These tips and tweaks will have your guns growing again in no time.
Zack Zeigler for Muscle & Fitness 1 / 8
Shake Up Your Routine
Even if you’re changing exercises consistently, there's still a chance that your program lacks other important elements that necessary to spur biceps growth.
“Volume, reps, intensity, weights, hand position, and the types of resistance you're using are all areas that require attention,” says Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute Expert Adam Friedman, C.S.C.S., CN. “There are a bunch of ways you can do that, including moving from free weight to machine, or machine to cable.”
So before you pick up another dumbbell, make sure you commit these seven key bicep training methods to memory. The rest is sweat—and some of the best muscle growth you've seen.
By emphasizing the "negative" phase (also known the "eccentric" phase) of each rep, you challenge your biceps to recruit more muscle fibers. “People are typically stronger eccentrically than they are concentrically,” says Friedman. “Without adding that extra resistance [of holding the negative], you’d be recruiting the same amount of muscle fibers as you would with the standard movement.”
Do It: Preacher Curl Negatives
Perform a low-rep set using a full range of motion. Use a heaver weight than you normally would for a standard preacher curl set, and slowly lower the weight until your arms are outstretched. If possible, have a spotter help you return the weight to the start position.
Heaving up heavy weight with herky-jerky form may look impressive to newbies, but those who train hard understand proper form always trumps heavy weight. ”When your form is terrible, your biceps look terrible,” Friedman says. “Instead of creating a nice shape for your arms, you’ll get bulky, blocky biceps because there was no focus on the tension. Try doing five seconds with the concentric phase and five seconds with the eccentric phase. And if that’s not a challenge, try five seconds up and 10 seconds down.”
Do It: 5/2/5 Curls
With any biceps exercise, spend five seconds raising the weight, pause for two seconds, and then lower the weight with control for a five count.
The most common partial-rep biceps movement is 21s. “You’re basically doing seven reps from the bottom [of the movement] to the halfway point, seven more reps from the halfway point the top of the movement, and then seven full-range reps.” Also, don’t get stuck on the number 21. Raise or lower the rep count to meet your fitness level.
Do It: Partial Rep Hammer Curls
Divide the range of motion of the curl into two halves. Perform the desired number of reps for each half of the movement, and then finish by doing the full ROM movement.
A compound set works the same muscle group with two different exercises performed consecutively without rest. (Supersets, on the other hand, combine two movements that work opposite muscle groups.)
“There’s no specific compound set that’s better than another so long as the exercises do things like hit different angles and change resistance,” Friedman says. “Go from machine to free weights or dumbbells to machines—it makes no difference what combination you use.”
Do it: Incline Dumbbell Curl + High-Pulley Cable Curl
Start by doing an entire set of incline dumbbell curls and then immediately perform a set of high-pulley cable curls without resting.
Drop sets are a terrific method to use when you’re pressed for time. Along with injecting intensity into your workout, they also exhaust the muscle quicker than standard sets. Depending on your fitness level, you can do a drop set on your final set, or execute them on every set.
Do It: Barbell Curl Drop Set
Perform a set of barbell curls until you reach failure. Immediately reduce the weight used in the previous set by 20-50 percent and squeeze out more reps.