Who doesn’t love the biceps? A nice pair of biceps seems to be the all access key when going out on the weekend. When I’m at the gym on a Friday or Saturday and see everyone hitting arms to get a good weekend pump, I always have this scenario playing in my head between an exclusive club security guard and the guy trying to pump his arms up…
Security guard: Excuse me sir; you can’t come in here unless you are on the list.
Gym Guy: I’m not on the list but my friends are. [Hits a double bicep pose]
Security guard: Ok, come on it.
So how do you build a set of biceps that will gain you access to an exclusive club? First let’s go back to high school anatomy for a quick lesson of the bicep.
The bicep extends from the shoulder to the forearm and its job is to flex the elbow and rotate the forearm. The bicep is also made up of 3 muscles: Bicep Brachii, Brachialis and the Pronator Teres. The Bicep Brachii is the main muscle everyone works, and it is broken up into 2 heads; long head and short head. For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on the Bicep Brachii. The other two muscles are smaller and get worked whenever the bicep is worked. The Bicep Brachii are the show me muscles.
The long head contributes mostly to the peak and the short head is more for width. So if you want fat-ass Mount Everests for arms, work both heads.
The long head can be specifically hit by lifting with the elbows behind the body, like in incline curls. The short head is emphasized more when the elbows are in front of the body, like in the preacher curl. Also, going with a slightly wider grip (an inch or two wider than shoulder width) can put more emphasis on the short head. Conversely, a narrow grip can emphasize the long head.
Typically to gain size you want to work in the 8-12 rep range. This the hypertrophy range which is good for muscle growth. Since the bicep is a relatively small muscle as compared to the chest and quads, it’s not really a good idea to not go super heavy on an exercise like curls. Finding your one rep max on curls is pointless. If you want to go heavy, stick to 6-8 reps. This range dances on the strength/hypertrophy line without adding too much stress to your muscles causing injures. After you’ve hit the 6-8 range for 3 sets, I like to finish my 4th set with a good pump to get the blood flowing. By increasing blood flow to the muscles ensures the required nutrients are going where you want them. Adding a pump at the end is like adding fuel to the muscle building fire. I usually recommend and do 21’s.
For those that don’t know 21’s are; 7 full range of motion reps then 7 half reps from the top (fully contracted) to half way down and then finish it off with 7 reps from the bottom of the movement to half way up. All without resting between. Pick a weight that you can do for 10-12 reps. After a set of 21’s I encourage you to try scratching your right shoulder with your right arm. 21’s aren’t exclusive to bicep exercises either. I’ve done them on everything from bench press and pull-ups to triceps pushdowns.
So without further to-do, here is a sample bicep workout you can add into you routine.
Exercise Sets x Reps
Standing barbell curl 4×6-8
(2 sets wide grip, 2 set narrow)
Incline Alternating Dumbbell Curl 3×6-8, 1×21
Preacher Dumbbell Curl 3×8-10, 1×21