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As a trainer/contest-prep coach, one of the most common queries I receive in regards to body part troubleshooting is, “how can I achieve a better peak on my biceps?”
The fact that some people develop longer, more football shaped biceps, while others develop shorter, more mountain-like biceps is mostly a matter left up to genetics. But do not fear, because there’s a way that EVERYONE can create the illusion of having a more substantial biceps peak!
The key lies in bringing about greater development in a little-discussed muscle that sits underneath the biceps called the brachialis. In a highly defined bodybuilder, the brachialis appears as a thick “knot” of muscle that pops out of the side of the upper arm when they are flexed and viewed from the rear. The cool thing about the brachialis is that as it grows larger, it will actually “push” the biceps up higher, which will give the appearance of a greater peak!
The problem with effectively stimulating the brachialis is that with most standard curling movements the biceps act as the main flexor of the upper arm. You need to choose specific curling exercises that put the biceps in a mechanically weak position, so that the brachialis can get into the game! The more work you can force the brachialis to take on, the more it will be forced to adapt and grow.
The following exercises are custom made to attack the brachialis, allowing you to move a few steps closer to hitting that biceps peak!
Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with your palms facing inward toward your thighs. Curl the dumbbells together, but keep your palms facing inward throughout the set, as if using a hammer. Make sure to keep your elbows locked in place, not allowing them to rise up or outward while you curl. At the peak contraction point squeeze extra hard before slowly lowering the dumbbells back to arms length.
These are performed just like regular barbell curls with the only exception being that the palms are facing down. The palms down position will force the brachialis and the brachioradialis of the forearm to work intensely during this movement. Make sure you keep your elbows locked into your sides, and wrists straight throughout the set.
Keep the weight moderate and the reps in the 10-12 range. If you find that doing reverse curls with a straight bar is uncomfortable, try using an EZ-curl bar instead.
With this movement you will be curling off of the vertical, not angled, side of a preacher bench. Load up a barbell with only about 60-70% of your normal preacher curl weight. Position yourself over the bench in such a manner that your armpits are snugly pressed into the top. Grab the weight and allow your arms to hang straight down.
As you start to curl make sure that your shoulders and elbows remain locked in position, so that the brachialis is forced to work as hard as possible to flex the arm. At the top of the movement squeeze tightly. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
This unique exercise is my personal favorite for a targeted assault on the brachialis. Place a flat bench in front of a weight stack on one side of a cable crossover machine. Make sure that the bench is at least a foot or so away from the stack. Attach a short straight bar to the upper pulley, lie down, and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Have someone hand you the bar.
Start with your arms perfectly straight and then begin curling the bar both down and back, so that at the full contraction point, the bar is actually behind your head. As you curl you will need to draw your elbows back slightly and tip your head forward just a bit in order to achieve this exaggerated range of motion. At the bottom hold the squeeze for a count and then return the bar under control to the starting position.