The art of training arms has grown throughout the years. I see more and more guys in the gym each day doing all sorts of bicep exercises, in hopes of somehow finding the EXACT exercise that will instantly increase muscle growth.
I hate to say it but there isn’t just one exercise that works the best. I know from personal experience that genetics play a vital role in what the bicep looks like once enough hypertrophy has taken place. Some guys have the crazy cephalic vein popping out all the time, which some of us may consider unfair, but truth be told that’s just the way it works. We’re all different.
I’ve got some good news for you though. Awesome genetics or not, you can still make your biceps look just as impressive with a few simple rules and strategies. I’ve used these tricks on myself for the past few years as well as my clients and I can honestly tell you that the biceps will grow! So let’s get after it…
#1 Range of Motion
For the most part, the typical guy in the gym doing bicep curls isn’t educated enough to know what’s even happening. All they know is that Arnold did heavy bicep curls, so they have to do heavy bicep curls. Don’t get fooled into thinking that’s all it takes. There’s a blueprint to get massive biceps and it all starts with simply anatomy.
I want to ask you a question: What does the arm look like when the bicep is in a fully flexed position? Go ahead and contract the bicep as much as you can.
If your elbow is tucked at your side with your fist tightly clenched in front of your shoulder, then you’re wrong. Heck, even if you’re in a full bicep pose with your elbow out, you’re still wrong! The key to planning out your best bicep exercises is to first understand what a fully flexed bicep looks like, and what a fully stretched bicep looks like.
Go ahead and place your elbow high above your head while flexing the bicep. THIS is a fully flexed and contracted position. You see, proper anatomy points out that MUSCLES contact and JOINTS flex. Don’t get them confused. What most guys don’t know is that the bicep crosses 2 joints! It doesn’t just act at the elbow; it also assists in glenohumeral flexion at the shoulder, crossing the shoulder joint too.
Just like in the contracted position, a fully stretched bicep is also acting at the shoulder. Ever done incline dumbbell curls with the palms facing backward at the bottom of the movement? That’s a fully stretched bicep.This is some handy information to have when trying to train correctly. When trying to build mass, the goal is always to stimulate as many fibers as possible. Going through the full range of motion will ensure that this happens.
#2 The Strength Curve
Now that your range of motion is brought up to par, it’s time to asses where you’re the strongest. Coming from another anatomy perspective, it’s clear that when the bicep is fully stretched that it has the possibility to produce the most force. Does it usually feel this way? No, not at all. Why do you think that so many guys do biceps curls only half way down? It’s freaking hard to lift the weight back up once it stretches out completely.Don’t be that guy. If you want eye-catching results from your training, don’t cheat yourself.
Likewise, your strongest point happens somewhere in the middle of the range of motion towards the top. It’s important to distinguish between these strength curves to determine what weight should be used on a given exercise. If you’re doing a single arm preacher curl, you can get more strength out of your bicep by lifting heavier loads but only through a partial range of motion, not reaching the bottom completely.
I’m not saying to do this all the time, however it’s extremely effective to bust out of strength plateaus and stimulate new muscle growth.
#3 Nuero-muscular Shaping
This is my bread and butter for getting massive biceps. You may not have heard this term before but it basically refers to the connection that the mind and muscle have when lifting. Someone starting off for the first time in the gym most likely has a weak ability to “shape” their muscles.
The mind and muscle connection has not been built up yet. You see, the more and more you train, the more neuromuscular connection your brain understands. When the brain knows that it has tons of motor neurons to send impulses to, to generate power output, the better signal your bicep will receive to stimulate more fibers!
Remember how I mentioned earlier that building muscle was all about stimulating as many fibers as possible? There you go my friend.
#4 Muscle Fiber Types
Now, all of the muscle fibers are not created equal. You have three major fibers that make up the skeletal muscular system: Type IIx fibers, Type IIa fibers, and Type I fibers.
It is your job to make sure that all of these fibers get their own day to be the front-runner. It drives me nuts to see guys in the gym lifting massive amounts of weights every single day. I’m pretty sure your type IIx fibers are hating life each week.
Just as an overview, type IIx fibers have very little endurance capacity. They are used in fast and explosive movements to generate the most amount of force as fast as possible. You’ll see a lot of these fibers in sprinters, high jumpers and power athletes.
Type IIa fibers fall in the middle. Their endurance capacity is slightly greater than their type II counterpart but still not as good as Type I fibers. These “type I slow twitch” fibers are found in muscles like the rectus abdominus and in people who typically engage in long-distance running or similar activities.
So how can you manipulate ALL of these fibers to grow? Train with slightly different rep ranges each week.
For example, week 1 would consist of heavy weights with a rep range of about 8-10. Week 2 would consist of moderate weight with a rep range of 10-15, and the last week would consist of very high reps anywhere from 15 to 100!
Drop-sets, supersets and rest-pause techniques are awesome ways to target the type 1 slow twitch fibers.
#5 Proper Intensity
Intensity of your bicep workouts has a direct correlation with possible muscle growth. Training protocol should never be sacrificed for using heavier weights. Even though the intensity may be there, it is important to understand that high intensity doesn’t equate to heavier weights necessarily.
If your effort is determined by a scientific approach, then you’re on the right track. I’ve seen some guys that get through a full arm workout without even breaking a sweat. If your intensity is correct, sweat is almost guaranteed. To get your biceps to grow like boulders, try using the pain barrier method.
Think about a time in the gym where you felt the most muscular pain (not an injury). This is your mental pain barrier. Once the threshold is reached, your mind will automatically tell your body to rest. It becomes your job to exceed your pain barrier or to push to your maximum pain threshold. Believe me, when you hit this point, you’ll know it! The blood flow to the biceps will be insane and you can rest assured that your muscle fiber breakdown is sufficient enough for growth.
• Work through a full range of motion during your bicep workouts. Get creative with exercise selection to ensure the most optimal range of motion.
• You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Take advantage of the bicep strength curve and learn to enhance the power of contraction.
• Mentally contract your biceps as much as possible with every single rep. This will ensure more blood flow, more nutrients, and more muscle breakdown.
• Know the difference between muscle fiber types. Each one has a different training protocol associated with it.
• Effort is only a measure of intensity. Train hard and mentally find your pain barrier.
CPT – Muscle Building Expert
CEO – mindsetfitness.net
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