Get superbuff biceps: three variations on an arm-toning classic

Get superbuff biceps: three variations on an arm-toning classic – Target Training

Stacy Whitman


Get visible results by doing a variety of biceps exercises using a palms-up grip.


There are two primary muscles on the front of your upper arm: the biceps brachii and the brachialis. The biceps brachii creates a sexy contour. While you can’t completely isolate your biceps from your other elbow flexors, you can place greater emphasis on these muscles by keeping your hands supinated (palms facing up) while you’re working them, explains trainer Charleene O’Connor. All three exercises in this workout hit your biceps from unique positions to effectively challenge the whole muscle. By balancing on one foot for one of the moves and using a stability ball for another, you’ll also strengthen your abs, lower back and glutes — an extra perk.


The biceps brachii and the brachialis are on the front of your upper arm and help flex your elbow and rotate your forearm, so your palms can face up or down. The biceps brachii has two heads — one long and one short — that cross your shoulder joint at different places and attach on your shoulder blade, then insert together on your forearm, just below your elbow joint. The brachialis, the larger of the two muscles and your strongest elbow flexor, lies deep beneath the biceps brachii, crossing your elbow joint.


For this workout, you’ll need a low-cable-pulley machine, an 8-to 10-pound dumbbell, a barbell and a 55-inch stability ball (the back of your upper arm and elbow should be able to rest comfortably on the ball when you’re kneeling). Begin with 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity that involves your arms, such as using a rowing machine, upper-arm ergometer or VersaClimber. Cool down by stretching your biceps, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds without bouncing.


Shape reader model Brooke Hobbs, 24, does 30-45 minutes each of cardio and weight training 3-4 times a week. “Make your workouts something you enjoy,” she says. “That way you won’t find excuses to skip them.”

1. single-leg standing cable biceps curl

Strengthens biceps brachii and brachialis

* Attach a single handle to a low-cable-pulley machine, then face the cable and balance on right foot with left knee slightly bent to keep left foot close to right ankle and off the floor.

* Grasp the handle in your left hand and hold with arm extended, palm up. elbow in close to your body.

* Stand far enough away from the machine so that there is resistance throughout the range of motion.

* Squeeze your shoulders together and contract your abs, bringing navel to spine.

* Maintain this position and keep wrist straight as you use biceps to curl the handle toward your shoulder.

* Slowly straighten arm and repeat for 1 set of reps, then switch arms and legs and repeat.

2. standing barbell biceps curl

Strengthens biceps brachii and brachialis

* Hold a barbell with palms up, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, elbows in line with shoulders, arms straight.

* Separate feet hip-width apart and stand with knees slightly bent, chest up, abs tight; don’t let your shoulders round forward.

* Without changing position, bend elbows to curl bar up toward shoulders.

* Be sure your curl is slow and controlled; don’t use momentum to lift the bar.

* Straighten arms and lower bar to starting position, then repeat for all reps and sets.

3. negative one-arm ball curl

Strengthens biceps brachii and brachialis

* Choose a dumbbell slightly heavier than what you typically use for biceps curls.

* Holding the weight in your right hand, kneel on the floor and drape your upper body over a stability ball, with the backs of your upper arms and elbows comfortably supported by the far side of the ball.

* Hold dumbbell with palm up and wrist straight; place left hand on right wrist to assist the upward movement. Be sure your neck isn’t jutting forward, and tighten abs.

* Keeping wrist straight, bend right elbow to curl weight toward right shoulder.

* Slowly straighten arm to lower weight to starting position.

* Complete 1 set of reps, then switch arms and repeat.



Do these moves 1-2 times per week, with at least 1 day off between

workouts. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets. Progress to the advanced

program after 4-6 weeks.


Follow the variations listed. These variations require more core

strength and coordination. Before progressing, you should feel

comfortable standing on one foot and sitting on the stability

ball with one leg lifted.

basic program

exercise single-leg standing standing barbell negative one-arm

cable biceps curl biceps curl ball curl

sets 2-3 with each arm 2-3 2-3 with each arm

reps 12-15 12-15 12-15

weight range 10-15 pounds 20-40 pounds 8-15 pounds

advanced program

exercise single-leg standing standing barbell negative one-arm

cable biceps curl biceps curl ball curl

sets 2-3 with each arm 2-3 2-3 with each arm

reps 8-12 8-12 6-8

weight range 10-15 pounds 25-45 pounds 10-20 pounds

special Stand on an unstable N/A Count 8-10 seconds

instructions surface, such as a for the lowering

foam roller, a Bosu phase of each rep.

trainer or a mat.


To get buff biceps, it’s imperative to fine-tune your form, notes Charleene O’Connor, a certified trainer at Clay, an integrated training facility in New York City. Always use a full range of motion, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement and lengthening it at the bottom (without hyperextending your elbow), she says. Be sure your elbows remain stable, close to your sides and in line with your shoulders. Keep a light grip on the weights to maintain adequate blood flow to your upper-arm muscles. Want to pump up your biceps and burn mega-calories? Get cranking on an arm ergometer or use a rowing machine with a palmsup grip, O’Connor suggests.


To maximize biceps work, keep your elbow in a fixed position, close to your body and aligned with your shoulder as you bend and straighten your arm.


Your body should not sway back and forth as you lift and lower; if it does, lean your upper back against a wall with your feet slightly in front of you.


Press your hips and torso firmly against the ball so it doesn’t roll or shift when you curl the dumbbell.


* If you do these exercises as part of an upper-body workout, work your larger muscle groups (chest and back) before targeting your biceps.

* Don’t hyperextend your elbows on the negative or “lowering” portion of the curl.

* Maintain a light grip to avoid shifting the emphasis to your forearm muscles.

Stacy Whitman is a freelance health and fitness writer in San Francisco.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Weider Publications

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