Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Bob Hoffman, Primo Carnera
Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger
Influence of Diet
The saying, "We are what we eat," is admittedly true. If you fail to feed your body and muscles properly, you cannot possibly become healthy and strong.
Protein is naturally our most important concern. All living tissue of the body is built from that food source. Meats, milk, eggs, cheese, beans, and whole gran products are valuable. Minerals and vitamins keep body tissue elastic, are needed for good health to build up resistance to many ills and the organs of our bodies rely on them for functional good health. Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain products are all valuable vitamin and mineral sources. Eat amply of each every day.
Fats, sweets and starchy foods are needed for energy and are also aids in gaining weight. Butter, bacon and vegetable oils, used in moderate quantities will supply the body's need for fat. Fruits, honey, pure maple syrup and unrefined brown sugar will take care of the sweets. Bananas, potatoes and other of the starchy types of fruits and vegetables should be eaten in moderation to round out the daily diet.
Never eat food you do not enjoy. For a meal to do you most good, it should be a tasty treat looked forward to. Keep the meals plain, don't over season. Too much salt, pepper and spices can have a harmful impact on the digestive organs when overdone.
Chew foods well and don't eat in a hurried manner. Foods which are merely gulped down don't give you as much nutritional benefit as those which are chewed well. Eat only when hungry, and then enough to completely satisfy your needs. Even when anxious to gain weight you should not stuff yourself. Only a certain amount of food can be properly utilized by the body needed within a given time, and if more than is needed is taken, it is merely thrown off as waste.
Influence of Rest
If the diet is adequate, bodybuilding can be reduced to a simple formula. Exercise plus rest is the muscle building key.
During exercise, muscle cells are broken down. During rest, they are rebuilt. If the amount of exercise performed is in direct relation to the period of rest, the bodyweight will remain rather consistent. If exercise is taken too frequently and there is never quite enough time and energy for the body to rebuild to a higher level of strength and muscle, weight will be lost and greater definition will be obtained. If the periods of exercise are rather short, and not taken to frequently, and if the body has time to rebuild broken down tissue, and more, then the muscles will grow larger and the bodyweight will go up.
The bodybuilder who fails to gain weight, provided that the diet is correct, undoubtedly is exercising either too often or else too severely and not resting enough . . . or is not working hard enough when he does exercise. The bodybuilder who fails to reduce or to become more defined, if that is his aim and providing his diet is appropriate. is probably exercising too infrequently or not severely enough and resting more than he should.
So use this as your key for either gaining or losing weight. Everyone reacts in a somewhat different manner to exercise and rest, but until you balance these two off and hit the pattern that suits you right you will not make fast and sure bodybuilding gains.
A defeatist attitude spells failure, right from the start. Regardless of whether the going is easy or tough, you must always be confident, sure of success. All of us have our own obstacles to overcome, and by maintaining a reasonably confident approach, a determined and focused attitude, we can succeed in our endeavors more rapidly. If you merely go through the exercise motions and shrug your workouts off, feeling that in the end they won't do you much good, your mental approach will repay you in mediocre returns. If you train with a drive, a positive conviction that you will be a success, then nothing will be able to hold you back for long.
Training According to Type
For workouts to be productive, they should be enjoyed. Only you know what kind of routines you like best. Some men like to perform only a few exercises a workout and to force out the sets and repetitions in these. Others must have variety in their workout routines and prefer more exercises and fewer sets of each. Some individuals like to train at a leisurely pace. Others like to go from one movement to the next almost without pause. Some bodybuilders find they become bored if they train more than twice a week. Others like to do something every day.
It remains up to you to properly identify your temperament and then to adjust your training to agree. Even, if by doing so, you must break certain bodybuilding rules, if you get RESULTS, then such training, for you at least, is right.
No one can properly instruct you here. You can only decide for yourself. And, even you will be able to make the right decisions only after you've had considerable experience. So study your body over time. study the effects of various combinations of workout routines, diet, stress and rest on it, and in time you will notice a distinct pattern which suits you best and you should then base your training along those guidelines.
Signs of Over-Working
A bodybuilder doesn't generally improve in too many directions all at the same time. It is not likely, once he passes beyond the beginner's stages that he will continue to grow stronger, bigger and more muscular as quickly as during the initial period. For a few weeks his power may go up. Then this may stay about the same and he will gain weight. Then he will hit an even keel there and become more muscular. Once again his power will start rising and the cycle will be repeated time and time again. Just as long as you are registering improvement in power, bodyweight, or muscularity, you are probably training right.
