Biceps By Force


Summer is a great time of year to have a great pair of biceps — in most places, it’s just too damn hot to sport a long-sleeved shirt. Of course, it’s also a crappy time of year to have a puny pair of arms, searching endlessly for a baggy T-shirt that will de-emphasize your lack of pipe girth. Now, this is not a fashion magazine, but as far as we’re concerned, a T-shirt should fit somewhat snugly, with the sleeves stopping halfway down the upper arms to show off some solid guns. If you’re not quite there, you can be soon with this highly effective routine for bigger biceps. Get started ASAP, and you’ll be in the market for a muscle T in a matter of weeks.

Growth Factors

Bringing up a bodypart like the biceps doesn’t just happen by accident. Here are a few guidelines we used when putting together the following program:

Hit the bi’s early and often. To build bigger biceps, you have to prioritize them in your weekly training schedule. In the training split on Page TK, the biceps are given their own workout on Mondays, when your body is at its freshest following a restful weekend. Three days later, the biceps are trained again, though this time with the back (more on your back workout in a moment). Make no mistake, this is actually a full-body program — the biceps will just get a little extra work every week, getting trained twice while all other muscle groups (outside of abs) are trained just once. It’s a pretty simple premise, really: Because bigger biceps are the goal, they get more volume (total sets) than other bodyparts. The training split may look odd with a biceps-only workout leading things off, but after that, it’s a pretty standard bodybuilding regimen.

Heavy does it, but so does light. To shock the biceps into growing, you’re not just going to stick with one method of training them. You’ll hit the bi’s heavy one day, then light the next. In the heavy workout (Monday), the exercises selected are basic, free-weight moves — nothing fancy here. Standard barbell curls start things off with reps in the six to eight range. On your last set, you’ll either do forced reps or rest-pauses (depending on whether you have a spotter) to maximize intensity. After that, the reps increase for the next two exercises but not by much. On your third exercise, incline dumbbell curls, you’ll finish with another intensity booster, drop sets. On your last exercise, hammer curls, the reps increase to 12 to 15 to finish the workout with a rush of blood to the biceps as well as the brachialis, a smaller muscle that helps add girth to the upper arms.

On Thursday, the reps will stay at 12 and above with dumbbell curls and two non-free-weight moves, cable curls and machine curls. The cable work will place constant tension on the biceps throughout every set, while the preacher curl machine will allow for total isolation as the reps creep up to 20-plus. These high-rep sets will cause plenty of muscle burn, so you might need to lighten the weight more than you’re used to. This mix of heavy and light training during the week will ensure that your biceps never get used to one particular stimulus. As a result, they’ll have no choice but to get bigger.

Don’t slack on your back. Even though this is a biceps-focused program, how you train your back is important, too. As much as you may try to place all the tension on your lats and rhomboids while doing pull-ups, lat pulldowns and rows, there’s no question that your biceps are heavily involved in all these pulling movements. Because of this, it’s crucial that you attack your back workouts. Don’t “take it easy” on rows and pulldowns in anticipation for the upcoming biceps work you’re about to do. Stick to the back exercises you know work (pull-ups, bent-over rows, cable rows, pulldowns) and use as much weight as you can with proper form in the eight-rep to 12-rep range. You’d be surprised at how effective a good back workout is for adding size to your biceps (not to mention your lats).

Timing is everything. We don’t recommend that you train the biceps first thing in your training split forever. But you’ll definitely want to stick with this plan for at least four weeks and up to eight weeks to see results. After a month or two, switch things up again, and feel free to keep training the biceps twice. You never know, soon your biceps could be your strength and you’ll have another bodypart you need to bring up.

Image placeholder title

Barbell Curl

Start: Stand holding a barbell with a shoulder-width grip, your arms extended down toward the floor and your knees slightly bent.

Action: Keeping your torso erect (don’t lean back while lifting the weight), curl the bar up. Make sure your elbows remain at your sides throughout — don’t let them flare out or lift up. Slowly lower the weight to the start position.

Dumbbell Preacher Curl

Start: Sit on the seat of a preacher curl bench holding an EZ-bar. Begin with the backs of your upper arms flat against the pad and your elbows bent.

Action: Extend your elbows to slowly lower the bar down. Just before reaching full elbow extension, curl the weight up, keeping your upper arms flat against the pad throughout.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

Start: Lie back on an incline bench holding a pair of dumbbells hanging straight toward the floor and your palms facing in.

Action: Curl the dumbbells up, turning your palms up and out as you do so and keeping your elbows stationary. Squeeze your biceps for a count, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down.

Image placeholder title

Hammer Curl

Start: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your arms extended toward the floor and your palms facing in.

Action: Keeping your elbows in tight to your sides, curl both dumbbells up, keeping your palms in the entire time. When you can no longer curl the weights up any farther, lower back to the start position.

Alternating Dumbbell Curl

Start: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your arms extended toward the floor and your palms facing in.

Action: Keeping your elbow in at your side, curl one dumbbell up while simultaneously turning your palm up and out so that at the top of the rep, it faces slightly outward. Squeeze your biceps for a count in this position, then slowly lower the dumbbell back to the start position. Repeat with the other arm, alternating back and forth.

Image placeholder title

Cable Curl

Start: Stand in front of a cable station with a straight or EZ-curl bar attached to the low pulley. Begin with a shoulder-width grip, your arms extended toward the floor and your knees slightly bent.

Action: Keeping your elbows in at your sides, curl the bar up. Squeeze your biceps for a count, then slowly lower the bar to the start position.

Machine Preacher Curl

Start: Place your upper arms against the pad of a preacher curl machine and grasp the handles of the bar.

Action: Curl the bar as high as you can without letting your arms leave the pad, then lower it to a point just before the weight stack touches down.