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Functional Bicep Workout

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 4/17/2019

Knowing Biceps Function Can Help You Build Big Arms

It’s an undisputed fact of bodybuilding that biceps are THE show muscle — after all, who doesn’t flex his biceps when someone asks him to make a muscle? The biceps are a small muscle group, though, so you have to be smart about the way you train them, and that includes knowing the way they work.

Here’s a quick look at how the biceps function and how that knowledge can help you build big arms.

Flexing the Elbow

As most lifters know, one of the major functions of the biceps is simply to bend the elbow, helping you move from a straight-arm position to one in which your forearm comes in contact (or nearly so) with your upper arm. This motion is the basis for most biceps training and is easily mimicked with all kinds of curls — barbell curls, dumbbell curls, incline curls, concentration curls, etc.

Elbow flexion will take you a long way toward building the biceps you want, but it’s not the end of the story.

Forearm Rotation (Supination)

If you watch old videos or study old photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger training biceps, you’ll notice that he often performed his dumbbell curls with a twist — literally. He would start with the dumbbells in a neutral position along his thighs, or even with his palms facing backwards, and then would rotate his forearms so that his palms were facing in toward his shoulders by the end of the rep. Read his exercise descriptions, and you’ll see that Arnold actually turned his wrists outward into a hard contraction at the end of each rep.

This wasn’t just some eccentric Arnoldism, though, because the physique legend was training an important, though often neglected, aspect of his biceps — supination. Supination in this case is the outward rotation of your forearms, and it’s the responsibility of your biceps to achieve this motion. By “twisting” your dumbbell curls and attempting to twist even your barbell curls, you will achieve greater biceps contraction and growth stimulation.

Shoulder Action

While most biceps exercises are more or less isolation movements, the truth is that your biceps cross your shoulder joint and attach to the bones in your shoulder/collar bone region. As a consequence, biceps contribute to movements that involve lifting your arms up and forward, and those that involve pulling your arms down and back. The good news about this is that you can use compound exercises like close-grip pulldowns and delt-assisted curls (“cheating curls”) to nail your bis with more resistance than you could by using just curls alone. While these bigger movements can’t replace the direct work of more focused biceps exercises, they’re a great way to increase your overall load.

Biceps may be small, but they’re not entirely simple. By understanding the subtle functions outlined here, you can build a biceps training routine to hit all the angles and help you create your biggest, best arms possible.

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