Bi-Laws

By Eric Broser

Sometimes I am completely fascinated with how badly the average gym-dweller desires to build big arms! Although I witness these guys training chest, back, shoulders, and legs with formidable intensity and passion, it seems to jump to another level when they are attacking the arms. I often hear more yelling during a set of barbell curls than a set of squats! Strange but true.

In fact, to illustrate my point about just how driven most trainees are to one day flex a pair of 20-inchers, I will relate to you a small poll I recently took in the gym regarding this very subject. I asked a bunch of the more serious bodybuilders in my gym this question: If I were to magically give you six inches of muscle to add anywhere on your body, how would you distribute it?

The majority of those I polled allocated most of the magic inches I provided them with to their arms. A few of them mentioned their chest, but the overwhelming response was arms! A couple of guys even went so far as to reply, I’d take the entire six inches and slap 3 on each bicep! And of course one joker told me hed put 1and inches on each arm and the other three somewhere else I will not mention. Of course I had to break the news that the body part he was referring to was not actually a muscle, and that even if it were, three inches would still not be enough to make him bigger than my 10-year-old nephew. But once again, I digress.

The really interesting thing about my little poll was that most of the guys didnt even say I that they would add the inches to their arms, but more specifically, to their biceps. This of course prompted me to explain to them that the mass of the triceps actually contributes to overall arm size more than the biceps do, but they still held firm that they wanted bigger, freakier, higher, thicker biceps!!

Now, I am sure if I were to poll a group of competitive bodybuilders, who must be more concerned with the symmetry and proportion of their physique, the results would have been different. However, since the majority of serious lifters out there have no desire to step on stage, I guess I can entertain their desire for simply building massive, freaky biceps at the expense of perfect proportions! And that is exactly what this article is about triggering new growth into those lagging biceps, using methods and techniques that perhaps you have never tried before. So if your biceps are not quite where you want them to be despite your most ferocious efforts in the gym, read on and maybe you will run across a bi-law that will get the job done for you!

Bi-Law # 1: Bend em Back

One of my favorite things to do in between sets in the gym is to observe other peoples form while they train. I actually do this without even realizing it, which I guess is because training clients is all I did for about 13 straight years! Thus, I am always watching to see who is doing it right, and who is doing it wrong. Unfortunately, very few people use excellent form while they train.

When it comes to working the biceps, one of the things I often see is people initiating their curls using forearm flexor power rather the pure biceps power. Of course, by nature of their function, the forearm must be involved in every curling movement, but if you actually turn the beginning of the movement into a wrist curl you are taking away a lot of the stimulation that you are intending for your biceps. I have very often been told by trainees that when they train their biceps, that their forearms get the more intense pump. This is not a good thing if you are looking for bigger guns!

If this sounds like you, then what you should actually be doing during most curling movements is bending the wrist back throughout the set. By doing this you will effectively take the forearm flexors out of the movement, thus forcing the biceps to do almost all of the work. Yes, this will feel a little odd at first and chances are your curling poundage will be lessoned somewhat, but trust me when I tell you that you will actually be hitting your biceps harder than ever before. Try using this method for at least one exercise during each biceps workout (I suggest a barbell movement) and I bet you will see improved results.

Bi-Law # 2: Keep Your Chin Up

No, I am not here to give you a pat on the back and tell you that having puny biceps is perfectly ok (although it really is if you like sharing your girlfriends shirts!!). When I mention your chin I am not talking about the one on your face, but the kind you should be doing in the gym if you want to literally pummel those biceps into growth! Close grip, underhand chins are one of the most effective biceps exercises you can do, but yet, so few trainees ever use them. Yes, they also work the back musculature, but within the construct of a biceps program, you will almost entirely feel them in your screaming biceps! I recommend using CG chins in one of two ways. Either perform them as the last exercise in your biceps routine, so that the bis are already pre-exhausted. Or, use them as the second exercise in a biceps superset (preacher curls followed by CG chins are an amazing combo!).

When doing CG chins you must make sure you are using proper form to get the most out of them. I recommend a grip spaced no wider than 6 inches apart. Begin the movement at a dead hang, with your arms completely straight. At the peak of the concentric portion of the rep, your chin should rise just above the bar (no half-reps please) as you squeeze your bis hard. Try to lower yourself very slowly, taking up to 4-6 seconds to get to the bottom position.

When you get to the point that you can get 10-12 repetitions with your bodyweight, add some extra resistance with a belt designed to hold plates and/or a dumbbell around your waist. Once you are doing clean reps with 50 extra lbs attached to you, I promise your biceps will have all the mass you could ever want!

