By Lara McGlashan, MFA, CPT
Lee's 5 Tips for Bigger Biceps
1) I split my arm training into two separate days
because my triceps have a tendency to overpower my biceps. Splitting them up means I can focus on giving my biceps the attention they need to get thicker and more detailed.
2) Strict movement is essential when training biceps.
They’re a small muscle group that can be easily assisted by the back and shoulders if you’re not careful. Pay close attention to your form. You might even try a few light sets to better isolate the muscle.
3) Squeezing the muscle at the peak of a movement and forcing a slow negative helps me push blood into the biceps
, stretching the muscle and skin and bringing in nutrients to assist in rebuilding what has just been broken down. Over time this equals growth, and while it may be painful and uncomfortable, it’s absolutely necessary for building size!
4) Sometimes I don’t use full-range-of-motion reps for biceps.
Specifically, when the weight is balanced over the wrist and elbow, there’s a tendency for the muscle to relax when using free weights. So I like to stop the rep just before that point and squeeze so the muscle stays under constant tension.
5) I like to use cables at the end of my workout, and that’s a tip I got from Ronnie Coleman.
His theory is to use free weights to develop maximal muscle mass, then cables afterward to help carve in that detail. Ronnie had great biceps, so I try to follow his example.
Lee’s Biceps Routine
EZ-Bar Curl 3 Sets x 12, 12, 12 Reps
Supinated Concentration Curl 3 Sets x 8, 6, 5
Rope Hammer Curl 3 Sets x 20, 18, 15
One-Arm Standing Cable Curl 3 Sets x 20, 20, 20
Straight-Bar Cable Curl 3 Sets x 20, 20, 20
Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees unlocked, grasping the bar at the bends using an underhand grip. Draw your shoulders back and lock your elbows by your sides.
Contract your biceps to curl the bar in a smooth arc toward your shoulders, keeping your wrists locked and your shoulders back. Squeeze your bi’s at the peak-contracted position before slowly lowering to the start.
“The biceps are a small muscle group and require strict form to better isolate them, so sometimes I stand with my back against a wall to make sure I don’t use momentum or swing the bar to help get it up.”
Changing your grip width from the inner to outer bends of the bar does more than provide wrist relief; a wider grip also better targets the short (inner) head.
Supinated Concentration Curl
Sit on the broad side of a flat bench with your feet spread wide. Grasp a dumbbell in one hand and place your opposite hand on your thigh for support. Position your working arm against the inside of your thigh so your arm hangs straight toward the floor. Use a hammer grip (palm facing inward).
Contract your biceps to curl the weight up, simultaneously twisting your wrist so your palm faces up at the top. Squeeze hard for a count before slowly lowering.
“With this move, I always pause about 2–3 seconds at the top and really squeeze hard. This is an isolation move for the peak and the more tension you can put it under, the better it’ll grow.”
In addition to flexing the arm, the biceps is also responsible for turning the wrist up. Supinating your wrist while curling makes the biceps work harder than if you use an underhand grip throughout.
Rope Hammer Curl
Attach a rope to the lower-pulley cable and grasp an end in each hand. Take a large step back from the weight stack to put tension on the cable. Draw your shoulders down and back, and stand erect with your knees unlocked.
Bend your elbows and pull the ends of the rope toward your shoulders, keeping your hands evenly spaced and your shoulders relaxed — don’t simultaneously shrug them. Hold the peak contraction at the top for a count before lowering smoothly back to the start, resisting the pull of the cable on the return.
“I use this and other cable movements to push blood into the muscle, which is why I do fairly high reps. I use an even pace and squeeze hard at the top to ignite a muscle pump.”
Neutral-grip movements like this work the brachialis, which lies underneath the biceps, and the brachioradialis, a forearm muscle near the elbow. Include a neutral- or reverse-grip exercise in your biceps routine to train these arm flexors.
One-Arm Standing Cable Curl
Attach a D-handle to the lower-pulley cable and stand sideways to the weight stack. Grasp the handle with your inside hand using a neutral grip and put your opposite hand on your hip for stability.
Flex your arm to raise the handle up and across your body, keeping your torso stationary and your elbow tight to your side. Squeeze hard at the top before allowing the weight to pull your arm back to the start position, resisting the pull of the cable.
“With this move I come up only partway to maintain complete tension on the biceps. There’s a point in every biceps movement in which the muscle stops contracting and you’re almost resting because you pull your elbow forward from its place by your side. You don’t need to raise the handle all the way to your shoulder.”
You can do a number of variations of this exercise from slightly different angles as you rotate your back to the pulley. For better overall growth, don’t get locked into just one variation.
Straight-Bar Cable Curl
Attach a straight bar with a rotating sleeve to the lower-pulley cable and use an underhand grip. Take a large step away from the weight stack to create tension in the cable and draw your shoulders down and back, locking your elbows at your sides. Stand erect with your knees unlocked for balance.
Flex your biceps to curl the bar toward your shoulders, keeping your wrists locked and your elbows in tight. Smoothly return under control to the start, then go right into your next rep.
“I like to use the same weight for all my sets and really crank out the reps. This pushes the last bit of blood into my muscles and makes it nearly impossible to bend my arms!”
Try flipping your grip and doing reverse curls to hit your forearms and biceps from a different angle. The reverse hand position puts greater stress on the brachialis and brachioradialis.