Next to the chest, the second most sought-after muscle to develop would have to be the biceps. Whether you agree or not, you have to admit that there is something alluring about bulging biceps. Maybe it is the way they look when your T-shirt sleeves mold to your arms, and the material stretches because your arms are so massive. Maybe it's the way fellow gym goers look in admiration. Whatever the reason, one thing is very clear—you have to have a precise plan set in place to obtain those bulging beasts!
In this article, we're going to briefly explain the anatomy of the biceps and then move on to how to maximize size and address ways to effectively sculpt and separate the biceps. In the end, we’ll put it all together into one brutal but effective workout.
Here's what you need to know before we begin: the biceps or biceps brachii has two heads. There is a short head (inner biceps), and a long head (outer biceps). The truth is, if you want bigger biceps, you have to train both heads of the biceps along with the brachialis and brachioradialis. Take a moment to look at where these muscles are located in the arm: anatomy of the biceps.
The biceps are responsible for rotating the wrists, as well as flexing the elbows. These two functions will be critical in designing programs to maximize the biceps size and shape.Now that we have a quick overview of the biceps and their function, let's get to the details of how to build some pretty impressive arms!
While working to obtain mass, it is imperative you focus solely on the task at hand. MASS! Don't get distracted by your desire for shapely and well-defined arms too early on. That will come in time; in fact, while you're busy packing on the mass, your biceps will be taking shape and developing quite nicely overall. However, you'll need to pay attention to four very important factors if you want to succeed in adding quality mass to your biceps.
- Lift heavy
- Increase caloric intake (eat roughly 15 to 20 times your bodyweight in calories)
- Get plenty of rest
- Limit cardio activity
We want to briefly touch on one of these four items. To pack on some serious size, you've got to go heavy and really overload the muscle with stimulus! You'll want to find a weight you can lift for eight to ten repetitions. You should work with a weight that becomes difficult to curl between six and eight repetitions. If you start to struggle on rep six, aim for eight reps. If you begin to struggle on rep eight, shoot for ten. Do not up the weight until you are able to do three sets of ten full repetitions.
Improving Your Biceps Peak, Shape, and Separation
Shaping, separating, and peaking the biceps requires a lot of mental focus and a higher level of intensity. It is important to work on shaping the biceps through each and every phase of biceps development.
Let's begin with the peak. The best way to peak the biceps is in the last three quarters of the movement. When you reach the top of the movement, try to:
- Squeeze the biceps as hard as possible
- Hold the contraction for two seconds
- Lower the weight all the way down in a slow, controlled manner
- Hold the contraction for a count of 10 on the last rep
Peak Secrets: Here is an exercise that can be used to help develop the biceps peak. Lying cable curls. What you do is slide a bench over to an overhead pulley machine. Attach a straight curl bar to the overhead pulley. Next, lie down on the bench, as if you were about to perform the bench press, looking up at the straight bar (with your head toward the weight stack).
Fully extend both arms as if you are going to unrack the bar. The straight bar should be over your chest. Rotate your hands so your palms are facing away from your feet (reverse bench grip). Next, have a training partner or another gym goer pull the bar down to your hands. Grab it like you grab the barbell to perform curls. Now all you do is curl the bar toward your forehead. This exercise places a great deal of emphasis in the contracted, or “peaked” position with a full and solid contraction, which over time tends to help create that high peak to the muscle group.
Don't believe us? Give it a try now. Stand up and do a biceps curl. We know you don't have any weight, but at the top, contract the biceps hard. It feels like you couldn't possibly contract them any harder, doesn't it? Now, while keeping the biceps contracted, lift your elbows straight out so they are parallel to the floor. Do you feel the stronger contraction? That will help develop that peak!
Now, let's move into how to shape and separate the biceps. To bring out the detail in the biceps and create the kind of shape and separation that will make your arms look like they were chiseled out of stone, you'll want to focus on exhausting the biceps. The biceps can be fully exhausted by performing the following:
- partial repetitions
- supersets and tri-sets
- stretching and flexing between sets
When it comes to the detail of the biceps, variety is a major issue. You want to be sure you are hitting the biceps at every possible angle! Allow us to explain how to use one technique, partial repetitions, that has been shown to be highly effective in creating both shape and separation in the biceps. Here's how to use them to your advantage:
Watch your biceps through the entire range of motion during different exercises. Make a mental note as to what angle of the exercise brings out the most cuts, and pay particular attention as to where those cuts are brought out in the biceps. For instance, if you wanted more inner biceps development. During preacher curls, you would watch your inner biceps and notice that a little over a quarter of the way up you could see a cut forming in your lower biceps. At the end of each set, you should go back and performed 10 partial reps up to that point where the cut was clearly visible.
Upon completing the partial reps, you should hold the dumbbell or barbell at that cut-forming position for five to 10 seconds. The secret is to move the weight in a slow, controlled manner. You want to keep the biceps under as much stress a possible to shape them. Don't fall victim to swinging the weight or doing them too fast.
Why Stretch and Flex?
