The bicep is a simple muscle which only performs one function: to flex the arm, bringing the forearm closer to the body via elbow flexion. The biceps are made up of the lateral and medial head but in this article I am going to include two other muscles which work synergistically with them to perform the flexion movement. These are the radial brachialis which is situated on the forearm and the brachialis which sits inbetween the biceps and the triceps.
1. Dumbbell hammer curl
I have put these first as they target muscles that few even know exist: the brachialis and radial brachialis. This exercise is similar to a bicep curl the only difference being that your hand is facing inwards rather than supinated (palm facing upwards) when performing the movement.
Now this exercise can be performed with your arms facing straight ahead of your body or having a slight inversion of the arm which would allow the dumbbell to come across the body. In my view first position would be best as it allows greater range of motion and nothing to impede the weight going up and down.
2. Barbell bicep curl
Barbell bicep curls without doubt have to be one of the most effective movements for developing the biceps allowing you to use the maximum weight possible on the bar.
Using a variety of grips, you can target the inner biceps by having a wider grip on the bar or you can target the outer biceps. A shoulder width grip will target an equal balance of both medial and lateral bicep heads and this is the grip often adopted by those performing this exercise.
3. Standing cable curls
Cables are an awesome tool to use to keep constant tension on the muscle throughout the rep or movement.
Using a straight bar or a rope to perform a hammer movement, these exercises are great finishers to any arm workout as drop sets can be performed simply enough and you can do rest pauses and isometric holds too.
4. Lying cable curls
Lying on your back on a bench with a straight bar and performing a bicep curl on the eccentric phase stretches your bicep further by keeping tension on the biceps at all times. The lying cable curl for me has to be the best kept secret for developing the biceps.
Without the aid of using your body to perform the exercise the lying cable curl is definitely a unique exercise and once you do it for the first time you most definitely won’t be disappointed and will always include it in your arm workout. Alternatively, a rope can be used instead of the straight bar if you wish to target the brachialis.
5. Seated dumbbell curls (with an angle greater than 90 degrees on the bench)
The angle of the bench on this exercise will increase the range of motion and the stretch which is placed upon the biceps. For me the negative part of the repetition is more important than the concentric (or positive) phase of the movement as greater stimulus is generated. A small percentage of lifters don’t bother placing the emphasis on the negative and thereby miss out on much potential growth.
Perform this exercise with your back firmly on the back pad and allow maximum stretch on the bicep and make sure to squeeze at the top of every repetition also. This method can also be performed with a hammer style grip to target the brachialis using the same concepts of increasing the stretch of the brachial muscles.
I believe these 5 exercises should definitely be included in your arsenal of bicep training as they target and hit the biceps from different angles. Allowing a greater stretch and contraction in combination with a variation of grip configurations are also a bonus to help elevate your bicep growth and achieve those top gun peaks you deserve!