Arms so big that they make your sleeves tight. Arms so aesthetic that you see a vein running down your bicep. This look tends to be what most of us are after when we train arms - aesthetically chiseled guns that we can show off.
In this article, I’ll show you how you can achieve that look, particularly with your bicep.
Lets not forget, though, that the biceps only make up for only 1/3 of your upper arm size. The REAL mass and thickness comes from developing stronger triceps, but thats for a later topic.
First, what are the muscles that we're going to be targeting during these lifts and during these exercises for bigger biceps - since the movements are fairly similar, they are going to be targeting the same muscles.
An agonist muscle is a prime mover. What' does this mean?
It's mostly responsible for the movement, and obviously, the main muscle is going to be at work during these exercises. For all these movements, the agonist muscle is going to be, what? You guessed it, the bicep brachii.
Next we’ll get into synergist muscles…What's a synergist muscle?
Synergist muscles assist the prime mover during these exercises.
For the exercises we’ll be going over in this post, the synergist muscles involved are the brachialis and the brachioradialis - they get recruited during hammer Curls. These are extremely important for proper movement of the weight.
Lastly, the stabilizer muscles.
The stabilizer muscles stabilize the body while the prime mover and the synergist muscles work. For bicep workouts, the primary stabilizing muscles are in your forearms - your flexors and your extensors.
Now, let's talk about the muscle actions.
This will help you understand why their range of motion is of the utmost importance and how it will allow you to get the MOST out of your training.
CONCENTRIC MUSCLE ACTION
We'll go ahead and start off with the concentric muscle action.
A concentric muscle action is when a muscle develops tension while shortening, so the force being exerted by the muscle is greater than resistive force.
During a bicep exercise, this concentric action occurs when you curl the bar up - or the cable up - or the dumbbell up. Your bicep will become shorter in length, but more bulky.
ISOMETRIC MUSCLE ACTION
Let's dive into the isometric muscle action.
An isometric muscle action occurs when a muscle is exerting force, and equal to the forces being placed on it and there is no visible change in muscle length.
The isometric portion of the bicep exercises occurs when you hold a movement and contract your muscles as hard as possible. When I perform a hammer curl, I pause at the top for a very brief second, not overdoing it. This is so that I can accomplish the isometric portion of the exercise.
ECCENTRIC MUSCLE ACTION
Lastly, the eccentric muscle action.
The eccentric muscle action is when a muscle develops tension while lengthening.
The exerting force is less than the resisting force.
Eccentric muscle actions occur when you are bringing the weight down in your exercise without really having gravity do any of the work…At least, that's the goal.
When I bring down the cable, my bicep lengthens. During my cable curls, I do not let gravity do the work. Keep that in mind.
Concentric, isometric, and eccentric portions of the movement are all equally important.
All of these portions come together and create the optimal lift that will build the pathway for your muscle to grow. None of these movements, on their own, will create the results that all three put together.
Let's talk about performance cues that can be applied to all of these exercises. You’ll want to pay close attention to your subtle movements during lifts, including elbow placement.
Ideally, my elbows should be locked in and not deviating from my side, at least not too much.
It's important to keep your elbows nice and close, tucked into your torso in the same place throughout the whole movement during the lift.
A little variation is fine, like I said, but don't allow for them to go too crazy or move out too out of place.
Performance cue #2 - curl outward.
Pay attention to your pinkie next time you’re any of these dumbbell curls and these cable curls. You want to keep your shoulder, your elbow, your wrist, and your forearm aligned while you execute the movement.
But your pinkie and palm are still facing in an outward directions to increase that brachii activation.
Okay, so now that we've covered all the basics, let's go ahead and jump into the specifics for each exercise.
Dumbbell curls are pretty straightforward, obviously. I can't really tell you much about doing dumbbell curls. But I can tell you what's optimal and what's not optimal. It's really important to remember not to swing the weight.
Naturally, when things get a little bit tougher and you do get tired, you're going to be swinging the weight a little bit and this is okay.
Just make sure that when you perform the whole set, that you're not swinging throughout the whole set.
Otherwise, you're going to bypass the necessary development and the time under tension and you won't be stimulating your muscles like you would like to.
For both the EZ bar curl and the reverse EZ bar curl, you're going to want to keep that grip of the bar in the proper position to maximize this lift.
You want to grip the bar on the wide outer handle. For the EZ bar curl, your palm should be facing upward. And of course, for the reverse EZ bar crawl, your palm should be facing downward.
I also want you to note that when you're doing this reverse EZ bar curl, what I found that maximized the stimulation and the flexors and extensors, is when I have my wrist curled up slightly.
Think about it. If you ride a motorcycle, you're curling your wrist up to give it the gas. You're pretty much having your knuckles face your shoulders, so to speak.
If you try that with me right now, have your knuckles face your shoulders and you're going to feel that flexation in your muscles in your forearms.
So as I perform these EZ bar curls and reverse EZ bar curls, I've noticed that when you do this specific movement of curling of the wrist upwards, it'll induce more tension while you're doing the lifts.
Go ahead and give that a shot in your next approach to these exercises.
To perform cable curls optimally, the position of the pulley should be on the lowest setting.
You're going to want to double check that pulley and make sure it's secure to prevent any kind of freaky accidents from happening, because I've seen it happen before.
Align the pulley with the line of the pull of your biceps so that the pulley and the cable are in direct alignment with your elbow.
Grab that handle on the end closest to your torso. Grabbing the handle on the end allows for you to curl outward in a more natural fashion.
All right, let's go ahead and take a look at some hammer curls and some hammer curl cues.
Take a look at the I'm way grabbing this dumbbell.
I'm grabbing it in the middle of the grip. It's not on the way on the top.
The weight is not resting on my palms or on my hands.
I'm grabbing it right in the middle and I'm making sure that I have that cue to pause for about half a second.
If you are unable to grab that weight in the middle of the dumbbell grip and it's getting too heavy, where that weight is resting on your first finger and your thumb- it's just resting there, then that's not optimal for the lift and you're going to have to lower that weight.
Exercises for the biceps, the way I like to structure these is to pretty much do these workouts over the course of two or three days.
It's up to you how you want to spread them out, but usually two to three days is what I go for.
Be mindful of your elbow placement during your exercises.
Keep them close to your torso and relatively in the same place.
Lastly, be sure to curl your weight in an outward direction.
Try these out in your own lifts and exercises and you will know exactly what I'm talking about.
Also, be sure to check out my back video on how to develop a strong back with the three key lifts that I always do, that I've had in my training plan for the past 10 years and then how you can carve a Hercules-like back.
For a quick overview of what you just read, check out the video: