by Daniel Schou
3 BICEPS EXERCISES FOR BOTH SIZE AND PEAK
In this article you will find my 3 favorite biceps exercises listed and explained.
My 3 favorite and most recommended Biceps exercises
The showing off muscle No. 1
The Biceps. Its functional duties are many – but that is of no interest here. On Pen and Barbell You will not have to plough through the, in other contexts where muscle and workout are the topics, nowadays obligatory (and always tiresome) tirades that aims on wrapping the purpose of your interest in these things into talk of functionality. No, here aesthetics is king. On Pen and Barbell the will to possess visually pleasing muscles do not need, nor ever will they get, any unnecessary shroud of practicality. So, when talking about the Biceps, I’ll put it to you straight: this is, as you are already well aware, the showing off muscle No. 1. The six-pack - the always talked about abdominals – is a worthy competitor in this regard, but, due to its (for most generally decent individuals) superior amount of displaying-time, the biceps comes out on top. This is a muscle that stands out in everyday life. And it is a symbol of strength. Flexing the biceps is the quickest and the most universally acknowledged way of demonstrating muscular assets to anyone daring to put your resources in question.
Without having undertaken a scientific study I still feel confident claiming that the biceps is also the muscle group that gets the most attention of all at the gym (if we focus on men’ s training, that is – involving the favored exercises of women would drastically change the rating list), challenged only by the pecs.
I’m no exception. Over the years my most trained body part has been the upper arms. If circumstances force me to stay away from the gym for any longer period of time, then the comeback session is most often an arm session. My arm workouts have always contained lots of different exercises, high intensity, a strong mental presence and many sets – all of it spiced up with the use of different shocking techniques, such as supersets, drop sets, and so forth.
In this post I’ll share with you my 3 favorite biceps exercises and also go into detail on why I hold them in such high regard.
A good arm workout requires several different exercises, high intensity and a strong mental presence.
I The seated inclined biceps curl
Considering the status of the biceps muscle it is no wonder that on any given day you can probably see a great variety of biceps exercises being performed at your gym. This one however, the seated inclined biceps curl, you’ll see being performed more seldom. The reason for this? In two words: light weights. When performed properly - which implies not only a correct exercise technique, but also a sufficiently lowered bench – the incline biceps curl will force you to use significantly smaller weights than, for example, the standing alternate curl or the barbell curl.
Having said this, you’ll get my drift when next I tell you that this exercise demands that you leave your ego at the door. It is a great exercise for results, but a truly bad one for showing off in the weight room. The showing off comes later, when the aforementioned results that this exercise brings allow you to outshine all those standing alternating guys outside of the gym.
The reasons why I favor this exercise
The pump. For me personally this exercise is the surest way (alongside the narrow-gripped biceps chin-ups) of achieving a good biceps pump.
The precision. The mentioned pump comes from the fact that this exercise allows me to hit the biceps with good precision. The number of assisting muscles involved is low when compared to most other biceps exercises. It is really the biceps that is working, not the shoulders or any other part of your body. It really concentrates the effort in a way that is hard to do when performing, for example, the standing alternate biceps curl. There is much more focus and intent in this exercise.
The Mass building. If you can endure the pain – which will be more intense than on other biceps exercises, due to the precision and the concentration already mentioned – the incline biceps curl will put inches to your arms.
The lower part targeting. This exercise especially targets the lower part of the biceps - the part still showing when you are wearing a typical t-shirt. When you are in a chiseled state this become very easily observed, as you will see horizontal lines, ridges and striations appear on the lower part of your biceps (especially when you are resting in between sets).
The ego control. I like the already discussed ego-at-the-door-attitude that this exercise demands. It helps me bringing out maximal presence and maximal concentrated effort.
Important pointers considering the performance of the incline biceps curl
Set your bench in a position that makes you feeling more like lying down or leaning back than sitting up. An upright position will allow heavier weights, but you’ll lose too much of the purpose and the benefits of the exercise.
Keep your shoulders down and pressed backwards.
Keep your chest proud and high throughout the exercise.
Supinate at the top.
Let your palms face the ceiling at the top of the movement.
Make sure your lower arms are the moving part of your arm.
Variations of the incline biceps curl
Try starting the lift in a hammer position. Rotate on the way up, so that your palms end up facing the ceiling in the final position. On the way down, rotate back, so that your hands are once more in the hammer position.
Try drop sets. The incline biceps curl is ideal for utilizing this shocking technique. It is easily arranged and you are guaranteed a painful but rewarding burn in your “guns”.
II Biceps chins
First of all, to be abundantly clear about which exercise I’m referring to here: this is a pull up, with your palms facing yourself in a relatively narrow grip (shoulder wide or narrower).
I’d say this is the most underrated and underused of all biceps exercises. I’d also say that I know the reason for this: it takes some serious mental effort to push yourself in this one. It is more grueling work than any other biceps exercise, at least if you are taking the sets to failure. The reward, however, is, in this case, in proportion to the effort.
