Today, it seems everyone’s talking about sculpting their arms. The triceps in the back of the arms, the biceps in the front of the arms, and the deltoids (shoulders) all play a significant role in arm definition. Today’s routine will focus on biceps.
This two part-muscle group is made up of a long and short head. The brachialis muscle plays a significant role in defining and “carving” out bicep definition. Many of my clients seek to define this area of the upper arm but are also afraid of looking “bulky.” I usually advise women to stay light with the weights. Weights of 5-8 lb. should be plenty if you are using dumbbells. Current research has shown that increased protein synthesis (muscle sculpting) occurs when one uses a higher rep range to fatigue, such as 15-25 repetitions, 3-4 sets. Beginners should build up to this; don’t risk injury! The following exercises will emphasize the long and short heads of the biceps, as well as the all-important brachialis muscle. Do these exercises 1-2 times per week. For increased release of anabolic (cell-building), muscle-toning hormones, combine the biceps with a larger muscle group on the same day, such as the back muscles. Both require “pull” movements that enhance results when combined. Back and biceps together would be called a “pull” workout (as opposed to a “push” workout, such as chest and triceps).
Here we go!
This exercise works the long and short heads of the biceps as well as the brachialis. Sit on a bench with the right leg directly in front of your body and the left leg positioned slightly off to one side. Choose a dumbbell that will fatigue you after about 15-25 repetitions. If you are looking for bigger biceps, choose a heavier weight that will cause you to fatigue at 8-12 reps.
Place your right elbow on the inside of your right inner thigh. Place your left hand on the top of the left leg for back support and lean forward a bit so that your elbow is at a slight angle with your shoulder. Exhale as you curl the dumbbell up toward the shoulder using a full range of motion. Inhale as you lower the weight back down. Be sure you do not lock out the elbow on the lengthening (eccentric contraction) part of this exercise.
Repeat for desired number of reps, counting up for two counts and down for two counts. You don’t want to strain your bicep tendon by going too fast or too heavy. After you complete your set, repeat the entire set on the other side. You can do this 3-4 times for an awesome, arm-defining pump that you will see and feel immediately.
This is a great exercise for defining your biceps as well as your brachialis and brachioradialis, located in the forearm. This exercise will also help protect you from injuries such as “tennis elbow.”
Stand with your knees slightly bent, hips tilted forward to the wall or mirror in front of you, and back straight. Your palms should be facing each other; this is known as semi-pronated position. Hold two dumbbells and, with the palms facing your body, curl your forearms up toward your shoulders. Do not change the positioning of your hands. Exhale as you raise the weights for 2 counts, inhale as you lower for 2 counts. Again, be careful not to lock the elbow as you lower.
Complete the desired number of repetitions, pause for about 30 seconds, and repeat. If you wish to raise the weight a bit on your second or third sets, feel free to use the classic “pyramid” technique and drop your number of reps, for instance, from 25 to 15, as you increase the amount of weight. This technique can be applied to any exercise. It is a time-tested way to enhance muscle fatigue.
This final exercise isolates both heads, the biceps brachii muscle and the brachialis. Attach a D-handle to a cable station. Keep the attachment low to the floor. Lift with your legs—not your back—and bring the elbow into the waistline. Keep it fixed to your body throughout the movement.
Curl the D-handle up toward your shoulder as you exhale again using counts of two. As always, do not lock the elbow as you lower the weight. The palm faces up on this movement known as “supination.” This exercise is intense, so stay light with the weight: 5 pounds on the cable machine should be plenty if you are doing 15-25 repetitions. Remember you are using only one arm at a time, so you will fatigue quickly.
Complete your set and change sides; then repeat. You can do this 3-4 times. Remember that your knees should be slightly bent and hips pressed forward throughout the entire set.
Please also note on all exercises that it is important to tighten your abdominals as you curl up with the weight and exhale. This will protect the lower back and will engage your core muscles.
Enjoy your “beautiful biceps” work out!
Trainer Tip by Sandra Ferrerio, certified LiveRite weight loss coach, trainer, and class instructor at Lucille Roberts in Yonkers. Read her full bio here.