Bi Law # 3: Twice is Nice

It is very much in vogue these days to only train each body part once per week, and with good reason it works. However, when looking for some extra growth in a particular muscle, it can be very effective to hit that muscle twice per week for a period of time. This is something that works quite well with the biceps, because they tend to recover from workouts very efficiently.

The keys to making a two-days-per-week biceps prioritization program effective are as follows: 1) Make sure there are at least three days in between workouts, and 2) Do two different types of workouts each week.

Here is a split that you might use when incorporating two biceps workouts per week:

Monday: Chest/Biceps
Tuesday: Quads/Hams
Thursday: Lats/Traps
Friday: Shoulder/Biceps/Triceps

If using this, or a similar workout scheme, I would suggest you make Monday your main biceps day, wherein you would utilize about 1/3 higher volume of sets to train them than on Friday. Also, it can be very effective to use heavier weights and lower reps in one workout, and lighter weights and higher reps in the next. Another way I like to vary the two biceps training days is to use all barbell movements the first day, and all dumbbell movements the next. However, this is something you can experiment with, as long as there are some meaningful variations between the two workouts.

Bi Law # 4: Grow in Slow-Mo

Whenever I watch the average gym-rat training his biceps, I often see more swinging during a single set than in an entire day at a childrens playground! Yes, I know its fun to lift a ton of weight to impress your friends, fellow gym-rats, or the girl with the boobs as big as you want your biceps to be, but all of that cheating is only cheating you! Using momentum, leaning back, and lifting your elbows while you curl is NOT a training technique, but a train-wreck. If you desire to fill out your shirt sleeves a little better, than its time to clean up your form and slow things down.
It has been my observation that most guys do their curls with a tempo of 1/0/1/0. If you are not familiar with this method of expressing lifting speed, this simply means that the eccentric (negative) portion of the lift is completed in one second; there is no pause at the bottom; the concentric (positive) portion of the lift is completed in one second; there is no pause at the top. Thus, at this tempo, each repetition takes approximately two seconds to complete, and since most sets are anywhere from 6-10 reps, this means that time under tension (TUT) will only be between 12 and 20 seconds. This is not optimum for those looking to affect hypertrophy in a muscle. Studies have shown that the optimal TUT for gains in muscle size is between 40-70 seconds per set. Hmmm, think its time to go into slow-mo?

My suggestion to anyone seeking more size on them bis is a repetition tempo of 3/1/21. Using this lifting speed will bring the length of each repetition to seven seconds, which translates to a TUT of 42-70 seconds for sets between 6 and 12 reps. Perfect!

Will this force you to drop your curling poundage considerably? Yes. But will you really care when your biceps are so big you cannot touch your fingers to your shoulder? Didnt think so.

Bi-Law # 5: Go Angling

Drop the fishing pole, get off the boat, and take off the funny looking hat with all those lures attached, because that is not what I mean by angling! Think about your biceps workouts and tell me if you tend to pretty much do the same exercises over and over. Barbell curls, preacher curls, seated dumbbell curls, concentration curls, etc. Now, if you biceps are growing just fine, then it is obvious that they are still thriving with those same exercises. However, if your biceps growth is moving as fast as a turtle carrying Oprah on its back, then angling may be just what you need (bro, I told you, drop the fishing pole!).

What I am referring to when I mention angling is basically changing your lines of pull, body positioning, and/or planes of motion in order to stimulate your biceps in ways they are not used to. Varying angles will change motor recruitment patterns, wake up the central nervous system, and even allow you to preferably recruit either the inner or outer biceps head to a greater degree if you so choose. All good stuff!

Here are some ways to use the concept of angling in your biceps workout:

-Instead of curling off the angled side of a preacher bench, curl off of the vertical side.
-Instead of doing seated dumbbell curls, try incline dumbbell curls. If you already do these, try going for a steeper angle.
-When doing dumbbell curls of any kind try grabbing them either by the inside or outside plates rather than in the middle. This alone will change how it affects the biceps.
-When using a barbell, vary your grip from wide to narrow.
-When using dumbbells try either curling across your body, or turn the palms out and curls away from your body.
-Try sitting at an upper pulley cable station and curling a straight bar back behind your head.
-Try lying down at a seated cable row station and doing curls while flat on your back.

So if your greatest desire is a pair of massive guns hanging from your shoulders then I hope you will give these Bi-Laws a try. They have worked for dozens before you, allowing them to reach the land of biceps bliss, and they can do that for you as well. Do what you’ve always done, and get what you’ve always gotten make a change and those tiny biceps will soon be long forgotten!


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