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Arnold's biceps are considered by many to be the
best in history. He built them with a combination of heavy cheating and strict form from all angles

             Perhaps the biceps is the muscle most classically synonymous with manly strength and muscularity. We tend to instinctively show our biceps when boasting of or comparing strength or muscularity.


            Though one of the smallest muscles in the body, the biceps has an aesthetic quality and appeal unmatched by any other muscle.


It also enhanced by two other important muscles for arm strength and size- the brachialis and brachioradialis. The brachialis sits under the biceps. Its development adds to the thickness of the arm and raises the biceps- accentuating its development. The brachioradialis bridges the forearm and biceps and is needed to make both appear complete. Both of these muscles can be targeted or deemphasized depending on the angle at which the biceps are trained.


Exercises performed either with a supinated grip or supinating movement emphasize the inner biceps and deemphasize the brachialis and brachioradialis.


Exercises performed with a natural, or EZ curl grip work both the inner and outer biceps, but predominantly involve the outer biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis.


Exercises performed with a hammer grip primarily focus on the brachialis, brachioradialis and outer biceps.



                              Barbell Cheat Curls


            This is the king of biceps mass builders. To place the emphasis on the biceps as a whole, a straight bar should be used. If an EZ curl bar is used most of the focus will be on the outer biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis.


            Arnold Schwarzenegger used straight bar cheat curls to build his monstrous, well-shaped biceps. Today, Manfred Hoebrl uses the same straight bar cheat curls as the primary mass builder for his jaw-dropping 26 inch guns.


            Bear the above fact in mind when anybody counsels you against doing cheat curls. Remember that the greatest biceps in history have been built on a foundation of cheat curls. It is vital, however, that you perform strict negatives, as the purpose for cheating is to allow you to do more and heavier negatives to build more mass.


            You should also consult your physician prior to performing cheat curls. You should not attempt to perform this exercise if you have an injured lower back, or a lower back which is overly prone to injury. You should also be sure to thoroughly stretch and warm your lower back and legs prior to performing cheat curls, thus reducing your risk of injury.


            Grip the straight bar at about shoulder width, so that your hands maintain alignment with the center of your biceps throughout the course of the movement.


            Bend your knees slightly and bend at the waist. Sharply explode the weight up by thrusting with your legs and forcefully arching your back. Use just enough momentum to move the weight to the top of its arc- on your heaviest set that should require everything you have- on your lightest set you should be able to get your first few reps with strict or almost strict form. Lower the weight slowly in a strict negative, keeping your back as straight as possible for the duration of the concentric contraction.


            You should do five sets, beginning with a weight that requires you to cheat for all you’re worth for 3 reps on the first set and pyramiding down to where you can do 12-15 reps on the final set. Do not worry about doing any strict positive reps here. You will get plenty of opportunity to do strict reps on subsequent sets, but this exercise is all about forcing the heaviest possible negative reps to force your biceps to grow.


            This exercise really works. When I first started doing these 18 months ago my arms were 17 inches cold and I could barely do 125 for one cheat rep. Now my arms are 21.5” cold (23 pumped) and I can do cheat reps with 225, and can do strict curls for reps with 175.



                                                            Hammer Curls


            These are almost as important for building mass as barbell cheat curls. They should be alternated with barbell cheat curls as your opening movement. Hammer Curls are also an indispensable part of the routine which has built Manfred Hoeberl’s 26+ inch biceps. (Manfred performs them with dumbbells well in excess of 150 pounds)


            The primary target of the hammer curl is the brachialis. This adds mass and thickness to the arm and raises the biceps, making them appear larger and higher as well.


            On your heaviest sets you should cheat the dumbbells up by swaying your body, but lower them slowly and strictly to get a good, productive negative. On your lighter sets your form should be stricter, with your negatives slowed even further.


            Hold each contraction at the top to really feel it in your brachialis, brachioradialis and outer biceps.






