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185 Two Hands Press, 160 Two Hands Snatch,
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This is another bodypart article from the series Jowett wrote for the Weider's Your Physique publication, coming out of Montreal at that time.
From This Issue, Vol 3, No. 5.
Pat Sorto, circa 1940.
The average person on the street still holds that a mighty arm is a true criterion of the bodily strength of a man. Of course, we know this is not wholly correct.
The arms are only one unit of our physical structure, but the interesting demonstrations to which they can be adapted, more so than any other part of the body, is what makes a mighty arm a fascinating subject.
The urge to display the biceps is a boyish vanity which we carry with us through maturity. Praise the strength of a man, and the first thing he displays is the upper arm, and why not! A well developed pair of biceps is a grand sight, and when capable of demonstrating greater strength than the average, a thrill is provided that never fails to set up an envious admiration among the less fortunate. Personally I get as much of a thrill today out of a powerful well developed arm as I did in my novitiate days of body-building. It fascinates me as well as others, especially those who are eager to build up the arm.
In a general way, most people consider the upper arm, known as the biceps muscles, as the only important muscular part of the arm. While this is not so, yet the biceps represent the most important function of the entire arm. Nevertheless, we as bodybuilders consider the biceps as one separate unit. There are the triceps, and all the forearm muscles, but in order to secure the best development for the entire arm, we must take each part by itself as a separate body, analyze and train it, so that the fullest development is obtained.
On this occasion we shall dwell entirely upon the biceps. No consideration will be given to the triceps, which form on the back of the upper arm. They will be treated in another special article so that you can get a more thorough understanding of each subject, with a more complete form of training.
The biceps muscles are usually described as being the easiest muscles in the body to develop. I do not altogether agree with this belief, as I know only too well that a great deal has to do with the individual. Nevertheless, the biceps are the muscles easiest stimulated under normal conditions. The results in shape and size are more readily noticeable. Of course, some people find progress very slow, others seem to leap ahead, while others never seem to get anywhere.
Those who leap ahead are usually favored by nature more than by their actual efforts. The majority just plug through, daily progressing in size, shape and strength, according to their application of exercise.
Many, in fact most of those who make slow progress or never get anywhere have only themselves to blame. They usually are in too big of a hurry. Some have unique ideas. Their bodyweight may be low, and general physical development below par, yet they want a 16 inch pair of biceps muscles within a few weeks. They train hard, and wonder what is wrong.
Well, as an example, you never saw a tree with branches out of proportion with the tree trunk. Nature does not work that way. True, some become abnormal, but who with any sense wants to be abnormal (George woulda loved this era we're in, oh yeah.). The ugliest sight I ever saw was a pair of 17 inch biceps on a short man who only weighed 120 pounds.
In building the arms one must consider his bodyweight and general physical condition. Height is an important factor for consideration. Many tall fellows have asked me what was wrong. One look at them was enough. The average tall man is more below par in bodyweight than is the shorter man. On the other hand, the boundaries of his bony structure are longer. He has longer legs, a longer back. The bones of his forearms are longer, as are the bones in the upper arm over which the biceps muscles function. Therefore, the taller man has more territory to cover. This being a fact readily recognized, then let me advise the taller man to pay very little attention to biceps measurements.
There is too much difference between the 16 inch biceps of the short man, and the man of more than average height. The man standing 5-4 will have less muscular structure to his 16 inch biceps than will the man of 5-10 or six feet. With this in mind, the biceps of the taller man in corresponding size with the shorter man should be much stronger therefore, the taller man should never compare his arm measurements with the shorter man. His longer bones, and longer muscles call for a far greater supply of muscular bulk in order to equal the shorter man's measurement.
Then we have the heavy man. He will naturally obtain a larger and stronger pair of biceps than the man of a lower bodyweight. The thicker boned man will also get better results in size and strength. It is the raw boned type, and the tall greyhound type that have the hardest task ahead. The short, small boned man of the whippet type has a better chance than his taller brother of the greyhound type. His frame being not so lanky, will acquire a pleasing balance and shapely development, even though lacking in spectacular measurements. The peculiarity of physical type must always be taken into consideration, not only when considering biceps building, but when building the whole body.
