Could your biceps use more definition? Have you stopped seeing changes despite working your biceps regularly? To get your “guns” more defined, you need to hypertrophy the biceps muscles more and focus on good nutrition to shed the excess fat. If you’re not seeing growth, you may have reached a plateau in your biceps training. Here are some exercises and approaches to try if you biceps need a shake-up.
This variation on the standard biceps curl works all three muscles in the front of your upper arm, the two heads of the biceps and the brachialis. Plus, it’s a dynamic movement that works your biceps in a way they aren’t accustomed to.
To do this variation on curls, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing the front. Curl the weight up toward your shoulders without changing the position of your wrists or moving your upper arm. At the top, rotate the dumbbells so that your palms point in the opposite direction, away from you. Now, slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position and repeat. With each rep, your palms will be in a supinated position (pointing up) when you raise the weight and pronated (pointing down) as you lower it.
Static Dumbbell Curls
If you’ve been doing curls for a while and aren’t getting the results you’re looking for, shock your biceps with regular sets of static bicep curls. This is a form of isometric training that holds the muscle under tension at a particular point during a curl. When you stimulate the muscle differently, you spur new growth, so this move can be a plateau breaker.
To do to this curl variation, hold a dumbbell in each hand as you normally would for curls. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, curl one arm as you normally would, but stop at the midpoint and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Then, lower the weight back to the starting position. Switch arms and repeat. Repeat three to five times for each arm. If you discover you can hold the dumbbell at the midpoint for longer than 30 seconds, increase the resistance.
The best way to add static dumbbell curls to your workout is to do a set at the end of your biceps routine. You wouldn’t want this to be the only exercise you do for your biceps because static holds have limitations but it’s a way to shake up your biceps routine when you’re frustrated by a slowdown in growth.
Use an EZ Bar
An EZ bar is a barbell with a slightly wavy shape. The advantage of using one is that it keeps your wrist in a more neutral position. Therefore, using one can make doing curls more comfortable. But using an EZ bar may also help you jumpstart biceps growth. For one, it’s a variation your muscles probably aren’t used to. Secondly, you hit both heads of the biceps hard when you use an EZ bar. You might discover that the added comfort enables you to complete more repetitions. On the downside, the structure of the bar reduces the range-of-motion slightly.
This is definitely a variation you need if you’re trying to boost strength and hypertrophy the biceps. When the American Council on Exercise tested a variety of curls variations, the concentration curl came out on top. Of the variations they tested, the concentration curl activated the biceps most, based on EMG readings.
Why is the concentration curl so effective? They isolate the biceps muscles more than other variations, and it’s harder to use momentum with concentration curls. You get less shoulder involvement with concentration curls relative to other types of curls. You might call them the “king” of biceps exercises. So, you definitely want to include them in your biceps routine.
Here’s how to do a concentration curl. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and your legs spread apart. The dumbbell should be in easy reach in front of your body. Pick up the dumbbell and place you’re your elbow and back of your arm against your inner thigh on the same side. The palm of your hand should be pointing away from your thigh. Hold your elbow stationary as you curl the dumbbell up toward your shoulder. Stop when the dumbbell almost touches your shoulder. Slowly bring the dumbbell back to the starting position in a controlled manner. Do 8 to 10 repetitions and switch to the other side and repeat.
It’s not a biceps curl, but push-ups can be an effective biceps burner if you change your hand position. The standard way of doing push-ups doesn’t target your biceps to a significant degree. The key to hitting your biceps harder is to move your hands closer together. Plus, you’ll still get the other benefits of push-ups, a compound exercise that works more than one muscle group at a time.
To do a narrow push-up, get into a push-up position as you typically would. Normally, your hands will be shoulder-width part. For this variation, move them together until only a few inches separate them. Slowly lower your body in a controlled manner. Complete enough reps to fatigue the muscles. Then, repeat for two more sets. You can also do narrow push-ups by placing your hands on a medicine ball. This adds a balance challenge, too.
Increase Time Under Tension
Keeping the biceps under tension longer may also wake up slumbering biceps muscles. When you keep a muscle under tension longer, it builds up more metabolites, like lactate, that may stimulate the anabolic response and muscle protein synthesis more than lifting at a rapid tempo. One study found that increasing time under tension led to a delayed increase in muscle protein synthesis (24 to 30 hours afterward). This tactic is best for boosting muscle hypertrophy as opposed to building muscle strength since you’re forced to use lighter weights when you slow the tempo.
How can you increase the time under tension? Slow down the tempo so that you’re holding the biceps muscle under tension longer. Focus on keeping tension on the muscle throughout the entire repetition. At the top, pause for a few seconds and squeeze the biceps. Slowly lower the dumbbells at the same slow, controlled speed. You automatically take the momentum out of the movement when you slow the speed down too.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, this article has sparked some new approaches to working your biceps. As always, focus on form rather than only on increasing the weight. Momentum is a biceps growth destroyer. Also, vary the types of curls you do to avoid repetitively working the biceps in the same way.
· American Council on Exercise. “ACE Study Reveals Best Biceps Exercises”
· J Physiol. 2012 Jan 15; 590(Pt 2): 351–362.
· OnFitness. May/June 2019.
Related Articles By Cathe: