Not all exercises are created equal! Below is a list and explanation of resistance training exercises for the biceps & triceps muscles that provide the stimulus necessary for the LARGEST GAINS in size & strength in LESS TIME!
Standing Biceps Curl -
Vary your grip width in order to avoid plateaus as well as hit the muscles a little differently. Some people may find that the straight bar hurts their wrists.
Seated Dumbbell Curl -
Seated at the end of a bench or at a back supported bench, hold a pair of dumbbells down by your legs with palms facing toward your side. While curling both dumbbells up simultaneously, rotate your forearms so that at the end of the movement your palms are facing toward you. The rotation of your forearms/palms should be a smooth fluid movement. Your palms should be facing toward you by the time of 90 degrees of elbow flexion (forearm parallel to floor).
Preacher Curl -
I prefer dumbbells to the barbell on the preacher bench because they are done one arm at a time, so if you don't have a training partner you can use the other hand to spot on the last 1-2 hard repetitions or for negatives. Otherwise, switch between barbells and dumbbells for variation and to avoid plateaus.
Using a supinated grip (palms up) lower the weight all the way down until almost full elbow extension, curl it back up, and consciously squeeze your biceps hard at the top. Use proper form by planting your feet firmly on the floor, keeping your upper arms glued to the bench, not moving your shoulders, swinging or leaning back in order to get the weight up until the last hard rep or two if necessary - only your forearms should be moving.
The point of the preacher bench is to take out all of the body english and cheating. Make sure your biceps are properly warmed up or that you start with light resistance before performing this movement in order to prevent injury from the eccentric portion of the movement or the full stretch. You may also want to try performing hammer curls and reverse curls on the preacher bench for great isolation.
Reverse Curl -
This exercise may actually help your bench press because it also strengthens your wrist flexors (forearms). Perform just like a normal curl except use a palms-down/knuckle-up grip throughout the movement. You will not be able to use as much resistance as a normal curl.
Hammer Curl -
When using the rope handle, attach it to the bottom setting on a cable apparatus. Hold the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and curl straight up while keeping your forearms/palms in a neutral alignment the whole time. Trying to rotate the back of your hands toward you a little bit may actually help you keep the neutral grip instead of turning your palms toward you.
Incline Dumbbell Curl -
Biomechanically your muscles are stronger when placed in a stretched position as they are in this exercise. I just personally prefer seated dumbbell curls because they feel less awkward. I also feel the incline bench promotes cheating (bringing the elbow forward which takes tension off the bicep). Even though you're on an incline, your elbows should still be pointing straight down to the floor with upper arms perpendicular to the floor throughout the movement. Perform the curling motion the same as with the seated dumbbell curl.
Cable Curl -
- Keep your elbows back and almost tucked to your sides throughout every curling exercise - the only thing moving should be your forearms. Using sloppy form by bringing the elbow forward during the curling motion takes tension off of the biceps and involves the shoulders.
- With dumbbell movements (except preachers), I prefer to curl both arms at once instead of alternating one at a time. When alternating, while you are curling one arm up the other is just hanging there gripping the dumbbell and ultimately I've found that my forearm endurance fatigues before my biceps strength does. Therefore I'm not able to perform as many repetitions. Sometimes if I'm finishing up my workout with dumbbell hammer curls, I'll alternate in order to totally fatigue my forearms as well - but not until my biceps are fried.
- Incorporate varying grip widths in order to stimulate the muscles a little differently.
- Keep in mind that the biceps are also heavily involved in back exercises that are pulling movements involving elbow flexion (rows, pull-ups, etc.).
- Although the biceps group may be considered the marquee muscles of the arm, it should only comprise about 1/3 of your entire arm mass.
Close Grip Barbell Bench Press -
Perform like a standard bench press except take a narrow grip (ideally at shoulder width) that doesn't hurt your wrists - it will be different for everyone. It is critical that your elbows stay in toward your body throughout the movement by tucking your upper arms to your sides.
Skull Crusher/Lying Triceps Extension -
Lie on your back on a flat bench with a Cambered-bar or straight bar. Hold the bar straight to the ceiling (arms extended and perpendicular to the floor), by bending only at the elbow bring the bar down toward your nose/head, then push straight back up until full extension. Only your forearms should move - your upper arms should not move. You can also perform this from a seated position or on an incline bench in order to stimulate the muscles a little differently.
Cable Pushdown -
Set the attachment to a high pulley on the cable apparatus and grab it with a palms down position. Instead of standing in a normal erect position with your feet inline with each other, put one foot in front of the other in order to give you a much stronger base of strength and balance (this will allow you to use heavier resistance).
Do not lean over though which will incorporate chest and shoulders (until the last 1-2 hard reps if necessary), keep your torso and posture straight (perpendicular to floor) and your elbows tucked and pointed straight down to the ground. Push down to full extension, squeeze for a moment and then control the weight slowly up until about 90 degrees of elbow flexion (forearm is parallel to the ground).
It's important to make sure that your elbows are pointed inward toward your body and your torso is straight up. In an effort to ensure that your torso is perpendicular to the floor, actually trying to lean backward helps. You do not need to go all the way down as you do with chest - the top portion of the movement is the main focus.
If you can't perform a standard bodyweight dip, then you can use the footpad of an assisted pull-up machine. Simply put the pin in at the desired resistance and sit on the top step with your back to the machine and your torso straight. Place your palms down on the footpad with fingers curled around the end of it if you like. With elbows tucked and as far behind you as your flexibility will allow, extend your elbows to full extension.
Overhead Triceps Extension -
It's important to use a spotter for this exercise. Use a bench that has back to it for support and to allow you to lift more. Allow your elbows flare out naturally in order to prevent tendinitis. Use as much of a full range of motion as you can.
Neutral Grip Pushdown (neutral bar) -
Performed the same as the standard cable pushdown except using a different hand position and therefore prioritizing different heads of the triceps as well as adding variety.
Close Grip Pushup -
- With all triceps exercises, keep your elbows tucked in and not flared out. Squeeze your triceps at the point of full extension then slowly lower the weight in a controlled manner.
- Keep in mind that the triceps are also heavily involved in pushing exercises such as with chest and shoulder workouts.
- The triceps should compose approximately 2/3 of your entire arm mass. So proper triceps development will really stretch the measuring tape and give your arm its size.