Everyone knows how to train biceps, right? Up, and down. Up and down. That’s it.
The bicep is actually two muscles. The Short Head – on the inside of the arm. And the Long Head, on the outside. This is the bigger of the two, and the one that gives you that bicep peak.
Different types of training emphasise one side, or the other. And there are certain hacks to make sure your training leads to effective growth. Another key muscle is Brachialis – it’s a separate muscle that sits under the bicep, pushing the biceps up and out, to create the illusion of bigger biceps. Many biceps exercise also use the Brachialis.
Later, we’ll also show you hacks for how to target this muscle directly. The biceps perform two functions. Bending the elbow. And twisting the forearm.
Each muscle, and each function, requires special attention. So here are our top five hacks for building bigger, thicker biceps. The curling movement is the basic function of the bicep. So any bicep exercise will include bending the elbow.
But here’s our first hack – something we don’t normally say on Fit Media Channel. It’s ok to cheat on your curls. But there’s a good way to cheat, and a bad way. It’s about form.
So let’s start with the correct way to curl. Body upright, elbows tucked in. Go for lower weight, higher reps. A weight that feels comfortable in the 15 to 20 range.
But we know that the muscle works harder on the way down. So when you reach exhaustion, it’s ok to ‘cheat’ by swinging the body to help bring the weight up. Then slowly down with control. Those extra reps deliver maximum growth.
However – this hack is not a way of increasing the weight on the curling movement. Only cheat once the muscle has been exhausted through good reps. If you overload the bar, you’ll be losing form earlier on in the set. Not good.
Stick to a lower weight, higher rep range – and ONLY break form when you’ve reached exhaustion using good form. More than any other muscle, the biceps grow when you squeeze at the top of the movement. So again, it’s not about swinging a huge weight around. Use a weight you can control, and really squeeze at the top.
For a greater squeeze – use a Concentration Curl. Upper arm against the inner thigh. Bringing the pinkie finger up at the top of the movement will give you a greater squeeze, especially on that short head of the bicep. ‘Spider Curls’ will also help you isolate that short head, and hit a greater squeeze.
Let the weight hang straight down at the beginning, then keep the upper arm and shoulders exactly in that position – hinging only at the biceps. Concentrate on the squeeze at the top. The Long Head is the muscle that creates that impressive Bicep Peak. Any exercise where the elbow is behind the body is going to focus on the Long Head.
Seated Dumbbell Curl is a great example. Use an incline bench to set your elbow slightly behind the body – putting the focus on the Long Head of the bicep. An extra hack – at the bottom of the movement, squeeze your triceps. This will shut off the biceps, to make you restart the bicep movement cleanly.
Maximising gains. Another great exercise for the Long head is the Drag Curl. Taking the Elbows up and behind the body as you squeeze the bicep. With all your effort focussed on bending the elbow and squeezing the Biceps, it’s easy to forget the importance of grip.
So our next hack is about hands. Don’t grip too tight – this’ll bring the forearms into play. However, do feel the weight through your pinkie finger. As if you’re trying to twist the bar up.
Changing to dumbbells will allow you to actively push through the pinking finger – for an actual twist as you come up. So you’re working on the twist as well as the squeeze. One of the advantages of using dumbbells. An overhand grip will bring in the forearms.
But for the best of both worlds, the ‘Zottman Curl’ uses that twisting function of the biceps, as well as working forearms. Also key to a good ‘grip’ is keeping the wrists in a neutral position. Even when you’re squeezing hard, don’t let the wrists curl in. Hands remain in the same position all the way up, and all the way down.
A wider grip will target the outside of the arms – the Long Head. A narrower grip will bring in the Short Head. But if you want to go narrower still, ditch the bar for a single dumbbell. Giving you greater control as you squeeze the small head of the bicep.
Our final hack isn’t about biceps – it’s about the Brachialis muscle we showed you earlier. It sits under the Long Head of the bicep – pushing the muscle up and out. Giving a wider look to the whole arm. Hammer Curls use a vertical grip, working not only the long head – but also the Brachialis.
Standard Hammer Curls work both pretty much evenly. To throw more emphasis on the Brachialis, switch to a Cross Body Hammer Curl. Moving the weight up close to the body rather than out in front. Helping complete that full, thick arm.
So those are your key hacks to get the most from your biceps training. All these expert trainers share workout tips and video demonstrations for a complete range of exercises on Fit Media’s exclusive exercise database, free on our website.