In accordance with the Pen and barbell ideal I prefer a chiseled biceps with a good peak to mere size.
Why I like the biceps chin-ups
The sense of freedom and accomplishment that comes from defeating your own body weight in such a manner is quite rewarding. There is a strong sense of mastering your own body weight involved in this exercise.
This is calisthenics at its best. I like mixing up my workout sessions with body-weight exercises – and this one I feel sums up all of the great advantages of this practice, while also providing fast and solid proof that yes, you can build quality muscle without relying solely on weights.
The aesthetics of it all. At Pen and Barbell this is always a valid point in itself. There is beauty in mastering the biceps chins – and this beauty will take your biceps workout to next level, both in terms of feel and results.
When your feet touch the ground after a good set of biceps chin-ups you’ll find yourself in possession of a truly impressive all round-pump. The assisting muscles are many in this exercise. If the inclined curl is the ultimate precision tool for sculpting your biceps then the biceps chin-up is an exercise whose appeal lies in the opposite. I actually wouldn’t hesitate in calling it one of the best abdominal exercises there is. If you push yourself through a few sets of biceps chin-ups more often than not you‘ll wake up the next morning feeling your abs. Your upper back gets plenty of work as well. After a few hard sets you’ll see that the biceps chin-up brings out aesthetically pleasing details on your lats and shoulder blades. All of this combined helps you in creating the visually agreeable physique that is endorsed here on Pen and Barbell. The all-round-pump mentioned above, if accomplished often enough, will in time result in a body where the different parts are nicely put together. This is, by the way, one of the reasons I recommend mixing things up with calisthenics. Body-weight-exercising really helps you to create aesthetically pleasing transitions between your muscles.
An increase in strength is always rewarding. This goes for any exercise, but I found that there are a few that stands out and this is one of them. Here it is not the question of putting an extra 5 pounds weight plate, no, here a strength improvement will manifest itself in ability to actually being able to get yourself – the whole of your body – up there, all the way to the bar, one more time. This is a beautiful feeling that really sums up all of the allure of strength training.
Variations of the biceps chin-ups
Finish off with half-reps and – if you’re really hungry for a fight - let the last rep turn into a slow motion decent where you really milk the advantages of negative resistance. Let it take you 30 seconds to land on the floor.
The biceps chin-up is ideal for tempo variations. Do some sets slowly, while performing other sets in an upbeat tempo.
III The barbell curl
This one needs no selling. This one only requires a nodding reminder: yes, the classic barbell curl remains a corner stone in any serious arm workout.
The reasons I’m listing the barbell curl as one of my 3 favorite biceps exercises
1. Anyone that spends more than just a couple of hours per week in the gym will, after some time, have some favorite exercises that feels like they are “his” or “hers”. These exercises bring with them a feeling of playing at the home turf. They seldom disappoint. They almost always deliver. They are the sure thing in an otherwise changing routine. They are the go to exercises after a time of absence from the gym. They are, more often than not, the exercises which your body responds to especially well. Sometimes this also means that they are exercises where you are disproportionality strong. For me, the classic barbell curl is one such exercise. I regularly perform 10 X 5 with 70 kg (155 pounds). On occasion I go higher, sometimes as high as 80 kg (ca 176 pounds). The numbers are not important though – however ego fulfilling they might be – what is important is the notion of identifying your own favorite exercises – the go-to movements that will lend stability and never-ending progress to your workouts. There is no right or wrong here. One person’s favorite exercise will do little for another. There is no “king of exercises”, regardless of what the fitness magazines will let you believe. You can develop great legs without ever performing a single squat. You can get to possessing an impressive chest without ever involving the bench press in your pecs routine. You can get super strong without ever caring to deadlift. Just find your home turf – the routine that allows you to really push yourself and that you always find yourself longing for - and take it from there.
2. The classical feel of the exercise. I like the aesthetics of the barbell curl. The simplicity and the no-nonsense feeling of just picking up the barbell and putting the biceps to work.
3. I consider the barbell curl a good exercise for low reps sets. For me this is primarily a raw strength exercise that allows the use of (as far as biceps work goes) heavy weights. I often opt for sets of only 5 reps and I almost always avoid failure. I’ll most often finish the set two, or even three, reps short of my maximum number with that weight.
The biceps barbell curl is a classic that has stood the test of time.
A well sculpted biceps doesn't need to be flexed to be clearly visible.
Good vascularity and well chiseled details will lend the biceps an aesthetically pleasing look even when resting
The biceps is the showing off muscle No. 1. It will allow your physique to shine year-round. My favorite 3 biceps exercises are the following: 1. The seated inclined biceps curl. 2. The biceps chin. 3. The barbell curcl. I like these exercises for very different reasons and I feel that combined they will provide a great outlining of what would be an effective, entertaining and greatly varied biceps routine for anyone in quest of the chiseled, strong and aesthetically pleasing physique that I endorse here on Pen and Barbell.
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