Techniques & Tricks
If you want to ensure that you’re really squeezing every little ounce of benefit from each exercise then these little bad boys will definitely be right up your street.
Cock the Wrist
Where you are using a supinated (palms up) grip, cock the wrist. The tendency when performing supinated curls is to flex the wrist when the movement becomes difficult; this is an unconscious effort to cheat by using the wrist flexors. We want to isolate the tension, at least as much as possible, on the elbow flexors to ensure that we activate as many motor units as possible.
Get a Full Stretch
Charles Poliquin is a big proponent of this one. Don’t skimp on the range at the bottom of the movement; be sure to get a full stretch in the elbow flexors. Actively contract your triceps at the bottom to fully extend the elbow. The activation of the triceps causes a relaxation (reciprocal inhibition) in the elbow flexors that facilitates a greater stretch. Some people avoid getting working towards a full stretch because it means you have to briefly lose tension on the muscle, but you needn’t worry, putting the flexors under a pre-stretch actually increases motor unit recruitment in the subsequent contraction.
Constant Tension Curls
If you’re using dumbbells then this is a great way to maximise total time-under-tension – key to the overall training effect. Traditionally, when you perform alternate curls, you will have one arm ‘resting’ at the bottom of the movement while the other is curling. Who’s to say we can’t reverse this? Instead of letting one arm rest at the bottom of the movement, let it ‘rest’ at the top. This keeps tension on the non-working arm and makes the movement harder. Christian Thibaudeau to thank for this.
Try not re-racking or setting the weight down between sets. ‘Rest’ by keeping hold of the weight and letting it hang in the bottom position; don’t let it sit against on your body though, this defeats the object! Keeping the weight in this position minimises the removal of waste products from the muscle by keeping blood pooled in the arms. This should work to maximise the metabolic stress incurred by subsequent sets, a key factor for muscle growth.
Underestimate the mind-muscle connection at your peril. It’s important that you are able to focus the on the movement that you are trying to produce rather than simply going through the motions. Concentrate on generating tension during the entirety of each repetition. This is something you can practice on outside the gym too, no weight necessary.
And there we have it. You should now have a pretty good understanding of how to go about bicep training in the right manner. If you can put this together with a good understanding of how to train for strength and/or hypertrophy then, my friend, the world is your oyster (n.b. I’ve never really got this phrase either).