Loading Your Guns: Optimizing Your Bicep workouts
From the youngest age, when boys ask each other to make a muscle, the reflex is to pull up the sleeve and flex the upper arm. Admiration of muscular arms is timeless and there isn't a Marvel Hero that hasn't put in their time to look the part. The showiest of muscles are rarely the biggest but rather those that exhibit definition and detail with all aspects proportionately developed. The toughest pill to swallow for most guys (beyond the genetic limitations) is the mantra of every successful guru, "It's not the weight you lift but how you lift the weight". Vince Gironda would speak of the mind/ muscle connection and Coach Charles Poliquin was quick to differentiate between the strength athlete and physique athlete;"For the former it's all about hoisting the iron, for the latter it's all about feeling the target muscle" I paraphrase. Indeed, while the powerlifter is an expert at making 200 pounds move like 20 pounds, the successful bodybuilder can make a 20 pound dumbell feel like 200 !! For the sake of brevity, we won't cover the functional anatomy of the upper arm flexors- here instead are some basic tenets to be sure you are stimulating all aspects possible. 1. Train your curls pronated: EZ Bar, Machine, DB Reverse curls work the brachioradialis or the upper outer forearm tie in with bicep area. Frank Zane was famous for doing much of these as evidenced in the exceptional bicep/forearm tie in in all his overhead arm poses. 2. Train your curls with a neutral grip: Hammer curls done with DB's, Football Bars, Ropes. This works the brachialis, a muscle deep to the bicep which, when developed fully, push the bicep upward lending more height to the flexed arm. Additionally, when lean enough, it creates a "third" head to the biceps seen in the lateral aspect. 3. Train your curls supinated: This of course stimulates the bicep brachii maximally. Vary your implements as the body adapts quickly. Use DB's BB's, Machines, Cables, etc. The addition of "FAT GRIPZ" or use of thicker handles tend to stimulate a greater degree of nerve force, lending a stronger curl down the road when these implements are removed. 4. Train your arms behind the body: Exercises like Incline curls or cable curls with the pulley well behind you work the long outer head of the bicep giving it length and profile when viewed with the arms hanging at the side. 5. Train your arms in front of the body: From supinated chin ups or pulldowns to all variations of preacher curls, having the humerus in front of the body while curling tends to stimulate the short inner head which can create bicep height and an impressive front double biceps pose. 6. Control your tempo: The upper arms do well when you train for "feel". Slow eccentrics like a 4010 and holding contractions when there is tension at the top of the curl with a 2022 type squeeze play will bring quite the pump and hardening. If you can't feel it, you can't flex it. Finally - to give it to Arnold, arms clearly respond to the pump. Train with shorter rests without breaking form- endure the burn of the lactate while doing slow lowering and fierce flexing of each rep. Add to the pump with various vasodilaters that up NO levels like ATP's E-Nos or Citrulline Malate. You won't go wrong... Sample routines ? OK... Beginner: A1. Supinated Chin Ups 6x6 4011 B2. 60' Incline DB Hammer Curls 3x12 2020 Intermediate: A1. Standing EZ Bar Reverse Curls 4x8 1013 B1. Vertical Side Preacher Hammer Curls 4x8 1013 C1. 60' Incline DB Curls w/ FAT GRIPZ 4x8 2020 Advanced: A1. Reverse EZ Bar Curls over vertical side of Preacher 3x6 1015 B1. Standing Hammer Grip Football Bar curls 3x8 4010 C1. Unilateral Rope Curl from floor pulley behind you 4x12 2020 D1. 45' Incline DB Curls 4x12 2020 E1. Fat Grip Eccentric Chin 3 sets of 1 30-0-0-0 rest 90s between singles Hope that loads your guns ! All the best "Coach Mike"