Many fitness magazines feature programs designed to add muscle size and power to your biceps. Some incorrectly claim you can alter the shape of your biceps and increase the peak by doing endless sets of Preacher and Concentration Curls.
We are all born with distinct shapes in our muscles, which cannot simply be changed by exercises. However, you can begin to develop huge biceps by reducing body fat levels and developing the muscle you have.
Adding muscle by doing the right exercises in the proper number, performed in the correct manner, will take you a long way.
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Power and Isolation Exercises
Misconceptions are circulating in the fitness and bodybuilding worlds—e.g., that free weights are the only valuable tool for adding power and size. Although I am a strong advocate of free weights, that’s simply not true. Weight machines also have a lot to offer to a bodybuilder’s program.
Barbells and dumbbells are more versatile, but weight machines are easy to use, improve your strength curve and allow you to focus resistance more effectively on the muscle due to eliminating the need to balance weight.
I like to use power exercises like Palms-Forward Barbell Rows and isolation exercises such as Concentration and Preacher Curls. These allow complete exhaustion of the biceps and add assistance muscles (like the back muscles) to help push the biceps past the point of muscular failure with High Intensity Training (HIT) techniques like pre-exhaust supersets.
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Straight Set Routines
- Barbell Preacher Curls: 1×10+ 4 forced reps
- Zero rest
- Standing Cable Curls: 1×10+burn reps at end of set
- Lying flat Dumbbell Curls: 1×12+ 1 static hold at top (10-second)
- Zero rest
- Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 1×8+4 negative reps at end of set (cheat the dumbbells up and lower to an 8-count.)
Pre-Exhaust Bicep Routines
The following routines use your fresh back muscles to “push” the biceps after they’ve been exhausted by isolation exercises past the point of muscular failure. These routines are a great example of brief, intense HIT routines, designed to build maximum muscle in minimum time.
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- Dumbbell Concentration Curls: 1×8+3 forced reps at end of set
- Zero rest
- Seated Palms-Facing Chin-Ups (use a dip belt to add weight as necessary): 1×8+4 negatives at the end of set
Take all sets to muscular exhaustion, or you will greatly reduce the benefits. Rep cadence should be 2/4.
- Incline Dumbbell Curls: 1×10+ 3 static holds at end of set. (Hold the dumbbells for 10 seconds at the bottom, mid-point and top of the range of motion.)
- Zero rest
- Palms-Forward Barbell Rows: 1×6+3 negatives at end of set (Cheat the bar up and lower to a count of 8.)
If you do the pre-exhaust supersets correctly, the low set counts will be ideal and very effective at building strength and size.
Power Biceps Routine
Always strive to add weight to the bar or machine at every workout in order to build muscle and strength. Typically, strength precedes size increases.
- Barbell Curls: 1×6-8+ 6 cheat reps at end of set
- 30-second rest
- Barbell Drag Curls: 1×8+ 3 negatives at end of set
- 30 second rest
- Palms-Up Center-Pulley Cable Rows: 1×8+ 3 static holds (beginning, mid-point,top)
Giant Set Routine
Giant sets are a great way to condense a lot of work into a short period of time. Four or more sets of different exercises for the same muscle group are done in succession, with no rest between them. Take all sets to failure. I like combining weight machines with free weights and sometimes alternate between machines and free weights or between compound and isolation exercises.
- Barbell Curls: 1×10
- Incline Dumbbell Curls: 1×12
- Seated Behind-Neck Cable Curls: 1×15
- Palms-Facing Pull-Downs: 1×8
- Negative-Only Chin-Ups: 1×8 (Step up to the high position using your legs only. Lower yourself to a count of 8.)
Do one complete giant set. If all sets are stopped at failure, you will be overtraining. This must be done on an irregular basis—i.e., once or twice per month—or you will compromise your gains. Use this routine as a higher-set shocking routine.
Now that I’ve given you a number of routines to use in your HIT training, I’ll outline how often to train and how to combine the routines into a complete training program to develop huge biceps.
Train biceps 1x/week- Pre-exhaust routine
Train biceps 1x/week- Power routine
Train biceps 1x/week- Giant set routine
Train biceps 1x/week- Straight set routine