If you aren't currently flexing your biceps between sets, you may want to start. Flexing your worked muscles between sets will ultimately lead to:
- Better muscle control
- Expansion of the fascia, potentially leading to short and long-term changes in size
- Separation and striations
- Muscle sharpness and detail
As for stretching, it helps lengthen the biceps, which is important because the longer the muscle; the larger it will be when contracted. It also helps bring more blood to the muscle placing more pressure or growth stimulus on it. When you begin doing supersets and tri-sets, you'll know what we are referring to.
Now, let's move along to the part you've all been waiting for...
"...this intense training program is great for blasting through stagnation and plateaus."
Are you ready? Let us start by saying we do not recommend this program for beginners. In fact, we would prefer that anyone with less than one year of weight training refrain from attempting this workout. However, this intense training program is great for blasting through stagnation and plateaus. Try alternating it with your current arm training routine every four weeks.
The biceps training consists of two phases. A mass phase and a cutting phase. Remember to work on shaping, peaking, and separating the biceps throughout each of the two phases.
The mass phase consists of two workouts a week (Wednesday/Saturday). You want to go by feel, meaning if your arms feel strong and up to the challenge, keep adding exercises. A lot of people would consider this over-training, but believe us, your arms will instantly began to grow!
Everyone's body is different. That is why you should go by feel. Here is what a typical day looked like during the mass phase of training.
Phase 1: MASS
Wednesday/Saturday Aim for eight to 10 repetitions per set
- three sets of barbell preacher curls
- three sets of incline dumbbell curls
- three sets of strict heavy barbell curls
Add these exercises if your arms feel up to it. If not, talk yourself into it! Perform six to eight reps per set.
- two sets of narrow-grip barbell curls
- two sets of wide-grip barbell curls
Still not tired? Good. Add this and go for six to eight reps.
- two sets of reverse barbell curls or lying cable curls
During the mass phase, you should rest approximately 90 to 120 seconds between each set. Flex and stretch almost the entire time. You should rotated my left wrist clockwise and the right counter-clockwise for six rotations. You can also place your arm about chest level against a squat cage and twisted at the waist. It’s good to flex at different positions throughout the curling motion and held those positions for about a count of 10.
Phase 2: Cutting
Now, let's move into the cutting phase. When you begin a cutting phase, you'll want to perform a majority of your exercises with dumbbells. Performing exercises with dumbbells will allow you to better isolate and fully focus your attention on each of the biceps individually; over time, it will lead to greater cuts and definition.
Suggested work out on Mondays includes super-setting biceps/triceps. We recommend working the biceps three days a week to help maintain overall shape and size. And, spend approximately five minutes flexing after workouts.
Superset the following exercises and do three sets of 10 reps
- Reverse grip triceps pushdowns
- Close-grip barbell biceps curls
Superset the following and do three sets of 10 reps
- Seated triceps presses
- Alternating dumbbell biceps curl with twist of wrist (contracts biceps harder), which is good for peak development
Superset the following and again do three sets of 10
- Triceps dumbbell kickbacks
- Incline dumbbell curls
Wednesday: Tri-sets—three sets of 10 with no rest between exercises
- Dumbbell preacher curls
- Barbell reverse curls
- Dumbbell Hammer curls
- Rest 60 to 90 seconds and start the set again for three total cycles
- Dumbbell preacher curls: three sets of 10 reps
- Barbell biceps curls: three sets of 10 reps
- Concentration curls: two sets of 20 reps
(*FOR THE ADVANCED TRAINER ONLY: To achieve an overtraining response during the cutting phase, the advanced weight trainer should attack the muscle group three to four times per week, with no less than 20 sets per workout, resting 45 to 60 seconds between sets with an additional two-minute recovery phase after every five sets performed.)
Quick Tips: To build quality biceps, you have to work the biceps brachii, brachialis, and the brachioradialis.
Be sure to incorporate the following exercises into your regiment:
- Barbell curls: allows you to lift heavy (mass), works biceps brachii
- Close-grip barbell curls: Works the outer biceps
- Wide-grip barbell curls: Works the inner biceps
- Preacher curls: Works the brachialis
- Hammer curls: Works the brachialis and brachioradialis
- Reverse curls: Works the brachioradialis
Your best bet for shapely, separated, and peaked biceps:
- Partial repetitions
- Two-second contraction at the top of the curl
- Slow, controlled movements
- Supersets, tri-sets
- Stretch and flex between sets
- Target the biceps from every possible angle
- Use dumbbells to better isolate the biceps
This program was designed specifically to target the biceps in every way possible. All you have to do is put in the work, and the reward will be your very own set of powerful biceps. So what are you waiting for? Get curling!
The Final Word - Recovery
Post-workout recovery will be critical to maximizing every set, rep and workout. Be sure to take in ample quality protein from 100% BIO-ACTIVE WHEY™, and also some additional BIO-GRO™ Bio-Active Peptides to speed up recovery by means of accelerating protein synthesis. A general rule of thumb is to take in 25-37.5 g of fast-acting protein within 30 minutes finishing your workout. Add 3-4.5 additional grams of BIO-GRO Bio-Active Peptides to help maximize the recovery and building process.