Dumbbell Corkscrew Curls


            This is perhaps the best exercise for primarily targeting the biceps and deemphasizing the brachialis and brachioradialis. The supinating movement of the wrist really homes in on the biceps proper like no other movement.


            Arnold used to increase the intensity of this supination by making dumbbells heavier on one side than the other. He would then perform his curls with the heavy side of the dumbbells on the inside of his hand as counterleverage against the supination. The results have spoken for themselves, as you can see here.


            You may provide a similar, if not as complete, effect by keeping the thumb side of your hand against the edge of the dumbbell. If your hands are sufficiently small this will also help to provide counterleverage against your supination and maximize the targeting of your biceps proper.


            Begin with the dumbbells in a hammer or pronated grip. As you raise your arms, supinate your wrists at the same time you are curling the weight upward. As you lower the weight your wrists should be pronated again.


            On your heaviest sets you should cheat the dumbbells up by swaying your body, but lower them slowly and strictly to get a good, productive negative. On your lighter sets your form should be stricter, with your negatives slowed even further.


            Hold each contraction at the top to really feel it in your biceps.


            Upon failure immediately do 3-5 more reps of hammer curls to increase and extend the intensity of the set. Upon failure with hammer curls immediately repeat the process with dumbbells 5 pounds lighter, doing 3-5 more reps corkscrew and 3-5 more reps hammer curls. Continue to descend in 5 pound increments until you are so exhausted that your final sub-set with 10-15 pound dumbbells is difficult no matter how fresh you are (I do curls for reps with 90 pound dumbbells but at the end of “running the rack” 15 pound dumbbells kick my ass)


            A variation of this movement can be performed on the crossover machine. Placing the handles level with your shoulders, you can start with your arms straight out at your sides in a cruciform position. Keep your thumbs turned down and your hands turned forward to maximize the stretch on your biceps.


            Bring your hands up toward your shoulders, supinating the wrists, as though striking a double biceps pose. By occasionally including this variation of the corkscrew curl into your routine you can maximize the stretch on your biceps while incorporating that stretch into a corkscrew movement to provide optimal mass-building conditions for your biceps in one exercise.




                                                            Preacher or Scott Curls  


            Mr. Olympia Larry Scott is credited with inventing this movement. It is truly a classic mass builder, particularly for the lower biceps. It also, when performed with an EZ curl or natural grip, builds the biceps as a whole with a slightly greater emphasis on the outer biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis. It can be performed with a barbell, dumbbell or a preacher curl machine. If performed with a dumbbell the motion can be corkscrewed to maximize the stretch and targeting of the biceps proper.


            If performed with a machine the intensity can be maximized by cheating the weight up with a rowing motion to force additional reps upon failure. The intensity of the set may also be maximized by doing alternate one-handed negative reps on your lighter sets.




                                                            Concentration Curls


            These curls hit the biceps as a whole with primary focus on the outer biceps and biceps peak. Arnold claims that concentration curls were the exercise which built the classic peak in his biceps you see below.




            Holding the dumbbell in your hand, lean slightly forward until your elbow rests comfortably on your inner thigh. Slowly bring the weight up, concentrating on the peak of your biceps, squeezing the muscle and holding the contraction at the top of the movement before lowering the weight in a slow, controlled negative.


            You may extend and increase the intensity of each set by forcing additional reps with your opposite hand, simply push on the stalled weight just enough to barely get it moving again, focusing on feeling the biceps muscle squeeze as you move through the range of this exercise.




                                                Reverse Grip Pulldowns


            This exercise works the biceps while providing indirect training for the back. It is, therefore, critical in a training regimen wherein each body part is only hit once a week.


            You may select one particular grip to work a part of the biceps you feel needs more work, or vary your g rips as you progress through your reverse pyramid to insure a good, holistic workout.


            Remember- A narrower grip will give more emphasis to the outer biceps and serratus anterior. A wider grip will focus on the inner biceps and outer lats a little more. A medium, shoulder width grip, will evenly distribute the emphasis to both heads of the biceps.