One of the most typical questions I get as a coach/contest-prep instructor is, “How can I improve my biceps peak?”
We all want to improve certain body parts and muscle groups, but complaining about them won’t make the situation any better. You’ll need a smart strategy that targets the muscle you wish to develop if you want to turn a weakness into a strength. This is especially true for your biceps peak, which takes time and dedication to build.
The fact that some people develop longer, football-shaped biceps, while others develop shorter, mountain-like biceps is mostly a question of genetics. But don’t worry, because there’s a technique to create the illusion of having a bigger biceps peak that EVERYONE can do!
Most of you are undoubtedly familiar with your arm muscles, but it never hurts to reiterate basic anatomy. The biceps brachii, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis are the three most important muscles in the front of your upper arm.
- The brachialis is a small muscle located beneath the biceps that adds thickness to the arm.
- The brachioradialis is located in the forearm and has a bigger impact on the size of the forearm than the upper arm.
- The biceps brachii, which makes up the bulk of the “bump” on our arms that everyone is so proud to show off, is the topic of this post.
- The biceps brachii is a two-joint, two-headed muscle that extends from the shoulder to the elbow and includes a long head and a short head. The term “biceps” refers to having two heads, while “brachii” refers to the upper arm.
- The long head is on the lateral (side) portion of the arm, near to the lateral triceps head. The long head begins on the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, which is deep and inferior to the acromion process.
- The middle of the arm is known as the short head. The portion of your biceps next to your pectorals, obliques, and serratus is known as the short head. The coracoid process of the scapula marks the beginning of the biceps brachii’s short head.
- The two heads become one muscle and insert primarily on the bicipital tuberosity of the radius, with a tendon detaching to attach to the ulna as well.
- The biceps muscles perform the following actions in unison to bend (flex) the elbow, turn (supinate) the palm up, and slightly flex (lift) the shoulder.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LONG HEAD
The major aim of this post is to assist you to target the long head of biceps.
“Who cares about the long head of the biceps?” you might be asking. “I’m not a competitive bodybuilder,” you may say. Whether you’re a pecs & arms vanity lifter or a dedicated functionalist, you should care.
The long head of the biceps is said to contribute to shoulder stability. The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, with muscles providing most of its support.
The long head of the biceps is often injured, and most of the damage occurs at or near its origin. Injury to this muscle might result in less shoulder stability, followed by discomfort or pain during shoulder presses or bench press. Finally, it may put a halt to your capacity to push anything heavy.
The long head of the biceps is responsible for supination. It will be difficult to accomplish supination with any kind of load if this area is injured or worse, severed.
Finally, it’s the long head, which comprises of that well-known biceps peak, that gives the arm such a muscular appearance. If you want your biceps pose to have a jaw-dropping influence on a few people, you’ll need an outstanding long head.
Also, ladies – most females want to develop a clear bump without having a big, “thick” arm, so concentrating on the long head is also the way to go.
If, like me, you weren’t in the front of the genetic queue for big, peaked arms, it’s time to try out these seven peak-building techniques. Try incorporating as many of them as possible into your current routine. Please include any additional thoughts in the comments section at the end of the post.
1. Train Your Biceps Twice A Week
You can do your biceps on two separate days but you don’t want to train them on consecutive days, there’s no reason why you can’t perform them twice during a 5-6 day training period. If you have a longer split, this technique works particularly well.
Because the biceps are a tiny muscle group that recovers more quickly than other large body parts like legs or back, you may train them more frequently in the short term. Every third or fourth day is sufficient, as long as you don’t work them immediately before or after a back-building session.
Consider performing bicep exercises that are rather different from one another instead of repeating the same workout on both days when utilizing this technique. In this situation, you may create a general mass-building session that incorporates movements for both the long and short heads as well as the brachialis, while focusing the other workout simply on the long head with various moves, grips, and rep ranges.
You may also alter how you use advanced methods, employing forced reps in one session and negatives in the next. The idea is to give your biceps a variety of workouts for optimal results.
2. Train Your Biceps Following A Rest Day
What’s the best approach to ensure that your workout is effective? Making sure you’re well-rested, have plenty of fuel in your tank, and are mentally fresh to push yourself is a good way to go. That’s after a day away from the gym—at least one in which you took the day to properly recuperate rather than hitting the clubs all night.
Do your biceps first after a rest day if they’re your primary concern. Because the workout is so short—typically 30 minutes at most—it’s not difficult to maintain high-octane intensity throughout the course of the activity. If you train your biceps with your triceps, you may want to consider hitting them first since they’re your main objective.
Rest also implies taking at least 48 hours between workouts for your arm flexors. Choose a training split that separates your back exercise from your arm workout by two days. Working your biceps on Mondays and back on Tuesdays might not provide enough recuperation time, which can be detrimental to your arm development as a whole. Whatever split you use, remember to include rest days in between workouts and plan your back assault with care.
