Here’s your step-by-step guide through 5 battle-tested biceps workout tips and training strategies we’ve used with athletes and bodybuilders to help them pump up their arms and build bigger biceps.
Fitness Tips 1. Mix up your Force Angles to target the Biceps Peak
We all know, that using a variety of exercises helps make our arm workouts (and all other weight training workouts for that matter) more versatile and more effective. But, it’s important to understand that simply changing the exercises doesn’t always mean you’re hitting your biceps in a different way. If people told you that, they gave you the wrong fitness tips.
You see, to thoroughly hit your biceps (or any other muscle group you’re training) you need to mix up the force angles, which changes the point of exercise (within the range of motion) where the muscle(s) is being maximally loaded, within a given workout.
Many lifters are under the impression that each time you change the exercise you’re changing the force angle. But this is not so, as many biceps curl exercises may look different – For example Barbell biceps curls, EZ-bar curls, and dumbbell biceps curls – but they may create the same force angle, which, therefore, hits your biceps in basically the same way.
Here’s a quick lesson on Biomechanics to help you better understand force angles fitness tips:
All exercises that involve free weights and cables have a point within the range of motion (ROM) where the exercise is hardest on the muscle(s) involved, and where the exercise is the easiest. The point at which the exercise is most difficult is where the lever arm becomes the longest, which makes the muscles involved work the hardest.
During any style of biceps curl with a free weight (dumbbell, barbell, or EZ-bar) the point at which your biceps is being maximally loaded (stimulated) is the point in the ROM in which your forearm is at a 90-degree angle with the load vector, which in the case of free-weights, gravity is your load vector.
In other words, when using free weights the point of maximal loading on your biceps (during a biceps curl) is when your elbow reaches 90 degrees of flexion or when your forearm is parallel to the floor.
When doing biceps curls using a cable column, the cable itself is the load vector and the point of maximal loading to your biceps here is when your forearm makes a 90-degree angle with the cable.
The nice thing about the cable column is that you can manipulate the force vector to make your biceps work the hardest in ranges of motion (of the biceps curl) that free weights miss.
Here’s a way we use a cable column to create a maximal force angle at the top point in the range of motion. In this video, you’ll see how the 90-degree angle is created much higher in the ROM, which we use to maximally stimulate the biceps at the “peak” of the contraction.
Now, don’t get it twisted as I’m not saying you can isolate any particular portion of your biceps (upper, middle, or lower) when doing curls; you can’t do that with any exercise for any muscle. But, as I’ve demonstrated in the video above, you certainly can manipulate the force angles during exercises to cause the point of maximal loading (on the biceps) to be at different points within the range of motion of a biceps curl.
Fitness Tips 2. Use an Offset Grip
Basic anatomy tells us that our biceps are not only elbow flexors, but they’re also forearm supinators. Based on this, we’ve found the best way to ensure maximal biceps recruitment when doing dumbbell biceps curls is to hit both (resisted) elbow flexion and forearm supination by holding the handle in a unique way.
Here’s a new gripping strategy we use, which I can promise will give you a much better biceps pump!
Instead of gripping the dumbbell from the middle (in the traditional manner), grip toward the thumb side with your hand as far to this side as possible.
Doing this will force you to resist forearm pronation by using more of your biceps as supinators while you perform the biceps dumbbell curl exercise as long as you perform them in the manner we display in this video:
Fitness Tips 3. 60/30 Biceps Blaster
This biceps protocol has been one of our favorites because it only takes 30 seconds to get your biceps swollen and pumped. And, its effectiveness surprises many lifters who when they first see it think it’s “gimmicky” because it’s so different than any biceps training methods they’ve seen before.
We then explain to them A) if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. And, we also teach them that B) there are three ways to increase muscle: Lift heavy (max effort), lift fast (dynamic effort), or lift a lot (repetitive effort) – Our 30/60 Biceps protocol combines both moving fast (to create high intensity) and moving a lot (to create high work volume).
You’re going to need a heavy-duty band for this workout. The one you see in the video below is a 1-inch wide “superband.”
Fitness Tips 4. Towel Pull-Ups
Upper arms get all the glory while the lower portions get completely ignored. Even if your main goal is building an impressive upper body, Breaking Muscle said you won’t be able to maximize your results without devoting some time to training your forearms.
These small muscles support many of the activities that work your triceps and biceps, and help you develop a stronger grip. While nearly every exercise trainer’s recommendation involves some sort of weight, this move will give you the same challenge using nothing more than a towel and a sturdy bar or branch.
The move is simple to perform. Just sling a towel over a bar, and grasp one end in each hand. Pull yourself up until your chin rises just above your hands. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, and repeat as many times as you can. Be warned, this is an extremely challenging move.
If you find yourself unable to complete the pull-ups, Men’s Fitness suggested hanging in the beginning position as long as possible. It’ll still be quite a challenge for your forearms.
Fitness Tips 5. Towel Curls
Ripped biceps definitely look great in a t-shirt, but appearance isn’t the only reason to strengthen this ever-popular muscle group. The Arizona Republic said they provide functional movement for your shoulders, forearms, and elbows, making them critical for everyday activities. Hammer curls and bicep curls are the gold standards when it comes to strengthening biceps because they’re extremely effective. Using resistance bands at home can be some help, but a lot of those tubes don’t offer enough resistance to provide a proper challenge for biceps.
For an unexpectedly effective way to work your arms, Men’s Health recommended this curl variation. You create a sling with a towel to hold one of your feet, allowing you to provide as much or as little resistance as necessary.
Grab a large bath towel and fold it over a few times, and then hold one end in each hand. Stand with your back leaning against a wall, and position your feet about 1 foot in front of you. Keeping your right knee slightly bent, bend your left knee, and position your left foot in the center of the towel.
Keeping your upper arms still, curl the edges of the towel toward you, using your foot to resist the movement. Pause briefly at the top of the move, then return to the starting position. Repeat sets as you would using dumbbells, switching legs halfway through