Building Muscle: Get Bigger Biceps with this Simple Technique
by Scott Abbett
Who among us striving for a more muscular physique doesn’t have big arms as a top priority? Surveys of muscle building enthusiasts have revealed that ‘big guns’ hanging powerfully at one’s sides is more sought after than any other muscular development; even more than a big chest. It’s instinctual; big biceps and triceps display an implicit message to the world – that their possessor is one of powerful physical capability when that’s what’s called upon.
'Preacher curls' can be optimized by NOT resting the biceps at the top of the movement. In other words, don't do what this guy's doing.
Lately, my arms have undergone size gains that were sought after in near futility during my more youthful years. These muscle gains in both my biceps and triceps are upper arm manifestations of overall mass gains that come steadily by using the ‘HardBody Success System’™. That system has provided unimpeded bodybuilding progress which makes the whole endeavor that much more enjoyable. And no body part is more rewarding to develop than that potentially powerful area where lays the driving strength of the upper limbs.
One of the techniques that has really improved my arm development lately are split repetition exercises. What do I mean by that? An example would be doing sets of barbell curls from the starting position to the halfway point. Then doing sets from the halfway point to the fully curled, top position. This essentially makes standing barbell curls into two separate exercises. And it’s not that I’m neglecting to use a full range of motion; I’m simply splitting my full range into two half-range exercises which have covered the entire range when I’ve finished both.
This basic technique goes back a long way. I remember first being exposed to it in high school gym class well over twenty years ago. At that time, a brief mentioning of it brought a strange comment from a classmate: “I’ve heard you shouldn’t split your reps because it can make your muscles too bulky”, he said. My buddy and I turned to each other wearing expressions of disbelief. We were only hoping to have such a burdensome “problem”.
Well, if getting too “bulky” means gaining muscle mass that’s thick, shapely, and powerful, then I’m happy to say that my arms are becoming inflicted with bulkiness. I attribute much of it to the highly effective manner in which I’m training my biceps. I’m currently splitting my biceps routine into three different exercises, each covering a third of a full-ranged bicep curl. I make sure my range of motion on each of those one-third-of-a-curl movements has overlap with the other exercises. So I start with the bottom of my biceps (where they connect to the elbow joint) and work my way to the peak.
So here’s what I do. In order to hit that first half of a biceps curl with constant tension, I connect a wide bar (on which I can get a shoulder width grip) to a seated pulley rowing cable. I take an underhand grip on the bar and maneuver my body so as to tuck my lower legs underneath the foot platform that one would use for doing horizontal seated cable rowing. I tuck my legs under there so that my body is lying on the padded bench as close to the weight stack as possible, preventing the weight stack from hitting the track limit when I curl the bar. Lying on my back with the bar at my hips, I then curl the bar up to the point that my forearms are at a right angle to my body. That completes the positive half of the rep and I lower the bar in a quarter circle movement back down to my hips. Sets of these really work the long head of my biceps because I’m fighting gravity for the entire half curl movement due to the pulley/weight stack setup.
The second movement I use can be done on any preacher curling machine. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Polaris or Hammer Strength or whatever; as long as it’s a machine for preacher curls. I set the seat at a level that puts my armpits down snugly over the padded bench and I perform my reps in the mid half-range of the movement. In other words, I lower the weight only until the bar is still a quarter of the way from the very bottom of the range and when I raise the weight, I stop about a quarter from the top to go back downward. By the time I’ve done five or six sets of these, my biceps are pretty swollen.
'Dumbell curls' - done together rather than "alternating" - are an excellent biceps exercise.
To hit the peak of my biceps, I perform ‘lying peaking curls’. These are done by placing a bench so one end is underneath a triceps press-down cable. I attach a shoulder width straight bar with a rolling handle to the cable. I lay face-up on the bench so that the bar is straight above me and the weight stack is behind my head. Then I curl the bar from the point in which my forearms are parallel with my body ‘til the point that the bar is touching my neck. This, like the other two exercises, puts continuous tension on the biceps muscles – now at the very peak of a curling movement.
That’s it! A lot of people are amazed that this is all I’ve been doing for my biceps. Of course, I’m combining this strategy with the principles and methodologies in the HardBody Success manual. Those principles and techniques along with these split-rep/continuous tension exercises are giving me biceps growth I’d only dreamed of before.
I encourage you to give this a try and watch your guns start getting really swollen.