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Training Your Biceps May very well be Deceiving
When people wish to train their biceps, they don’t realize the upper arm is actually a mix of a group of muscles. When you say the word ‘biceps’ you have to specify which set of “biceps.” There are two sets of biceps and both sets of muscles have two “heads.” When someone says “nice guns”, they’re referring to the biceps brachii, which is a shoulder muscle and an elbow muscle. There is another set however, called the biceps femoris, which is a hip and knee muscle. Both muscles have a long head and a brief head.
To maximise the “look” of your biceps brachii it is very important train the opposite two muscles in that region of the body. There are the brachioradialis which is an elbow and wrist muscle and the brachialis which is sometimes referred to because the “work horse” of the elbow flexors (muscles that bend the arm in marley braiding hair colors a curl).
The muscle we forget is the corachobrachialis. This muscle doesn’t bend the elbow directly. It starts or originates on the shoulder next to where the short head of the biceps brachii originates. It then inserts or attaches to the inside (medial side) of the upper arm half way down the humerus. When a bodybuilder does a biceps pose they always rotate the upper arm towards the surface (called external rotation) so the inside or the medial aspect or the corachobrachialis is now lying right on top. For those who look closely you will notice the arm has rotated and shortened the biceps on top of the coracobrahialis muscle making your biceps look massive! Anytime you perform presses over your head, lateral raises, front raises, bench presses or flyes you train the corachobrachialis.
The biceps brachii originates in two different places: the long head starts on the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, and the short head on the apex of the coracoid process. Both heads insert on the radial tuberosity (the forearm) with an indirect attachment to an aponeurosis (thick fascia or connective tissue). Because the biceps brachii crosses both the shoulder and the elbow it is taken into account a two-joint muscle.
The brachioradialis is also a chief mover on the elbow, but is emphasized more in a “hammer” curl or a neutral position of the wrist. It originates on the proximal two thirds of the lateral suprachondylar ridge of the humerus and the lateral intermuscular septum.
It inserts on the lateral side of the styloid technique of the radius (1) or the highest of your wrist by the thumb. Because the brachioradialis crosses both the elbow and the wrist it is taken into account a two-joint muscle.
The brachialis is emphasized more when doing a reverse curl. The muscle originates on the distal one half of the anterior surface of the humerus and the medial and lateral intermuscular septa. For the reason that brachialis only crosses the elbow it is not affected by the shoulder position.
The biceps brachii, brachioradialis and brachialis are all prime movers in a curl or elbow flexion. All three of those elbow flexors are involved in any pulling motion as well. It’s almost impossible to work your lats and not affect you biceps. Some might consult with the biceps as a secondary mover on the shoulder; however, it remains to be the prime mover on the elbow in almost every pulling motion. Because of this, it is not necessary to do as many isolated exercises. You only must perform two isolated biceps exercises.
Some muscles are considered fast twitch and others are considered slow twitch. Slow twitch muscles react to endurance activities while the fast twitch muscles react to more powerful or explosive activities. All muscles in the body have qualities of both fast and slow twitch muscles. Elbow flexors like shorter more intense sets. The biceps brachii responds better to heavier weight and lower reps. Although, the biceps can perform a rowing motion for long periods of time, this activity is cyclical without constant tension. In case your goal is to grow your biceps it is very important train both longer sets for the slow twitch fiber to be affected and shorter intense sets for the fast twitch fiber to grow.
Let’s get started. Each routine must be performed for no less than 6-8 weeks, not more than twice every week or performed more than 16 times total before moving to the next level. All sets must be performed to failure. You should not be capable of perform another rep.
If you happen to perform curls on one day then rest a day before you train your lats. If you are performing a push-pull routine then train legs between the pull and push days.
