Fitness Advice for the "Average Joe"

By Paul Kim (Silicon Valley Entrepreneur & Certified Personal Trainer)

Developing Lethal Guns (Part 1): Biceps Workout (15-minute biceps workout included)

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Ah, your guns… they are kind of a symbol of masculinity for men, and the desire to have great muscular development in the arms is a dream that many guys have. Similarly, for ladies, having nice, toned arms with no “cottage cheese” hanging down from the triceps when your arms are extended, would be a dream come true. But how do you develop fantastic arms? How do you develop guns that the U.S. government would certainly make you register as lethal weapons? In this post, I will talk about developing your biceps, which makes up about 1/3 of your arms, then in a future post, I will cover how to tackle your triceps, which actually makes up the lion’s share.

In general, a lot of people find biceps to be very hard to develop. Developing great biceps takes a lot of time, intense workouts, and smart planning & assessment of your workouts. Understand that nice guns take time to build, so you will not develop them overnight. Also, you have to keep studying your workouts and assess what areas of your biceps you need to further improve – do you need to put more “peak” on your biceps, more mass on the inner or outer portion, or fill out your entire biceps in general? Depending on your needs, you should focus on different exercises that focus and target these areas.

For me, I notice that my biceps respond best to varying types of stimulation applied from different angles, at different rep and weight ranges, at different workout sessions. Basically, all this really means is that I vary days when I go very heavy on my weights with less reps to develop strength and power, with other days when I am doing slightly lighter weights (this does NOT mean LIGHT WEIGHTS for a billion reps) with more exercises, more super-sets, and higher overall reps. These are just different ways to shock your muscles and overload them, to force them to adapt with growth based on different kinds of muscular stimulation. In addition, I go through phases where I focus on different areas of my biceps (e.g. upper portion, lower portion, inner head, outer head). For example, for a 2~4 week period, I will focus mainly on standing barbell curls with a straight bar, where I go heavy and keep my rep range from between 3 to 8 reps to develop mass and strength. By the way, I like standing barbell curls to develop overall strength because (a) you can pack on the most weight on these exercises to get your muscles accustomed to heavy weights (compared to preacher curls or dumbbell curls), (b) it’s great for overall muscular development throughout the entire range of motion for curls (as opposed to exercises like preacher curls that focus a bit more on the upper range of the curling movement), and (c) it allows me to flexibly choose my grip on the bar without the restrictions of a weird-shaped curling bars. As I do standing barbell curls with a straight bar, I vary my grip throughout my workouts (normally, I grab the weights at shoulder width, but then I grab it much wider to work my inner biceps head, and I grab much closer together to work more of my outer head. I will often do just one more exercise during a low-rep and strength and mass building phase, which is either preacher curls which isolate the biceps, or standing dumbbell curls.

Then, I will go for a 2~4 week period when I add more variety to my biceps workout by going higher in my rep range with slightly lower weights, but weights that are heavy enough where I am struggling to do 6~10 reps. During these days, I will move quickly through exercise like the preacher curls, standing dumbbell curls, hammer curls, and cable curls. I go intensely with little rest in between my sets on these days, usually resting only 60~90 seconds between sets (as opposed to the heavier days, when I focus on strength and allow longer rest times in between sets, like 1.5~3 minutes).

If you are not seeing improvements in your biceps, here are the two most common mistakes that I see:

  • Weights are too light or too heavy. You should select weights where you can barely complete your set within the given rep range, with acceptable form. For example, if you are doing reps between 6~10, you should select weights that are heavy enough to where you struggle and fail at, let’s say, 7~9 reps. Conversely, sometimes you see people attempt to do weights where they cannot even get one rep cleanly, and they cheat too much. Remember, cheating a little to get 1 or 2 additional reps at the end of your set is totally fine… but ignoring form and cheating throughout the entire set is not acceptable and ineffective because it works the wrong muscle groups, it increases the chance of injuries, AND you look ridiculous to other people :)
  • People do not go to failure or go intensely enough to stimulate growth. Remember, if you do not push yourself hard, you will not attain much. Anything you want or attain in life is the result of butt-busting hard work. Super-athletes like Kobe Bryant, Christiano Ronaldo, and Jerry Rice all got to the top of their games because they’re willing to work harder than everyone else (and of course, tremendous God-given talent). Put in the effort and work, alongside smart planning and assessment, and I promise you will see results.

In the video above, I essentially demonstrate a Tri-set (three different exercises done back-to-back-to-back) of preacher curls, standing dumbbell curls, then hammer curls. This is similar to a super-set (see my post on Super-sets here), but of course, involves one additional exercise that is thrown into the mix. I like this progression of exercises because once I fail on the preacher curls, I can jump to lighter weights on dumbbell curls, and when supinating my wrists outward on dumbbell curls gets difficult, I immediately switch into hammer curls, which works the brachialis and forearm muscles along with your biceps, where I don’t need to turn my palms outward.

15 minute Biceps Workout: (Designed for Busy Working People)

Here’s a quick routine for those of you looking for a quick-but-intense, 15-minute biceps workout. It combines super-sets of 4 different exercises, and they are designed to target your biceps from different angles, with different equipment (barbells, dumbbells, cable) and work different parts of your biceps, to get good, overall biceps development. You will perform 6 sets of super-sets (exercises performed back-to-back with no rest in between), with 3 super-sets of Preacher Curls and Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls, with 60~90 seconds of rest in between, and 3 super-sets of Standing Alternating Cable Curls and Hammer Curls, with 60~90 seconds of rest in between. Remember to go intensely and push yourself beyond your normal comfort zone, as this is how you stimulate growth. Try it out, and let me know what you think!

Super-set Group 1:

  • Super-set #1:
    • Preacher Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you cann do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #2:
    • Preacher Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #3:
    • Preacher Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.

 Super-set Group 2:

  • Super-set #4:
    • Standing Alternating Cable Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Hammer Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you cann do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #5:
    • Standing Alternating Cable Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Hammer Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Rest: 90 seconds or less.
  • Super-set #6:
    • Standing Alternating Cable Curls: Target 8 Reps and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
    • Hammer Curls: Target 8 Reps on each arm and go to failure. Use weights where you can do about 6 or 7 and cannot do any more. You may need to go down on your weights a little, if you are too tired from your last set.
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Author: Paul Kim

I'm a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about fitness! Come join my blog, as I deal with topics that are most pertinent to fitness for working professionals and homemakers. Follow me on Twitter @paulkimpk

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