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The 10 best biceps training tips Say goodbye to your skinny arms

Die 10 besten Bizeps Trainingstipps Verabschiede Dich von Deinen dünnen Ärmchen

We asked 10 experts for their best tips for building bigger biceps. Here are their answers:

Perform 100 reps with an empty barbell bar

Most exercisers who struggle with growing their biceps use really heavy weights and a lot of momentum when doing curls. They perform reps in the low range, which ultimately results in the biceps not doing much work and not getting much tension. The upper back helps with the initial deflection at the beginning of the concentric movement and the eccentric or negative part of the movement is basically dropping the barbell back down.

However, even if you train sloppily at 100 reps with an empty bar, just reaching the 100 reps limit will make your biceps scream. If you can't do the 100 reps in one go without a break, then work towards this goal.

Doing this twice a week without any additional bicep training has made my biceps grow tremendously in just two months. However, like any training stimulus, there will be a time limit at which it loses its effectiveness. By the time I was able to do 200 repetitions without rest, I could no longer see the growth I had experienced during the first 8 weeks. However, if your biceps growth has reached a plateau, then you should try this type of training.

- Paul Carter - Weight training and bodybuilding coach

Take your time with curls

There are many ways to build biceps. And sometimes the "best" way to stimulate new muscle gains is simply to do something new...something you've never done before or haven't done in a long time.

For the biceps, here's something you can try. Next time you do a set of curls, keep an eye on the clock or have a training partner time you. How long did it take you to complete the set?

If you typically train heavy, then you'll probably be under 60 seconds. Let's say you did a fairly heavy set of 8 reps and it took you roughly 1 second to move the weight up and about 2 seconds to lower it in a controlled manner for each rep. Do the math. That's 24 seconds per set. And if you consciously tense the muscles again for 1 second at the highest point of the movement, that's 32 seconds.

That's fine, heavy weights, low reps and therefore less time under tension also builds muscle. But you could miss out on a few muscle fibers and you could miss out on some of the potential hypertrophy if you only ever do short sets.

Now do another set and let it last for at least 60 seconds - maybe even 90 seconds. Yes, you will have to reduce the weight and yes, it will hurt in a whole new way. In fact, in many ways it's harder than doing fewer reps with a heavier weight - which is why many people avoid such training. But you'll also activate other muscle fibers and stimulate a new set of biological responses that signal your body to build some new muscle.

Keep the stopwatch handy or watch the gym clock the next time you train biceps. You might be surprised to see that you never get close to the 1 minute mark. Add a few 60 to 90 second sets to your heavy workout or use an entire training block on higher time under tension. Your biceps will grow faster than the US national debt.

- Chris Shugart

Chase the pump

I compete in IFBB competitions and I don't really care about strength. "How much is this athlete curling?" That's a question you won't find on the judges' scorecards. Interestingly enough, over 20 years of training has also taught me that moving heavy weights will do very little for mass gains, especially in terms of arm training.

Sure, it might impress other guys at the gym while giving you inflammation around your elbows and wrists, but you're not going to get results that will blow up your shirts on your arms. Therefore, by far the best tip for building bigger biceps is to train for a pump. This is best achieved with lighter weights and intensity techniques. My favorite intensity techniques include reps focused on the eccentric phase, descending sets, rest-pause sets and isometric holds.

Drive up the volume, pair the exercise with an intensity technique and save the heavy weights for your leg day. Your sleeve-blasting pump will do more for your mass gains than the sore joints that will follow training with excessive weights.

- Mark Dugdale - IFBB Pro Bodybuilder

Use moderate weights, higher reps and more cumulative metabolic stress

Some exercisers get carried away trying to train their arms with pure strength, but the arms don't respond as well to heavy weights.

Yes, that's right, the days of swinging around 40+ kilos with an ugly compensation scheme that looks more like back stretches than Culrs are over. In now (at least for smart exercisers) is the pursuit of a painful, skin-bursting pump to achieve not only gains in strength and muscle mass, but also increased upper arm resilience, which protects joints.

Once you've put together your program, it's all about execution. Contract the biceps as slow and hard as humanly possible on each repetition to maximize tension and increase total time under tension. More importantly, this strategy will improve your mind-muscle connection.

Working at an intentionally slow pace will increase the hardness of the contraction at the highest point of each repetition, while an extended movement throughout the range of motion from a stretch is the perfect recipe for massive biceps. Leave your ego at the bar, move the weights slowly, perform more repetitions and maintain perfect form to maximize the effectiveness of each repetition. This way, you'll achieve gains you can brag about in a tank top without pain or injury.

- Dr. John Rusin - Doctor of Physical Therapy, Performance Expert

Focus on full body strength first and then use an isodynamic contrast

Without building a foundation first, you'll never have the fundamentals you need to specialize and maximize isolation training. However, if you are already strong, then you will need isolation training to build bigger and stronger biceps.

One of the biggest obstacles that exercisers have to overcome when trying to build lagging areas in their development is a poor mind-muscle connection. Once you get past the beginner gains, you'll have a hard time building your biceps until you can actually feel your muscles working. This is where the isodynamic contrast method comes into play.

Curls with isodynamic contrast

  1. Take a weight with which you can perform 15 repetitions.
  2. Curl the weight up to the point where you cannot go any further in an exhausted state, which should correspond to an angle of about 90 degrees. Contract the biceps as hard as possible against the resistance to generate a radiating stimulus and improve muscle fiber recruitment. Hold this tension for 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. After holding, perform 8 to 12 repetitions or go to technical failure. This generates a lot of metabolic stress, a lot of mechanical tension and improves the mind-muscle connection for building bigger and stronger biceps. Perform three to four sets this way twice a week.

- Eric Bach - Strength coach

Do you want to grow your biceps? Then maximize the effort.

Ten years ago, I would have recommended a pyramid scheme with barbell curls. Five years ago, I would have recommended heavy pull-ups in the lower grip with additional weight. Today I have a different opinion.

A recent training study by Brittany Counts and colleagues came up with some fascinating results. The subjects completed three training sessions per week for six weeks. Each subject used two training protocols: one where the arms were moved without load and the other where the arms were moved with heavy weights.

In the no-load protocol, subjects moved their arms into elbow flexion and extension while attempting to contract their biceps through the full range of motion with maximal force. They were given EMG biofeedback that encouraged them to contract their biceps as hard as possible throughout the training session. They performed 4 sets of 20 repetitions with 30 seconds rest between sets.

In the high load protocol, the subjects performed 4 sets of dumbbell curls of 8 to 12 repetitions with 70% of the 1RM weight and 90 seconds rest between sets. The weight was increased over the course of the 6 weeks of the study.

Unsurprisingly, the group that used dumbbells was able to increase their strength to a greater extent than the group that trained without weights. But here's the crazy thing - both groups experienced the same amount of muscle hypertrophy. This should show you that weight doesn't matter that much when building biceps, as long as you contract your biceps as hard as possible.

For biceps growth, you could perform barbell curls, dumbbell curls, Scott curls or concentration curls with heavy weight and moderate reps, light weight and high reps or a combination of both and see similar muscle growth with all variations as long as the effort is high and the volume is sufficient.

However, when it comes to biceps strength, specificity matters. A study by Scott Dankel and colleagues found that performing 1RM biceps curls every day for 21 consecutive days resulted in the same strength gains as performing the same 1 RM sets with additional curl volume.

So if you want to maximize your strength, then you should perform plenty of heavy training with low reps on the exercise you want to increase. For example, if you believe that the best way to test your biceps strength is to perform a strict set of SZ curls with your back against a wall, then you should perform this exercise frequently during your workout.