However, if for an extended period you make absolutely no gains in any of these three directions, then you can be sure that you are training wrong.
If you are over-working, then you will find your power gradually beginning to decline. Your muscles will remain sore for a longer time after a workout. You will still feel tired when you are due to start your next workout, and you will lack ambition and drive.
You may or may not lose some of your appetite - but the chances are that you will. During the day you will be inclined to be restless and you won't be able to concentrate as you should. In time you will become nervous, irritable,and may find it hard to sleep although you are always tired. If you experience a number of these symptoms, they you can be pretty sure that you are over-trained. Or . . . SURPRISE! You're officially an old fart now and will have to alter, adapt and accommodate to it.
To correct the damage done by over-working, take a layoff from lifting for two weeks to a month. Layoff until you really feel that you want to train again. Then take it easier at first in your workouts. Map out a different type of routine, and don't train quite as hard as you did before. If you follow this plan, you will overcome the effects of over-working.
If you fail to pump up your muscles during the workout and if they aren't just a little sore the next day, then these are two definite signs under-training. If your body tone is rather soft and fleshy, and if you hardly have to take a deep breath during a workout, then you are not working hard enough. If you find that you have more than enough energy for your workouts and responsibilities, play pickup sports, can polka like Boho nightly and date like McCallum's Uncle Harry . . . and if your mental attitude during a workout is that you are merely doing a job that you think should be done, then you are certainly guilty of not training as hard or determinedly as you should, and you can be sure that you are not doing enough.
A satisfying workout should find your muscles pumped up. You should feel relaxed, but nevertheless tired after it is through. You should experience at least a little muscle soreness the following day. Not enough to inconvenience you, but enough to let you know that you've worked the muscles hard.
If you get none of these reactions then gradually intensify your workout program, using more weight, doing either more exercises, more sets, more reps or a combination of the four and you will soon hit a proper balance.
Even in a book length feature of this type, which is longer than the usual article, not every field of exercise can be explored. Since barbells and dumbbells are the most common tools of the barbell trade, I am going to restrict my direct exercise instructions to these. However, the biceps enthusiast must not overlook the benefits of the chinning bar, of cables, pulleys and other equipment of that type. Many fine exercises can be performed with these, and supplementing your barbell and dumbbell exercises from time to time with some of these will further the complete development of the biceps.
Specialization of the Biceps
There are three ways that the biceps can be specialized on:
- biceps exercises can be specialized on and combined with an all around routine.
- they can be specialized on entirely by themselves.
- a split method of training can be followed in which the biceps and the upper body are exercises as one unit three times a week and the rest of the body on alternate days.
Here are the basic rules governing each of these.
If you combine your specialized biceps exercises in an all around routine, do your exercises FIRST when you are freshest and then follow this with the rest of your program.
If you prefer to exercise the biceps all by themselves, then work them two or three times a week on separate days. Then, on alternate days do exercises for all other parts of your body. Do not practice any DIRECT biceps exercises on these alternate days.
If you follow a split training routine, you can exercise your upper body two or three times a week and the lower body two or three times on alternate days. When this is done, practice your biceps exercises FIRST in your upper body routine. Then follow with the balance of your upper body exercises. On alternated days don't exercise your upper body at all and devote your energy solely to the lower body.
The Exercises You Should Use
The following exercises illustrate the major types of biceps exercises which can be performed with barbells and dumbbells. From them, and the varieties which will be explained of each, the bodybuilder will possess a wealth of information concerning biceps development. Accompanying the exercise descriptions I will explain what the major purpose of each exercise is - bulk, definition, or power. Then the bodybuilder will find it easy to select for himself those exercises which will suit his purpose best.
Illustration One: Cheat Barbell Curl
The Cheat Barbell Curl is started with the body bent slightly forward and then the body is whipped back and the weight curled to the shoulders. The barbell is lowered to the starting position and the exercise is repeated.
When performed in sets of 1 to 3 repetitions each, handling maximum weights, this exercise builds tremendous power. When performed in sets of 5 to 8 reps each, the exercise builds bulk. It is not well suited for definition and higher than 5 to 8 repetitions a set is impractical.
