Never Compromise on Biceps Size

Photos by Ian Spanier

Stop and think carefully about your biceps workouts and tell me if you tend to pretty much perform the same exercises over and over at every session—barbell curls, preacher curls, seated dumbbell curls, standing low- cable curls, concentration curls, and so on. Now go ahead and flex your biceps and decide if you are satisfied with their current size and shape. If the answer is yes (which I doubt, but let’s just for argument’s sake say it is), then go ahead and flip a few pages to the next article—there are so many great ones to choose from! However, if you are part of the vast majority, and the answer is no, then please keep reading, because it is my goal to greatly increase ticket sales to your “gun show.”

If you have read any of my articles in the past, you are sure to already know that I am a huge advocate of variety when it comes to designing individual workouts and overall training programs. If my 28 years of experience as a competitive bodybuilder and coach have taught me anything, it is that the human body is a profoundly adaptable machine— and because of this, we must continually present new challenges by switching up the stimuli we thrust upon it (that is, exercises, angles, tempos, and techniques).

While there are many effective ways to tweak your workouts with the goal of pushing past plateaus or staving off stagnation, the one we shall focus on in this article is introducing a few novel movements. Of course, each of the exercises I will present are nothing more than variations of the basic curl, but by simply changing the arc of pull, the angle of the torso, and the positioning of the elbows and shoulders, we can attack a unique set of motor unit pools (and muscle fibers). This, along with giving the central nervous system something new to deal with, can help take your biceps development—and arm measurements—to an entirely new level!


Juan decline dumbbell curls



WEEK: 2 | SETS: 3 | REPS: 13-15

HOW /// Set an incline bench to about 60 degrees. Grab a pair of moderately weighted dumbbells (maybe only 50% of what you would use for normal dumbbell curls) and lean back on the bench. To get into position you need to externally rotate the shoulders so that your palms are facing away from your torso. Just how far you can rotate will be a matter of personal shoulder flexibility, so I recommend that you warm up the delts a bit before hitting this movement. Keeping the chest high, shoulders back, and elbows locked in place, slowly curl the dumbbells to full contraction. Hold the squeeze for a moment, then lower carefully until the arms are straight and the biceps fully stretched.

TIP /// Getting the greatest stretch possible on this exercise is vital for turning on powerful anabolic pathways that will trigger rapid muscle growth. To make sure your biceps get the intense stretch required, try raising your rib cage high and dropping your shoulders while allowing your arms to fully straighten at the conclusion of the eccentric rep.

Juan biceps curl



WEEK: 1 | SETS: 3 | REPS: 5-7

HOW /// Grab a moderately loaded barbell (about 50% of what you would normally curl on a preacher bench), head over to an adjustable incline bench set to about 45 degrees, and lie prone (chest against bench) with the shoulders positioned near the top of the incline. You can either rest your knees on the seat of the bench or straddle it with legs to the sides. Have someone hand you the barbell, and take a shoulder-width grip. Allow your arms to hang straight down to start, then begin slowly curling the barbell with movement only occurring at the elbow joint. Do not allow the elbows or shoulders to come forward at any point of the curling motion. After a hard contraction at the top, carefully lower back to the starting position.

TIP /// This exercise can be made even more intense by keeping the wrists bent back while curling. By doing so, the forearm flexors are
almost entirely removed from the movement.



Juan morel biceps 5



WEEK: 1 | SETS: 3 | REPS: 5-7

HOW /// Set an incline bench to about 60 degrees and place it directly in front of a low-cable pulley with a short straight bar attached. Take hold of the bar and lie back against the bench, making sure you are far enough away so that your arms can be fully straightened. Keep your chest high, shoulders back, and elbows locked into your sides throughout every rep. Curl forcefully from the bottom, and when you get to the top, flex the biceps hard for 1 to 2 seconds. Lower slowly and repeat with no bounce at the bottom of the rep. Strict form is a must.

TIP /// To really light your biceps on fire, try performing as many quick, short partial repetitions as possible after you reach “full-range” failure.

Juan 1



WEEK: 2 | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12

HOW /// Set an incline bench to about 45 degrees, and place it in front of a high-cable pulley with a short straight bar attached. Grab the bar and sit back on the bench. Your arms should be straight and angled upward toward the pulley. Without any shoulder or upper-arm movement, strictly curl the bar toward the forehead. Make sure not to curl too explosively so as not to bang the bar against your head. Hold the peak contraction for 1 to 2 seconds, actively flexing the biceps. Slowly return the bar to the starting position.

TIP /// Vary the (degree of) incline of the bench to change the arc of the curling motion, adding even more variety to this unique movement.


Never Compromise on Biceps Size



WEEK: 3 | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-12

HOW /// Attach a short straight bar to the pulley at a lat pulldown station. Grab the bar and sit down with your knees secured firmly under the pads. Lean the torso back about 15 degrees and make sure your arms are fully straightened. Keeping the shoulders locked in place, curl the bar down and back behind the head until the biceps are completely contracted. Hold and squeeze for 1–2 seconds, then slowly perform the negative portion of the curl, feeling the biceps lengthen along the way.

TIP /// Do not try to use too much weight for this movement. The keys to making it more effective are superstrict form and the ability to curl back far enough so that your forearm flexors are pushed tightly against your biceps at the point of contraction.

Juan biceps


WEEK 1 (Power)

  • Barbell Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 5-7
  • Low-Cable Incline Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 5-7
  • Prone Incline Barbell Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 5-7

WEEK 2 (Rep Range)

  • Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 7-9
  • High-Cable Incline Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12
  • 60-Degree-Incline Palms-out DB Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 13-15

WEEK 3 (Shock)

  • Seated Overhead Cable Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-12
    • superset with
    • Prone Incline Barbell Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 7-9
  • High-Cable Incline Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-12
    • superset with
    • 60-degree-incline Palms-out DB Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 7-9
  • Barbell or Machine Preacher Curl | SETS: 1 (dropset) | REPS: 10-12, drop, 6-8 more