Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Finally got around to this one.
The bodybuilder without a big, muscular biceps, is like a man without a home. As far as other iron game devotees are concerned, he just doesn't belong.
They may overlook his skinny calves, joke about his pudgy waist, ignore his chicken neck; but - when his forearm is pulled to right angles to his upper arm, they demand to see some bunching up of the biceps muscles for him to be considered one of the gang.
The phenomenon of biceps fascination which found its birth when the first bodybuilder curled a weight and which has continued unabated throughout the years, right up to the present day, is not too hard to understand. From the dawn of recorded history the symbol of masculine strength has always been a brawny upper arm. The biceps, due to its anatomical structure is the center of attraction of the upper arm and those who possess big biceps are continually being looked up to by others as giants of physical strength.
So strong has the influence of the biceps become in the iron game that even though any serious student of weight training has long since learned that the biceps is NOT the only upper arm muscle, and that it is NOT the largest one in potential size, certain bodybuilding writers when listing the measurement of the upper arm of some outstanding model say: - "His BICEPS measured such and such!"
And while we have time and time advised in our magazines, books and courses that to develop a complete physique the bodybuilder must concentrate on overall muscular development and must not specialize continually on one area while neglecting other parts, the appeal of the biceps is so strong, we know our recommendations are often ignored. Based in the thousands of letters we receive from bodybuilders from all part of the world, we know that by common acclaim the biceps is KING and that it will undoubtedly hold that rank for a long, long time to come.
Since the universal interest is there we are glad to meet the popular demand and help you to make sure that your biceps training efforts really pay off. And that is the aim of this instructional text, to help you make your biceps dreams, regardless of how ambitious they may be, all come true.
If you hold your arm hanging straight down at your side and turn the palm of your hand to the front, the flesh that will be evident from the lower extremity of the frontal shoulder muscle and right down to the elbow joint is the biceps. Except for a thin strand of the brachialis muscle which can sometimes be seen beyond the outer edge of the biceps and at the point where this same muscle becomes more prominent very close to the elbow joint, the biceps dominates the upper arm scene.
When you raise your upper arm and tense the biceps in the familiar arm pose, the biceps contributes to the bulk and the form of most of the muscle situated above the humerus, or upper arm bone.
The biceps consists of a meaty belly, or center section, which when tensed rises to a high crest, and then drops down abruptly to rope-like tendon attachments which are affixed at one end to the radius, or one of the forearm bones, at the other end of the scapula or shoulder blade.
Except for these tendon fixtures, the biceps rides free over its entire length, and it is for this reason that it can be so strongly contracted, or ballooned up, so to speak, giving it its baseball form.
A well trained biceps is very elastic, not unlike a rubber band in its ability to stretch and contract. It is also capable of lightning-fast reaction and quite readily adapts itself to mental control. Because of its meaty construction, it flushes up easily when exercised and generally does not inconvenience the bodybuilder who trains correctly by refusing to grow. As its thick tendons would indicate, it is a potentially very powerful muscle, and has proved to be exceptionally enduring as well. One of the busiest members of our muscular family, it uncomplainingly performs efficiently in a million-and-one daily tasks and it quickly shows its appreciation by growing bigger and stronger when exercised correctly in a sound bodybuilding routine.
The MAJOR function of the biceps muscle, while commonly overlooked, is nonetheless supination, or to turn the forearm in, or towards the body. If you hold your upper arm against the side, bend the elbow and draw the forearm to a right angle position to the upper arm, with the palm of the hand down, and then rotate the forearm so that the palm is facing up, the biceps will have done most of the job.
The next most important activity of the biceps is to flex the elbow joint. Characteristic of this is the regular barbell curl. In this capacity the biceps receives staunch support from the brachialis anticus, which really does most of the job, with the biceps practically going along only for the ride. The biceps benefits, nevertheless, due to the pumping action, more than muscular stress, and curls, while anatomically a secondary biceps function, certainly make them grow.
Of last, but far from least interest is the the biceps function. As can be seen in the illustration, it is attached by strong ligaments to the scapula, or shoulder blade. It exerts a pull across that joint which permits the upper arm to be raised length-ways, away from the side of the body.
With its three major functions now understood, it can be readily seen that a mature development of the biceps cannot come about by following a few typical curling exercises. A wider variety of movements must be employed in which there will not only be flexion at the elbow joint, but action at the shoulders and twisting, or rotating exercises as well. Only when such an all around plan is followed will the biceps be completely developed.
Just HOW MUCH of the upper arm surface the biceps covers in the well-balanced upper arm is an anatomical question which remains to be solved. Not only are anatomists still in the dark, but in this particular instance even bodybuilding authorities appear to be in agreement to disagree.