However, if the "chest" is removed from the exercise and a strict form is employed, and if mental concentration is added to this strict form, 12 to 15 reps a set is practical and this will promote definition.
While a normal, shoulder width hand position is generally practices, this curl, either in strict or cheating style is performed with both a wide and narrow hand spacing, each with a somewhat different biceps reaction.
Illustration Two: Elbows Raised Barbell Curl
If you have read the text covering the anatomical function of the biceps, you will have discovered that when the elbows are raised up in a curl the biceps can receive a slightly different benefit. Illustration Two shows the position that you are to assume to get extra benefit from your barbell curls. Raising the elbows in this manner, in either the cheat or strict style curl brings about an extra contraction and added developmental benefit. This elbow raising can be followed when on a bulk, definition, or power biceps routine. It will help you attain any of these aims.
Illustration Three: Seated Short Range Curl Variation
Short Range Curl variations have a place in your ligament strengthening and power routines. Illustration Three shows one of these. The barbell is curled from the thighs to the shoulders and the start is made with the elbows slightly bent. It requires explosive power and a real ligament pull to start the weight on the way up.
Besides this seated style, you can perform similar versions, curling the weight off adjustable racks which are raised to about waist height, or else curling it from a high exercise bench which also should be about waist height.
The actual muscular development benefits of this exercise are not too great, but due to the strengthening of the ligaments it makes the entire biceps structure stronger, which will assist you in handling heavier weights in all biceps exercises, thus contributing to their growth in that way.
Direct-action biceps exercises such as shown above, in which a minimum of cheating is possible, tend to thicken the biceps over their entire muscular girth, making them thicker and fuller than before. They are not too successful from an added power standpoint because the amount of weight that can be handled is limited. When a comfortable weight is used and 5 to 8 repetitions pumped out in sets, the biceps flush up and grow. If 12 to 15 repetitions are used in sets, greater definition will be obtained.
Illustration Four shows the Incline Barbell Curl in which the barbell is curled from the thighs to the chest on a standing incline bench. Illustration Five demonstrates the "over the end of bench curl," in which the barbell is curled from arms stretch toward the floor up to the shoulders as shown. In this exercise, if mental concentration is used, a higher biceps results. In exercises Four and Five a wide, normal, and narrow hand spacing can be used, and each with a slightly different result.
The Alternate Dumbbell Curl shown in Illustration Six can be used for power, bulk, and definition. Use moderately heavy weights and swing slightly as you alternately curl the dumbbells. Performing sets of 5 to 8 repetitions will bulk your biceps up. Use maximum poundages in this same cheating style, 1 to 3 repetitions as set, and you'll acquire power. Use a stricter style, with lighter weights, 12 to 15 reps a set, concentrating strongly on muscle action, and you will chisel out definition.
In addition the the alternate style, you can perform this exercise with both dumbbells being curled together. You can also do it standing instead of seated, either alternate or together style.
For rather local biceps action and for bulking the meaty belly section of the biceps, exercises seven, eight and nine can all be used.
Illustration Seven shows the Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl. Do not swing nor cheat much, merely curl smoothly up and down, either both arms together or alternate style. 5 to 8 repetitions will build bulk, 12 to 15, performed rather slowly and with mental concentration will help to give you more definition. This exercise, as well as exercises eight and nine, are not suited for power so rely on them for either more bulk or definition, following the principles which should be applied.
Illustration Eight shows the Arm Over Incline Bench Curl. The arm is fully extended down the bench and then holding the upper arm firm on the bench, curl the weight to the shoulder.
Illustration Nine demonstrates the Lying Floor Dumbbell Curl. Besides curling the dumbbells from the thighs to right angles to the upper arm, you can also extend the arms out to the sides and perform the curl in that position. As mentioned before, none of these exercises are well suite to power. They are best used for bulk or definition and appropriate repetitions should be used.
For a high biceps, the Concentration Curl illustrated above cannot be beaten. The elbow is pressed firm against the inside of the thigh, not permitted to move from its fixed position and the weight is curled to the shoulder. Great mental concentration is employed and the biceps is contracted by mental will as well as by its action against the weight. Similar concentration type exercises can be done standing and bent forward, with the elbows kept in a fixed position with both barbell and dumbbell(s). Concentration exercises do not contribute much to bulk. They are unsuited for power. But, they do add something to the biceps size because of the stronger flexion of the muscle that can result, and the peak in the biceps that is increased. Their main feature is to mold greater muscular separation and for that reason sets of from 12 to 15 repetitions each are advised.
