A wise man once said “education is important but big biceps are importanter.”
I tend to disagree.
Not because it’s obviously a joke (which I am completely aware of), but because without proper education, achieving bigger biceps becomes a long drawn out process.
Now this is not to say that you need some sort of college degree (or certification for that matter) to build bigger guns, but understanding some basic anatomy and physiology will go a long way.
Saying education is less important than big biceps is like saying nutrition is more important than working out (when the goal is to build muscle).
Truth is, they go hand in hand. You can’t build muscle by simply eating right and you can’t build bigger biceps without being educated…unless you’ve got freak genetics…and in that case please leave my website…and I hate you.
But in all seriousness, bigger arms is probably the second most common goal of the average gym goer. Next to sixpack abs ofcourse.
Ask anyone to show you their muscles. 10 times out of 10, they’re going to flex their biceps.
And let’s face it, we all dream of someday putting on our own gun show.
Unfortunately for most of us, biceps development doesn’t come that easily. Especially not after that initial growth spurt we tend to get when we first begin lifting weights.
But fear not, my friend. Because today I am going to bring the noise, and by noise I mean critical information that we must understand if we want to break through this arm growth plateau.
First you’ll learn a few principles that must be in place if you want to maximize hypertrophy. Then we’ll discuss the biceps anatomy and its functions to better understand how they should be trained. And lastly I’ll be giving you 6 types of curling movements that you can do to hit the biceps from every angle imaginable.
Let us begin.
Biceps Training Principles #1 – Overload
Every muscle is the same in how it adapts and grows according to workload.
Workload = Reps x Sets x Weight Lifted
Bench Press Example:
135 lbs x 5 Sets x 10 Reps = 6750 lbs workload
140 lbs x 5 Sets x 10 Reps = 7000 lbs workload
Pretty basic stuff, huh?
But here’s where the problem lies. The chest (or back or legs) are a large muscle-group and it’s assisted by secondary muscles like the triceps and shoulders when pushing a weight. When you’re performing a biceps curl, however, they’re not only a very small muscle-group, but there are not secondary muscles assisting them.
So we can go from bench pressing 225 to 235 because it’s just a 5% increase.
Try adding 10 pounds to your 30 pound dumbbell curls and now we’re talking about a 33% increase.
So how can we increase workload on small muscle-groups like the biceps?
Here’s what I recommend. Start off with a weight that you can perform for 4 sets of 8 reps. Next time you perform that exercise, aim to hit 9-10 reps using the same weight. Continue with the same weight with the goal of increasing the reps until you can perform all 4 sets for 12 reps each. Then add 5 pounds (per arm) and repeat.
Biceps Training Principles #2 – Lengthening + Shortening
There are many different ranges that you can train each muscle group, and you should do so. However, the most important range is a full range.
Problem is, full ROM is just too vague and not well understood in the bodybuilding community.
The true full range of motion takes place when the target muscle is completely shortened (on the concentric movement) and completely lengthened (on the eccentric movement). Fully shortening and lengthening a muscle will allow you to train it (the target muscle) at its absolute weakest point.
Look at the image below:
Biceps Training Principles #3 – Focus on the Negative
Focus on the negative. Sounds pretty odd coming from a guy who preaches positivity, huh?
Let me elaborate.
When we are training any muscle-group, there is a range in which we move and a tempo at which me move.
To understand rep tempo, watch this:
You see, when we are pushing or pulling a weight against gravity (curling up), we recruit a number of fivers to aid with the lift. When we lower a weight with gravity (bringing the bar back down), we recruit less fibers (because the work is easier) and thus those fibers are left to bare the entire load of the dumbbell causing more muscle damage (this is good).
Imagine 4 guys working together to lift a motorcycle up. But (theoretically speaking) 2 of those guys had to run home for dinner. Now it’s up to the 2 others to put the bike down. Surely they can, however, they are now baring the weight of the bike, alone.
What I recommend is not attempting to bring the weight down slowly, but instead just keep in mind that you want to lower the weight under control.
You control the weight, the weight doesn’t control you.
A good way to practice controlling the negative is counting 2-3 seconds as you lower the weight.
If you look at the chart above, you’ll see that the biceps are made up of two heads. The long head and the short head. They work together to perform elbow flexion as well as supination of the forearm. What most people don’t know is that they are what is called a bi-articular muscle. This simply means that they help to control the motion of two different joints (elbow and shoulder).
There is another muscle involved that not only adds to the cosmetics of your arms, but aids the biceps in flexion of the elbow. This is the brachialis and it is responsible for biceps thickness.
“Also called the brachialis anticus, its primary action is to flex the forearm muscles at the elbow. “ – HealthLine
Now that we have a general understanding of the anatomy, let’s jump into the fun stuff!
6 Curling Movements for Maximum Biceps Growth
1. Supinated Grip: As we mentioned in the anatomy section, the main function of the biceps are elbow flexion and supination.
Focus: Biceps Brachii – Short + Long Head
2. Neutral Grip: Due to the grip, the forearm is a bit more engaged. The brachialis is more targeted when elbow flexion is performed while the forearm is activated.
Focus: Brachialis + Long Head
3. Pronated Grip: With this grip, the forearms are even more engaged and thus targeting the brachialis to a larger degree when performing elbow flexion.
Focus: Brachialis + Brachioradialis
4. Elbows In Front of Torso: The long head is not stretched in this position. This allows the short head to bare (most of) the load.
Focus: Short Head
5. Elbows Behind the Torso: This position allows for a greater stretch of the long head.
Focus: Long Head
6. Overhead (Shoulders Flexed): The biceps are fully shortened when (and only when) the shoulders are flexed. This variation allows for truly shortened biceps brachii.
Focus: Biceps Brachii – Short + Long Head
Watch this video for movement examples:
Anything from elbows in front of the torso with a pronated grip to a neutral grip with elbows behind the torso.
My advice is this. Try these out, see which one(s) you enjoy and work them into your training program as you see fit.
This is certainly not something that should be overcomplicated.
I imagine you’re reading this because you want to build bigger arms. If so, please be sure to download The Arm Growth Accelerator program (completely free).
Please leave any questions in the comment section below and be sure to “like” and share this article if you found it helpful.