For most guys biceps can be very stubborn muscles that no matter how hard you seem to exercise them – they just don’t seem to grow as much as they should. It becomes even worse when all the common workout techniques fail to break the plateau and you seem to get stuck hopelessly.
So what do you actually do when your biceps refuse to grow anymore, no matter how heavy and how often you lift? Here are 10 techniques you can use to increase your chances of breaking the plateau.
Bicep curls like most exercises consist of the positive part (lifting the barbell up) and the negative part (lowering it down). Focusing more on the negative part of the curl will increase the time under tension the muscles get, and it will break them down more. So adjust your tempo so the negative part takes at least 3 seconds, while the positive contraction movement is explosive and takes about 1 second.
Yes, I’m actually serious about cheating the bicep curls to get more weight in. You see, your muscles are stronger during the eccentric movement and they can handle heavier weights in the negative part of the exercise than they can in the positive. So you can use a weight about 20% heavier than you’d be able to do in the perfect form, and lean in just a little bit in the starting position to gain some momentum to get that weight up. Then lower it down in a slow and controlled movement. This will overload your muscles even more in the negative movement and give your muscles that much needed extra stimulus.
Your wrist angle during the bicep curls is more important than you think. Most guys tend to curl their wrists in at the top of the exercise, unfortunately that releases tension from the biceps and even puts your wrists at a disadvantage. That’s the number one reason you lose bicep peek training. The wrists are most comfortable at a slight extension of about 15 to 20 degrees. So keep them in this position throughout the entire exercise and you’ll not only be able to lift heavier but increase muscle tension too.
One and a Half Reps
One and a half rep technique works well to increase the performance in any exercise, bicep curl included. By doing that extra half rep at the end of a curl, you’re increasing muscle time under tension and that will stimulate growth. So curl the bar just halfway after you complete a rep for much higher intensity.
The Importance of Shoulders
This may come as a surprise to you but biceps and shoulder muscles are related in that both of these groups flex the shoulder joint. The fact that the long head of the biceps crosses the shoulder joint means you need some shoulder movement to fully activate all the muscle fibers. Adding chin ups to your workout routine will do that. Also you can modify the bicep curl by lifting the barbell just a little towards the ceiling at the top. This will activate the muscle fibers that you’ve probably not been activating in your bicep workouts before.
The bicep is only fully contracted when you flex your arm at the elbow and when you pronate your hand at the top (so that the palm is facing you). More importantly, the pronation itself puts biceps under tension. More often than not guys forget about the position of their hands during curls. What that does is that the biceps lack tension and other muscles of the arm (such as forearms) get tired quicker than the muscles you actually target get enough time under load.
To fix hand pronation, take a dumbbell and hold it primarily with your index finger and the thumb right at the top of the grip bar while holding it loose with the other fingers. This will force your arm to pronate as you lift the dumbbell up and put the biceps under more tension.
Go for the Afterburn
Going for the muscle afterburn is a high rep high intensity workout technique that increases the blood flow and brings more oxygen to the muscles, as well as improves your metabolic rate and promotes muscle growth hormone activation. It can be used on any muscle group by performing exercises with low weights in high reps and very high tempo. Adding a few sets for the afterburn at the end of your bicep workouts can be the much needed extra stimulus for your muscle growth.
Varying Rep Schemes
Keeping the same rep scheme in all of your workouts is not an effective technique for muscle growth. First of all, your muscles adjust to the same load over time, and more importantly, you do not recruit all muscle fibers with a single rep range. You need both, heavier low reps, and lighter high reps to fully work the muscles. So add some variety there.
Don’t Train Your Back and Biceps on Subsequent Days
You can train your back and biceps at the same time, but don’t do it on subsequent days. Because both of these muscle groups work in pulling movements, you can’t train one without indirectly affecting the other. That means your biceps need recovery time after the back workout too. So either train them in the same day or a day later (better yet two).
Shorter Time Between Sets
Increased workout intensity is the number one recipe for muscle growth, so spend less time resting between sets and more time lifting. Rest just enough so you can lift the weight again, 60-90 seconds at most.
Those are our 10 favorite bicep workout techniques you can try to employ to break your plateau. Use some or all of them and you should see an improvement in your results.
One last thing to keep in mind with all these techniques is to give enough rest for your muscles. Don’t train your biceps more than 2 times a week. Remember, the muscles grow only during the recovery and you’re only breaking them during the workouts.