The guns, welcome to the gun show, look at those cannons. Yup, the Biceps get a
lot of attention and in some people's eyes are the pinnacle sign of being in
shape and strong. True, a well-defined arm is nice to look at on both men and
women. Fact is, a well constructed arm also embodies the triceps, shoulders,
forearms and, of course, being lean enough to see the definition. The point is Biceps training alone is not enough to achieve a detailed, lean, cut, toned (or whatever else you want to call it), arm. Pullups and Rows are just as important.
The two main muscles in the front of the arm that epitomize the term 'Biceps' are the Biceps Brachi, the long head going
all the way up to and becoming part of the shoulder socket, the short head
inserting into the caracoid process on the front of the shoulder blade. The
other, Brachialis, lies under the the Biceps and although not as noticeable, provides substance and
mass to the arm, essentially filling and pushing the Biceps Brachi outward. Two other
(smaller) muscles the Carachobrachialis (deep and underneath) and the
Brachioradialis (across the forearm) also contribute to flexing the
Although flexing the elbow in isolation (arm curl)
is the popular and most effective way to train the Biceps in relative isolation,
it is important to consider their assistive role and contribution to exercises
like Pullups, Pulldowns, and Rows. Depending on the plane, angle, body
position, range, resistance modality, and your intention, Biceps contribution
can be enhanced or diminished.
Almost everyone on the planet
knows how to do a curl, but most end up choosing too much resistance and perform
some kind of twisting contortion move by swinging, swaying, and pulling with
everything but the elbow. 'Strict Form' and 'Isolation' are words that I try to
avoid, but Form, as it's commonly known, is defined as the best possible
alignment, position, and stabilization to emphasize the muscle(s) you are
attempting to train with the exercise you've chosen. If you are trying to emphasize and train the biceps, which is a single
joint exercise, stabilization, by keeping the shoulder in position and acting as a stabilizer, is vital. The elbow joint is the only thing that should be moving.
Options are endless, but here are
As with training any body part, the type and direction of resistance as well as bodily position,
should be varied. I consider the same joint movement and decide which modality
to use. 4 types: Dumbbell, Barbell, Rubber Tubing, Cable. From there, options such as choosing whether to stand, sit, perform together, alternate, come into play. Although there are
machines designed to target Biceps, most are uncomfortable and rarely adjust
enough to fit the user. Watch the video for the
From a standing position, you have the option
of dumbbells together, various forms of alternating, or even a 'hammer' grip
where the palms face inward emphasizing more Brachioradialis. From there, the
same can be performed seated, back supported or not.
- Slightly reclining a
bench, to say 10 or 15 degrees, can put more emphasis on the long head.
- Placing the shoulder in a flexed position, (elbows up and in front of the
shoulders), is called a 'preacher' curl. It puts emphasis on the short head.
A great exercise to be done with a cable system. Dumbbells are not the best
option due to the resistance decreasing going upward and where some benches make
the resistance become assistance at the top of the range.
Barbells can be
used, but of consideration is wrist position. The wrist has a natural
angulation of 23 degrees which is not accommodated using a straight bar, thus
putting undue stress on the elbows and shoulders. The 'squiggly', or commonly
know as a cambered bar, is a better option.
Cables are a fantastic option
to vary tension throughout the range. Standing and seated, cambered bar, straps,
preacher, creative possibilities are endless.
Check out the
Rubberized resistance or tubing, is one of my favorite options.
Anchored from behind, under the feet, anchored from the front, they mimicked a
cable yet are a completely different for of resistance.
A Note on
If you're not familiar with training with tubing I suggest
trying it out with some of your exercises. The first obvious difference is that
it's not gravity based, so it plays into your variation of exercises. Second,
its resistance profile is unique affording different and effective challenge to
the nervous system and muscle. I am convinced that tubing should play a part in
every single workout. It may appear that tension always increases as a tube is
lengthened but this is dependent on its application to the lever being
challenged, or torque. A 50# suitcase held down at arms length is pretty
manageable, whereas out to the side is virtually impossible. Same
weight...different torque. Tubing makes it easy to change which direction the
resistance is coming from and manipulate the amount you are experiencing. An
effective torque manipulator!
Watch the video