Make Your Biceps Workout Routine Smarter
On the Internet, there are a lot of articles about how to build monstrous biceps. All of them are essentially correct and competently written in terms of bodybuilding fundamentals. But unfortunately, these basic aren’t helpful for the majority of those who ask the Internet community for biceps workout routine help.
It is logically that gifted ones, having big biceps, woudn’t google this question, right? Thus, seekers of the biceps secrets have to turn their attention to details.
The theory of growing a large biceps looks very primitive and even boring: all exercises for the biceps, with a barbell, with dumbbells, in machines, are simple curls. Well, maybe even with supination, to increase the peak load.
Biceps Workout Routine Mistakes
It would seem that curling your arms, increasing the weight of the projectile, and having big biceps are connected directly. I’ve been doing this for many years, but stubborn biceps did not grow. But after some time, I realized that it was not in the biceps exercises themselves. No, the secret to building a big biceps, as usual, was hiding in the details.
Mistake #1: Back + Biceps Workout
Talking about natural athletes, it is quite hard for the majority to load biceps after the back training that also involves that same biceps.
Perhaps someone was able to get killer biceps, training according to such a scheme, but not me. And there were good reasons for this:
- Starting training with exercises on such a large and strong muscle group as the back, I spent most of my energy on doing all kinds of pull-ups and bent-over rowing. And when the turn came to exercise for biceps, I already had no strength left for a full training of biceps.
- Most exercises for the back, in addition to the latissimus muscles, actively include the muscles of the arms. And if I still found the strength to perform biceps exercises, after training the back, I overloaded the already tired arms with heavy barbell lifts. And since the forearms were also tired, I could only raise the bar with the help of cheating. From an exercise for biceps, this exercise turned into something completely different, but absolutely useless for biceps.
- The option to start the training with biceps exercises, and only then move on to training the back, was also losing. Having tired the biceps and forearms, it is impossible to fully load the lats.
When I realized this, I began to look for other options for the distribution of muscle groups by training days. But the idea of pumping biceps after the chest muscles, although it was the best option for a split, is far from optimal. Trying to load my chest and working especially hard on its top, I had to use a number of exercises that, in addition to the chest, also heavily loaded the biceps. I’m talking about the bench press bar reverse grip and cable crossovers.
I began to devote one separate day, Saturday, for training biceps and triceps. The load on the remaining muscles had to be slightly reduced, but this is the case when you need to sacrifice something. Although from my own experience, I will say that I did not notice a large drop in muscle volumes. This technique of concentration on the lagging muscle group is called specialization.
Mistake #2: Stereotypes in the Choice of Exercises
Probably no other muscle group suffers from conventional cliches like biceps. I myself once tried to copy Arnold Schwarzenegger’s complex of training biceps, and, of course, nothing came of it to me.
Only genetically very gifted people can get profit from such programs. But you just have to google the phrase “How to build biceps?“, And 90% of the answers will contain this or a similar training complex:
- Bicep curls with a barbell
- Bicep curls with dumbbells
- Curls in biceps machine
Such an algorithm is a classic set of biceps workout routine, which is used by many bodybuilders. And for their arms, it fits perfectly. Probably your biceps training pattern is very similar to it. But if you are reading this article now, this means that your biceps are in no hurry to respond to such a complex with rapid growth.
In order for the training complex to give the desired effect, it must be compiled, taking into account its individual characteristics. It’s like a suit bought in a store. If your figure is perfect, it will suit you perfectly. But if you are at least slightly different from generally accepted standards, you will have to carry the costume in the studio and adjust it to the figure.
Well, you probably know that first, you have to always perform a basic, multi-joint exercise such as barbell biceps curls while standing. It’s an axiom. It’s a classic, it’s right, everyone does it.
Do you think your biceps know this too? Our biceps do not read books and do not watch videos on the Internet, and the only thing they react to is stress. If the stimulus is very unusual and strong, our biceps will have to respond to it with an increase in strength and, in the best case, an increase in muscle mass.
But can it be said that an increase in the number of plates on the bar will be just that irritant? The first time is possible. And in the second? Can you increase the weight on the bar constantly? The answer seems obvious to me. When I understood this, I began to actively experiment at each biceps workout routine session, changing everything that was possible.
Mistake #3: Taking Too Heavy Weights
In pursuit of the muscle mass of the arms, we forget that the biceps is a rather small muscle. And it does not need huge weights in exercises, but a focused load. But a comprehension of this simple truth was given to me the most difficult.
There is a photo on the Internet where Arnold allegedly sets a record for lifting a barbell weighing 120 kg, performing it 20 times in a row. Many beginners have thought since Schwarzenegger actually used working weights of more than 110-120 kg to lift the bar for biceps, then I should do the same.
Perhaps for people with Schwarzenegger’s genetics or modern bodybuilding stars, this works out, but not for ordinary visitors to the gym. For us, the ability to direct the load to the biceps and nowhere else comes to the forefront in the struggle for muscle mass of arms.
