THE GUN SHOW: How to build Amazing Biceps
Jordan Hoelscher CSCS
When it comes to body parts that we associate strength and even masculinity with, most people would say… ARMS, specifically the BICEPS-are in the top 3. Large, muscular, and chiseled, arms are seen as a sign of strength and intimidation.
They are one of the muscle groups we see EVERY time we look in the mirror, so we tend to prioritize them over other muscles that we see less of.
Arms come in all different shapes and sizes. Training them in the most effective way varies from person to person. What works for one individual may not work for the next. However, there are some basic training principles that anyone can use to help grow, shape and define their biceps.
THE “BICEP” MUSCLES
First off, most people don’t realize that there are multiple muscle groups in the bicep region-and they all need to be prioritized, instead of just focusing on the specific “biceps”. The bicep has two heads, (long and short heads). Both can be seen when body fat is low enough to see the separation in the middle.
Curling a weight with your hands in the “supinated” position (underhanded), specifically targets the bicep muscle. Supinated curls hit the biceps best.
SECRET: Additionally to curling with this hand position, you can try and exclude forearm flexors and really hit the “peak” of the biceps by curling limp wristed. Instead of squeezing the weight, you allow your wrists to hyperextend, which the creases the flexors assistance from the movement and focuses on the “peak” of the bicep.
Curling this way causes your biceps to develop a mountainous peak that truly separates a DECENT set of biceps from an AMAZING set.
Under the biceps is a less commonly known muscle, the bracialis. Again, this muscle can be best seen in individuals with a low body fat percentage. To properly target this muscle you need to curl with your hands in the neutral position (ie. hammer curl).
Neutral grip also happens to be bio mechanically our strongest hand position. This is great for heavy hammer curls, rope curls, and even neutral-grip pull-ups.
The last muscle that rounds out the bicep group of muscles is the brachioradialis. This muscle originates under the bicep and crosses over the elbow over the upper portion of the forearm.
This muscle gets targeted when you use a pronated (overhand) grip. This happens to bio mechanically be our weakest curling position, as we’re at a mechanical disadvantage with forearms pronated. However this variation should NEVER be avoided as you will neglect to grow your forearms. Reverse curls with an EZ Bar are my go-to for the brachioradialis.
EXERCISES, SETS, REPS &
SECRETS TO GROWTH
Personally, I like to train biceps with triceps, as I find I get a better all around arm pump when I hit both groups in the same session. But, with all training, you need to continually mix it up so your body NEVER gets a chance to PLATEAU.
I occasionally hit biceps with chest or back, and even do a chest/back/bicep day very popular 3-day split routine.
TIP of the day: SHOCK YOUR MUSCLES!
Never let your body get used to your training routine! This is contradictory to a lot of trainers training philosophies, and it doesn’t have its place when it comes to making incremental games for athletes like power lifters who need to monitor metrics every workout.
For those looking to NEVER plateau, AND continue to GROW at an ELITE level, you need to continue the shock your body by changing up your routine.
Keep in mind, a “symmetrically aesthetic” arm should be made up of ⅓ bicep and ⅔ triceps. So by prioritizing your biceps, you are limiting the overall size of your arms-as your triceps should be roughly twice the size of your biceps.
I usually do 3-4 exercises for my biceps. I’ll start out with a warm-up exercise to get the blood circulating through the muscle tissue, and to get my central nervous system firing, and ready for some intensive lifting.
Alternating DB bicep curls are a good starter and I’ll execute 2-3 progressive warm-up sets, and 2 heavier working sets. NEVER rush through a set, and always focus on EVERY SINGLE REP.
EVERY REPETITION can be broken down into 4 portions;
- Concentric (pull &/or push)- the muscles fibers contract and shorten. I.e, Curling a barbell up from from the arms extended position. Prioritizing this portion of the rep leads to explosive power and strength.
- Peak Contraction- no longer able to contract, you just SQUEEZE THE EVER-LIVING FUCK out of the muscle group. Prioritizing this portion of the rep leads to hypertrophy/growth and shaping of the muscle body.
- Eccentric- the descent or negative portion of the rep. Prioritizing this portion of the rep leads to MAXIMUM hypertrophy and strength gains.
- Transition (reset back into the concentric)- the transition from deceleration to acceleration into the next repetition. Prioritizing this portion of rep can enhance athleticism (for speed), or strength/size (with a pause).
Play around with your “TEMPO”, and utilize to a tempo that aligns with your training goals. For example, an “explosive” concentric, a “one-one thousand” peak contraction-SQUEEZE, a ‘3-5 second” slow negative, and a quick pause at the bottom would look like 1:1:5:1.
An explosive concentric will target speed & power, primarily your Type-2 muscle fibers. An exaggerated concentric squeeze will enhance hypertrophy and the shape of your biceps. The slow negative will build strength and enhance overall hypertrophy (growth). Pausing before recontacting eliminates momentum, and makes the exercise harder and the muscles work harder.
Also, changing the angle of your arms relative to your torso will also put more of a stretch on your bicep. Try one exercise in each bicep training session that uses a preacher bench, or an incline bench.
ALWAYS train until-and past FAILURE… Unless you’re on a reload week. Utilize drop sets, partner assisted reps, rest-pause sets, super sets, cluster sets, monster sets, isometric holds/stretches, etc.
WRAP-IN’ THINGS UP
Your body is EXTREMELY EFFICIENT, and is continuously looking to resume “homeostasis” (your baseline metabolism). By periodizing your training into weekly mesocycles, and even daily microcycles of differing intensity/volume your muscles won’t get the chance to adapt to your training protocol and PLATEAU.
For example, for one workout do pyramid sets, then high volume/low intensity (10×10), then high intensity/low volume (5×3-5)… then deload at a low intensity/high volume (3×20-50). The secret to building BIG, CHISELED BICEPS… is the same for ALL muscle groups.
-REST, & RECOVER
… to get the most from your training. I started training my biceps at age 12- they were my focus at a young age, and now they are one of my stronger attributes 26 years later. There is NO get “miracle” pill! It requires proper training and years of muscle maturity to develop next level muscular shape and definition.
And everybody is different, for me, higher volume and decreased intensity saves my joint tissue and enhances growth more than heavy lifting does, compared to the rest of my body. Heavier is not always better particularly with arm training. Focus on your ideal tempo to maximize your gains!
-Jordan Hoelscher CSCS