There are other muscular types that need consideration. For instance, there is the person with the coarse structured muscle. We find this condition mostly among those inclined to be fat. Also, many men inclined to appear husky have coarse muscular structure, which is the reason why they are not often as strong as one would imagine they would be according to their size.
Rarely do we ever come across this condition in the small man, or the thin man. They are usually stronger for their size than the average sized man, and the man with the coarse structure. Among the small men and thin type we come across the baseball biceps condition. This is the case where the muscular bulk of the biceps is much shorter between the tendons.
The biceps, when contracted, have a ball-like appearance, and the distance between the muscle and elbow is much longer than usual. This type, the short biceps with the long ligaments, are never as strong as the long biceps with the short tendon. The latter is the ideal type to gain in size and strength. The muscular delineation will not be as clear as the baseball type, but it can be developed to appear into an imposing mound of muscle.
Then there is another type whose biceps structural bulk is so long as if to fill up the entire space of the upper arm when the biceps are flexed. In this case the biceps do not greatly exceed in depth the tissue made up of ligaments, forming between the biceps and the elbow joint. This type are usually the super strong. They are men naturally endowed with an abundance of muscle tissue, and with short thick ligaments. Their muscle fibers are long, and are easily developed into greater size with very powerful strength. At the beginning of their arm building training, the size of their biceps might shrink. This condition also appears noticeable in all types inclined to have coarse muscular structure. In the first place, the fibers are more loosely woven than coarsely constructed. They respond very quickly to the benefits of exercise. As they become adapted, the structures densify. That is, the fibers become more compactly woven together. This is the reason for the apparent shrinkage. It is a shrinkage all right, but a beneficial one, and nothing to be alarmed about as some arm-builders become.
When the tissues have become condensed to their natural compactness, they will begin to grow in size, and all growth will be of the compact, densified nature. Many arm-builders have come to me more perplexed than alarmed. They say their biceps have lost size but the strange thing is they are stronger. Nothing strange about it. Nature, by exercise, just puts the tissues where they belong, and the denser the fibers become, the stronger pull do they collectively have upon the tendons.
We often find that the small man and the greyhound type display biceps that show a division between, when the biceps are contracted, that makes the biceps appear as though they are split into two parts. They are. That is what the term "biceps" means -- two pieces. There are two reasons for this condition. One is that the twin heads that form the biceps are too stringy, and lack sufficient bodyweight to make them appear as one.
Other, and most common condition, is because the individual is thin-skinned, and lacks the amount of subcutaneous tissue found on the more brawny, rugged type. The rawboned type find biceps growth slow. Their muscles are of the flat strap variety, but what they lack in size they make up in strength. They usually have very cordy sinews, thick and strong, firmly fastened onto the seat of insertion.
Charles Vansittart, above, the famous English strong man, renowned the world over for his tremendous feats of arm strength, was of the latter type. Like all this type who acquire complete arm development, his arms were a spectacular sight. The muscles looked like pythons writhing under the skin. They had shape, size, power in abundance.
To my mind, Stanislaus Zbyszko, above, represents the coarse muscled type. He had huge size, but his relative muscular strength was low. On three different occasions I saw three men, much below 200 pounds each, defeat him so easily it was pitiable.
The same goes for Gustav Fristensky, above. He was a huge man and presented a beautiful physical appearance, but in performance he was a sad disappointment.
Muscular size should balance with strength as nearly as possible. Some have greater strength in comparison to their biceps size than do others. They are the long biceps type with very short powerful pulling tendons. Men who fall into this classification are Rigoulot, Steinborn, Swoboda, Apollo, Saxon, Marx and many others.
Sandow was of the thin-skinned type with the ball-shaped biceps. He was not nearly as strong as any of the other men mentioned herein, but had a beautiful appearance, and overcame the fault of baseball biceps from exercise that tended to lengthen the tissue, and shorten the tendons.
