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Cook your biceps!

A lot of my guys have arm issues and I am sure it is the same for a lot of trainers. Biceps work is fun to do and, contrary to what a lot of modern day trainers still believe, direct bicep work is necessary. It used to be that people would let their clients' heavy back work take care of their biceps as well, but I have only found that to be a failure in all of my clients, maybe because of the first major point I make in this article(see below). For us drug free, health focused trainers, it is important to have as much information as possible at our disposal so we can get whatever edge we can. So, without further ado: let's cook the biceps!

The area of the body that you think of as the biceps, the front of the upper arm, has three main functions. The issue is that the primary function of the biceps might not be what you think it is. Upon researching for this article, I learned that there is a considerable amount of disagreement on the subject of whether or not the biceps primarily flex the elbow or supinate the wrist(turn it upward). The reason I looked for information in the first place is because my orthopedic surgeon who reattached my own biceps informed me that supination is the primary function of the biceps, not elbox flexion, which suprised me. One thing is for sure, most people are doing a considerable amount of heavy flexing at the elbow(curling) while doing very little supinating in comparison, so maybe primary and secondary functions are not that important to define right now. It could be that lack of proper equipment for heavy supination has just funneled people into the curl, but let's see if we can fix that.

Supination at the wrist and elbow. Unfortunately, most gyms don't have a cool Nautalis supination machine which means you have to use a less effective piece of equipment. The most obvious choice is a dumbbell. Although it is not ideal as gravity takes over too much of the movement.


A better option is a "body bar." The length of the bar creates resistance that the dumbell cannot create. I only managed 8 reps with this weight, and it was the lightest bar we had!

This is heavy! Keep your body stationary 
while you are doing it.

Let's move on.

Shoulder flexion. Function of the long head of the biceps, pec major and anterior(front) head of the delt. Your biceps will be screaming at the end of this one. Do it with a straight arm. Don't be a baby.

Cable and DB on incline bench.



I prefer sets of 15 for both of these and I prefer a low amount of sets: 1 or 2 sets of 15 where you fail around 15.

Last, let's move on to one you already know: a curl or flexion at the elbow. This is the primary function of the brachialis and brachioradialis, and a possible primary or secondary function of the biceps brachii(what you know of as the "biceps"). Just off the top of my head, this could be one of the reasons that so many gym goers have tennis elbow(pain on the top of the forearm): they are quite simply over working the elbow flexors thinking they are primarily working the biceps. I know my own tennis elbow feels dramatically better after doing specific supination work.

*By Anatomography - en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp,

Some people look at that anatomy picture and think: "well those are the biceps-that's what I want to work." No, my friend, those are the "lumps" under the biceps, called the brachialis, seen so clearly in this famous shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can also see that those are clearly elbow flexors based on their positioning.

Here are a couple different variations of the traditional biceps curl that primarily work the brachialis, or the underlying muscle of the lower portion of the upper arm, the brachioradialis(muscle in the forearm) and biceps brachii(what you're trying to get at).

Although this article might not have cleared up any confusion, one thing is clear: supination at the wrist and flexion at the shoulder are heavily ignored biceps movements and even when they are trained, they are an after thought. Try prioritizing them and see what happens.

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