Bicep Exercises

Why should you train Biceps?

The biceps are key ‘t-shirt muscles’- they play a major role in aesthetics, giving the arms volume and shape. Building them up can be a goal in its own right, and for many will represent the holy grail of weight training. Search for 'Gyms in the UAE' and put your fitness first!

They are comprised of two parts (hence ‘bi’), the long head and short head. All bicep exercises will stimulate both parts, though each will respond in subtly different ways to different movements.

Biceps run from the front of the shoulder down to the elbow. They are responsible for elbow flexion (curling the arm, as in the classic ‘bicep curl’), shoulder flexion (raising the arm up and forwards), and forearm supination (turning the forearm and wrist). 

Because of these roles, there is far more to gain from bicep training than simple aesthetics. As we can see, they are key to several vital types of movement. They play a part in any lifting, pulling or pushing through the torso, and are central to any motion in which the arms and hands are manipulating an object, from everything from a pen to a kettlebell.

Without strong biceps, most other torso movements will suffer, especially those involving the arms, shoulders and upper back. Joints, ligaments and tendons in these areas will also be vulnerable. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass (a process known as sarcopenia- age related atrophy). With this muscle loss, many of the functions performed by our muscles become untenable. We become less able to perform normal movements, much less take part in hard and complex exercise patterns. Working our muscles consistently will halt or even reverse sarcopenia. Working the biceps now will help to maintain healthy upper body performance and utility later in life. Get yourself a personal trainer to help you maintain your fitness levels!

Focus should therefore be placed on biceps in any strength or resistance training program. There are many ways to do this, from direct arm work in the form of curls and so forth, to compound work that brings them in, like rows, to carrying and lifting exercises like Atlas stone work or farmer’s carries.

However, biceps should be a part of a broader training program. It’s all too common to see those interested in aesthetics begin at the gym by simply working the t-shirt muscles in isolation- the biceps, triceps and shoulders.

This is a mistake. Compound movements (those that use multiple joints and muscle groups) build muscle more efficiently. Rows, pull ups and carries should all form the bedrock of your bicep training. In addition, if you work on smaller muscle groups in isolation, without developing your whole body, you will create muscular imbalances. For biceps, these imbalances can affect shoulder, elbow, chest and upper back alignment, leading to postural issues and greater susceptibility to injury.

Biceps are quite small, however, especially relative to larger muscles like the latissimus dorsi and quadriceps. Therefore, you will need some small, lighter weight work that allows you to flex and release under tension, in isolation, for high rep ranges. One of the best ways in which to schedule bicep work is to add in several sets of 12-15 rep bicep work at the end of a larger workout. For instance, perform several sets of rows, pull ups and carries, then finish off with bicep curls. You can train your arms often (3-4 times per week), but always try to rest for a full 24 hours before training them again.

 

Bicep Exercises

Curls

The big one – curls. Whether using a barbell, EZ bar, dumbbells, cables or any other form of resistance, curls are a crucial isolation movement in building large biceps.

Main muscles used:

  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Anterior deltoids

Rows

Again, no matter the type of row being used – cable, barbell, machine, pull ups, and so on – any rowing movement will engage the biceps and use them to a great degree. Bringing objects towards the body is one of their most fundamental tasks.

Main muscles used:

  • Biceps
  • Upper back
  • Core
  • Forearms

Carries

Biceps play a crucial part in our ability to carry anything. In the gym, this means carrying large, heavy objects as a way to build them. Exercises like the farmers carry, sandbag carry, or suitcase carry will use the biceps as they are meant to be used. Though range of motion will be limited in a carry, load will be terrific, hence so too will concentric contractions be.

Main muscles used:

  • Upper back
  • Traps and shoulders
  • Lower back
  • Core
  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Glutes

We all know the biceps curl – it is a go-to exercise for beginners looking to buff up. However, there is far more to the biceps than simply curling out hundreds of reps on the EZ bar.

They are one of the key ‘t-shirt’ muscle groups that help to make the upper arms look big. They are also fantastic for shoulder health and stability, as they aid in securing the rotator cuff. Any movements that row weight towards your body, or your body towards an object, will employ the biceps in conjunction with the upper back. Any carrying movements, either in the gym or in day-to-day life, will rely on strong, healthy biceps. They are crucial for our interaction with the world around us and, as such, need to be looked after.

Ben Mead
Personal Trainer, GymNation Silicon Oasis

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