When you are looking to build a big and towering pair of biceps the prescription seems rather simple: Perform some different curls with a barbell, a pair of DB’s and maybe even a cable or machine a couple of days per week, and presto – you are ready to show the world your “gun show.”
And perhaps it IS this easy for some genetically gifted souls out there, but for the rest of us that are not as lucky, more thought and care must be put into every biceps bombing session. The fact is most trainees do not fail at their quest to manifest bigger/better bi’s for lack of passion or effort, but because of a few problematic issues with their approach.
As a trainer and coach for over 25 years I have been witness to many common mistakes that are made in the gym while training biceps, seven of which I will discuss below. My hope is that one or more may hit home for you, and allow for some changes to your own training program that will yield far better results for you or your client's hard work.
If you want massive biceps then force them to move the weight from point A to point B – not the lower back and anterior delts! By using momentum and swinging the weight out of the bottom position you are only robbing yourself of the type of powerful contraction it takes to ignite muscle growth.
You will get far superior results out of curling a 100 lb. BB for 10 strict reps than curling a 150 lb. BB for 10 sloppy ones.
Avoid the Wrist Curl
I have heard time and again trainees complain that they get a better forearm than biceps pump from curling. This is more than likely because they initiate the movement with the forearm flexors (rather than the bis) by curling the wrists back.
When performing curls, no matter the type, make sure to keep the wrists in line with the forearms throughout the entire set.
obey the Speed Limit
In an effort to use more weight and impress those around them, many trainees will complete an entire rep, from top to bottom, in about 2 seconds. However, what is even more important than the amount of plates on the bar or the size of the DB is how long you keep a muscle under tension!
Don't stop Short
The way to force the most muscle fibers into exhaustion is by contracting them through their FULL RANGE OF MOTION. Initiate every repetition with the biceps fully lengthened to truly get the most out of every set and to take advantage of the growth-inducing effects directly ignited by stretching a muscle under tension.
Missing out on the Squeeze
Just like getting a good stretch is vitally important for inducing hypertrophy, so is a strong peak contraction at the top of any kind of curl. If you take a moment to flex and squeeze the biceps hard when at the full contraction point of every rep you will create greater blood flow, fire off more muscle fibers, and increase lactic acid burn – all of which will enhance the growth-inducing effects of every rep.
Missing Out on Variety
As humans we are creatures of habit and tend to stick with what is comfortable. While this is fine in some areas of life it can be a detriment to those looking to build more massive biceps. While it is basic flexion of the upper arm that stimulates the biceps you do not have to (nor should you) curl with the same grips, angles or planes of motion over and over.
Try utilizing a close, medium or wide grip on a bar. Perform your curls seated, standing, leaning forward, or on an incline of varying degrees. Pull from a lower pulley or upper pulley. Grasp the DB’s in the middle, or with the thumb or pinkie touching the plates (on either side). Small tweaks to basic curling movements will recruit unique sets of motor units and shift emphasis between the two biceps heads, all of which will lead to more rapid progress.
Don’t be Out of Order
While it is best the majority of time to train a large muscle group before a smaller one, when the biceps are a priority it is time to break this rule – especially if you train back and bis on the same day.
That said, if your biceps are lagging behind other muscle groups, then I suggest you devote one training day to the arms alone, first by smashing the bis into submission and following up with tris, which prioritizes the biceps when strength and focus are at their peak.