Didn’t you love when you first started training how everything seemed to change within a matter of weeks?
The muscle gains you saw were obvious and it made you want it more. Every time you hit a biceps pose it looked bigger, rounder, and more defined. Flex Friday became a weekly holiday for you.
However as you progressed and added more experience, the improvements weren’t showing as much as they did. Your body would begin to hit what is known as a plateau.
Those arms aren’t growing anymore and your strength stalls. For those of you that are new to the iron game, take note of this because if it hasn’t happened yet, it will and you should be prepared accordingly.
What you need to do when you hit that wall is make a change or even several changes. You have to train those biceps with some advanced hacks and techniques so you can breathe some new life into your program and start seeing changes again.
Here are seven ways you can do just that and there is even a workout at the end that can help you make the most out of these tricks.
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1. Change Your Bar Grip
Whether it’s the EZ-Curl bar or a traditional barbell, you can actually do more than hold it at shoulder-with. If you take your grip wider by a couple inches, you’ll hit more of the inner portion of the biceps. Conversely, if you bring your grip in a couple inches closer, you can blast the outer portion of the biceps.
If you really want to set the muscles on fire, do both in superset fashion. Do a set of each to determine which is harder for you. Start with that grip and do your desired number of reps. Immediately change the grip to the opposite and perform the same number of reps. If your form is proper, your biceps will be pumped and burning by the end.
2. Change Your Dumbbell Grip on Hammer Curls
You might be wondering how you can change your grip on a dumbbell curl because there is only one handle. Believe it or not, how you place your hand on the handle can place more emphasis on one part or the other of the bicep. That hand position changes how you feel the weight so the muscles have to adjust accordingly.
If you place your hand so it’s closer to the top of the handle next to the higher end of the dumbbell, you’ll feel more of a direct biceps contraction - which for bigger biceps is what you want. If you want to hit more of the forearms and lower portion of the biceps next to the elbow, place your hand next to the lower end of the dumbbell.
3. Use the Preacher Bench Sitting Sideways
You likely know how to sit on a preacher bench when doing this exercise so let’s get right into the adjustment you should make. Sit sideways on the seat of the preacher bench and place the arm you want to work on the bench. While you continue to keep your body sideways, start performing curls.
This is effective because it helps isolate the biceps even more than the traditional version. Your shoulder has to stay back and you’re less likely to generate momentum by swinging your body. This will work on either dumbbell preacher curls or on a single arm preacher curl machine exercise.
4. Do Cable Curls Lying Down
If you’re doing cable curls, it’s likely either as a warm-up exercise or as a finisher. Either way, you want them to do the work on their own. That means you should find a way to isolate them.
If you lie on the floor, then your body is restricted by the floor and it will be harder to generate momentum. You can do these two ways. One way is you can lie on your back and perform the exercise in a traditional cable curl fashion.
You can also lie on your stomach with your arms out in front of you with the upper arms braced on the floor. That turns this into a move similar to a preacher curl. You would curl the weight up towards your head until you feel that solid contraction before lowering the weight slowly. Keep your head down with so you don’t strain your neck.
5. Do Reps with Odd Numbers
This is one you can do with any muscle group but since the biceps are a smaller area, you will be more likely to feel the difference. There is this perception that unless you are doing a rep scheme with a 5 in it that the reps have to be even. 12, 10, 8, 6, etc.
Add one more rep to each set you do with that weight so instead it would be 13, 11, 9, or 7. That is only one more rep per set but by the end of the workout that would be quite a bit of volume that the biceps had to deal with. Those small pieces could help you get stronger and bigger once they add up.
6. Go with Bigger Grips
You’ve likely seen these accessories that you can place on a bar or dumbbell that make it more round and thicker. Yes it makes the weight harder to hold so you’re not as strong and you will feel it more in the forearms but if you train with correct form, the biceps will feel this difference.
You will feel this the most when you’re performing the negatives of each rep. You don’t realize how much the forearms are involved in arm training until they are fatigued and the training muscle has to pick up the load. Do one exercise with these grips entirely or do one set of each exercise with the grips. Either way will prove to be effective.
7. Finish with Blood Flow Restriction
This has been popular over the last few years and for good reason. It works. You use a couple bands and tie them above the biceps. It should feel tight but not so tight you lose feeling in the arms. Perform whatever exercise you want with them and don’t take them off until you finish.
When you wear these bands, you’re restricting the veins from working as much while allowing the arteries to flow. That blood will pool into the working muscle and stay there. Imagine filling a water balloon as much as possible without it popping on you.
The pump and the burn will both be intense but that is what you want. In order to see improvements, the biceps can’t be comfortable. They have to be pushed past that point of comfort so they can be forced to grow and get stronger once they receive nutrients to do so.
Sample Advanced Biceps Workout
|A1. Close Grip Barbell Curls||3||9|
|A2. Wide Grip Barbell Curls||3||9|
|Dumbbell Hammer Curls||3**||11|
|Preacher Machine Curl***||2||11, 9|
|Lying Cable Curl****||2||15|
|Seated Dumbbell Curl*****||2||21|
*Rest 60 seconds between sets.
**1 with traditional grip, 1 with hand high on dumbbell, 1 with hand low on dumbbell.
***Sit on the preacher bench sideways.
****Use thick grip accessories on last set.
*****Use Blood Flow Restriction.