Bouncing exercises, or rebound movements, are among the best for power. Illustration Eleven shows how the bodybuilder sits on a low exercise bench and then rebounds the dumbbell off the ground. In sets of from 3 to 5 repetitions each they really build strength. Even though they are power movements it is still not practical to perform one one repetition with a limit weight, since this would be too severe and could lead to ligament strain.
There are many varieties of rebound exercises with both dumbbells and barbells. You can rebound off an exercise bench, off two high boxes, etc., all with great power results.
More in this 13-part series:
For pumping speed into your biceps, exercises of a swinging sort should be performed. The cheating barbell curl is of course one of these.
Exercise Twelve shows the fast dumbbell curl to shoulder. Start with the weight at arm's stretch and then part swing and part curl it to the shoulders as shown. This, just like the cheat barbell curl is best used for either power or bulk. 5 to 8 repetitions for bulk, 1 to 3 reps a set for power. It is not practical for definition.
Note: Here's a video demo of the Power Curl. You may want to look into giving this little-known, lesser-used exercise in your biceps training. Thank You, Dan!
And now to demonstrate a few exercises in which the most basic function of the biceps is employed and which are so often overlooked. I refer to those exercises which call for supination, as explained in the anatomical discussion in Part One of this article.
In Illustration Thirteen above, you can see the way the dumbbell is curled to right angles to the upper arm, with the palm down. At that position rotate the hand until the palm is facing up and complete the curl. When lowering the weight reverse the procedure. This exercise is best for bulk so perform 5 to 8 repetitions a set.
Our final illustration shows a modification of this same curl, performed while seated on a bench. Start with the arm fully extended and the palm facing in toward the body. Curl to right angles and then twist the palm up. For some added muscle contraction, at the end of the curl raise the elbow high as shown in the inset drawing.
Performed alternately, in cheating style, this exercise is one of the best for bulk. It incorporates practically every requisite of biceps function and develops the muscle fast. Use for bulk, particularly, from 5 to 8 repetitions a set.
How to Use the Exercises
Only you know exactly what your biceps aims are - bulk, power, or definition. So only you will really be able to select your routines. But, naturally I'll help you along!
Read over the exercise descriptions again and learn thoroughly for what purpose each movement can be used best. Pay strict attention to the repetitions advised as most suited for your aim.
If you want bulk more than anything then select 4 exercises you like which are suited to bulk. Start off with 3 sets, 5-8 reps a set, and gradually work up to 5 sets. Make sure you flush up your biceps every workout and the next day they should be a little sore. You can change the exercises you perform from time to time so that eventually you will have done them all in a form of a cycle.
If power is your aim, then select only one or at most two exercises which are suited for power. Follow the procedure indicated in the basic rules previously set down for power training, starting off with a few repetitions and then adding weight until you reach your limit for one repetition. Only in the rebound or bouncing exercises are you to alter this rule. Follow the specific advice that applies these rebound movements and stick to about 3 repetitions a set, adding weight until you can no longer perform the full 3 reps.
If definition is your choice, you can select 6 exercises which have been listed as being good for that purpose. Make sure you include several that I mentioned as being good for biceps height since this will help with definition, of course along with the proper diet, right? Start off with 3 sets, 12-15 reps a set, and gradually work up to 5 sets. Keep grinding them out until you really feel a burning sensation in your biceps.
The Weights You Should Use
Except for power training, the weight you use in any exercise for all of the sets should be indicated by what you can use for the first set. Use a weight in which the maximum number of repetitions can be performed the first set and then stick to that same weight for all following sets of that exercise. If you rest long enough between sets for complete recuperation you won't vary too much from the first to last set in the number of reps you can perform and a leeway of 3 repetitions should be enough. Whenever you find that you can perform more than the highest number of repetitions the first set, add a little weight.
In power training your starting weight is relatively unimportant. Merely warm up with a comfortable weight, then keep repeating the instructions, er, keep adding to this weight as you go along until you hit your limit training single that session.