- Bret Contreras - Strength coach

Improve your ability to recruit and contract your biceps

When it comes to the biceps, a strong focus on the biceps can often make it harder to get them to grow, as this can shift tension away from the biceps. An intense contraction of the target muscle is much harder to achieve when using heavy weights.

So if you want to grow lagging biceps in their development, the first thing you need to do is work on constant tension to maximize the mind-muscle connection. The time you spend on this is an investment that will be worthwhile for any subsequent bicep training you do.

So my recommendation is not a specific exercise, but a specific way to perform your repetitions. For four weeks, each repetition of your bicep workout should look like this:

  1. Tighten your biceps as hard as you can before you even start moving weights. This is the "principle of first tension" - the muscle that is contracted the hardest is the one that will receive the most stimulation during the set.
  2. Then, as you move the weight up and back down, use a slower tempo - about 3 seconds for the up and down movement. This will allow you to contract the biceps as hard as possible during each inch of the movement (both during the upward movement and the downward movement). If you perform the movement faster, it will be harder to maintain maximum tension.
  3. During the lowering phase of the movement, you should also tense your triceps. This may sound strange, but this makes the eccentric (lowering) phase even harder, emphasizing the eccentric part of the movement.

The benefits:

  • This is the best way to get really good at recruiting and contracting your biceps and you will program your nervous system to do this, which will make your future heavier bicep workouts more effective.
  • It stimulates muscle growth via growth factor accumulation and mTOR activation, while causing very little muscle damage. You can (and should) therefore perform this type of bicep training several times a week - preferably on 3 to 4 days. This will allow you to get even better at recruiting your biceps. Remember that regular practice is the key to motor learning.

After you have spent some time training your biceps in this way, you will be able to move on to heavier training, where now the tension will not shift away from the biceps as you have improved your capacity to recruit the muscle and your ability to keep that muscle under tension.

- Christian Thibaudeau - Strength coach

Perform at least one biceps exercise standing and then manipulate it

Choose SZ curls or barbell curls because these exercises tend to be the most efficient and then try one or all of the following:

  • Use different ranges of motion including partial repetitions.
  • Try using variations with a fat grip (thicker bar) which will help the biceps to contract better and as an added bonus will increase the size of your forearms.
  • Use tempo manipulations such as a 2 to 3 second pause at maximum contraction.

- Amit Sapir - IFBB Pro, world record holder in powerlifting

Develop a mind-muscle connection

Focus on tensing the muscle throughout the movement and achieving maximum contraction at the highest point of each repetition of each set. Making a conscious effort to activate the target muscle before and between sets while visualizing this activation and the desired appearance during the movement will help you develop this powerful connection.

This is an extremely effective method and the mind-muscle connection is a very real phenomenon that influences neuromuscular dynamics during resistance training. When you curl, you should make it your goal to feel every inch of the movement from the stretched position to maximum contraction and back. The strong connection between your nervous system and your muscles will help you contract as many muscle fibers as possible during each repetition.

Try incline bench curls, alternating seated dumbbell curls and spider curls. Rotate your forearm outwards (as if you were turning a doorknob) and turn the side of your hand where the little finger is on the upward movement inwards to target your biceps.

- Michael Warren - Strength coach

Perform more pulling exercises

Trainers treat their biceps as primary muscles when performing curl variations and pull-ups with an underhand grip, but don't respect their role as stabilizers in exercises such as rowing, loaded carries, deadlifts and similar exercises. Certainly, increased volume is important in biceps exercises, but the overall tensile volume will make a cumulative difference that will result in thicker upper arms.

Speaking of thicker upper arms - performing exercises with bulky objects beyond traditional dumbbells (like kettlebells, pulling with a thick rope, using a thick bar) can make the biceps work harder and grow. For starters, you can wrap a towel around your pull-up bar or Farmers Walk equipment.

Add extra weekly volume to your training by adding an extra set of all of the above to each weekly training session. You'll see the difference.

- Lee Boyce - Strength coach


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