The common theory was that the biceps occupied 2/5ths of the upper arm girth and the triceps was responsible for the balance 3/5ths. That was the old fashioned opinion, before the brachialis anticus entered the upper arm scene. In the old days, when the upper arm was discussed only the biceps and triceps were given thought.
As upper arms grew larger, which they have in recent years, the biceps appears to becoming relatively smaller than originally thought. The brachialis anticus, which was formerly ignored is swallowing up much of what had previously been referred to as biceps size. The triceps has remained proportionally unchanged. Because of the area the brachialis anticus occupies, a re-evaluation of the proportionate size of the biceps must be made.
It is my personal opinion, made entirely by visual inspection of the arms of the many champion bodybuilders I know, and wholly without the benefit of a dissecting knife, that the wall balanced upper arm of today is separated in two very nearly equal parts. The triceps compose one equal half while the combined bulk of the biceps and the brachialis anticus make up the rest. The biceps, more meaty and certainly denser than the brachialis anticus, is the larger of these two muscles, possibly comprising 2/3 of the combined mass. The brachialis anticus nicely fills in the other 1/3 and completes the arm picture size.
Using a rough mathematical breakdown this would then mean that, in my opinion at least, the proportionate size of the upper arm muscles is this: - triceps 50%, biceps 33%, brachialis anticus 17%.
Influence of Bodyweight
With the above rather dry and technical details herewith discharged, let us now engage in more typical bodybuilding talk. Your bodyweight, very definitely, influences your biceps size. If you are thin and underweight you cannot expect to develop unusual biceps. You may acquire a considerable bump, and it might be hard and well formed, but if you are deficient in bodyweight, it will always look stringy and will never assume Herculean size.
Biceps specialization when an underweight condition exists is pretty much a waste of time. If, despite your underweight you possess some loose flesh around the waist and hips, which is not an uncommon condition (skinny fat), then with training you might harden up these soft areas and "restructure" some of this weight to your arms. In this way, theoretically, your biceps might grow to some extent, even without your gaining weight due to the change in makeup from fat to muscle unrecognized by the scale. But it is hardly likely that all of such a "transfer" would form on the biceps - some would be formed on other body parts of course, so at best the increase would be small. And once such a change in body composition was made, you'd have exhausted growth possibilities and no further gains would be yours.
If you want extra size on your biceps, you'll have to admit the truth that extra weight must be added. If you can't get it from a "redistribution" and restructuring of the bodyweight you already possess, then only by gaining weight can you make your biceps grow further.
The underweight bodybuilder will therefore do well if in following specialized biceps exercises, he also practices a bulk gaining routine and incorporates weight gaining principles in both his daily and exercise lives. Then, as he gains weight a fair share will locate on the biceps giving him the larger size he wants.
For the bodybuilder who is conversely too fat, specialization on the biceps while he is still fleshy and soft will bring disappointing results. His arms may harden up to some extent, but they will never assume impressive form as long as he is still overweight.
The overweight bodybuilder must therefore first reduce before he can tackle the biceps specialization job. He should go on a weight reduction program encompassing his exercising, diet and lifestyle.
So, your bodyweight does reflect in your biceps size and form. A wise step is to normalize it first, before you consider specialization.
While the exercises you perform in your biceps routine will to a large extent determine failure or success, the exercises in themselves are not the whole story.
The most scientific arrangements of biceps exercises, followed religiously by you for months, will not assure larger, more muscular biceps unless you adhere to basic principles which are directly suited to you.
By "basic principles" I refer to the arrangement of sets, repetitions, frequency of exercise and even general living habits, which must conform with the general theme of your biceps specialization aims. Your goal may be larger biceps, stronger biceps or ones which are more clearly defined. You can use many of the same exercises for each of these aims, but the same principles for each will not apply.
These basic principles will be explained now.
When training for bulk, whether for the biceps or any bodypart, the proven method with the vast majority of bodybuilders is rather low repetitions, from 5 to 8 a set, concentrating on a comparatively few exercises in the routine, performing each up to 5 sets. The weight used should be heavy. Exercises need not be performed in strict style - in fact, it is better to cheat so that a heavier weight can be handled.
When training for biceps bulk, the best plan is to follow bulk principles not only for the biceps, but in the general overall routine as well. If this is done, you will establish a pattern of growth receptiveness in the entire body, which will of course reflect in the biceps as well as other bodyparts.
When training for bulk it is usually best not to train more than 3 times a week on any given bodypart. This means, if you are going to incorporate your biceps training along with an all-around routine, you must not train more than 3 times a week.
