I’m going to be completely honest here…I struggled with the thought of even writing this post. After all, go do a Google search for “Bicep Training” and about a billion links will pop up. I just felt like this subject has been covered to no end. BUT I then realized that most of those posts sucked…The reason they sucked was because they were written by and for those people with tons of previous weightlifting experience and usually had some kind of agenda to push. If you’ve been following DIY for any length of time, you should know my services are currently free and I don’t have any kind of agenda…My goal is to educate and inspire..That said..Lets get us some KNOWELDEGE!
The Bicep is probably the most popular of all the muscle groups. Why? Well ask anyone to show their muscles or “flex” and I bet most will flex their amazing bicep. Ask most ladies and they probably love a guy with big arms. In my experience, the Bicep (or arms in general) are the most worked muscles in the entire body. Gym rat after gym rat will spend HOURS doing curls, hammer curls, preacher curls, straight-arm curls, EZ bar curls, dumbbell curls, isolation curls. BLAH BLAH BLAH! Come on peeps..Work smarter not harder. The fact is, MOST people severely OVER-TRAIN their biceps..I aim to fix that.
But before we can get into the specific ways to train the Bicep lets look at its anatomy.
The Bicep gets its name from the two heads of the muscle..the Short Head and Long Head. (shown below)
So depending on the exercise, you can focus on either “head” of the muscle. Of course, while doing EVERY bicep exercise you work the entire muscle and there are ways to change the angle and focus on a certain area.
So when training any muscle its necessary to understand ONE simple concept…REPS are greater than Sets. You don’t need to perform 8 exercises for the same muscle to gain strength or size. .
Think of it this way: Take a deflated balloon. Breathe into that balloon with 5 REALLY HARD breaths (2-3 seconds)..Then take that same balloon and use 15 quick breaths (1 sec)..What will be the difference? Well, over time both will create strength and size but the 15 quick breaths will push the balloon harder and use more energy. How does the correlate to training? With 15 reps, you can gain strength, size AND burn way more calories. The ain goal for high rep exercise is endurance. People who focus mainly on LOW rep and HIGH weight (5-8 reps) are looking to burn fat, gain strength but not necessarily mass…
Last winter, I gained almost 2 inches of mass in my bicep by using the 3 sets of 12- 15 rep routine. The previous 4 months of doing heavy weight saw good gains in strength but little in size. I maybe only do 4-5 different exercises a week to train my bicep. On my arms day I will only perform 4 different bicep exercises. Why? Every day I lift I perform at least ONE bicep exercise and during my back, shoulder and trap day, the secondary muscle being used is typically the Bicep. So even though it’s not my focus for the day, the bicep is getting worked…and getting worked BIG TIME. Currently, I am using the 4 sets of 8 routine to burn fat and gain strength. Each routine has its benefits and using them correctly is key.
HINT: If you aren’t working your back muscles, yet expect your bicep to grow, you’re doing it wrong.
So here is my suggestion..If you want to grow your bicep, increase the amount of Reps and slowly increase the weight each week.(if you don’t push your muscle all this is pointless) Also, FORM is more important than anything. Improper form can lead to injury. STOP focusing on strength as well. No one really needs a strong bicep. I can think of only a few jobs where having strong “arms” is necessary. Most people need strong legs, core and back. Choose 6 exercise to perform each week and use ONE day as an “arms” day. Continue to build your back as well. Being a balanced weight lifter is WAY more important than having a large but mainly pointless muscle.
Here is an example of my “arms” day.
Lunges: 3 sets of 15 reps (video above)
Tricep pull down– 3 sets of 15 reps
Standing alternating dumbbell curls– 3 sets of 8 reps
Cable Bicep Curls 3 sets of 15 reps
Two Arm standing Dumbbell Extension 3 sets of 10-12 reps
EZ Bar Skull crushers 3 sets of 12 (the video is for a straight bar but can be done either way)
Straight bar Bicep curls– 3 sets of 8 reps
Super Set #5
Hammer curls 3 sets of 15
Standing Alternating Front/Back Barbell Press 3 sets of 10
Super set #6
Dips– burn out
Preacher Curl– Burn out
Bench press– burn out
End with Full range sit ups and side bends if time permits…..or you’re not about to pass out.