I want pipes, not pipe cleaners. What's your ultimate workout for bigger biceps?
In my opinion, if you really want big arms, you need to focus the majority of your training time getting stronger in the compound lifts (i.e. dominant movement patterns), like squats (quad-dominant), deadlifts (hip-dominant), chin-ups (vertical pull), inverted rows (horizontal pull), military press (vertical push) and bench press (horizontal push).
Before anyone chimes in with, "what about this or that exercise," the examples above are just a few common movements. Any of the various derivatives of these lifts would also work well.
Now that we've got that disclaimer down, let's see how you can effectively emphasize the training of every guy's favorite muscles: the elbow flexors.
First, you need to target each of the three major elbow flexors: the biceps brachii (long head and short head), brachialis and brachioradialis. I also recommend training the pronator teres, which functions as an elbow flexor to a lesser extent.
Depending on the position of the shoulder joint relative to the torso, as well as the radius relative to the ulna, we can strategically emphasize one muscle group more than the others. If this sounds like magic, don't get spellbound. We'll basically build bigger biceps by using different arm positions and grips.
In addition, we can also vary the tool that we use to create a different overload in the strength curve. This means that dumbbells, barbells, EZ-Bars and cables will have a different impact on your training. We can use each tool to achieve maximum results.
As a result, I'm going to have you incorporate the following four exercises into your current training routine. By following this strategy, you should create the greatest opportunity for hypertrophy of the elbow flexors. Translation: use the following routine to turn your pipe-cleaners into pipes.
To target the long head of the biceps brachii, we should extend the shoulder joint slightly beyond neutral. In other words, the elbow joint will be behind the torso. For this, we're going to perform Incline Dumbbell Curls with the hands supinated (i.e. palms-up) throughout the entire exercise. By supinating the wrist joint during this movement, we place the fibers of the biceps brachii in a position that creates a line of pull directly opposite the resistance.
Incline Dumbbell Curl
For the short head of the biceps brachii, we need to position the shoulder joint in a pre-flexed position. In other words, the elbow joint should be out in front of the torso. To accomplish this, we will perform Seated E-Z Bar Cable Preacher Curls. I am going to have you use a low pulley so, during the range of motion, the maximum overload in the resistance curve is at the top end of the movement.
The brachialis is best recruited when the radius and ulnar are in a neutral position, which is mid-position between pronation and supination (i.e. palms facing your sides). Due to its attachment sites, the brachialis is a strong flexor of the elbow joint. For training the brachialis, we'll use Standing Dumbbell Hammer Curls.
The brachioradialis and pronator teres are best recruited during elbow flexion with the forearm in a pronated position (palms down). In order to target the brachioradialis and pronator teres, we are going to perform Fat-Grip E-Z Bar Reverse Curls. I'm choosing a fat grip so we can also train your grip strength, which I typically find to be a weak link in most clients.
Close-grip EZ bar curl
As far as programming goes, you can perform all four of these movements on a separate arm training day along with triceps work. Note: I would alternate between a shoulder and/or triceps exercise of your choice and one of the elbow flexors exercises in the order I've arranged them.
If you train total body, you can integrate the Incline Dumbbell Curls & Fat Grip E-Z Bar Reverse Curls on one day and then substitute the Seated E-Z Bar Cable Preacher Curls & Standing Dumbbell Hammer Curls on your next training day. Continue to flip flop these pairings for the next 4-6 weeks. If using a separate day for training the arms, try to train them twice a week or at least once every 4 days.