Are You Going To Believe What They Say?

Everybody talks about shocking biceps into new growth, but I'll place odds that 99 out of 100 guys have no idea what it really takes.

Should you believe what they say?

I saw this one at the Flex web site and I knew it was going to be this week's winner. Now, let's get into it.

Note: The quotes from the magazine are in italics.

"Everybody talks about shocking biceps into new growth, but I'll place odds that 99 out of 100 guys have no idea what it really takes. They parrot popular theories about what constitutes a biceps shock but, no matter how many criteria they list, it won't be enough. Biceps are the most stubborn bodypart of your physique. Overlook just one of the requirements for a potent shock, and your biceps will lie there as if you never touched them."

Why are biceps the only muscle that gets these great "shock training" workouts written about them. Possibly because everyone over trains his or her biceps as it is? Well, I'm not going to ramble on about over training just yet, as I'm sure Flex will give me plenty of reasons to do that.

"I've built my career on my own biceps research: experimenting with every conceivable training technique and charting and comparing results in an effort to determine, conclusively, what best makes biceps grow. Now I know, but I'm sorry to inform you that it's not as simple as I'd hoped. I can't boil it down to anything less than 10 commandments of biceps training. To integrate all of them takes concentration, but if you have the fortitude to bear with me on this, you will ascend to the ranks of those blessed with the best biceps they are capable of attaining."

Ok, out with it. What are these 10 magnificent discoveries you've found.

"I. VOLUME Almost no one trains with enough sets. Every bodypart must be beaten into senseless submission by set after relentless set, until the last synapse sputters and dies. You'll never reach that point if you've been sold that bill of goods called overtraining. There's no such thing. Overtraining was invented by wimps to camouflage their inability to train hard. They say, "Because it's a small muscle group, never do more than nine sets." To me, that's not training your biceps. Even with 20 sets, you're not shocking them, only training them. A legitimate advanced shock workout not only constitutes at least 20 sets, but all of them must be working sets, each one to failure. Don't count any warm-up sets, regardless of the pump you get."

I think we should all take a moment, no, wait, at least 5 minutes to laugh about this. "Almost no one trains with enough sets." Is this guy for real? You might need 20 sets for biceps if you took as much juice and other erogenous drugs as he does, but you don't. There's no such thing as over training? Look, I bet 6 out of the 10 guys I see in the gym at school overtrain. No natural needs over 7 sets for any one body part, never mind such a small muscle as biceps. Hard gainers especially need less volume. How about cortisol, I suppose that isn't real either Lee? It is much more efficient to do 2-4 sets to absolute failure (absolute being key here), then let your biceps recover as they are already trained (since you only grow when you recover), rather than to do 20 sets and not only burn up all your recovery agents, but some of your already hard earned muscle as well.

"II. SUPERSETS No exercise technique activates more muscle fibers or pumps more blood into the muscle group than do supersets; since no bodypart is more responsive to this type of concentrated attack than are biceps, I incorporate supersets into every biceps workout. Doing so, however, carries with it a great responsibility: Supersets are a powerful weapon and must not be used indiscriminately. They have their time and place, so heed the following caveats. Do not use supersets for every biceps exercise. Use them for the last full working sets in your workout. Barbell curls should not be used for supersets. As a compound movement, they exact too much energy and do not activate enough fibers to produce the proper superset burn, which is more of a searing than an exploding sensation. Do not superset biceps exercises with each other. The purpose of supersets is to beat a bodypart into submission by destroying the most remote muscle fibers, so begin each set with as much energy reserve as you can muster. You need maximum strength to reach maximum fatigue. The ideal bodypart superset companion I've found for preserving biceps energy is triceps. The two are almost equal in strength, yet directly antagonistic, allowing each other plenty of time for recovery while waiting their turn. Using supersets for only the last heavy exercise in my biceps workout provides a transition into my triceps workout. To superset a biceps exercise with a triceps exercise, I try to combine movements of equivalent effort, such as dumbbell preacher curls with one-arm dumbbell extensions or seated alternate dumbbell curls with standing French curls. The only biceps exercises that should be superset are dumbbell curls, preacher curls, seated barbell curls and cable curls. Freestanding barbell curls are too heavy, concentration curls are too light and machines are too isolated to produce a comprehensive burn."

Wow. Where to start with this one. Supersets are a great way to build muscle, but should be used only on occasion as they can easily lead to overtraining. Oh wait, Lee thinks there is no such thing as overtraining, right. In any case, supersets should be used every other workout, otherwise your body will get too adapted to them and they will be meaning less. Another reason I don't like supersets is because it doesn't allow you to use your maximum weight. If you fail hard enough, you're not going to provide enough energy to properly work your triceps. Therefore triceps lose out.

"III. FAILURE Pyramid your sets, but take each one to failure, regardless of the amount of weight you're using or the reps you're getting. Only by failure can you ensure that the fundamental principle of universal destruction is being satisfied."

