Fitness Advice for the "Average Joe"

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


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Stay Fit while Traveling: Tips for the Road Warrior (2-Day/Full-Body Workout Included!)

One of the toughest obstacles to maintaining a good health & fitness routine is TRAVEL, whether it’s for work or for pleasure, because it throws off your routine in terms of the foods you eat, workout facilities, workout schedule, and your body’s natural rhythm. Apropos to this topic, I’ve been on a business trip to South Korea for almost a week now, with another week or two left. From the get-go, I knew this was going to be a very grueling trip, with many all-night work sessions with business partners, multiple “compulsory”  drinking events, and having to eat out pretty much every meal (many readers can probably relate to this on their trips). So before this trip, I tried to plan out as many health-related issues as I could to minimize the damage that I’d inevitably cause my body. So I made a list of the top fitness priorities while being on the road. They are as follows:

1. Get sufficient protein and vitamins.

It’s very difficult to get sufficient protein intake (at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight) when I’m on the road, so I went shopping on Black Friday for a bunch of protein bars, a bottle of multi-vitamins, and a ton of meal replacement powder (Myoplex) for when I’m on the road. This way, no matter what circumstance I encounter, I’d be ready. Below is a picture of some of the protein and vitamins that I brought on this trip. 

IMG_0732

This small preparation of protein in my luggage has gone a long way for me. In the morning, I drink a packet of Myoplex (meal replacement), which gives me 290 calories with 42 grams of protein (more than 20% of my daily protein requirement). My caloric and protein intake during the day is very sporadic and hard to predict, so this little piece of certainty goes a long way. Also, the protein bars (e.g. Atkins Bar, Zone Bar) have been extremely handy, as I’m locked in an office for much of the day, without time to go out and get the right kind of foods with high-quality protein. So I just pull one of these bars out and munch whenever a craving hits me, or when I feel I’m going too long without protein.

I brought enough protein bars to have up to 3 each day (3 x 19 grams = 57 grams of total protein), which was a wise decision. Noticeably missing from this trip is Whey protein – I had to drop this from my inventory because I didn’t have space to lug around a 5 pound tub of this stuff… yes, I could carry a smaller amount in a different container, but it wasn’t worth the hassle and extra luggage, given that I was already bringing meal replacement powder (I’m a guy, so I pack pretty light and don’t exactly travel “J-Lo style”, with an entourage and 35 suitcases, you know what I mean?).

2. Research the foods you might eat ahead of time (for nutritional analysis) and practice Portion Control when eating.

Don’t you hate getting sprung with uncertain foods that contain uncertain ingredients and calories, especially when you’re traveling overseas and you’re not as familiar with the foods of the other culture? That’s why I did my research in advance to see what the most likely foods I’d eat would be. I went online ahead of time and researched the nutritional content of some of the foods I would likely eat on the trip (Google is a powerful tool!). This helped give me a grasp of how much I would need to apply portion control to the foods I ate, based on my daily caloric budget.  If I encounter any foods that I don’t recognize, I try not to eat more than the amount that fits on my hand, until I learn more about the nutritional value. Below is a sampling of some of the foods I’ve eaten with business partners and friends on this trip, while practicing portion control:

Food Everywhere - 1

As I’ve said consistently throughout my blog, no matter what kind of diet you’re on (whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight), it doesn’t matter what types of foods you eat, as long as you (1) stay within your caloric budget and (2) get ample protein to fuel muscular repair and growth. Portion control comes in handy to help you stay within your caloric budget, and the protein bars and meal replacement powder have come in very handy in providing ample protein, given the uncertain dietary environment of this trip.

3. Adapt your workout to your environment (“Ghetto’s Gym”)

Remember that scene in Rocky 4, where Rocky goes to Russia and uses his natural surroundings to improvise workouts because he was given really crappy equipment and facilities (I especially love how he shoulder presses the carriage… what a beast!)? Well, sometimes you have to get creative because the workout facilities you encounter are inferior to the ones you are used to.

Rocky Scenes - 1

My business and pleasure trips have taken me to some remote places, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. If you want to stay fit on trips to such places, you have to adapt and do what I call Ghetto’s Gym… this is where you improvise exercises based on the existing fitness equipment or do a ton of body-weight intensive exercises like push ups, burpees, bear crawls, inverted wall shoulder presses (upside down), pull ups, and situps. For example, on my trip last year to El Nido, a remote nature reserve in the Philippines, I performed a lot of wide-grip pull ups, behind-the-neck pull-ups, and bicep pull-ups while hanging off the side of the boats where I spent a lot of my time on during scuba diving and touring excursions… I just did them until I couldn’t do any more, then I’d force myself to do a few more partial reps 🙂

Ghetto's Gym - 1

Fortunately on this trip to Korea, the gym close by is of acceptable quality (better than most hotel gyms). I just pay ~$10 each time I work out, which is fine.

IMG_0799

Now, given the intense schedule on this trip, I condensed my workout to train my entire body in 2 sessions, with each session lasting about 35 minutes (I took the pic above after my first workout session in Seoul). I do these workouts every other day. Of course, this is not ideal to get maximum results, as I’m not training frequently enough or giving each body part enough attention, but it suffices for a super-busy business trip. I’ve outlined the workout regimen I’ve been using on this trip to Seoul below. Let me know what you think!

Busy Traveler’s 2-Day, Full-Body Training Workout: (each session is ~35 minutes)

Day 1: Work your Chest, Triceps, Biceps, Abs (~36 minutes)

  • Super-set #1:
    • Incline Bench Press (warm-up set): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderately light weights and focus on pumping blood into your chest (I use 135 pounds)
    • Barbell Biceps Curl (warm-up set): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure.  Use moderately light weights and focus on pumping blood into your biceps (I use about ~70 pounds).
    • Rest: 60 seconds.
  • Super-set #2: 
    • Incline Bench Press (intermediate warm-up set): 10 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderate weights and focus on pumping blood into your chest while getting used to heavier weights (I use 225 pounds)
    • Barbell Biceps Curl (intermediate warm-up set): 10 reps. Don’t go to failure.  Use modestly light weights and focus on pumping blood into your biceps (I use about ~90 pounds).
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Super-set #3: 
    • Incline Bench Press: Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your chest at the top (I use 285 pounds).
    • Barbell Biceps Curl: Target 6 reps and go to failure.  Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your biceps at the top (I use 145 pounds).
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Super-set #4: 
    • Incline Bench Press: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your chest at the top (I use 235 pounds).
    • Barbell Biceps Curl: Target 8 reps and go to failure.  Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your biceps at the top (I use 125 pounds).
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Super-set #5: 
    • Dumbbell Flys: Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your chest at the top.
    • Hammer Curl: Target 6 reps and go to failure.  Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your biceps at the top.
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Super-set #6: 
    • Dumbbell Flys: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your chest at the top.
    • Hammer Curl: Target 8 reps and go to failure.  Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your biceps at the top.
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Super-set #7:
    • Dumbbell Flys: Target 12 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your chest at the top.
    • Hammer Curl: Target 12 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights and focus on squeezing your biceps at the top.
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Tri-set #8:
    • Lying Triceps Extension (warm-up): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderately light weights and focus on pumping blood into your triceps.
    • Lying Knee-up Crunches: 30 seconds.
    • Plank: 30 seconds.
    • Rest: 90 seconds
  • Tri-set #9:
    • Lying Triceps Extension: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Lying Knee-up Crunches: 30 seconds.
    • Plank: 30 seconds.
    • Rest: 120 seconds
  • Tri-set #10:
    • Lying Triceps Extension: Target 10 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Lying Knee-up Crunches: 30 seconds.
    • Plank: 30 seconds.
    • Rest: 120 seconds
  • Tri-set #11:
    • Cable Triceps Pushdown: Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Seated Leg Raises: 30 seconds.
    • Plank: 30 seconds.
    • Rest: 120 seconds
  • Tri-set #12:
    • Cable Triceps Pushdown: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Seated Leg Raises: 30 seconds.
    • Plank: 30 seconds.
    • Rest: 120 seconds
  • Tri-set #13:
    • Cable Triceps Pushdown: Target 10 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Seated Leg Raises: 30 seconds.
    • Plank: 30 seconds.

Day 2: Work your Shoulders, Back, Legs (~37 minutes)

  • Super-set #1:
    • Barbell Squat (warm-up set): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderately light weights and focus on pumping blood into your quads.
    • Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift (warm-up set): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure.  Use moderately light weights and focus on pumping blood into your hamstrings.
    • Rest: 90 seconds.
  • Super-set #2
    • Barbell Squat (intermediate warm-up set): 10 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderate weights and focus on pumping blood into your quads.
    • Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift (intermediate warm-up set): 10 reps. Don’t go to failure.  Use moderate weights and focus on pumping blood into your hamstrings .
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #3
    • Barbell Squat: Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift (intermediate warm-up set): Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 150 seconds.
  • Super-set #4
    • Barbell Squat: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift (intermediate warm-up set): Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 150 seconds.
  • Super-set #5
    • Hang Clean Push Press (warm-up set): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderately light weights.
    • Barbell Upright Row (warm-up set): 15 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderately light weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #6
    • Hang Clean Push Press (intermediate warm-up set): 10 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderate weights.
    • Barbell Upright Row (intermediate warm-up set): 10 reps. Don’t go to failure. Use moderate weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #7
    • Hang Clean Push Press: Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Barbell Upright Row: Target 6 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #8
    • Hang Clean Push Press: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Barbell Upright Row: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #9
    • Barbell Bent Over Row: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Dumbbell Side Raises: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #10
    • Barbell Bent Over Row: Target 10 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Dumbbell Side Raises: Target 10 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Super-set #11
    • Barbell Bent Over Row: Target 10 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Dumbbell Side Raises: Target 10 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 120 seconds.
  • Set #12
    • Machine Calf Raise: Target 8 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 60 seconds.
  • Set #13
    • Machine Calf Raise: Target 12 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
    • Rest: 60 seconds.
  • Set #14
    • Machine Calf Raise: Target 12 reps and go to failure. Use heavy weights.
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Maximize Your Muscle Gains: How to Gain Lean Muscle Mass while Minimizing Fat!

Introduction:

Hey guys, before I get to gaining muscle, I wanted to say something. I’m writing this on the way to San Francisco on the Caltrain, heading to a consulting client’s site. Sorry that I was quiet on my blog for the last week… it was because this past week was my photo shoot week, and the temporarily “harsh” conditions that I subjected my body to resulted in me getting a little bit exhausted and sick. Basically, major scheduling issues made me shoot pictures/videos of my body over two back-to-back, late-night/all-nighter evenings, so I had to dehydrate and drink only subsistence-level fluids for almost 3 days, which wasn’t super fun (most bodybuilders do this for about 1 day or so). But the results were great in that my muscles came in looking super hard, dry, and vascular… I went into the shoot at 167 pounds, which is a weight that I have not hit since college, haha! The great news is that my diet is now over, at least for the next few months… the funny thing was that when my shoot was done at 3:00 AM this morning, I went home to raid my kitchen of junk food and my kids’ bags of Halloween candy, but the only things that my body was craving was water and relatively healthy foods like a Turkey sandwich, PB&J sandwich, and fruit, which I devoured like a savage, famished beast! It’s shocking how acclimated my body has become to good eating… it’s actually pretty cool 🙂

