Biceps are relatively small as muscles go, but they’re important. “Any time you pull, grab, hug, grapple, carry or lift something, your biceps are working,” says BJ Gaddour, author of Your Body Is Your Barbell. Find out how your “guns” compare to the average guy’s below. If you don’t measure up or if you just want to grow bigger, keep reading for the best ways to work one of your favourite muscles.
THE AVERAGE GUY’S GUNS
Let your arm hang by your side. Grab a tape measure and have a friend or trainer record the circumference of your bicep. Don’t flex.
(Source: The Centers for Disease Control in the US)
GO BEYOND AVERAGE
“In order to make your biceps grow to their max potential, you'll need the right combination of exercise volume, intensity and time under tension,” says Gaddour. If you want to hit your biceps from every angle, add these four techniques from Gaddour to your workout routine. Are you ready for sleeve-busting muscle?
Close-Grip Negative Chin-up
Stand on a box or bench beneath a chin-up bar. Grab the bar with your palms facing you and your hands only 5-10cm apart. Jump up, pulling your chest to the bar. Hold the top position for 2 seconds, then take 3-5 seconds to lower yourself until your feet touch the box. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 3-5 reps. Take 2 minutes rest between sets. Increase the difficulty over time by adding a weight vest, chains or a dip belt.
Follow your negative chin-ups with two isometric versions. First, hold the top position of the chin-up—when your chest is close to the bar and your arms are flexed—for as long as you can. Rest for 2 minutes, then hang from the bar with your arms at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for as long as you can.
Dumbbell Curl and Eccentric Curl
Select a weight you can typically curl for 10-15 reps. Stand, letting the weights hang next to your side. Turn your arms so that your palms face forward. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, and slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
When you can’t do anymore reps of the classic curl, start curls where you focus on the lowering portion of the move only. Thrust your hips forward to power the weights back up to your chest. Lower the weight, but take at least 5 seconds to do so. Complete as many reps as you can, trying to match the same number of classic curls. Rest for 2 minutes and repeat.
The Biceps Finisher
Stop at the middle position of a curl with your arms bent at 90-degree angles. Hold this for 30 seconds, then immediately perform as many full-range curls as you can.
When you can’t do any more, let the weights hang at your sides and walk for as long as you can. Keep your core braced and your shoulders pulled down and away from your ears the entire time.