However, you can follow a split method of training if you desire, training the biceps three times a week and then on alternate days exercising the rest of the body. In this way, you will still be training each body area three times a week and remain consistent to the principles of bulk. Or, you can work/play the part you're specializing on three times a week and do the rest of the body twice a week. There are many, many possibilities.
Still another alternative is to train the entire upper body, including the biceps, three times a week and then on alternate days exercise the lower . . . or if it works better for your type and temperament put a rest day between each upper and lower body training day, exercising every second day. Or, upper/lower/rest/repeat. Just which plan you choose remains much up to you and what you have learned from previous training experience. All of them, within reason, work well . . . but it is wise to stick with the plan you select for several months at least, and not jump around from one schedule to another before much is really learned or gained from the experience.
You should try to obtain a lot of rest and sleep. Eat three generous meals daily, and have several light snacks in between, such as a glass of milk and a sandwich.
When training for bulk be lazy as much as possible when not training or performing your required daily work and responsibilities. Do not, under any circumstances, spend any of your energy in outside sports. Retain all of it for workouts and recuperation. Step up your daily intake of liquids. Drink more milk, water and juices. At one meal each day have a bowl of thick soup in addition to the usual meats, vegetables, etc.
When training, make sure that each bodypart is flushed up. Keep on performing set after set of an exercise until your biceps are really swollen. If you use heavy enough weights, cheat in the exercises and do not rest too long between sets; you should never require more than 5 work sets to produce this flushed up condition.
If your biceps are already too bulky and you want to chisel them out, then, besides following definition training for your biceps you should also preform definition movements for your entire body.
For definition, you use lighter weights, stricter form, higher repetitions, concentrate strongly on muscle action, and you can train up to six times a week.
Repetitions should be from 12 to 15, 3-5 sets of each exercise. You maintain a strict exercise style, controlling the weight all the way up and down. Peak contraction movements, such as the concentration curl, are valuable for biceps definition, and in all exercises you mentally tense the muscles, strongly contracting them with mind power.
Unlike training for bulk, in which you aim for a flushed up muscle condition, for definition you aim for a sort of burning, or searing feeling in the muscles. If you watch yourself in the mirror while training, with each repetition you should see mentally see more definition in the muscle. Tense and relax the biceps between sets, trying to make them stand out more clearly.
It is not possible to obtain a peak in definition by training only three times a week. You will have to train five or six for several months. Do not overextend yourself with heavy weights here. Use ones which are comfortable and rely on mental concentration and high repetitions.
Watch your diet carefully. Eat generously of high protein foods and take it easy on all others. You will undoubtedly have to lose a few pounds of bodyweight for maximum definition and that should be your aim.
Be careful with liquids. Drink less milk and fruit juices. Don't go hungry or thirsty of course, but eat and drink only enough to satisfy your needs for this purpose and no more.
During the day when not training, be active. Walk more than usual, do more work around the house or garden, don't sleep more than you need for complete refreshment and maintain an alert, active physical and mental approach at all times.
Power training is similar to bulk training, except that the repetitions are even lower, less exercises are performed in the routine, and the sets are often higher.
When training for biceps power, you should also train the rest of the body in a similar manner for best benefits.
The best method is to select not more than one or two exercises for each major bodypart. The exercises selected should be the ones in which the most weight can be used. For the biceps, this will undoubtedly be the cheat barbell curl.
Warm up with 2 or 3 repetitions with a moderate weight. Then, add 5 to 10 pounds and perform another 2-3 reps. Continue adding weight each set until you finally hit a poundage you can only perform 1 repetition with. When you have hit your limit for that training day, you are finished with that exercise.
A power routine should not contain too many exercises. The cheat barbell curl, bench press, cheat lateral raise on bench, shrugs, cheat bentover rows, and squats make up a good, all-around power routine, when the weights, sets and reps in all exercises are followed as advised for the curl.
The other basic principles as applied to bulk training all apply. An ample diet, a lot of rest and no exercise in between. Don't train more than 3 times a week when on a power routine. Twice a week is sometimes better if you are the type that is capable of handling very heavy poundages or one who usually requires extra time to recuperate. A week of thrice a week training followed by a week of twice a week training is also a possibility.
When training for power, don't pay too much attention to muscle reaction. If you muscles flush up, don't flush up, or regardless of what muscular results you get, your one aim should be TO HANDLE HEAVIER AND HEAVIER WEIGHTS. If you can use more in the exercises progressively, regularly, then you are correctly training for POWER.
Enjoy Your Lifting!