Anyways, through the multi-month process of dieting, exercise, taking detailed notes & journaling of all of my food intake and body weight, I learned so much about food portioning, losing fat, eating well, and my body’s response to dieting, temporary dehydration, and optimal carbohydrate levels for temporary aesthetics (pictures). As I said before, if you have never taken a journal of your food and body weight, or never counted your calories, read my post here, and I would really encourage you to try it for at least a couple of weeks. By the way, the last learning that I mention, optimal carbohydrate levels, does not refer to a diet that is constantly starving you of carbs… instead, since each gram of carb sucks in ~2.7 grams of water, I’m referring to temporarily optimizing your carb-intake for pictures so that you only have carbs INSIDE your muscles as stored glycogen, so that your muscles are full of water and look dense & full, as opposed to having free carbs outside your muscles that suck in water between the skin and make you look smoother… again, this is only a temporary manipulation for aesthetics and picture-taking purposes… I will make the point again that I LOVE carbs, and I’m a huge proponent of getting plenty in your diet to maximize your energy & performance in sports, weight training, and normal physical activity. In fact, my teammates on my indoor soccer team have been eagerly waiting for my diet to be done, as the low body fat and lower levels of macronutrients (including carbs) have resulted in me being less energetic and effective on the field…

Maximizing Muscle Gains:

Sorry for the long-winded introduction. Actually, as my title indicates, this post is not about losing weight, it’s about GAINING MUSCLE!!!!  A lot of people have asked me what the optimal number of calories to intake above maintenance-level calories to maximize muscle gains. Well the theoretic answer is that each person is different, and each person has a different tolerance to lean muscle versus fat gain. Having said that, here are some good, practical guidelines to follow, and I will end with an experiment that I will run on my own body over the next 2~3 months to show you exactly how much muscle versus fat that I gain.

Guidelines to Follow to Maximize Lean Muscle Gains versus Fat Gains:

