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Bigger and Badder
3-step Bicep Blasting
“You only go around once, so you might as well have big arms.”—Socrates
Or maybe it was a guy at my gym that said that. I’m not sure now, but somebody cool said it. That raises the question of how to get those big arms. Well, my first answer when someone asks me how to get big arms is usually “I don’t know—you should ask someone with big arms.” Then I remember that my 21-inch (completely real) arms may seem small to me, but the fact that I’ve never had arm genetics on my side probably makes me one of the best people to ask. How did I do it? Well, I’ve always kept it simple and focused on what I’ve always called a three-pronged attack. You should always train each muscle through its full range of motion within each workout, selecting exercises that target the different parts of the movement.
The biceps is a relatively simple muscle. It supinates the forearm and flexes the arm. A guy with great biceps genetics may not even have to know much more than that. Look at Phil Heath; he’s famous for not training arms often at all. His just explode on him when he does curls.
However, most of us aren’t like that. Here are my suggestions to blow up your bis:
THE STRETCH: You want to pick a movement that puts the biceps in a very high-tension position, with some stretch. There really aren’t many options, and the main exercise for this would be seated dumbbell curls done with a slight incline. I don’t recommend putting the chair back too far, as this may put a ton of stress on the biceps tendon up in the shoulder. But a slight incline so that the dumbbells actually go a little bit behind you at the bottom of the rep is what you want. When the arm travels backwards past the hip, the biceps takes a large amount of stretch tension. We know that loading a muscle out of a stretch is a great way to overload it and trigger fibre recruitment.
MID-RANGE POWER: We’re at our strongest with exercises such as barbell curls and standing dumbbell curls. Most of the heavy stress is loaded on the biceps during the mid-range of these exercises. They’re relatively safe, and we can also do very controlled “cheat” techniques to extend the set past failure. These movements are a great way to stress the biceps with old-school mechanical loading.
SQUEEZE THAT SHIT! The weakest position of the biceps is the shortest possible position. That means exercises such as concentration curls, most machine preachers, and/or high pulley cable curls (where you pull in behind your head) will put the muscle under a load while contracted to its shortest position.
When handling dumbbells for any biceps movement, you’ll also have the option of pronation/supination at the bottom of each rep (for the truest range of motion and function), or you can stay supinated and keep the palm facing forward (which may feel like more constant tension). I usually go with the supination/pronation with dumbbells, since machine, barbell, and cable exercises don’t allow any rotating of the wrist. Just remember: Variety is good!
For another article about getting bigger bis, check out our Target Training feature on Cross Body Hammer Curls!