Chances are, the first time you picked up a dumbbell, you curled it. And years down the line, the movement hasn't changed much, except that the dumbbells you use these days should be considerably heavier.
Nevertheless, it doesn't require a Ph.D. in biophysics to fine tune the act of raising your fist to your shoulder. Anyone can do it. Add more weight, and you've taken your first step toward bigger
biceps. In many cases, that's all that's required. Simply increase the resistance, and over time the biceps get bigger and stronger. At least that's the theory.
In reality, muscle growth is not a linear process. Growth can get stalled along the way. That's when it's time to make a change - stimulate the muscle in a new manner which kick-starts the growth
process. There are many ways of doing this, the most obvious being to change your current routine. You can alter set/rep combinations or you can shift the exercise choices around. Bodybuilders are a
creative bunch and they'll study and explore every angle imaginable in order to hit the targeted area in a new way, hoping to add stimulus to a specific muscle group. But when it comes to biceps
training, there aren't a lot of options from which to choose. And those few options are often less effective versions of the basic movement that you used the first time - picking up a dumbbell and curling
When doing a standing curl, it's natural to use some body torque to help things along. You can circumvent this tendency to cheat by bracing your back against a wall, but you may still inadvertently
give a little bend in the knees when the stress is greatest. It's natural. The brain wants to get the weight from point A to point B. However, bodybuilding is about working the muscles, not just
lifting the weight.
The alternative is to do seated exercises for biceps. However, not all seated exercises are created equal. In the case of biceps training, it's common to see guys using all sorts of preacher benches of
various sizes, all of which do pretty much the same thing: They lessen the resistance on the biceps. That's right. Using a preacher bench forces your arms out of the range of motion in which the biceps
are most directly affected. In the preacher-bench position, the center of gravity is taken off the biceps and transferred to the assisting stabilizer muscles: the brachialis or even the anterior deltoid.
While this allows for more weight to be easily lifted, less of the stress is placed directly on the biceps. But the whole point of weight training for the bodybuilder is to stress the muscle, forcing it
to grow! Besides, although bracing the arms on an angled preacher bench provides leverage, and therefore feels good you're doing yourself a disservice if bigger biceps are your goal. There's no way to
fully contract the biceps at the all-important top point of the movement since the pull of gravity is less than it is at the mid-point.
The key to working biceps to their utmost is to maintain stress throughout the entire curling motion. In general, this means utilizing a strict, fluid motion without any swing or cheating. This can best
be accomplished while seated and without bracing the arms forward. It's this principle that makes seated incline curls superior to standing curls or preacher curls. In fact, muscle legend Steve Reeves
was quoted as saying that after many years of training he came to the conclusion that "nothing worked the biceps better than seated incline curls," so after a while they were the only biceps exercise he
did. Though there's something to be said for Steve's revelation, this might get a little dull after a while. However, you can keep the concept and still allow for some variety that'll add new interest
to your next biceps workout.
The following routine is an all-seated biceps assault that is guaranteed to put maximum stress deep into the belly of the biceps muscle. It's a double triset series of somewhat unusual movements you may
not have done before, so read the instructions carefully.
EXERCISE ONE: Seated Barbell Curls
Here's one you almost never see done, and that's a shame, since it's an outstanding exercise that works the entire biceps and nothing but the biceps. While seated, put your back flush up against the back
of an incline bench angled straight up at 90 degrees. Put your legs together in front with your feet flat on the floor. Use a barbell slightly lighter than you would for standing barbell curls, and set it
on your lap. Grab it with an underhand grip just outside the width of your legs Keep your elbows back and close to you sides. Curl the weight up in a controlled manner, consciously preventing the am or
elbows from jutting forward. Keep the elbows back and curl the weight up as high as possible, contracting at the top position. Lower the bar until it barely touches the top of your thighs. Then, without
any swing or momentum, repeat the ascent.
The first few reps of this movement may be deceiving. It will appear easier than a standard full-range curl. But after 6 or 7 reps you'll start to realize why it works so well. Because the biceps are doing
all the work, they will fatigue quickly. The assisting muscles won't be of very much help. Shoot for a range of at least 10 repetitions. You can even go as high as 15 with this one. Once you get a feel for
it, you'll notice that ache deep in the middle of the biceps that tells you you're stimulating new muscle fibers. With no more than 10 seconds' rest, go directly to ...
EXERCISE TWO: Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls
Okay, now it's time to work in the full range of motion, but it will feel very different since you've already exhausted the biceps in their peak range of motion.