Perform all sets as a pyramid with each set progressively getting heavier (1ST set is 25 reps, 2nd set is 20 reps, 3rd set is 15 reps)
Straight bar curls – 2-3 sets of 25 to15 reps
Preacher curls with a cable or machine – 2-3 sets of 25 to 15 reps
Hammer curls – 2-3 sets of 25 to 15 reps
Perform all sets as a pyramid with each set progressively getting heavier (1ST set is 15 reps, 2nd set is 12 reps, 3rd set is 10 reps and the 4th set is 8 reps)
Straight bar curls – 3-4 sets of 15 to eight reps
Preacher curls with a cable or machine – 3-4 sets of 15 to 8 reps
Incline bench dumbbell curls – 3-4 sets of 15 to eight reps
Concentration curls – 3-4 sets of 15 to eight reps
Reverse curls with an E-Z curl bar – 3-4 sets of 15 to 8 reps
Now not pyramid. Add 3 – 5 reps to the last set of each exercise as negatives. If the exercise asks for 4 sets of 8 reps then the last set will actually include 11-13 reps with the added negative reps. A negative rep is when someone helps you lift the burden (the positive or concentric motion) but you resist the downward motion. Always do one light set of 15 reps to warm up. After the primary exercise sets there isn’t a have to perform another warm up set.
Straight bar curls – 3-4 sets of 8 to 6 reps
Preacher curls with a cable or machine – 3-4 sets of 8 to six reps
Incline bench alternate dumbbell curls – 3-4 sets of 8 to six reps
Hammer curls – 3-4 sets of 8 to six reps
High cable curls – 3-4 sets of 8 to six reps
On all exercises inhale as the weight goes down (eccentric or lengthening phase) and exhale as you lift the burden.
Straight bar curls
Stand straight together with your chest up, shoulders back, feet at shoulder width and a soft bend in your knees. Let your hands hang normally at your side and just rotate your palms forward. That is how you identify where you must grab the bar. The angle between the long axis of the humerus and the long axis of the forearm form a “carrying angle.”(3) This angle can vary from 10-25 degrees.(4) In case you have a large carrying angle and you wish to avoid excessive pressure to the medial or inside of the elbow, then it could be advisable to make use of dumbbells.
If you employ a selecterized machine then ensure that your elbow lines up with the axis of the machine. There is often a little bit red dot or circle on the machine. If you don’t have a machine then just carry the preacher curl bench over to a low cable and use a straight bar. It is important to not use the conventional preacher bench with a free weight because the resistance profile is the precise opposite of a human’s strength profile. In other words, when the burden is heaviest the biceps is weakest and visa-versa. That is why you see so many individuals cheat and rock the weight once they go heavy on a preacher curl using a free weight. Although people say this exercise hits the “peak” it is simply because the biceps has been shortened or balled up. The peak is genetic and has to do with the dimensions of the muscle belly and the length of the tendon.
Incline bench curls
Use dumbbells and an incline bench for this exercise. You’ll be able to incline the bench to a maximum of 30 degrees. Keep your feet on the floor, chest up and your head against the bench. Be careful, because you’ve put your biceps on a stretch, this could make you sore at the tendinous junction at the radius. Keep your palms facing forwards in a supinated position always. Once you get to the advanced routine and the weights become heavy alternate with each hand. This exercise emphasizes the biceps brachii.
Stand and hold the dumbbells and lift them up and down like you would a hammer. This exercise emphasizes the brachioradialis.
You need to perform this one arm at a time. Sit on the edge of a bench and grab a dumbbell with one hand. Place the elbow of the hand with the dumbbell on the inside of your thigh just above the knee. Keep the palms facing outwards in a supinated position. This exercise emphasizes the biceps brachii.
High cable curls
Stand in between two high cables. Lift your arms until they are 90 degrees or parallel to the ground. Grab a handle connected to a cable with each hand and curl them as in the event you were performing a double biceps pose. This exercise emphasizes the biceps brachii.
Because some people have an issue going into full pronation while holding a straight bar, I like to recommend using an E-Z curl bar for this exercise and grabbing the bar on the widest position. Attempt to keep the elbows from flaring out to the sides. This exercise emphasizes the brachialis.
Follow these workouts for 3 months and you need to now have great biceps brachii muscles.
1. Kendall, McCreary, Provance: Muscles Testing and Function. p.268, 4th edition
2. Kendall, McCreary, Provance: Muscles Testing and Function. p.268, 4th edition
3. Norkin, Levangie: Joint Structure & Function.
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