It is believed that the range of 8-10 repetitions in the set gives the maximum increase in muscle mass. And if their number is increased, then endurance will increase, fat will burn, but the muscle will not increase in volume.
In fact, it is not the weight of the barbell or dumbbell that matters, but the time the biceps will spend under load. The maximum number of muscle fibers is included with a 40-second exercise. But the trouble is, performing 10 repetitions with a heavy barbell, we finish the set much earlier. And as a result, the load on the biceps is not enough to cause an increase in its muscle mass.
Mistake #4: Neglecting Supination
The function of the biceps as a muscle is to bend the arm in the elbow joint and twist the wrist out. Each muscle group, let it be the chest, back, or legs, has its own point of peak contraction – the final moment of the trajectory of movement where the largest number of muscle fibers are included in the work.
So, in biceps, the peak contraction does not occur with curling the arm, but when the hand is turned out (supination). And in this case, lifting the barbell while standing, sitting on the Scott’s bench is a more losing option than lifting dumbbells with supination. And the fact is not that this technique radically improves the shape of the biceps, adding to its height and piquancy. In the end, the shape of the biceps is a matter of genetics, and if they are naturally flat, they will never change.
But why, then, do all sets of biceps exercises recommend starting the training precisely with heavy basic exercises, such as lifting the bar while standing, and then, if you still have energy, do some kind of exercise with supination?
From my own experience, I’ll say that having tired my biceps, brachialis, and forearms with heavy lifts, tired and exhausting my nervous system, it is hardly possible to get a return on supination. This is very delicate work, requiring extreme mental and muscle concentration.
You can appreciate all the charm of such a technique if you just change the usual order of doing biceps exercises. And to start the complex with lifting dumbbells with supination. Believe me. You will immediately feel the difference.
Science About How to Improve Biceps Workout Routine
According to a study by American scientists from the University of Tampa, training for the biceps in which athletes work on muscles from different angles is more effective than training in which athletes limit themselves to one basic exercise.
Study of the effect of various exercises on muscle activity
The researchers recruited 11 students who had experience in strength training for at least a year. Those had to train their biceps in 2 different experimental conditions.
In one case, students trained their biceps with standard bending of their arms while standing directly with a rope handle.
In another case, students performed three different exercises (see figure).
The difference between the exercises was the angle between the forearm and the shoulder joint. Both workouts consisted of 9 sets in total. Each experimental session began with a load of 10 RM (repeated maximum), which was predefined and evaluated during the familiarization sessions.
The rest intervals between sets (60 sec) and the repetition rate (2:2) were constant among both conditions. The load volume (sets × repetition × load (kg)) was evaluated for each session to examine whether a change in the angle of flexion of the shoulder joint would affect the overall work output.
The cable was used specifically because it allows you to create a more uniform load on different sections of the amplitude compared to dumbbells, which, as a result of a change in vertical force, may be unable to create torque in some positions of a particular exercise. In this case, it will be difficult to establish how exactly the angle of rotation of the shoulder joint, and not the position of the dumbbell, affects the developed tension.
Results: difference in muscle activity with the same amount of training
The training volume was the same in both cases, but the average electrical activity recorded by the electrodes (EMG) was greater with multi-angle training. This means that, in general, during training, subjects trained their biceps more intensively if they did three different exercises. This can be seen in the figure below from the right.
The electrical activity measured during electromyography characterizes the degree of tension of the working muscles, which is expressed in the number of motor units involved in the work, which means the number of muscle fibers that are under stress and receiving a training stimulus.
The Bottom Line: Change in Angle Increases Muscle Activation
“Changing the articular angles during resistance training can enhance overall muscle activation and can potentially cause greater tension without negatively affecting the volumetric load during training in people with experience in weight training,” the researchers write.
“In terms of practical application, weight training, or bodybuilders trying to maximize the training stimulus of each session should use several exercises that change the articular angles. This can lead to more internal irritation (muscle activation) while doing the same amount of overall work.“
Further, the authors of the study make a completely reasonable conclusion: “However, we cannot draw conclusions about how this will affect chronic adaptations since it was an acute study. Therefore, further studies are needed to determine whether these differences in acute muscle activation enhance chronic adaptation.” (i.e., muscle hypertrophy and strength).”
That is, this research studied the temporary effect that occurs directly during the exercise, but since long-term (chronic) changes have not been studied (for example, the degree of hypertrophy), a definitive conclusion cannot be drawn regarding them.
The revealed advantages have potential benefits and give us the opportunity to make changes to the training process and particularly to the biceps workout routine in order to put this into practice.
- The Effects of Varying Glenohumeral Joint Angle on Acute Volume Load, Muscle Activation, Swelling, and Echo-Intensity on the Biceps Brachii in Resistance-Trained Individuals. Sports 2019, 7(9), 204
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