Set the back of the bench at a 45-degree angle. Once again, keep the elbows close to the torso and with a heavy weight in each hand, curl both hands at the same time. Lower the weight but do not allow the
arms to extend all the way down. Stop just short of full extension and reverse the movement back up. Do 8 to 10 reps, or as many as possible. If you can do more than 12 reps, increase the weight.
Here's another tip to help keep the emphasis on the biceps. Stay focused on keeping the pinky finger slightly higher than the thumb. Once the thumb tilts the hand into more of a hammer grip, the stress moves
away from the biceps and onto the brachialis. Do not curl your wrist! In other words, don't bend it forward. As a matter of fact, you may want to bend the wrist back a bit, but not too much. Bending the wrist
back places even more stress on the biceps, but if you exaggerate the position you can strain your wrist. Start with an abbreviated tilt and see how it feels. Suddenly, a simple dumbbell curl isn't so simple,
is it? Now go directly to the last step of the first triset, which is ...
EXERCISE THREE: Seated Behind-the-Neck Pulley Curls
Huh? Betcha never heard of this one! Actually, this is an old Vince Gironda move (also a favorite of Larry Scott) and designed for more advanced trainers since it requires more control and technique than
your average curl.
Sit at the cable-pulldown machine, facing in as if you were going to do a lat pull-down. Use an underhand false grip. (Keep the fingers and thumbs on the same side of the bar, as opposed to grabbing the bar
with the thumbs and fingers on opposite sides. In this position the hands act more like hooks.) Keeping the elbows high and the upper arms as vertical as possible, begin curling the weight back and behind
your head. You'll quickly realize that this movement takes considerable control. It's also impossible to cheat. For this reason you must go with a poundage light enough for proper execution. Don't worry that
it's not enough weight. This angle increases the resistance workload onto the biceps tenfold. Besides, they should already be pretty fried from the previous two exercises. This move will work great as a
finisher, flushing blood into the biceps and enhancing the pump.
That's it for triset number one. Take a breather and then move on to the second half. The first exercise in this triset begins with...
Seated Half-Alternating Dumbbell Curls
This exercise is very similar to the seated barbell curl in that it is a half-curl from your lap to the tops of your shoulders, but you'll be using heavy dumbbells instead of a barbell, and you will alternate
Alternating hands while curling allows for more weight and more focus. Look at each arm as it strains under the pressure, bulging and rippling as it contracts. When you reach the top of the movement, try to
push it farther still, squeezing every last drop out of the exercise. When alternating hands, it's imperative to keep the torso still. Do not twist and use torque in order to leverage the dumbbells up. Remember,
the idea isn't just to lift the weight; it's to work the muscle!
The hand that has just finished a rep should come to a complete rest on top of the leg. Wait until it comes to a stop before beginning the opposite hand's curl. Go heavy. Work with a weight that won't allow for
more than 10 reps. Rest no more than 30 seconds and go to the second exercise. This is called ...
Seated Low Incline Curls
For this exercise, lower the bench-back a few notches - similar to the position for an incline bench press. Then do dumbbell curls in the regular fashion, both hands curling at the same time. The low incline
will really force the biceps to work!
The small angle may cause the dumbbells to touch the ground, but that's okay. It isn't necessary to straighten the arms completely. However, some benches may be too low to do the exercise at all. In that case,
you'll need to improvise. One way to raise the overall height of the bench is to place a couple of 45-pound plates under the front and back base. Make sure it's stable, though! If this still seems too low, raise
the back just enough to allow for more clearance. Use a manageable weight for this one and go for 10 reps. The final movement of this all-seated routine will be ...
Seated Concentration Curls
Of course, this is done one hand at a time, concentrating on the biceps, as the name implies, while it goes through its motion. One interesting thing about concentration curls is that so many guys will look at
their biceps while doing the movement, but they aren't looking at how much they may be cheating themselves out of its full benefit.
Keep your elbow tucked into the inside of your thigh while raising the dumbbell up, but resist the urge to assist the upward movement with a little nudge from the leg. Come on, admit it - you've done that, haven't
you? Also, when you get to the fourth or fifth rep and begin to tire, avoid dipping the shoulder down to relieve some of the stress - another counterproductive habit.
Make the biceps work!
That completes two trisets of biceps exercises. That should be enough for most beginners, but anyone who has been training for more than six months should repeat the two trisets. Advanced athletes who want to
completely bombard their biceps may do three sets of each triset. That's a tough workout!
Biceps training, at its core, is as basic as it gets. But after evaluating these exercises, it's plain to see there's a lot more to maximizing growth than once thought. If progress has been impeded in the
development of your biceps, then non-standing exercises just may be the answer for jump starting your gains. This routine isn't for the weak willed. But if bigger biceps are what you want, it won't let you down.
So have a seat... and get ready to bust your ass!