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For as long as people have been moving weights the idea of size and strength has found its origins at the biceps...
When educating my clients about this muscle I will always put it into perspective. Believe it or not the bicep is actually made up of two heads, hence the “bi”, one being the biceps brachii inner head and biceps brachii outer head. A third head can also be included in this called the “brachialis”, this is located between the outer biceps brachii and the triceps. Another fact which comes as a surprise to most is that the biceps are actually half the size of its adjoining muscle, the triceps, so why so much attention is given to them is only a mystery.
The biceps are a pleasure to train, and when trained correctly will respond with eye catching results within a very short amount of time. Number one rule when training this muscle group is “isolation”. Far too often you will see people attempting to train their “guns” without actually realising they are recruiting many other surrounding muscles like the forearms, triceps, deltoids and even their lats!
One of my biggest annoyances when walking into gyms or meeting up with old clients, is their failure to stick to the main principles.
I’ll say it out strait ok; never ever use barbells or ezy bars when training the biceps. The reason for this is that you may be favouring the more dominant side of your body without you even realising. How do I know this? Unfortunately, I talk from personal experience.
When I started weight training at the age of 15, I fell into the same trap thousands have before me and concentrated on your meat & potato exercises. Barbell curls, flat bench press, barbell shoulder presses and so on… Over the period of approx 6 months I had experienced some great gains, the complements and improvements in my sporting performance really motivated me to kick on to take weight training far more serious. Little did I know that I was creating a physique which was unbalanced strength wise and more disturbingly SIZE wise!
No matter whom you are or what you did when you were a growing child, your brain will always favour one side of your body and automatically select that side for receiving electronic impulses (movement) while doing such things as lifting and pulling. As a result, most people are built with a dominant side to their bodies. Usually it’s not noticeable , though when weight lifting and resistance training come into play its importance is highlighted and needs to be treated with respect.
For my biceps training, I was using a barbell and reasonably heavy weights to get my results. Without me even realising my right arm was doing the majority of work. It was only when I experimented with the use of dumbbells that I saw the dramatic size and strength differences between my left and right arms!
My point here is, that you’ve got two biceps not one, so it makes a lot more sense to use two dumbbells rather that one barbell to experience higher quality results. I made the mistake and it cost me 3 years of training to render my error! So trust me, you don’t want to make the same mistake!
Just like a wealthy property developer, anybody who has found success in a particular trade have all put into place one revolutionary action that separated them from the pretenders. Training the biceps is no exception.
Fortunately I have always been complimented with well developed guns and good separation from surrounding muscles. I’ve always found that there are two key factors in getting those much desired results.
The first would be the angle of your wrist at the beginning and end of any curling movement.
Three commonly used angles when curling would be:
- Palm facing rear – Primarily contracts the wrist extensors and bulk of the forearm.
- Palm facing inwards (Towards torso) – Primarily contracts the bulk of the forearm and also the biceps brachialis.
- Palm facing forward - Almost complete isolation of the bicep brachii, inner and outer heads.
When curling, we have all seen and some would have even done it before, but swinging your back and looking like you’re dancing in a 70’s disco flick is defiantly a dangerous no no!
So the second key factor would be using the correct weight and the position of your elbow.
Isolation is the key here. So when performing a simple dumbbell curl, literally the only movement necessary is that of the angle of your elbow moving from 180 to 90 degrees. The most effective way to complete this is to create a solid foundation for your lift.
- First, plant your feet shoulder width apart, and ever so slightly bend your knees so you are recruiting the natural shock absorbers in your knees.
- Second, is to angle your spine into a “neutral” position. This is when the spine is neither arched nor rounded, so basically in the middle where it is most comfortable/natural.
- Third, is to “tense and recruit your core muscles”, including your abdominals, oblique’s, lower back, glutes and hips. Treat your core like the trunk of a large tree, where all the weight it supported and connected too.
- The forth step in creating a solid foundation is to position your elbows directly in line with the side of your body, just above your pelvis. Contact is not a necessity; though keep the elbow as close as possible to this position throughout the entire exercise.
In conclusion the biceps form the anchor of any physique, although they lack the mass of other muscle groups like the chest and back, proper isolation, rest and recovery will ultimately give you the results you have always wanted to achieve.
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