Exercise will easily correct the coarse tissue type and the stringy type. Those who have very short biceps muscles can overcome this from massage and exercise that will lengthen the tissue and shorten the tendons.
Many biceps builders are at fault by building the biceps in one direction only. They seek to shorten the biceps all they can in order to show off a large ball-shaped mound of muscle and boost the tape measurement. They usually are fiends are chinning the bar or curling weights. They specialize on these two feats with the result that not only do they build over-contracted biceps, but the biceps are all out of proportion with the triceps. They find it difficult and painful to keep the arm straight, and extreme biceps contraction, such as curling a barbell behind the neck, gives them biceps cramps.
Build the biceps to the limit, but in the process, the biceps should be made as long as possible, and the ligaments very strong. Such represent a powerful, fully developed pair of biceps.
Let us consider the construction of the biceps, and their accessory muscles so we can get a better idea how to build them. Contrary to general belief, the biceps are not connected with the bone of the upper arm. They originate from a cavity of the scapula (the shoulder blade) by two tendons which unite with the fleshy belly which we know as the biceps. This muscle is in two sections, one being slightly shorter than the other, which is the reason why the two sections of the biceps are often referred to as the long head and the short head. The other end of the biceps is gathered together and unites in one thick tendon, but immediately divides into two tendons -- with the thicker of the two fastening upon the radius bone of the forearm. The other tendon, which is ribbon-like, expands over the forearm flexors to blend with the forearm fascia. Thus the biceps are attached from the shoulder blade to the forearm, with the muscle itself acting freely above the humerus bone of the upper arm.
There are two other muscles associated with the biceps, but are considerably smaller in comparison, nevertheless, they both come under consideration. One of the Coraco Brachialis, which arises from the shoulder blade to lay alongside the the inner arm where it is inserted into about the middle of the humerus bone. If you hold your arm straight out, level with the shoulder, you will notice the muscles running from under the armpit along the arm in a slight raise providing your arm is not fat. This muscle is an adductor. That is, it draws the arm toward the side of the body. In the Crucifix exercise, where you hold a dumbbell or kettle bell at straight arms length, in a line level with the shoulder, then bring the arm straight forward until the arm is held straight out in front, the Coraco Brachialis becomes greatly influenced. In order to truly stimulate this muscle, and develop it along with the biceps, you should practice the position as explained above, but instead of carrying the arm straight in front from the level line with the shoulder, bend the arm at the elbow, and curl the bell to the shoulder as the arm comes front.
The other muscle is the Brachialis Anticus. It lies flat on top of the bone of the upper arm and folds over on the sides. It originates from about half way on the humerus bone, covering the fold of the inside elbow joint to become attached onto the ulna bone of the forearm. It is a broad muscular band, entirely covered by the bones except for the sides, and is a direct flexor of the forearm on the upper arm. When it contracts it pulls the forearm toward the shoulder.
The biceps rae the most powerful flexors of the forearm, therefore, all exercises that cause the forearm to be bent on the upper arm stimulate biceps action. Because of the biceps connection with the shoulder blade, there are certain shoulder movements that also help. This connection is what permits such freedom of arm movement. You must always remember that the biceps, apart from being the chief flexor of the forearm, assist in raising the arm at the shoulder. Also, which few realize, it is a powerful supinator as well as flexor of the forearm.
If you have absorbed the explanation so far, you will realize why it is such an influential factor with the forearm -- because of the biceps connection on the radius bone and its other tendon expanding over the forearm flexors, and because of the attachment of the Brachialis Anticus, onto the ulna bone of the forearm (the mate to the radius). Here are three insertions from the upper arm onto the bones of the forearm, which aid in bending and turning the forearm. If you flex your biceps, holding the palm of the hand toward the shoulder as you bend the forearm toward the upper arm, you will notice how the biceps ball. But if you turn the palm of the hand inward while holding the forearm in this position with the uppe arm you will notice that the ball-like mound disappears and spreads out, filling the space from the shoulder to the forearm. This proves supination connection.
