As someone who is constantly challenged to arm wrestles in bars as opposed to being asked for her number, MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY is more than qualified to teach you how to say goodbye to puny arms for good…
BRINGING UP THE BICEPS
Before you start advertising The Gun Show, you should know how it’s all put together. As the name “Biceps Brachii” implies, it is a two-headed muscle of the arm – that’s the long and short of it (literally and figuratively). The two bundles merge to form a single mass that is primarily responsible for flexing the elbow (bending the arm) and twisting the wrist (supinating the forearm). To a lesser extent, the bicep also helps to flex the shoulder (lift the arm). In a nutshell, to recruit the long head or outer portion, use a narrower grip with wider elbow position. To recruit the short head or inner portion, use a wider grip and narrower elbow portion.
Top Tip 1: The Forgotten Function
Start each curl variation with your elbows slightly in front of your body and finish with a slight shoulder flexion to make sure you nail all three functions of the muscle.
It’s easy to think of the biceps as prime movers doing curl variations and chin ups without actually respecting their role as stabilisers in movements such as rows, loaded carries and deadlifts. This is why it’s not only important to do exercises that target and isolate the biceps, but also recognise the importance of increasing pulling volume as this will significantly increase your girth – of your upper arm, that is!
Biceps and triceps grow well with, and can recover from, approximately nine to 12 working sets per week. So, even though the general recommendation is to work biceps every five to seven days, one of the best ways to jumpstart bicep growth is to hit them hard on three non-consecutive days per week for six weeks. There is no secret variation of exercises and rep ranges. My favourite way to train arms is to perform a compound (multi joint) movement that recruits a lot of motor units, and then follow it immediately with a superior isolation exercise that also taps well into the motor pool unit. That way you get strong, you develop strength endurance and you get to chase the pump.
To make things super simple, each workout just change your grip.
A1. CHIN-UPS: 4-6 reps. 4010 tempo. 10 secs rest.
A2. SEATED INCLINE DUMBBELL CURLS: 8-10 reps. 3101 tempo.
Rest 3 mins. Repeat for a total of 3-4 sets.
The 10 secs rest between superset exercises is the time it takes you to transition – nothing more. It doesn’t mean you get to take a selfie or check out the hot blonde across the gym floor. Keep it strict. The goal is to exhaust the biceps by preventing them from resting too long. You should note that you may have to decrease your reps on each set.
Here’s what else you need to know…
- Don’t be a hero: we’ve all seen those guys at the gym swinging weight around to get it up – don’t be that Fact: the biceps don’t actually respond well to sloppily throwing around super-heavy weight and neither does the elbow joint.
- Mind muscle connection: make a conscious effort to activate the target muscle and visualise its action and appearance before you begin. Focus on flexing the muscle throughout the movement and really squeezing it at the peak of its contraction – i.e. at the top of the movement on EVERY rep of EVERY set. The connection between your nervous system and muscles will help you to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible.
- Get a grip: doing lifts with irregular objects that go beyond your classic dumbbell (think fat grips, fat bars, kettlebells, fat ropes, etc…) can make the biceps work harder and grow, in addition to increasing forearm size and improving strength and strength endurance in every other lift that involve holding weights.
- Accentuate the eccentric: flex and tense your triceps on the way down. This doesn’t just make sure you achieve full range of motion, but it makes the lowering part of the lift much more challenging. The eccentric phase is typically where the most muscle damage occurs and this, in turn, promotes the most growth (and soreness).
- Get leaner: stripping a layer of fat off your arms is the best thing you can do to make the muscles look bigger.
Top Tip 2: Stop, It’s Hammer Time!
Don’t neglect the Brachialis. Just like the biceps, it’s an elbow flexor and due to its position underneath the biceps, it literally pushes the biceps up as it gets bigger. The best way to target it is to include exercises where the grip is neutral – hammer curls are a perfect example.
SHORT ON TIME: PUMP IT UP
If you only have very limited time to do a workout, 21’s could be the answer and yes this is as simple as the name suggests. Grab a pair of DB’s – I’d suggest selecting a weight 50% of that you could lift for 10 reps. Curl weights halfway up seven times, then curl the top range of the lift seven times. Finally, do the full range seven times – 21 painful reps in total for just THE ONE SET.
Now, go forth, enjoy the growth and make sure you get a license for those things before you bring them out in public!
For the full article grab the December 2018 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.