Sometimes I am completely fascinated with how badly the average gym-rat desires to build big biceps! Although I witness dozens of people each day training chest, back, shoulders, and legs with formidable intensity, it seems to jump to an even higher level when they are attacking the bis.
In fact, I often hear more screaming and cursing during a set of barbell curls than a set of squats! Strange…but true.
However, I can understand why so many lifters covet a massive pair of biceps. I mean, when someone comes up to you and asks you to “make a muscle,” I’m sure you don’t flex a trap or whip out a calf! Nope, you roll up your sleeve and put on a gun show!
And with that said, let’s talk biceps! Here are a few cool ways to tweak some basic curling movements to help make them more productive for you and ignite a new jolt of growth!
Movement: Standing BB Curl
Tweak: Cock wrists downward (like the stretch position of a seated BB wrist curl) while curling.
Execution: Grab a BB that is about 2/3 as heavy as you normally perform this movement with. Take a shoulder-width grip, stand up straight, and keep your elbows tightly tucked into your sides. Without using any body English or momentum curl the bar until your biceps are fully contracted. Keeping the wrists in the same position as the ascent, slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
Result: By cocking the wrists downward you will effectively remove the forearm flexors from the movement, which will force the biceps to do all of the work. Even though you may not be able to curl as much weight using this method, the resulting tension on the biceps will be much greater, igniting faster hypertrophy.
Movement: Incline DB Curl
Tweak: Perform the exercise with hands/wrist rotated outward (as far as shoulders will allow comfortably).
Execution: Sit on an incline bench set to between 60 and 70 degrees. Grab a pair of moderately weighted DBs and lay back on a bench. Rotate your hands/wrists outward and allow your arms to fully straighten. Curl the DBs until the biceps are fully contracted. Hold the squeeze for one second before slowly lowering back to the bottom. Make sure the arms are again fully straightened before beginning the next rep.
Result: By rotating your hands/wrist outward while curling on an incline bench you will force the biceps to stretch hard at the beginning of every rep, creating a powerful growth signal. Additionally, you will target the inner head of the biceps in this position.
Movement: Lat Pulldown Station Curl
Execution: Attach a short straight bar to a lat pulldown machine. Sit on the bench and secure your legs under the pads. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip and make sure the arms are straight before beginning each rep. Keep your torso relatively upright as you curl the bar down and back behind the head. Make sure to flex the biceps hard at the contraction point for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning to the top.
Result: Because the elbows are up by the ears when performing this movement, the biceps become a less powerful flexor of the forearm. This forces the brachialis, found underneath the biceps, to become more greatly involved, helping to ignite more growth in this muscle. By increasing the mass of the brachialis, the biceps will be “pushed up” higher, creating the illusion of a higher “peak.”
Movement: Seated Concentration Curl
Tweak: Pronate the forearm in order to use a “hammer” grip while curling.
Execution: Grab a DB and sit at the end of a bench. When working the right arm, for example, lean forward and press your elbow securely into your right inner thigh. Very strictly curl the DB until the biceps/brachialis are fully contracted. Squeeze forcefully at the top for 1-2 seconds before slowly lowering the DB till the arm is fully straightened.
Result: Similar to the Lat Pulldown Curl described above, the fact that the elbow is positioned away from the torso means the biceps are in a weaker position than normal, forcing greater engagement from the brachialis. Additionally, by utilizing a hammer grip, the brachialis will work even harder than when using a standard curling grip. This is another awesome peaking exercise.
Movement: BB Curl
Tweak: Rather than standing, perform the movement seated.
Execution: Sit on a bench that has an adjustable incline and set it to about 80 degrees. Take a shoulder-width grip (note: you can vary grip widths to more greatly affect inner or outer biceps fibers) on a straight BB, holding it just above the tops of your thighs. Curl until the biceps are fully contracted, hold the squeeze, then return to the starting point. Never allow the BB to rest on your thighs until the set is completed.
Result: These top-half BB curls keep constant tension on the biceps, which makes them quite intense and results in a killer pump. And because you are only performing a partial curl, quite heavy weights can be used. I love to occasionally finish off my biceps workouts with this great movement. (Note: You may wish to try this exercise at times with the tweak described above with Standing BB Curls).
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