Muscle Building Exercises - Biceps
The most popular muscle building exercises second to the Bench Press for the chest, are barbell and dumbbell curls for biceps.
To build muscle and get amazing looking "guns" you'll have to understand the biceps muscles, their function and and how they work.
The biceps brachii is the long, cigar-shaped muscle on the front of the arm. It is the largest of the bicep muscle "group" that also includes the brachialis.
The muscle has 2 heads, which is where the name "bi" meaning two, comes from. It runs from the shoulder joint down to the elbow.
The long head is located on the outer portion of the arm, while the short head of the biceps is located on the inner part of inner area of the upper arm.
The most effective way build your biceps is to perform proven muscle building exercises like curls. Curls simply involve flexing the elbow and lifting the weight in an arc type motion until your forearm almost touches your upper arm.
Muscle Building Exercises - Biceps Curls Variations
There are many different variations of the curl, like doing dumbbell curls by supinating or turning your wrist outwards to put more emphasis on the outer head or the "peak" of the biceps.
You can also stress the long (outer) and short (inner) heads of the biceps by varying your technique when you're doing barbell curls by using a narrow or wide grip. A narrow grip will target the long head of the biceps and a wider grip will target the short head.
In a split routine, biceps can be worked with back or chest or you can choose to train arms on their own day.
Muscle building exercises for the biceps should target both heads of the biceps brachii (short and long head). Even though your biceps muscles are worked very hard during pulling movements for the back, you should still directly train your biceps with plenty of dumbbell and barbell curls for maximum development.
To build impressive biceps, you must work the brachialis muscle. The brachialis lies just underneath the biceps brachii and it can have a significant impact on the overall thickness and "peak" of your biceps.
The brachialis muscle flexes the forearm. Supinating the forearm during a biceps curl does not affect the brachialis. This makes the hammer curl an effective exercise for targeting this muscle in your biceps workout.
Hammer curls are done the same way as regular dumbbell curls except that your palms are facing each other instead of upwards throughout the movement.
Any form of biceps curls in your workout will involve movement of the elbow joint. More specifically, biceps curls involve the flexion of the elbow joint by bringing the forearm up towards the biceps.
Muscle Building Exercises - Barbell Curls
Standing Barbell Curls
The main muscles that are involved in the standing barbell curl are the biceps brachii. The secondary muscles involved are the the brachialis and the brachioradialis.
Proper execution of the barbell curl involves standing with your feet about shoulder width apart and your knees being slightly bent.
As you transition from a beginner to an intermediate and advanced trainee by incorporating new and different muscle building exercises, you should vary your grip width on the bar. By alternating grips you will stress the biceps muscles in different ways.
By widening your grip, you target the inner bicep head. To target the outer head of you bicep, use a closer or narrower grip.
Regardless of how wide or narrow wide of a grip you use, you will still work both heads of the biceps. By alternating your grip you will only stress one head more than the other as it's impossible to completely isolate just one of the two bicep heads.
Grab the barbell using an underhanded grip with your palms facing away from you. If you are a beginner, your hands should be about shoulder width apart. This is the called neutral position.
From the neutral position and the bar hanging at arms length in front of you, lift the bar in a wide-arc toward your chest until your forearms touch your biceps.
As you lift the bar upwards, concentrate on keeping your upper body and upper arms as still as possible and your elbows still and close to your sides during the entire movement. Only your forearms should be moving.
At the top portion of the movement, squeeze your biceps hard, then slowly lower the weight along the same wide arc as you lifted it.
As simple as the barbell curl is, I see many trainees at the gym just lifting the bar up without squeezing or pausing for a second at the top.
Don't let your ego take over when you are performing barbell curls, you should always be able to "feel" the biceps doing the work while you are lifting the bar. If you can't feel your biceps, then the weight is too heavy.
This goes for all other muscle building exercises as well. You must always make sure that you feel the muscles do the work.
Preacher Curls For Biceps Development
In order to perform the Preacher Curl, you'll need a preacher bench and an EZ bar. You should be able to find this equipment in most gyms and fitness centers.
As with standing barbell curls, the primary muscle involved in the preacher curl is the biceps brachii.
Start by putting the back of your arms or triceps against the incline portion of the pad on the preacher bench. Grab the EZ bar with an underhand grip.
The e-z bar has two spots where you can place your hands. Just like with barbell curls, by varying your grip you will stress different heads of the biceps.
Note: The e-z bar is called "e-z" because it takes the stress off of your wrists while you are curling the weight due to the way the bar is shaped.
Lift the weight in a wide arc until your forearms almost touch your upper arms. Never allow your elbows to lock out at the bottom of the movement as doing so will cause elbow injury.
Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the movement before you lower the e-z bar to the starting position.
Muscle Building Exercises - Dumbbell Curls
Standing Dumbbell Curls
Stand in the neutral position and hold the dumbbells at your sides, with your palms facing up.
Smoothly and under control, curl the dumbbells upward simultaneously in a wide arc toward your chest until your forearms almost touch your upper arms.
Squeeze your biceps muscles hard at the top before lowering the dumbbells slowly back down to the starting position.
As with standing barbell curls, your elbows should remain still and close to your body. Never swing the dumbbells up and down or rock your body back and forth to complete the lift.
Seated Dumbbell Curls
Perform seated dumbbell curls the same way as standing dumbbell curls. Rather than standing, sit on a flat bench with the dumbbells hanging down at your sides.
The seated dumbbell curl is a stricter move than the standing version and prevents you from using momentum to assist you in the lift since you are not able to move your hips to start the lift.
For variety, you can alternate the left and right arms as you lift as opposed to curling both dumbbells up at the same time.
Incline Dumbbell Curls
This is a variation on the standing/seated dumbbell curl that I've described above. Incline dumbbell curls allow you to get a better stretch on the biceps muscles at the bottom of the movement.
Use a bench with the incline set between 30 and 45 degrees. Place your feet firmly on the floor with your hips and shoulders pressed back against the bench.
Hold the dumbbells at arms length to your sides with your palms facing out. Curl the weights in a wide arc toward your shoulder until your forearm almost touches your bicep.
Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position along the same path.
The hammer curl is a variation of the dumbbell curl that mainly stresses the brachioradialis muscle. The brachioradialis is located near your elbow on the inside of you forearm. The neutral or "hammer" grip will stress the brachioradials muscle better than a normal or palms facing out grip.
The hammer curl can be done seated or standing. Just like barbell curls, make sure that you squeeze your biceps muscles at the top of the movement before lowering the dumbbells.
All curling movements are effective muscle building exercises for the biceps. If you lack thickness in your biceps, do more hammer curls.
If you lack overall biceps development, I recommend that you incorporate all of the muscle building exercises above into your biceps workouts to develop a truly impressive set of guns.
Choose from either of the effective biceps routines below based on your level of training experience. They all include the effective muscle building exercises for the biceps that I've discussed in this article.
Note: If you don't know which level of experience you fall under, read this article before you choose a routine from below.
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Muscle Building Routines For Biceps
Complete Biceps Routine (beginner)
Complete Biceps Routine (intermediate)
Complete Biceps Routine (advanced)
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