbell curls. This exercise may be performed using a straight barbell or using a cambered bar [E-Z curl bar]. If, in times past, you have noticed that your wrists hurt when using a straight barbell, then using the cambered bar is recommended. With that said, however, executing these exercises using correct form is of the utmost importance.
Typically, given that this is the first exercise in the order, it is wise to do a set of 12 repetitions in a strict, slow and controlled manner with light poundage. The purpose of this set is to gain a feel for the movement, to establish the mind-muscle connection, and to establish correct form. By doing this you will also be pumping the blood into the muscle.
Follow the first warm-up set of 12 repetitions with four sets of 10, 8, 6, and 6 repetitions respectively.
EXERCISE 2 Seated Dumbbell Curl
Proper form is essential on this movement as well, but perhaps more so than with the barbell curls just outlined. It is easier to cheat on this exercise than with the barbell version listed above. How so?
It is still possible with this movement to swing the weight up using the small of your back just as it is with a barbell, but dumbbells offer a greater range of free motion, and it is quite easy to slam the weight up by twisting at the top, thus also involving your upper lats. A bicep exercise should not become a back exercise. To reduce cheating you can sit for this movement.
For this movement perform three sets. The first set should have eight repetitions, the second six repetitions and the third six repetitions. As always, the form should be very strict, paying careful attention not to allow the elbow to move forward during the movement.
EXERCISE 3 Concentration Curls
This exercise is used as a finishing exercise and is what is known as a pumping exercise. I will explain these concepts in more detail in the next section.
For this movement find a bench, grab a dumbbell, and position your feet flat on the floor, with each foot being directly off to the side of your body, about 2.5 feet between the heel of each foot. Place the elbow of whatever arm is being worked on the inner thigh of the same side, SLIGHTLY lean forward while keeping a straight posture, and begin to bring the weight up in a controlled manner. Squeeze the bicep at the top of the movement. For the first set do 15 repetitions, and 10 repetitions per set for the remaining 2 sets.
The whole workout should take you no longer than 25-30 minutes if performed correctly. Presented now are some common errors of bicep training. Watch for them in your own training and avoid them whenever possible.
- Barbell Curl
5 sets of 12,10,8,6,6 reps
- Seated Dumbbell Curl
3 sets of 8,6,6 reps
- Concentration Curls
3 sets of 15,10,10 reps
Common Errors To Avoid
"Put A Little Back Into It"
Sometimes people confuse bicep training with music videos. After all, "put a little back into it" sounds like the name of some late 1980's rap song. What is more, you would almost think people believe it is because often when training biceps people will use too much weight, causing them to twist and contort their bodies in any way needed to slam the weight up.
The point in doing any exercise is not to look funky and show that you can move a weight with enough rhythm to impress a break dancer, but, rather, the purpose is to hammer a muscle to stimulate growth. If people are inventive enough, I have observed, they can end up working back for pretty much every exercise, regardless of whether or not that exercise is a back exercise.
For example, when doing seated concentration curls people often move and squirm around on the seat because they are using too much weight, and all hint of correct form is thrown out the window. Or, when performing standing barbell curls people combine barbell curls and deadlifts by choosing a weight that is too heavy, and they pull it up with their lower back so they can generate enough momentum to get the weight up. A time saver? Not at all. An injury creator? Absolutely.
I see this type of error very frequently and quite honestly people doing this look ridiculous. It is amazing how, when a behavior occurs in a room full of 100 people, 99% of the people in the room can see it while the other 1% [the person doing the behavior] remains oblivious to its occurrence.
Shifting Elbows Outward & Resting Weight On The Joint & Long Bones Of Forearm
This error is less well known and, in most cases, is less obvious to the athlete and observers. Often, when doing biceps exercises, the athlete will, in the attempt to get the weight up, change the center of gravity and will move the elbow forward. The arm is, mathematically speaking, a lever, and by changing the center of gravity one can increase or decrease the difficulty of the work being done. The concept of leverage applies here. By moving the center of gravity forward or backward, the ease or difficulty of moving the weight is modified accordingly.
The problem with modifying the center of gravity is that the weight should be placed on the bicep, to stimulate growth. By shifting the center of gravity, the weight is placed on the joints, and on the long bones of the forearm. Bicep exercises are NOT joint and long bone exercises. If you want to strengthen joints, do negatives. If you want to strengthen your bones eat a high protein diet and supplement with calcium. Do not, however, modify the center of gravity because the result will be an ineffective workout, and injury.
Resting At The Top Of The Movement & At The Bottom
Full range of motion does not always mean effective range of motion. For many exercises, including bicep exercises, one can extend the range of motion too far, and this can take the stress off the muscle that is supposed to be worked. When the term "full range of motion" is used many people believe that this means from one end of a movement to the other. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE!
When I hear "full range of motion", the translation I hear in my head is "the range of motion necessary to FULLY work a muscle." The logic further extends that in order for a muscle to be fully worked, the range of motion must be EFFECTIVE, and not so full that effectiveness is lost. Range of motion need only be full enough to be FULLY EFFECTIVE! "Fully effective range of motion" is a phrase that many would do well to remember when working muscles in general, and biceps specifically. "Continuous tension" embodies this principle.
Resting at the top or bottom of the movement is nothing more than the process of depriving the muscle of stimulation. If, to illustrate, we picture a repetition as a two-component whole, then we have the up movement and the down movement of the repetition. This would constitute 100% of the effectiveness of the movement. However, by resting at the bottom and the top of the movement, the repetition is divided into four units that comprise the whole, and during two parts of the repetition, you are resting. Translation? You decrease the effectiveness of the repetition by 50%, and thus cut the muscle growth potential you could have gotten from that repetition, in half. In the final analysis, you will end up needing to do twice the amount of work to obtain the same result.
Bicep training can be a rewarding, and safe endeavor. The rewards of bicep training are well worth the efforts exerted in the workout, and the efforts exerted in the mind to ensure safe, effective, training.
By employing the workout detailed here, and by being aware of the common mistakes presented, you can ensure that continual gains are yours, while minimizing the potential for injury.
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