Biceps Anatomical Training Guide by Thats_Justice
There’s more to biceps than just doing curls. The goal is to apply functional knowledge to your training routine.
There are two heads to the biceps muscle: the short head and the long head. This may come as a surprise to most people, but both heads of the biceps actually start (originate) at the scapula (shoulder blade), and end (insert) on the forearm.
The reason why the origins and insertions of the biceps are important is because it also tells us what the function of the muscle is. Ask a gym rat what the function of the biceps is, and most will say it brings your forearm to your upper arm (elbow flexion).
Although that is correct, there are actually two other functions to the biceps that most people are not aware of:
- Supination of the forearm
- Flexion and abduction of the shoulder (keep in mind that the biceps do not play a major role in these movements)
It is important to understand all functions of the biceps in order to train them in the most efficient manner.
To train a muscle optimally, you have to fully contract it. For your biceps, that means your elbow must be fully flexed AND supinated.
What about hammer curls? Hammer curls are a great way to increase the size of your arms, by primarily targeting the brachialis muscle and brachioradialis. They do work the biceps as well, but not in the most effective manner.
Here are my two favourite bicep exercises:
- Straight barbell curls
- Alternating dumbbell curls
When doing barbell curls with a straight bar, your forearms will be fully supinated the entire time (with an EZ curl bar, your hand placement is angled and not at full supination). These curls also allow you to use more weight than other bicep exercises, which contribute to more muscle growth.
When performing alternating dumbbell curls, try holding the dumbbell at the bottom of the movement with your palm facing your leg, and then supinate as you curl up. Whether you are standing or sitting is up to you.
Do cheat curls work? In short, yes they do. Arnold himself was a very big advocate of cheat curls.
Cheat curls can be very beneficial for two reasons:
- You can use more weight
- You can fully exhaust the muscle at the end of the set
That being said, it’s still very important to control the weight during a cheat curl. This means that most of the stress from the weight should be placed on your biceps. Limit the swinging so it helps complete the curl without losing control of the movement.
But should everyone do them? In my opinion, no. I believe that they are something that should be used by intermediate to advanced lifters. It’s very easy to hurt yourself when you are using a cheating or swinging motion, especially when you are new to weights. Wait until you are more familiar with your body before doing these. Here is a great article on cheat curls
“Long” vs “Short” Biceps
Not everyone can attain the massive peak people think of when they imagine big biceps. The peak is genetic. Some biceps “muscle belly” are longer, and some are shorter. A shorter muscle belly means that the tendon which attaches the bicep to the forearm starts earlier, whereas longer starts later. A shorter bicep is often associated with a larger “peak”.
In this picture, you can see the difference in “short” and “long” biceps. Phil Heath on the left has longer biceps, which can be seen by how close his biceps are to his forearms. Kai Greene on the other hand has shorter biceps, which can be seen through the gap between his forearm and bicep. This also allows Kai to have a greater “peak” to his biceps than Phil.
- Biceps start at the shoulder blade at end at the forearm
- The function of the biceps is to flex the elbow, supinate the forearm, and flex the shoulder
- To train the biceps optimally, you must fully flex the elbow and supinate the forearm at the end of the movement
- Barbell curls and alternating dumbbell curls are great exercises for this
- Cheat curls can be useful when done properly
- The length of your muscle belly determines whether you can develop a big “peak” or not
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