Ahh, the biceps. This sought-after muscle group is among the most coveted of lifters. The muscle itself consists of 2 parts-the long head and the short head-along with the often neglected brachialis. The long head contributes to the biceps’ “peak,” while training the short head usually leads to width. Train them all correctly and you can have some truly massive arms! We’ll take a look at the five best exercises that you’re not doing.
INCLINE DUMBBELL CURL
The Incline Dumbbell Curl puts tension on the long head of the bicep while it is
extended, offering a distinctive benefit that other biceps exercises do not. Set up seated on a bench with a 45-degree angle. Allow the shoulders to sit back behind your body, fully extending the biceps. You’ll notice the added tension in the starting position. Curl the weight as you would a normal dumbbell curl. Keep in mind that due to the position of the arms, you may need to lighten your load. At the bottom of the curl, pronate your forearms and contract your triceps. This will allow for further stretch of the bicep and enhance your gains.
Why you should do it: The biceps not only help to flex the elbows but also raise the shoulders. By putting your shoulders into extension, we intensify the stretch and tension on the biceps, specifically the long head, leading to muscle growth.
The Dumbbell Waiter Curl is a dark horse. Who doesn’t want bigger and taller
biceps? This exercise is performed with a single dumbbell and is a great addition to any arm program. To perform this exercise, start in a standing position, palms up under one side of the dumbbell. Curl the weight up, imagining that the top of your dumbbell has a drink on it that you do not want to spill. Keep the top of the dumbbell parallel to the ground at all times by keeping the wrists out of the movement. This will allow for peak contraction of the biceps (and bigger peaks on your biceps).
Why you should do it: When you perform this exercise properly, you negate some of the forearm contributions in the curl, putting greater stress on the biceps alone. You’re also able to fully contract the biceps, especially the long head, which contributes to height. Focused time under tension leads to hypertrophy.
WIDE GRIP BARBELL CHEAT CURL
First up, we have a twist on the traditional barbell biceps curl known as the wide grip
Barbell Cheat Curl. This is calculated “cheating,” not uncontrollably swinging a barbell up just to say you curled 135 pounds. We want to take advantage of the fact that our biceps are stronger eccentrically than they are concentrically. This means we can move more weight than we can with the traditional barbell curl, causing muscle growth. To take advantage of this, we use momentum to cheat the barbell up (while still in control) and then slowly lower it back to the starting position. Your hands will be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Imagine that there is a wall behind you when you bring the bar up, do not let your body hit the wall.
Why you should do it: When it comes to building muscle, a number of factors are at play. From the standpoint of choosing exercises, a big focus should be on how we are able to load the lift. By incorporating the wide-grip Barbell Cheat Curl, we are able to overload our muscles eccentrically, which is a known stimulus for hypertrophy.
NARROW GRIP CHIN UP
Next, we have what is widely considered the best bodyweight biceps exercise: the
Chin-up. We’ll take a narrow grip on this one to target the short head of the biceps. It provides the opportunity to progressively overload the biceps and has great scalability. Not to mention all you need is a bar and your body. When lowering, lean back from the bar to accentuate muscle stretch to get those eccentric benefits.
Why you should do it: The narrow grip Chin-up allows the biceps to take advantage of both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) portions of the exercise. Your biceps contract while raising your body to the bar, giving you maximum engagement, and by controlling your descent, you reap the benefits of eccentric loading. Translation: bigger arms.
CROSS-BODY REVERSE CURL
The Cross-Body Reverse Curl is a variation of the hammer curl. This exercise creates
balance between the upper and lower arm. To set up, pronate your forearms (reverse grip) and perform a cross-body curl, alternating each arm. Use a reverse grip and perform the exercise slowly, holding the contraction at the top of the exercise.
Why you should do it: The Cross-Body Reverse Curl targets an often ignored muscle in the upper arm known as the brachialis. It lies deeper than the superficial biceps and is the prime mover in elbow flexion. By aiming to train this often ignored muscle, you’ll create wider biceps and tighter sleeves.