3. Do Biceps After A Back Workout
If you’re on a shorter training split or trying to complete two biceps exercises each week, it’s sometimes preferable to train them after back. Because both the biceps and the lats are involved in most multijoint back exercises—the latter being a form of deep pull—it’s recommended to do them at the same time. However, you don’t want to work your biceps before your back.
Most folks suppose that since the biceps already get a solid work out in back training, they may as well finish them off. What you don’t want to do is train your biceps the day before or after your back, as this muscle group will be overworked. Even a smaller body part, such as the biceps, needs two days of rest between arm workouts.
4. Choose a Good Mass-Builder and Use Difficult Weights to Increase Strength
There’s no worse way to begin your exercise than by performing the wrong exercises. What is the difference between an acceptable and unacceptable exercise? The amount of weight you can lift. When it comes to larger muscle groups, multi-joint exercises are the clear winner, but with biceps, you’re left only with single-joint activities.
Back to the original question: What type of exercise can you do the most amount of weight with? Let me give you two options for consideration: concentration curl or standing barbell curl. The verdict is clear: standing barbell curl is the superior option—however many guys still begin their arm workouts with light exercises. Its like performing reverse-grip press-downs early in your triceps workout, or doing calf raises first on leg day. Yes, you could use it in a pre-exhaust (in which you deliberately order the exercises with single-joint movements first), but not as part of your basic mass building regimen.
Another advantage of the standing curl is that after you reach muscular failure, you can generate some momentum through your hips. This isn’t to say you should use a crazy amount of weight and start rocking back and forth on your first rep. After you’ve completed 6-8 reps with clean form, using a little momentum might help you get past a sticking point for another rep or two. To get past that sticking point, use just enough momentum. If you have to put your back into it, you’ll get a lower-back strain.
When it comes to pushing yourself, there’s no need not to challenge yourself early in the workout when your energy levels are high. Instead of doing three sets of ten, try a weight that you can only do six or eight reps with.
5. Focus On Emphasizing The Long (Outer) Head
One of the reasons you’re so strong in the standing barbell curl described above is because you use both biceps heads at once. You may place greater emphasis on the long head by rotating your shoulders inward and gripping narrower.
Use a grip that’s an inch or two inside of your shoulder width so you can concentrate on the long head. If you’ve always performed your barbell curls with the same grip, try a couple of closer-grip sets and a few wider-grip sets to better emphasize the short head. While you can’t single out one section of the arms, you may shift the emphasis, as we are doing here.
6. Advanced Techniques Can Help You Boost Your Intensity
Choosing the appropriate exercises and utilizing proper weights is a good start, yet stopping your sets short of muscular failure when it comes to stimulating growth at the cellular level is not advised. In fact, 1-2 sets of each exercise beyond failure is your path to growth. Here are some advanced training methods that are fantastic for biceps:
- Forced reps: A good training partner is truly priceless; even if you don’t have a training partner, try to get a spot on your heaviest set of curls. With a couple of forced reps, your partner gives you just enough assistance to get past the sticking point, allowing you to do a few more reps beyond failure. This is best accomplished on barbell curls. Dumbbells are also an option, but if you alternate sides as you curl, your spotter will have to work back and forth.
- Dropsets: As long as you have the appropriate pair of weights on hand, this exercise is best done with cables or dumbbells. Reduce the weight by 20-30% as soon as you reach muscular failure, and resume your set right away, aiming for a second point of muscular failure.
- Rep-and-a-halves: This approach is quite effective for biceps, but it’s best employed towards the end of your workout so you don’t lose your strength too early in the process. Do a full bicep curl, then release the weight just a few inches and powerfully squeeze the biceps again. Then extend your arm fully. That’s one rep.
7. Aim For Failure At The Finish Line
A terrific way to end your workout with a huge pump is to combine an excellent last exercise and an advanced technique. The one in which you drop the weight suddenly due to muscular soreness in your arms, as if they’re on fire.! Yup, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Your biceps are already quite exhausted after your previous workout, so don’t even consider performing low-rep sets with heavy weights. This is the time to pump your arms, forcing fluids into them to expand.
Here’s a long-head-targeting technique that incorporates elements of rest-pause and dropsets. First of all, attach a bar to the lower cable on a cable stack. To better highlight the long head, use a grip just inside shoulder width and start with a weight you can lift for 10-12 reps. You’ll rest for 20 seconds between sets, so each set will get progressively more difficult.
Reduce the weight by one plate if you can’t do eight repetitions. Keep up the pace, resting for only 20 seconds between sets and doing as many reps as you can before lowering the weight (when you cant do 8 reps for a given weight). Instead of performing a set number of sets, do this for five minutes continuously.
