You’re Training Biceps Wrong (Backed by Science)

3 best exercises for each head of the biceps.

It turns out, you’re training biceps wrong. But we’re not the ones saying that, but Ryan Humiston. His YouTube channel has become one of the fastest-growing fitness channels out there with more than 1.8 million subscribers and more than 190 million video views.

Previously, Ryan shared the absolute best bicep workout and we recreated it here. This time, he is using an EMG machine today to test different bicep exercises. He emphasizes the importance of understanding why certain exercises matter and why individuals should care about them.

What he did, ultimately, was test many different exercises with the EMG machine. Various styles, positions, and traditional movements. Prepare to have your mind blow – his words, not ours.

You’re Training Biceps Wrong (Backed by Science)

Ryan shares his personal experience with a crossbody Hammer curl, noting its ineffectiveness for the brachialis. He highlights the discrepancies between common knowledge and his findings using the EMG machine.

Ryan discusses various exercises that may not be as effective as believed, such as the incline dumbbell curl, and challenges preconceived notions about muscle activation. He introduces the EMG machine as a valuable tool for measuring neuromuscular excitation, despite acknowledging its imperfections. Exercise variability is important and you need a diverse training approach to get good results.

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Source: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

He delves into the science behind muscle activation, using the EMG machine to demonstrate how different exercises impact excitability and activation in various muscle fibres. Ryan provides examples, such as supinated bicep curls and concentration curls, to illustrate the importance of active tension and the role of passive tension in certain exercises.

Ryan challenges arguments about the effectiveness of incline curls and stresses the importance of active tension over passive tension. He introduces exercises that, based on his testing, are more effective for targeting specific muscle groups, such as the long head of the biceps.

The best one for the long head of the biceps would be a standing cable curl after you exaggerate the external rotation.

What about the rest of the bicep muscles? Previously, he believed that it was all in the wrist: supinated grip hits the short head, long head is neutral grip, and pronated grip would hit the brachialis. “But it turns out is more complicated than that.”

Huminston explains that you need to take into consideration the internal and external rotation of your shoulder as well as the position of your body in relation to gravity.

Either way, if you want to hit your brachialis, the best exercise would be a concentration curl using a pronated grip.

To finish it off, the best exercise for the short head according to his findings is the dumbbell curl using a bench as a support. You also need to make sure the elbow is slightly in front of your body and put the shoulder in external rotation. Oh, yeah, the grip is supinated.

For a full explanation from Ryan himself, filled with that acid humour he is famous for, simply watch the video below.

Building substantial bicep size can vary in ease from person to person. While some may experience relatively swift gains, others might find it takes more time or necessitates specific training approaches. It’s crucial to recognize that the expansion of muscle size is a gradual journey, with noticeable changes possibly appearing after several weeks or even months.

A comprehensive strength training regimen, addressing all major muscle groups, coupled with a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet, is instrumental in fostering overall muscle growth and development.

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preacher curl Build bigger and stronger arms.Source: Teach Me Anatomy

The biceps are a complex muscle group, and several muscles work together to contribute to their growth. The primary muscles involved in bicep exercises include:

  1. Biceps Brachii: This is the primary muscle targeted during bicep exercises. It consists of two heads: the long head and the short head.
  2. Brachialis: Situated underneath the biceps brachii, the brachialis plays a crucial role in elbow flexion and contributes to the overall size and thickness of the arm.
  3. Brachioradialis: While not part of the biceps brachii, the brachioradialis is a forearm muscle that assists in elbow flexion and is often engaged during bicep exercises.

Working these muscles collectively through a variety of exercises helps to promote overall bicep development. Common bicep exercises include curls, hammer curls, concentration curls, and chin-ups, which target different parts of the biceps and associated muscles.

Why The Best Bicep Exercise is NOT Curls

The mind-muscle connection is a concept that involves focusing your attention and mental awareness on the specific muscles you are working during an exercise. It’s about intentionally engaging and contracting the targeted muscles with each repetition, rather than simply moving the weight from point A to point B. This heightened awareness can enhance the effectiveness of your workouts and contribute to muscle growth.

Here’s how you can use the mind-muscle connection to grow your biceps:

  1. Focus on Form and Control: Pay close attention to your form during bicep exercises. Slow down the movements and focus on controlling both the lifting and lowering phases of each repetition. Avoid using momentum or swinging the weights.
  2. Visualize the Muscle Working: Before starting an exercise, visualize the bicep muscles contracting and extending. This mental imagery can help establish a strong neural connection between your brain and the muscles you’re targeting.
  3. Conscious Contraction: Actively contract your biceps at the top of each repetition. Squeeze your biceps as hard as you can for a moment before slowly lowering the weight. This conscious contraction helps maximize muscle engagement.
  4. Isolate the Biceps: During compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups, focus on isolating the biceps. For example, in a barbell curl, consciously contract and engage the biceps without letting the shoulders or back take over.
  5. Use Lighter Weights if Necessary: While heavy weights are essential for muscle growth, it’s crucial not to sacrifice form and control. If you find that you’re unable to maintain the mind-muscle connection with heavy weights, consider using lighter weights until you can establish a strong connection.
  6. Incorporate Different Bicep Exercises: Variation in exercises can help you better connect with different parts of the biceps. Include a mix of curls, hammer curls, concentration curls, and other bicep exercises in your routine.
  7. Practice Mindful Training: Be present and focused during your workouts. Minimize distractions and concentrate on the sensations in your muscles as you perform each exercise.

By incorporating these principles into your bicep workouts, you can optimize muscle engagement and create a more effective stimulus for growth. The mind-muscle connection is about making each repetition intentional and purposeful, leading to improved muscle activation and overall development.

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