If you’re a regular gym-goer, chances are you’ve witnessed and tried many bicep workouts from concentration curls (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favourite) to Ez-bar curls. But is there a definitive key to unlock bigger muscles? As with any proven gym-routine, the answer is yes.
Picture this, you’re at the gym doing the basic standing bicep curl. As you lift the dumbbell into the concentric phase, your biceps curl into the ‘cannonball’ position, then slowly lowering the dumbbell, your bicep resists the weight whilst extending – this is the eccentric phase.
In short, eccentric exercises subject the muscle to greater tension, for longer – causing greater micro-trauma which in turn stimulates more muscle growth. The bottom line to mastering eccentric workouts is to forego the rookie mistake of rapidly lifting and lowering the weight in a bid to achieve the highest rep count, and instead focus on the eccentric phase by really extending as slowly as possible.
The problem many men experience when exercising is hitting a plateau – when you fixate on a routine, without taxing the muscles to point of failure (where you cannot do another full rep). To combat this barrier, keep in mind that the reason why your biceps (like any other muscle group) grow, is because you’ve damaged them. So what’s the best way to incorporate effective muscle damage? Shock your muscles into growth.
Arguably the most efficient exercise in yielding maximum bicep growth, a recent study by the American Council on Exercise found that the seated concentration curl yielded 97% bicep activity in contrast to EZ-bar curls (wide grip 75%; narrow grip, 71%), incline curls (70%), and preacher curls (69%). The sole reason why seated concentration curls prove most effective, is because you’re able to completely isolate your bicep muscle group in this exercise. And this is the key to causing the greatest shock to your biceps, yielding more micro trauma without inefficiently working your secondary muscle groups.
- Four sets (each with as many reps until failure – don’t number your reps) of seated concentration curls, focusing on the eccentric phase (lift fast, and lower slowly).
- Remix the concentration curl for added burn by lowering slowly until your forearm is parallel to the floor, then lift fast. Repeat until near failure then complete the full concentration curl.
- To really shock your muscles and get the best pump, lift heavier than you would normally, but it’s OK if you notice you do less reps, the key here is that you’ve shocked your biceps with a heavier weight causing micro-trauma.
- Rest. Allow adequate resting between sets of around a minute, and don’t give into the urge to skip resting periods as this would cause premature burnout.
- Whilst we now know concentration curls yield up to 97% bicep activity, to prevent plateauing, incorporate cable curls (81% bicep yield) and the good old fashioned chin-up (80% bicep yield).
Ultimately, the next time you work on your biceps, gentlemen, be sure to focus on seated concentration curls with eccentric movement, shocking your biceps with half-curls and heavier weights. Never forget to implement other bicep workouts (EZ-bar curls, incline curls and chin ups) to ensure you’re not experiencing a plateau on the gym floor.