THE BIG BICEPS PUZZLE
What is the best way to exercise the long head of the biceps? In an ideal world, my response would be the straight barbell biceps curl since it requires the palms to be fully supinated throughout the range of motion and employs a high intensity, putting significant stress on the long head.
However, there’s a difference between something being excellent for the muscles and bad for the joints, which is why I think that the barbell biceps curl should be avoided by the vast majority of lifters (even when performed correctly) because it places an enormous amount of stress on the wrists.
The EZ curl bar is a simple remedy, but because the hand is in a somewhat pronated position, there is less muscle building stress on the long head of the biceps.
So, its time to get creative, below are the exercises which are best at stimulating the long head of biceps while putting minimum stress on wrists.
1. Double Dumbbell Preacher Curl
- Sit on a preacher bench with suitable weight dumbbells. Adjusting the bench to a height that supports your upper arms and elbows without requiring you to arch your back is crucial. The mid-lower chest will touch the rear of the preacher bench at this height.
- Keep your feet planted firmly and your core tight. In a palms up grip, your arms are extended on the pad and support the weight of the dumbbells. This is the starting position.
- Begin the movement by curling the dumbbells up from the elbow joint while squeezing your biceps. The elbows should remain stationary on the bench pad as you breathe out during the exercise. Don’t raise your elbows or use momentum to throw the dumbbells up.
- When the dumbbells are near your shoulders and your biceps are at their maximum contraction, squeeze for a second before reversing the motion by extending the arms to the starting position while breathing in.
2. BARBELL PREACHER CURL
- Adjust the preacher bench seat so that your upper arms rest comfortably on the padding when sitting.
- Load the desired weight on the barbell.
- Sit on the preacher seat and grasp the barbell with an underhand (palms facing up) grip.
- Take the weight off the rack and maintain your back straight and eyes forward. With your arms slightly bent, support the weight with your hands. This is the starting position.
- Raise the weight very carefully until your forearms are at a right angle to the floor.
- Squeeze the bicep at the top of the movement, then lower it back to the starting position slowly.
- Repeat for desired reps.
3. SUPINATED DUMBBELL CURL
1. hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, with palms facing in, toward your body and use a neutral grip.
2. Twist your forearm as you curl the weight so that your palm is facing the ceiling at the top of the movement.
3. Lower the weight in the same manner and twist your forearm downward to return your hands to a natural position at the bottom.
Supinated dumbbell curls can be done sitting or standing, and they can be performed by curling both dumbbells at the same time or alternating them. I like to use the standing/alternating method, but feel free to try things out and see what works best for you.
4. SUPINATED CROSS BODY DUMBBELL CURL
The same steps as supinated dumbbell curl with specific focus on keeping the palm up and curl the weight toward your body until it reaches across your chest and clunks against the other front delt. Fight for a decent ROM and don’t stop until you’ve accomplished it. Instead of concentrating on how much weight you’re lifting, concentrate on squeezing the muscle throughout the range of motion.
5. NARROW GRIP, EZ BAR CURLS
- Stand up straight while holding an E-Z Curl Bar using a close supinated grip and hands closer than shoulder-width apart
- Your elbows should be almost fully extended, and the bar should rest against your legs. This will be your starting position.
- While keeping the upper arms still, curl the weights forward while squeezing your biceps as you breathe out. – only the forearms should move.
- Continue to move the bar while contracting your biceps until they are totally contracted and the bar is at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a second and tighten your biceps as hard as possible.
- Inhale as you bring the EZ-curl bar back to starting position
- Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
Pro Tips To Avoid Biceps Mistakes:
- Don’t forget to twist, and twist early! Many lifters like to perform supinating or twisting dumbbell curls because they believe they’re hitting the long head, but they frequently supinate the dumbbell too little or too late, or both! Just because you are doing a hammer curl and then twisting a little at the top does well…nothing. You should be totally twisted halfway through and keep your palms up throughout the eccentric or negative as well.
- Many lifters perform incline curls thinking it to be the best athitting the long head. While the incline curl puts the biceps in an extended position, I’ve discovered that most lifters are unable to fully supinate, and the small amount of stretch doesn’t make up for it.
- Incline curls can put a lot of strain on the shoulder joint, especially if you have prior shoulder issues. As a result, I wouldn’t recommend incline curls as a staple in your quest for a strong long head.
- While many lifters are beginning to understand that biceps curls utilizing a barbell is hazardous to the wrists, one of the most significant issues is that not all EZ curl bars are equal.
- The more camber (bend) in the EZ curl bar, the less emphasis is put on the long head, so choose an EZ curl bar as “straight” as possible.
- The weight of an EZ curl bar varies. In my gym, the EZ curl bars weigh 16.5 lbs. to 29 lbs., with a median of 25 lbs. To ensure accuracy, weigh yours!
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.