At the gym you will at any given time - despite the current trend of prioritizing compound movements like squatting, bench pressing and deadlifting - find some people targeting their arms with direct work. The triceps pushdown and the curl are still popular - and it would be strange otherwise, considering what I once wrote:
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.
There will always be plenty of biceps work being done at any decent gym. And I’ll always be one of those doing it. I have always loved training arms. It is by far the muscle that I have trained the most. Therefore, it is a true testament to the never ending possibilities of gym training that I recently tried not one, or even two – but three for me totally new biceps exercises. And even though they might never replace the corner pillars of my biceps routine, they all have their merits. Below I will list and elaborate on these three biceps exercises, in the hope that they will offer you some opportunity to change things up the next time you need it.
I Biceps rows in smith machine
What I mean by this is inverted rows, performed in a Smith machine, using a biceps underhand grip.
I recently rediscovered this old calisthenics exercise, during a workout session described in an article where I shared my own routine. Since then I have used it again a couple of times. I feel it is an exercise that really lets me achieve a good pump. The more advanced biceps chins is one of my absolute favourite exercises, but I still feel that this seemingly lighter variation have some benefits when compared with the full chin up. It’s a great exercise in which to play with tempo, different height and different angles. It will also, due to practical and logistic reasons, be easier to superset with different triceps exercises – and that is exactly why I myself has started to implement it into my routine.
Regarding the technique of this exercise: the most important thing is to keep the whole body rigid and tense throughout the movement. As with many of the best calisthenics exercises the rest take care of itself, at least to a large extent.
This one I think I will actually be able to make room for as a regular in my routine. Before taking it up I would have classified it as a school calisthenics exercise, but now I feel obliged to dub it a true hardcore exercise that both beginners and advanced lifters can benefit greatly from in their quest for well developed guns.
II Behind the back biceps curl with 1 hand cable
If you feel like lifting heavy, do something else. If you want to burn fat and get your heart going, do something else. If you want to go low in numbers and in volume, look elsewhere. But if you want to do something new, that will ensure you a good pump, the behind the back biceps curl with cable is a well suited choice. This is a true pump exercise. When you’re performing this exercise you should aim for high numbers.
The beauty of this movement is how it allows for maximum stretch – which, in turn, will allow you to contract really hard – all without overly use of your forearms. When performed with good concentration this exercise offers good precision; you will be able to really make the biceps burn with minimum strain being put on the rest of the body.
Remember to keep good posture throughout the lifting. And, as always when there is cable work involved, pay extra attention when you’re finishing the set, so that you don't pull anything or put unnecessary stress on your rotator cuff.
III Smith machine biceps curl
This is the oddest one of the three exercises listed in this article. I have to admit that I felt a bit foolish stepping up to the smith machine with the intention of training my biceps – but I had seen it recommened online and was curious as to whether it could really be a useful exercise. It seemed contra-intuitive; the words “biceps” and “Smith machine” just didn’t rhyme well for me. Using the Smith barbell for Biceps rows, as mentioned above, absolutely, but to actually curl it sounded to me like a totally unnecessary, even somewhat silly idea. I thought I’d give it a set or two, laugh it off and forget about it.
After having tried it I still possess some doubts about this exercise. I would never deem it necessary and I would never recommend it as a must or involve it on a list of 10 best arm exercises. But, all this having been said, I have to admit that it felt more plausible than I would have expected it to. It was absolutely doable – and yes, it allowed me to get decent biceps contact already on my first attempt. The fixed barbell shortens the movement and forces one to work with the elbows pointing backwards. There is a pulling sensation to the whole thing – and in this I do see some benefits. If you want to do barbell curls without putting stress on your forearms it might be helpful.
I would recommend anyone willing to try this out to go easy with the weights. Keep it light. It is about contact and finding the ideal range of motion, not about heaving heavy loads.
You have to stand really close to the bar in order for this movement to work. Make sure to keep your stance and to be well balanced before you start lifting.
So, instead of telling you to stay away from this one I will actually encourage you to try it out. It might be a way to inject your biceps routine with change and just have some fun, curling in a way you’ve never done before. Furthermore, we react differently to different exercise – and maybe this will turn out to suit you better than it did me.
To sum it up, I would recommend the first exercise, the biceps rows in the smith machine, to
anyone. It is a great exercise. The second exercise, the behind the body cable curl, I would also recommend, provided you want to prioritize the pump and hit your biceps in an unusual angle. The third exercise, I myself see more like curiosa – but, this having been said, still a doable exercise that one might try every once in a while just to spice things up.
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