Fundamental principle of universal destruction. What the hell does he mean by that? I do agree that you need to go to failure. That's a given if you've read any of my previous articles. I don't think pyramiding is necessary, in fact, it's useless. Why would you go to failure on a lighter weight, then move up to a heavier one. Makes no sense.

"V. DISORDER If we assume that maximum strength should be allocated to the heaviest exercise, it then follows that every workout should begin with barbell curls. Your body, however, has the ability to adapt to any movement with such subtlety that you will be unaware that ancillary muscles have wrested some of the work from your biceps. By starting with a different exercise each time, those ancillary muscles do not have a chance to adapt and your biceps muscles are forced to do all of the work. If you start, for example, with preacher curls or alternate dumbbell curls instead of barbell curls, you won't be using as much weight, but the exercise will be more effective, because your biceps will have completed the task before the rest of your body figures out how to help."

Partly agreed. I still feel that unless you are trying to pre-exhaust a muscle, you should do your compound movements first.

"VI. BICEPS WITH TRICEPS Do not train biceps with any other bodypart except triceps. This advice is similar to the caveat in the second commandment against supersetting biceps exercises with each other, except that here it's in the context of the entire body. If you train chest with biceps, as many bodybuilders do, your chest workout depletes energy from your biceps workout, so even though you think you're giving your biceps 100%, they're getting only 80%. You'll realize a better shock if you train only one bodypart a day; in this case, arms. The first exercise can then be hit with full power, and you'll still have enough energy to control your movements on the remainder without cheating."

Umm - no! Total contradiction. So if you train biceps first, you're not going to have enough energy for triceps, especially if you are doing 20 + sets. This is totally bogus. The main reason you're not going to have enough energy is because you've just worked out for 2 hours already. I think the most important thing is that you have 3-4 days of rest in between biceps and back (unless you are doing them on the same day, that is also good) that way your biceps fully recover before they are partially worked again when you do back.

"VII. DUMBBELL CURLS What qualifies dumbbell curls as ideal for a biceps shock is that they are usually alternated, allowing each arm more recuperation time, not only between reps but between supersets as well. Consequently, dumbbells enable you to handle poundages as heavy or nearly as heavy as with straight sets. Concentration curls are an exception - they're too isolated and light to be effective as a mass builder or as a superset component for a shock. I employ them solely as a warm-up, but add something extra: a slow supination and peak contraction with every rep, which generates such an intense pump that I often keep it going with five pyramided sets of six to eight, the same as for my other biceps exercises. Effectively, it's a full-blown working exercise, but I still don't count it."

If dumbbell curls really do allow each arm more recuperation time between reps, then why not do the same with all exercises. Why not take 4 seconds between reps when doing barbell curls, and any other biceps exercise for that matter? I like dumbbell curls, but not for that reason. They give a good range of motion and allow you to concentrate on the weaker arm, where as barbell curls, the stronger arm may take over. Therefore if one arm is bigger than the other, doing dumbbell curls will give you a better chance of evening them out (much like dumbbell presses work to even out the chest). Now, as for concentration curls, I never really understood how a muscle could distinguish between resistance exercises. Maybe because its harder to cheat when doing concentration curls.

"VIII. PREACHER CURLS Always include preacher curls of some sort in every biceps workout. A preacher bench provides a combination of power and isolation that cannot be equaled by any other position. With the elbow braced, it's a power exercise but, since the shoulders are also braced, it's an isolation exercise. I also use it at two different angles. With the pad at an incline, I can pull back with my body to apply more leverage power. With the pad vertical (in the "spider" position), so that my arms are straight downward, my body ballast is neutralized and I'm forced to use more isolation. Preacher curls should be performed with one arm with a dumbbell, as well as with two arms with a barbell or cambered bar. A dumbbell allows you to supinate or hammer the movement, so you can target specific areas of your biceps. A bar fixes your hands in a position that keeps all of the stress in the belly of the biceps, so you cannot rotate away from the burn as it develops."

-With the elbow braced, it's a power exercise but, since the shoulders are also braced, it's an isolation exercise.- Umm... OK. Another reason many people have trouble building their biceps is because they use their shoulders when working them. You know the guys I'm talking about, the ones in the gym getting their swerve on doing barbell curls. To build biceps, all of your exercises must be isolation. That's the only way to build the biceps. If you're not using only your biceps (and maybe forearms) when you do curls, you're cheating yourself. "With the pad at an incline, I can pull back with my body to apply more leverage power." Leverage. No, you mean cheating Lee. Why would you shift your body back when doing curls? You should try to hold your torso as still as possible. The more you pull back with your body, the less work your biceps are doing. As far as whether you use dumbbells, barbells, or a cambered bar is up to you. It would though, benefit you the most if you are to switch between the three every 2 weeks or so.