  • Start out with about 500 Calories above your maintenance level calories per day. There is significant debate among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts about what this number should be. On the one hand, you do not want to starve muscle growth by making your caloric surplus too low, and thus potentially limit your lean muscle gains. At the same time, you don’t want to eat so much that Jabba the Hut would be jealous and your only gain a small % of this in lean muscle mass. Empirically, 500 calories seem like the “Baby Bear” level that is “just right” for 90% of people (it means that you will gain about a pound of body weight per week, hopefully most of which is muscle). Of course, this figure is not set in stone, so you need to take a log of your progress and adjust your calories up or down depending on the speed of your gains, your workout intensity and frequency, and the effect of this that you are seeing on your body.
  • Eat healthy, just like you are dieting to lose weight, but just eat more calories. Some people espouse eating just about anything under the sun, like JAWS (including your kitchen sink), to promote massive weight gain, irrespective of whether it’s muscle or fat, rationalizing that you can lose fat once you are ready to cut. But why make things even harder on yourself later? Anyone who has dieted can tell you that it takes hard work to lose a pound of fat. Why not optimize and promote LEAN MUSCLE GAINS as opposed to fat? Why not train your body to eat right (just more of what’s right) as opposed to eating crappy foods? Of course, I am not saying you can’t indulge yourself occasionally in life’s pleasures… on the contrary, if you must, use this time to eat out just a little more, eat just a little more junk food, and drink just a little bit more beer or wine with your family and friends. You can live a little. But don’t go too crazy because you have to lose the fat that you gain at some point.
  • Try to make your caloric surplus come primarily from protein and carbohydrates because it takes 10 x more calories to store protein and carbs as body fat than it takes to store fat in foods as body fat. Basically, your body’s metabolic processes burn calories… on average, your body expends like ~2.5 calories to store about 100 calories worth of excess fat that is not burned (your body stores ~97.5% of excess fat calories that are not burned), while it expends about ~25 calories to store about 100 calories worth of excess protein and carbs that are not burned (your body stores ~75% of excess protein & carb calories that are not burned). As such, you don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to conclude that most of the excess calories you put into your body should come from protein and carbs to store the least amount of fat in your body. If you are intentionally creating a caloric surplus to feed your muscle-building process, wouldn’t you rather have any excess calories remaining be predominantly protein or carbs? Of course, in reality, your body’s metabolic processes are happening continuously, so it’s super difficult to time the impact of the fat storage and muscle building process. And this certainly DOES NOT mean that you should starve your body of essential fats or cut out most fats from your diet. Not at all… keep your fat intake stable (e.g. 15~25% of your calories). I mean, if you magically have a practical solution to calculating exactly when I should eat what foods to make close to 100% of my weight gain be lean muscle mass, I will pay you a lot of money to get this implemented for me… in fact, there is a HUGE market of fitness fanatics out there who would pay you beaucoup bucks to do the same for them 🙂
  • Track your progress by keeping a log, including your body weight record at least once per week, a journal of your food and caloric intake, how you look and feel, and your actual body fat to lean muscle mass measurements (e.g. take a hydrostatic body fat test at several points along the way – this test is one of the most accurate tests to give you your ratio of lean body mass to fat). This is not a necessity, but a STRONG RECOMMENDATION. Believe me, you will learn a lot about yourself, and it will help you in whatever kind of diet in the future, whether you are trying to gain or lose weight.
  • Work out Heavy and Intensely, focusing mainly on Compound Movements, to make sure you gain good, lean muscle mass. In future posts, I will recommend some workout regimens and strategies to help you maximize your gains. But in general, during this phase, go as heavy as you can on all of your weights, and stick with relatively low rep ranges, in the 3~8 range per body part. Using heavy weights and lower reps helps you get stronger and promotes a lot of growth on your muscles, much more than doing lighter weights for 8~15 reps would do (this latter rep range is for other purposes, like endurance, cutting, shocking muscles, etc. that I will talk about in future posts).  For example, if you are doing squats, push yourself to go heavier, while not sacrificing form and safety, to get as strong as you can on it. This way, you will maximize your size and weight gains during this phase of growth. Also, stick to more Compound Movements, which are exercises that incorporate lots of muscles into your workouts (e.g. bench press, squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, standing barbell curls, close grip bench press, etc.), as opposed to focusing on specific body parts as much. I’m not saying ignore the smaller muscle groups, but spend 80% of your time on Compound Movements and 20% on focusing on smaller muscle parts.
  • Finally, give yourself a relatively finite period of time in which you will engage in these heavy, lean muscle mass gaining exercises. For example, select 3~4 months or something like that. The reason is that giving yourself a time period helps ensure that you don’t constantly go heavy all the time and allows you to “periodize” your muscles, so you do not overtrain or get too acclimated to heavy training and your body stops responding). Also, setting a finite time period psychologically creates a deadline, which could make you work harder towards attaining the most by your deadline, as opposed to getting in an infinite mass-gain stage.

In my experience, following these simple guildelines have helped me to maximize my gains from a “Gain Period” of Training.

Lean Body Mass Test: Guess what % of my gains will come from lean muscle mass, and I will buy you dinner!

Finally, now that I’m done with my diet (losing weight portion), I’ll be going on a lean muscle mass gain phase. So I’ll buy dinner to one person (if you are not in the Silicon Valley area, I will send you money for dinner) who gets within 5 percentage points of guessing what % of my gains come from lean muscle mass versus fat. If nobody gets within 5 percentage points, there will be no winner (if there are multiple winners, then the person who is closest – if there is a tie, then I will select the first person who responded). PLEASE ADD A COMMENT ON THIS POST, IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN GUESSING!!! Of course, the benefits of winning is more than dinner… it will be good conversation and perhaps some advice on your fitness situation… who knows, maybe we can even hit the gym together 🙂

I will gauge my lean body mass % increase in the following manner:

  • I am scheduled to get a hydrostatic body fat test next week. Once I get this done, I will take my lean body mass and body fat mass as the starting point for the calculations.
  • I plan to take several hydrostatic body fat tests along the way, but I will take a final one sometime later this year or early next year, and I will use these calculations to select the winner.
  • I will be logging all of my foods, calories, macronutrients, and body weight gains throughout this process, and I will upload it for everyone to see at the end of this period. I hope this helps other people.

Thanks, guys… until next time, take care, and get ripped!~


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

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.