There’s no doubt that most weightlifters and bodybuilders love training biceps. We all want huge arms. And the joy of training biceps is right up there with training chest. In fact many young weight training enthusiasts start out spending the majority of their time in the gym training chest and arms. One of the problems with training biceps is many tend to over train them. Let’s dive into some basic concepts of biceps training.
Some are genetically gifted with great arms. It almost seems that they can merely walk by the dumbbell rack and their biceps grow. Many others aren’t so fortunate and have to really work hard to attain big arms. Let’s get one myth out of the way; you cannot completely alter the genetic shape of your biceps. You’ll notice that some bodybuilders have very high and prominent peaks on their biceps while others have longer muscle bellies. I’m part of that latter group. While there are biceps exercises that do indeed focus on a particular part of the bicep muscle you really have to do the best with what you’ve been granted genetically. Even the Mr. Olympia competitors have different muscle shapes and sizes in their biceps as well as other muscle groups. This is ok; accept it and simply focus on building bigger biceps. You may not be able to alter your genetic shape in regards to biceps peaks, but you will be able to change the size of your biceps, which really alters the shape as well if you want to look at it that way. Just train your biceps with great intensity and go for the pump. The rest will fall into place.
It’s worthy to note that your biceps get worked when you train back. For the most part this is common knowledge but I’ve seen many train biceps as much as three times a week not realizing that they’re also hitting them on back day, so that technically makes it four times a week. In my opinion, that’s too much for bi’s. Like every other muscle group, your biceps need time to rest and grow as well. However, I’m not opposed to training biceps twice a week if you’re a seasoned weight lifter or bodybuilder, or if that’s a problem area. But if you’re going to do that I would strongly recommend that you do different exercises each time you train biceps and that you do higher reps and go for more of a pump on your 2nd biceps workout. For example, you could train biceps heavy in the beginning of the week and for your 2nd workout just do a couple of exercises perhaps using higher reps or focus on contracting the muscles (such as holding the weight while squeezing the muscle at the top of the rep). But hitting biceps once a week should be enough for adequate arm growth. If you’re training them hard once a week and they’re not growing, throw in a second biceps workout. If you’re already training them twice a week and you’ve hit a wall in growth then back off to once a week. And again, remember you’re getting some biceps work on back day.
As far as exercises for biceps, I recommend sticking to basic exercises. You simply cannot beat barbell curls, dumbbell curls, and preacher curls. You can do barbell curls with the straight bar or EZ curl bar. And for dumbbell curls you can do then standing or seated, and straight, alternating or hammer curls. You can also use cables, though I recommend free weights. Preacher curls can be done with the EZ curl bar or one of my favorite exercises for biceps is the Hammer Strength Preacher Curl machine (plate loaded). Bottom line is you don’t need any crazy exercises for biceps. Stick to the basic mass builders here and focus on contracting the muscle.
Here’s a basic workout for biceps. As stated above you can perform the first exercise with the barbell (straight bar) or the EZ curl bar. Or even better, you can alternate them every other biceps workout. Same goes for dumbbell curls in regards to using alternate curls or hammer curls. Focus on using good form and don’t sway your back or body when performing free weight curls. You can use a little force to get the weight up, meaning you don’t have to stand perfectly straight. But you want to make sure you’re working your biceps, not just throwing up weight.
Barbell Curls – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Alternate Dumbbell Curls – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Preacher Curls – 3 sets x 12 reps
Remember to flex your biceps at the peak of each rep and also control the weight during the negative portion of the movement. Don’t worry about going super heavy on your biceps exercises. Your goal is to feel the biceps work, not just move the weight.
Train with Passion,