"IX. BARBELL CURLS Just because I advised you earlier to never use barbell curls for supersets doesn't mean you should never use them at all. Quite the contrary, no biceps mass-building program should be without them, or cambered-bar curls, if you prefer. Every muscle-group workout needs at least one free-weight compound exercise to force all of the muscles in the group to exert maximum strength in a combined effort. In no other way can maximum mass be distributed throughout the bodypart and its ancillaries. Hardly a biceps workout passes that I don't include five straight sets of barbell curls, the first set for eight reps to failure and the last set for six reps to failure, every one as heavy as possible but not wasted. This is the prototypical size builder, but I never cheat with it. My biceps do all the work. In contrast, I often finish a biceps workout with partial-rep barbell curls at about 70% of my maximum barbell curl poundage. This is a highly unorthodox movement, but it enables me to leave the gym with my biceps feeling as though Cujo got hold of them. To restrict my partial reps to a small arc, I sit on a bench and I make sure never to lower the bar so far that it touches my thighs. I close my eyes, start pumping and don't stop until I hear my own death rattles."

Well, I do agree with him on that first paragraph. Personally, I love barbell curls, and they make up the majority of my biceps workout. Again, why 5 sets? Like I've said before, 5 sets are more than enough to stimulate biceps growth. You don't need 5 sets per exercise, unless of course you're pumped with more hormones and drugs than today's average milk cow. "But I never cheat with it. My biceps do all the work." Oh, but it's ok to cheat by pulling back when you do preacher curls? Interesting. In any case, do your selves all a favor and use perfect form. This is the only way to build muscle, especially one that must be uniquely targeted like the biceps.

I don't think I've discussed why burning out at the end of a workout is bad. Well, since Mr. Priest likes to do this with partial rep barbell curls, I think I'll take the time to do so. Let's say you just worked biceps, a proper workout. You did 4 total sets, each one to absolute failure at about 7 reps. You've overloaded your biceps and stimulated them to grow (taking into account your nutrition and rest is on track). Why would you turn around, and go and deplete the rest of your energy, cause a rush of lactic acid into the muscle, and deplete all of your recovery nutrients by burning out? It makes no sense. Sure, it would increase your pump a little, but it would have a negative impact on building muscle. "I close my eyes, start pumping and don't stop until I hear my own death rattles." Actually what he's hearing here is his small brain rattling around in his empty skull.

"Lee Priest's Training Splits
Day 1: Legs
Day 2: Back
Day 3: Chest
Day 4: Shoulders
Day 5: Arms
Day 6: Rest

Priest's Biceps Shock Workouts

Concentration curls: 3 sets, 10-12 reps
Barbell curls : 3 sets, 10-12 reps
Alternate dumbbell curls: 3 sets, 10-12 reps
Barbell preacher curls: 3 sets, 10-12 reps
Dumbbell preacher curls: 3 sets, 10-12 reps

Concentration curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps
Cambered-bar curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps
Dumbbell preacher curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps
Seated alternate dumbbell curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps
superset with Standing French curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps
Seated cambered-bar curls: 4 sets, 6-8 reps

Concentration curls : 5 sets, 6-8 reps
Standing cambered-bar curls: 5 sets, 6-8 reps
Cambered-bar preacher curls: 5 sets, 6-8 reps
Dumbbell preacher curls: 5 sets, 6-8 reps
Seated alternate dumbbell curls: 5 sets, 6-8 reps
superset with Standing French curls: 5 sets, 6-8 reps
Seated cambered-bar curls: 5 sets, 6-8 reps"

Lee's training split looks lots like Max-OT (although his sets don't match up). I really think going 5 days in a row is too much. You need at least 1 day of rest between every 2 days of training. 30 sets for advanced trainers? The more advanced you become, the less sets you need. When you first start out, not only are you building up the strength of your supporting muscle, but you are also building your balance and coordination. This is one of the reasons beginners get great strength gains. As you advance you learn to push yourself harder and what exercises work best for you. This is why advanced trainees need much less volume and frequency than beginners do. Arthur Jones trained once per week and still made great gains. Why, because his intensity level was so high. Remember that you only grow when you recover.

"X. CONTROL To get the most out of any biceps curl, keep the movement tight during the extension, slowing the pace the lower you go. Do not extend all the way: If you straighten your arm under stress, you increase the risk of snapping your biceps or developing tendinitis in your elbow. Put your mind into your biceps during the contraction, then get a good peaking squeeze at the top. By all means, forget about the poundage you're using. If it feels good, try more, but if it doesn't feel good, try progressively lighter weights, until you find one that gives you the best pump. Don't wait for an injury to teach you to grow up and do it right. Too many bodybuilders worry about others watching the weight they're using. I'm sure many people have said, "Look, there's Lee. He acts as if he's in pain, but the weights he's using are light." I couldn't care less. I'm not there to impress anyone; I'm there to train for myself."

Wow, that has got to be one of the few things I agree with in these magazines. There's nothing there what-so-ever that I can comment on.

I hope you've learned some things from reading this article. Below I'm going to outline what I feel is a good biceps "shock", my biceps workout from yesterday (and believe me, my arms are sore today).

Bar Curl: 2 sets, 6-8 reps
Dumbbell Curl: 1 sets, 6-8 reps
Preacher Curls: 1 sets, 6-8 reps

If it's true you only go around once, go around with big biceps.