To further prove that the biceps function in the elongated condition caused by supination of the forearm, try this: When the hand is turned in, with the forearm at right angles with the upper arm. just push against the hand with the other hand. Push hard, and you will feel the biceps resist the pressure as much as do the supinators of the forearm. I explain these connections to you so you will fully understand that biceps exercise does not consist of merely a couple of movements, such as just curling a dumbbell or barbell in only one manner, or chinning the bar; there is much more to it than that. Curling exercises, from various positions, as illustrated below, not only influence the biceps from every direction, but also stimulate development of the other two muscles.
For example, the average person curls a weight, and when it has been curled two-thirds of the way he usually relaxes tension on the biceps and the bell just flops the remaining distance. This should not be; the exerciser should resist all the way, but because of the shoulder blade connection, this fault commonly occurs nd robs the biceps of part of its developing stimuli.
Another exercise: Raise the bell about one-third way to the shoulder and from this position curl the bell a little more than half way to the shoulder, repetition after repetition without pause. In this exercise (which to some may seem the same as the full curl, but is not, as the exercise illustration shows below) you will feel a continuous resistance from the biceps. There will be no flop as in the manner mentioned for the full curl. The reason for this is because you are in the position directly exercising the Brachialis Anticus, which has a rigid connection on the bone of the upper arm. As long as you are bending the forearm in the short arc described, back and forth, this muscle constantly operates without any possibility of losing tension. As this muscle develops it lifts up against the biceps. Any size build into this muscle, because of its situation under the biceps, naturally increases the circumference of the upper arm.
Some of these exercises will be new to my readers, and the fact that they all seem to be "curls" may cause a little confusion, but every curl is different in its action on the muscles of the upper arm, as I have just shown in connection with the Brachialis Anticus.
As another example, you will see illustrated below a barbell curl that finishes at the back of the neck. You may ask, how is this any different from a regular curl? Plenty! I have explained how the biceps are connected between shoulder blade and forearm, and thereby assist in raising the shoulder. This connection shows that the biceps have two tendinous ends, and the muscles thereby must contract in the center of its bulk. This being the case, the greater contraction caused to the biceps by reason of both ends resisting, the greater and more complete contraction is given to the biceps. This exercise under discussion causes this to happen, and the closer the elbows are kept together, and the higher they are held at completion of the curl to behind the neck, the more vigorous and complete will the action be. Moreover, by bringing the elbows closer together during the exercise you bring into play the Coraco Brachialis.
By following the routine of exercises given herein, all of the muscles forming the front of the upper arm are brought into play. Practice them all carefully. Do not use too much weight per exercise. Use good judgement. As I have always said, you cannot perform an exercise correctly when wrestling with too much weight.
If you practice this full routine, then start out practicing each exercise six times (reps), adding one repetition every third session until 18 counts (reps) are made per exercise, then at 2.5 to 5 pounds on your dumbbells, and from 5 to 10 pounds on the barbell. You will know which exercises permit the heaviest increase in weight. After you have increased the weight of your bells, start over with the original six counts, and work up as before.
If you are only going to perform two or three of these exercises along with your other routine then you can practice each exercise with more repetitions from the beginning; say 12, and work up to 24. Nevertheless, I would suggest if you are only practicing two or three of these exercises in your regular routine, that you switch the exercises from time to time, so that you practice all of them in the end. This will give better results, and building the biceps from all angles.
In conclusion, let me urge you not to become obsessed in the building of extreme biceps size. Pay no attention to the Zbyszkos, with their 22 inch biceps, or the Apollons with the 20 inch biceps or the others with their 18 inch upper arms. Remember that these men possessed, even when fully trained down, a great bodyweight. The important thing for you to do is study your own particular physique and physical condition, including height, body weight and type. Let this be your guide and you will be more assured of success. Remember that muscles abnormally built out of proportion to bodyweight and physical balance are not strong muscles. Their abnormality makes of them useless muscles. The other muscles are too weak in comparison to coordinate. In such a case harm is easily done.
Get size by all means, but in proportion. With size, build shape and strength. This combination represents perfection in biceps development.
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