One common question I get asked on a weekly basis is “What I need to do to get better arm development?” Below I will give you what I call my “Big 5” biceps exercises. However, first let’s discuss the anatomy of the bicep for a better understanding. What’s commonly referred to as the “biceps” muscle is actually a lot different from what most people think. In reality, the biceps only makes up about one-third of the arm. The deltoids and triceps make up the other two-third. Biceps are made up of three muscles: the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis. If you’re looking for head-turning arms, it’s important that you hit all three parts of the biceps, and remember not to neglect the triceps and deltoids. When individuals start a workout program, most males often tend to focus mainly on the biceps. The biceps tend to be a highly noticed muscle group by others, so if your arm development is good, people are going to notice. One major component I focus on, along with proper form. is the mind-muscle connection. Do not neglect your form for the weight that you’re using. My last key component is to change your tempo for maximum gains. For example, a 1:1:4 tempo would mean a 1-second concentric (or the lifting aspect), 1-second squeeze and a 4-second eccentric (or negative/lowering the weight).
The Big 5
- Wide-grip standing barbell curls: Taking a wider-than-normal grip will cause you to externally rotate at the shoulder, so your humerus changes its position. This prompts more involvement from the short head of the biceps. For this and all barbell curls, avoid cheating reps by leaning back. If you want to overload the top, use bands, chains or a partner for forced reps.
- Alternating hammer curls: Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, and then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arms.
- Seated preacher curls: Grab an EZ-curl bar with your hands 6 inches apart. Rest your upper arms on the sloping pad of a preacher bench and hold the bar in front of you with your elbows slightly bent. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the bar toward your shoulders. Pause, and then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
- Incline dumbbell curls: Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie with your back against a bench that’s set to a 45-degree incline. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arms.
- Overhead cable curls: This movement is a great way to practice your front double biceps pose as you train. With your arms in this position, brachialis recruitment is maximized. The higher your elbow, the more isolated the brachialis is from the biceps brachii. A good variation is to do one arm at a time, getting the arm straight up (against the head), curling behind your head.
I would suggest not to do all these exercises during your arm workout; however, by interchanging them from workout to workout, you will keep the stimulus high while never allowing your muscles to get too adapted. The constant change in biceps training is what prevents a plateau and helps push your strength levels to new extremes, so don’t be afraid to do exercise outside the box.
Below you’ll find a sample arm exercise that utilizes a wide variety of bicep. Each exercise will have different tempos and rep ranges to reach your full biceps potential for maximum grow and development.
|Standing barbell curls||3 sets x 6 reps||(1:1:3 tempo)|
|Seated preacher curls||3 sets x 6-8 reps||(2:1:3 tempo)|
|Overhead cable curls||3 sets x 10-12 reps||(2:2:3 tempo)|
|Alternating hammer curls||3 sets x 6 reps||(1:1:3 tempo)|
|Incline barbell curls||3 sets x 6-8 reps||(2:1:3 tempo)|
|Overhead cable curls||3 sets x 12-15 reps||(2:2:3 tempo)|