As fitness enthusiasts we have varying goals in our quest towards improving our physiques. Many gym members seek out help to lose weight, while others look to put on muscle mass. The over forty crowd is looking to differentiate themselves from their sedentary counterparts by trying to ward off the ill effects of an inactive lifestyle.
Many lift weights to gain strength for everyday activities and some try to gain strength for powerlifting. Although this wide range of health seekers produces a myriad of goals, one theme is common for most that enter the gym - biceps development. We want defined arms that identify us as a person that works out.
Great Biceps Of The Past!
We can thank many of the Mr. America bodybuilders for developing those coveted biceps muscles, that sets the standard by which we measure our success. John Grimek, Mr. America 1940 and 1941 started popularizing the concept of big guns. "Grimek trained his arms with a wide variety of exercises, a la the Weider Muscle Confusion Training principle.
John would pick 8-12 biceps movements for each workout, and then do only one or two sets of each exercise. Many of his favorite biceps movements were actually indirect arm exercises, movements like chins performed with a narrow reverse grip." 1
Larry Scott in the 1960s had superior arm development with his upper-arm measuring 21 inches. Scott's infamous biceps are responsible for the renaming of the biceps exercise, from preacher curls to Scott curls. Biceps once again came to the forefront of resistance training when Richard Baldwin, Mr. USA and Mr. America in the 1970s and 1980s, showed his astounding biceps peaks that were developed using his favorite biceps exercise, concentration curls.
Three sets of Mr. Americas, each possessing a set of award winning biceps muscles, and each using a different method of training. Which one is right? Grimek with the indirect method of training, Scott, with his very own curls, or Baldwin using concentration curls?
They are all right! Each Mr. America is using the most effective method of training biceps because of the Theory of Individual Differences. When designing a workout program, always remember this very important concept.
Due to genetics, nutrition, sleep patterns, stress levels and dedication to the goal, to name just a few variables, each person will respond differently to the stimulus of resistance training. Learn the science behind each method of training and create a program that maximizes your potential.
What Are The Biceps?
The biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis are the major flexor muscles for the elbow joint. These muscles lift the forearm and supinate the hand. Biceps brachii has two heads, a long and short head. Spanning two joints, the elbow and the shoulder joints, the biceps brachii brings flexion and supination to the forearm and allows flexion of the shoulder joint.
Trainers know the biceps muscles are responsible for the movement of the arm at the elbow joint, but it is also important to remember the supination factor. The biceps muscle also rotates the palm, so be sure to incorporate this type of movement into the training program.
The use of an EZ bar for curls or rotating the palms during alternating dumbbell curls is important for biceps development. Charles Poloquin in his book, The Poloquin Principles, discusses the importance of the palms in a variety of positions during biceps training. But, Poloquin discusses that few trainees vary their palm position due to ego. "You normally handle 28-34 percent less in Reverse Curls than you do in Regular Barbell Curls." 2
Performing Bicep Exercises
While most bodybuilders will have varying opinions on the most efficient biceps exercise, many will agree that you should never sacrifice form for weight. Incorrect form hinders progress because it leads to injury. Low back problems, tennis elbow and biceps tendonitis can become injury factors when improper form is sacrificed to heave heavier weights.
Stand erect when doing biceps exercises. Do not lean back, and heave the weight, because too much momentum will be involved in the lift and clearly, not enough biceps action. Keep your elbows close to your side without lifting up the elbows.
How many times do we see people in the gym lifting their elbows during these biceps movements? When the elbows come up there is a loss in resistance due to gravity. Also, when the elbows come up, full extension is lost, so the bottom of the biceps muscle will not be hit with the movement.
Too few weightlifters in the gym pay attention to wrist position while performing biceps lifts. In order to achieve results from biceps training, emphasis must be kept on this muscle during the lift. But, when the wrist is bent backwards, some emphasis will be taken off the biceps muscle and shifted to the forearms.
Arnold Schwarzenegger further discusses keeping the emphasis on the biceps muscle in a discussion of the line of the hand. "When you do a Curl, you must bring your hand directly up to your shoulder. If you change that line an inch to the inside or the outside, you are taking stress off the biceps and you won't get the same results." 3
Training biceps allows for a great variety of exercises using bars, dumbbells, EZ curl bars, cables, machines and Scott benches. The diversity will allow flexibility in program design allowing your client to achieve the maximum results.
Genetics can make a champion bodybuilder, but hard work, careful selection of exercises, and good technique can bring a biceps muscle to its full potential.
Perform each workout for four weeks. The changes in rep ranges allows for the concept of periodization training. All sets listed in the sample program are work sets only. Please do a proper biceps warm-up before beginning the program. Use a weight heavy enough that sets are done to failure.
- Weider, Joe. Ultimate Bodybuilding. Contemporary Publishing Company. 1989. Page 232.
- Charles Poliquin. The Poliquin Principles. Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development. Dayton Publications. 1997.
- Schwarzenegger, Arnold. The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Simon and Schuster. 1985, 1998.